President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family. - Mitt Romney, August 30, 2012
Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth - Barack Obama, June 8, 2008The line got all sorts of cheers at the expense of Barack Obama. "He's going to stop the oceans from rising, isn't that funny?!? The guy thinks he's the Messiah or something!" Then, Romney turned it around, the single most clever moment of his Presidential campaign yet: He made a simple promise that people could understand. No grand vision of world-changing events; just simple, honest hard work for the American family.
Let me just say I admire this, the best rhetorical moment in Romney's acceptance speech. Playing off the ridiculous idea that Barack Obama considers himself some kind of Messiah, it lets folks who oppose the President get that particular freak on, all the while making Mitt Romney's candidacy (and potential Presidency) look all the more down to earth.
All the same, if you actually look at what then-candidate Obama said, it becomes clear that Romney, yet again, gets it wrong. In fact, he gets it wrong in a really important, substantive fashion. He gets it wrong the same way all those who insist Pres. Obama suffers from megalomania get it wrong. Whether as a candidate or as President, one word Obama rarely uses in speeches is "I". In particular during campaign mode, candidate Obama was and is very careful to use the plural "we". Obama is very clear that the vision he outlined in the speech after clinching the nomination four June's ago is not a vision of what "he" will do. Quite the contrary. The speech is about his hope and belief and vision that the American people - "we"; remember it's plural here - will do the hard work and make the tough choices and sacrifices to make America a great and good land.
Now, we can argue about these matters on the merits. What we cannot do is say, "Obama said x," when in fact, he never did. We cannot pretend that Obama's saying x indicates something about his personality when he did not in fact say x. Indeed, insisting he did say x actually says more about the people who insist he did so than about the person who never said it. So, Gov. Romney . . . why do you believe Pres. Obama said he'd heal the oceans when there is no record he ever said any such thing?
Furthermore, I would like to know what is wrong with what candidate Obama said in 2008. Is it bad to tell the American people that working together we can make a difference? Is it wrong to tell the American people that the specter of the looming effects of global warming - something with which we have become all too familiar the past year - need not be inevitable if we work together to change it? Is it wrong to tell American families that serving and helping them includes making sure their homes aren't washed away in the rising tides, or their farms burned to a crisp in the scorching drought? Is it wrong to let the American people know that all of us can, indeed, do great things despite what the nay-sayers and doom-preachers insist is so?
Because, Gov. Romney, I have to tell you, I much prefer a President who challenges us - us, now; in case you've forgotten again, that's the plural meaning a whole bunch of us - to face our problems to one who invents quotes from his opponents, then insists these quotes contain some kind of political or moral or personal error by making of them some kind of punchline to a really clever rhetorical move. I admire the rhetoric, Governor. I don't admire what's behind it.