Republicans specialize in accusing opponents of the dirty tricks they themselves are doing—or planning to do. Exhibit A: Romney accusing Obama of “character assassination.”
The secret of Republican political success since the rise of the right is not, as many liberals believe, that they play no-rules hardball. Instead, it’s their skill at projection—at accusing Democrats of doing what they are doing themselves, or are planning to do, or have done. That’s the real Rosetta stone. And that’s what Mitt Romney did this week when he called Barack Obama’s tough, but hardly extraordinary, ads about Bain Capital “character assassination.” He’s trying to make it so that Bain as a subject becomes off limits, and he’s laying the groundwork for later, when the real character assassination starts—and I hope your memory isn’t so short that you forget that he knows a thing or two about the topic himself.
Republicans have perfected many a dark campaign art over the years, from racial nudging and winking to suggesting that we’ll all be killed by terrorists if voters elect Democrats. But projection is the darkest art of all. And it’s so simple! When Republicans are acting like a mob—down in Dade County, for example—they accuse the Democrats of having a mob mentality. When they’re planning on blowing holes in the budget deficit bigger than the one the iceberg laid on the Titanic, via Paul Ryan’s budget and tax cuts for the rich, they stand up and accuse the Democrats of blowing holes in the budget. It works pretty well, too. All the conservative blogs pick up on it, and Fox and so on. And then, when the mainstream media sit down to write about the subject at hand, stories will note that “The GOP has been saying for months…”