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Rubber and Glue

The folks at Newsweek are now questioning the manhood of presumptive Republican presidential Mitt Romney, with their latest cover story going so far as to call him a “wimp.”

They probably figured that the slur worked well enough back in ’87 to dog George H.W Bush, who had been a star college athlete, decorated combat pilot, and former CIA chief, so it should work again with a candidate lacking those macho credentials. The “wimp” tag didn’t keep Bush from winning the election in ’88, though, and there’s no reason to believe it will be any more effective now.

For one thing, Newsweek is a shell of its formerly fearsome self. The magazine was sold to a new publisher two years ago for the partly sum of one dollar — even The Central Standard Times could fetch as much as ten times that amount — and is now rarely read except by people waiting for dental treatment or oil changes.

More importantly, the “wimp” charge is unlikely to trouble Romney because he’s running against Barack Obama. As voters weigh the relative wimpiness of the two candidates they’ll inevitably be linked to video of Obama’s girlish throwing arm, photos of the dorky helmet he wears when pedaling his girls’ bike slowly along smooth surfaces, be reminded of a physique so slight that none dare call it “skinny” for fear of being branded a racist, and perhaps even remember that very same Newsweek thought it was doing Obama a favor by dubbing him “America’s first gay president.” Once an avowedly dovish sort who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for George W. Bush-bashing speeches, Obama now prefers to strike a more cowboyish pose with “unnamed administration sources” boasting of his top secret swashbuckling, endless celebration of the death of Osama bin Laden, and increased use of the drone attacks he once condemned, but that can’t change the perception that has come about after resetting Russo-American relations to a supine position, having his minions boast of “leading from behind,” and being increasingly ignored by foreign leaders.

Such comparisons have thus far blunted all of the attacks on Romney. The Obama campaign and its media allies have tried to portray Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy, but after four years of gushing over his glamorous lifestyle, and spending more time with his fellow rock stars than with the guns-and-Bible-clinging masses, the charge merely serves as a reminder that Romney earned his money in ways that suggest a familiarity with what makes a private sector economy work. They charged that he ruthlessly shipped jobs overseas, and were met with a flurry of stories about the millions of stimulus dollars that were lavished on foreign concerns. They tried to make an issue of Romney’s alleged bullying while at a fancy prep school, and conservative media responded with Obama’s own words describing how he was drunk, stoned, and prone to radical ideologies during his time at an equally fancy prep school. They tried to define Romney as a dog-hating brute who strapped a pooch atop the family station wagon, and heard countless replays of Obama’s fond recollection of eating a dog.

The Obama campaign and its supporters at such last gasp media as Newsweek are intent on making the election about Romney and any human failings he might possess, but voters are unlikely to forget that the alternative isn’t the God-like figure he was presented as in the last election. The voters will probably then turn to such weightier matters as the economy, and that’s where the real troubles for the president’s re-election campaign begin.

— Bud Norman

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