Thursday, October 25, 2012

Obama versus the GOP—why isn't it on the fight card?

Posted By on 10.25.12 at 06:40 AM

Richard Mourdock
  • Richard Mourdock
Barack Obama is running for reelection against Mitt Romney, but I've wondered why he isn't running against the Republican Party.

Would it be a political mistake for Obama to argue, rather than perhaps now and then suggest, that the Republican Party is unfit to govern? I say argue, but I mean point out. If Romney—let's say the moderate Romney who showed up for this week's debate on foreign policy—were to reach the White House, the negotiating skills he likes to boast about (not that they were actually much in evidence during his four years as governor of Massachusetts) wouldn't be half as necessary to reach agreements with the Democrats as with the right wing of his own party. Negotiations would mean compromises, and compromises would mean giving the right wing a lot of what it wants.

That right wing is irrepressible. Now we've heard from Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Indiana, the right-winger who retired Senator Richard Lugar. At a debate Tuesday with his Democratic opponent, Mourdock explained why he opposes abortion even in the case of rape. "I struggled with it myself for a long time," he said, "but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." Now Mourdock's in hot water. Romney disavowed the comment, as he'd earlier disavowed it when Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, said raped women rarely get pregnant anyway because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Mourdock didn't say that. He simply said life is a gift from God and God's gifts are not ours to reject nor his charity to second-guess. There is nothing wrong with this as an article of personal faith, but the wing of the Republican Party Akin and Mourdock represent would like to write their faith into law—the same way they wrote it into this year's Republican Party platform. It's the platform Romney's running on, at least nominally, and if he's elected he'll be expected to deliver—if not by putting the White House squarely behind the "human life amendment" to the Constitution the party platform calls for, then at least by appointing Supreme Court judges who'd erase Roe v. Wade.

And it's not just abortion. Endorsing Obama, the New Yorker observed that Romney "has tacked to the hard right on abortion, immigration, gun laws, climate change, stem-cell research, gay rights, the Bush tax cuts, and a host of foreign-policy issues. He has signed the Grover Norquist no-tax-hike pledge and endorsed [Paul] Ryan's winner-take-all economics."

Of course, Romney has also tacked the other way on some of these things. How you tack depends on which way the wind is blowing and where you want to get to. But if he reaches Washington, the hard right will be waiting for him there, and he will owe it more than it owes him. I've chided conservative columnists for approving of Romney and ignoring the state of his party. Yet Obama has disapproved of Romney and also ignored it. Perhaps that's smart politics, but I don't see why. Obama has been hammered for not answering the question of what he has to offer the country for the next four years. Adult, rational government is a pretty good answer.

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