There have been several developments now in the mini-flap over presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney endorser Ted Nugent’s violent anti-Obama comments — which some analysts (including TMV readers in comments and via emails) feel sound like a reference to assassination:
1. Apparently the Secret Service is intrigued, since they reportedly will look into the comments.
2. Nugent compared himself to the Jews (hey, he was bar mitzvahed and had a bris, too?)
3. Mitt Romney has spoken — or rather, had a statement issued. And his statement sounds just like what he said in the furor over Rush Limbaugh’s three day dissing of a woman who was a Georgetown law school student: it’s a denunciation meant to say just enough to (slightly) distance himself, but not lose a high-profile supporter who could be useful to him or the foot-in-mouth rhetorical demonizer’s followers who could be useful to him.
When Romney does this he magically morphs into a spineless political jellyfish — not a terrific quality for someone who may sit in the Oval Office.
Here’s a primer on the latest political firestorm.
His comments so you can watch them for yourself:
Ted Nugent’s threatening remarks about President Obama at the annual National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis have earned him a follow-up conversation with the Secret Service. On Sunday, the singer remarked that “if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” The Secret Service, which investigates all threats against the President, confirmed to New York Magazine’s Daily Intel blog that they have in fact flagged Nugent’s comment. “We are aware of it, and we’ll conduct an appropriate follow up,” the agent told the magazine.
“I’m a black Jew at a Nazi-Klan rally,” the rock star complained to Loesch.
(So now he thinks he’s Sammy Davis, Jr?)
“And there are some power-abusing, corrupt monsters in our federal government that despise me because I have the audacity to speak the truth.”
Nugent continued: “I spoke at the NRA and will stand by my speech. It’s 100 percent positive. It’s about we the people taking back our American dream from the corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration, the communist czars he has appointed.”
This is the kind of rhetoric, Mr. Romney, that independent voters detest. You need to put a LOT of distance between yourself and it — and definitively so. MORE:
Later in the radio interview, Nugent went after Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who condemned Nugent’s remarks on Tuesday as she called on Romney to answer for the rocker’s rhetoric with a DNC petition and web video.
“Wasserman Schultz is such a brain-dead, soulless idiot,” Nugent told Loesch. “I could not be more proud that this soulless, heartless idiot feebly attempts to find fault with Ted Nugent, because I am on the right track and she just encourages me to stand stronger.”
When is a condemnation not a condemnation? When it comes from Mitt Romney, framed as a statement of disappointment with a right-wing entertainer-pundit.
On Tuesday, Democrats highlighted comments made by conservative shock rocker Ted Nugent at the NRA convention over the weekend, briefly forcing the general election campaign into yet another disavowal-off. The Romney campaign played along, but with minimal effort — it blamed both sides for Nugent’s comments, with language nearly identical to its blame-both-sides statement on offensive comments made by Rush Limbaugh earlier this year.
The Nugent incident took the rhetoric war to another level: Not only were the comments at issue made by a certified endorser touted by Romney, they were serious enough to pique the interest of the Secret Service. But the response garnered only the typical Romney treatment when it comes to conservatives with a history of incendiary remarks: Leave the condemnations to someone else, everyone’s guilty.
Team Romney was forced into the same position as when Limbaugh attacked law student Sandra Fluke: Condemn a popular right-wing icon for the sake of appealing to the general electorate?
During the Fluke affair, Romney distinguished himself by issuing a remarkably tepid denunciation of Limbaugh, even as many of his fellow Republicans turned on the radio host. “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used,” he said.
Democrats excoriated Romney for that one, but the Romney campaign stuck to its guns when pressed.
“I think there is extreme rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum,” Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstom said of Limbaugh, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I think the political process is best served if everybody tones it down. Not only those on the right, but also intolerant voices on the left.”
Team Romney said essentially the same thing in response to Nugent’s remarks:
“Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul told TPM. “Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil.”
Democrats were unimpressed.
“That has got to be the weakest, most meaningless reaction imaginable,” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told TPM. “Nugent’s comments were violent and were shocking and beyond the pale — and if Mitt Romney can’t condemn him in no uncertain terms he is not prepared to lead.”
The problem for Romney: his supporters and those who love demonizing rhetoric will feel his response is fine. But it will further hurt him with independent voters who hate polarizing talk radio style speech — let alone speech that seems to (accurately or not) condone violence, or assassination. It also takes him off a few days in which his campaign seemed to be regaining some of its footing and news stories noting how he is gaining in some Presidential polls.
And the White House? It has let Romney off the hook:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who has been attacking Mitt Romney for comments made by supporter Ted Nugent had the rug pulled out from under her by President Obama’s spokesman today.
“We can’t be policing the statements of supporters across the board,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answered when asked if Obama wants Romney to denounce Nugent, who described the Obama administration as “vile” and “evil,” in addition to saying “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
……Obama doesn’t seem nearly as interested. “A lot of this other stuff is noise,” his spokesman said today. “[Obama] has made the point that we can’t, as a general rule, police the statements of every supporter.”
FOOTNOTE: Before anyone sends me an angry email about suggesting that Nugent’s comments can be taken as threatening, kindly direct your scolding to the Secret Service which is apparently looking into the incident.
A reminder: so much for all the ringing eloquent talk after Gabby Giffords was shot about how neither party would tolerate the rhetoric of violence anymore or work hard to short circuit or tone it way down when it comes up. It continues, is encouraged and enabled — and one day we are likely to see a major political figure lose his/her life due to it. Which will lead to….more ringing, eloquent talk.