Romney missteps generate criticism from conservative pundits

Liberal columnists and pundits are pouncing on recent and repeated missteps by Mitt Romney in his campaign to unseat President Barack Obama. No surprise there.

But this close to the election, in what most assuredly is a bad sign for the Romney campaign, conservative columnists and pundits are piling on, as well.

Most of the conservative irritation followed the release this week of the Boca Raton, Fla., video, in which Romney – during a private fundraiser – said of Obama:

“. . .There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. . . These are people who pay no income tax.... [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

And then, well, here’s a sampling.

• Bill Kristol in the Weekly Standard: “It's worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don't pay income taxes are Romney supporters—especially of course seniors (who might well "believe they are entitled to heath care," a position Romney agrees with), as well as many lower-income Americans (including men and women serving in the military) who think conservative policies are better for the country even if they're not getting a tax cut under the Romney plan. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him.

“It remains important for the country that Romney wins in November (unless he chooses to step down and we get the Ryan-Rubio ticket we deserve!). But that shouldn't blind us to the fact that Romney's comments, like those of Obama four years ago, are stupid and arrogant.”

• Michael Gerson in the Washington Post: “Republican ideology pitting the “makers” against the “takers” offers nothing. No sympathy for our fellow citizens. No insight into our social challenge. No hope of change. This approach involves a relentless reductionism. Human worth is reduced to economic production. Social problems are reduced to personal vices. Politics is reduced to class warfare on behalf of the upper class.”

• Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal: “It is true that a good debate, especially a good first one, can invigorate a candidate and lead to increased confidence, which can prompt good decisions and sensible statements. There is more than a month between the first debate and the voting: That's enough time for a healthy spiral to begin. But: The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant "rolling calamity."

In that same column, Noonan cited the writing of Steve Lombardo, who worked for Romney’s ’08 campaign and now runs a PR firm in D.C. He wrote, “The "47%" comment didn't help, but Mr. Romney's Libya statement was a critical moment. Team Romney did not know "the most basic political tenet of a foreign crisis: when there is an international incident in which America is attacked, voters in this country will (at least in the short term) rally around the flag and the President. Always. It is stunning that Team Romney failed to recognize this."

• George Will in the Post: “It was passing strange for Rich Williamson, former assistant secretary of state and current Romney adviser, to say, regarding the Egypt and Libya attacks, “There’s a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation.” Childlike credulity about presidents’ abilities to subdue turbulent portions of the world by projecting “strength,” or to “manage” the domestic economy, encourages political infantilism.”

• Joe Scarborough in Politico: “Who was responsible for burying his moving convention video behind the bumbling bluster of Clint Eastwood? Who told Mr. Romney to issue a political broadside against the commander in chief the day after a U.S. ambassador was murdered?

“And who decided that Romney would use his general election campaign to stand for absolutely nothing? The Wall Street Journal described this ideological listlessness as a “pre-existing decision.” The question conservatives should be asking is whether that strategy was hatched by a misguided consultant or the candidate himself. Whoever is responsible needs to know that replacing real conservative ideas with a flood of negative 30-second ads is a pathway to defeat.”

As the Grateful Dead sang in ‘Truckin,’ “all a friend can say is ain’t it a shame.”

A couple of weeks ago, Obama swung open the door for Republicans with his “You didn’t build that,” comment during a campaign stop. The GOP, after all, pounced four years ago when Obama the candidate opined that many folks who didn’t share his ideology cling to their guns and their religion above all else.

Sure enough, Romney, took the “You didn’t build that” comment, which referred to government’s role in aiding business, and ran with it but the sprint only lasted a couple of days.

There was the indelicate reaction to rampage of the U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed four diplomats, including the ambassador. Just before and immediately after the attack, Romney ripped into Obama while fellow Republicans mostly stayed respectfully mum.

And then the video. And now this. When the likes of Noonan, Kristol and Will take such swipes, one has to wonder whether their frustration is shared by or in some way sways undecided voters with fewer than seven weeks left until the election.