Hey, kids, remember a few days ago, when Politico ran a statement from a "senior Obama adviser" saying, "There's a weirdness factor with Romney, and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public?" And also the word "weird" was used by "Obama's advisers in about a dozen interviews" in reference to Romney? Which made it pretty clear that the Obama re-election strategy against Mitt Romney was just to straight up call him a weirdo all the time? Well, all of that is now null and void, as David Axelrod made clear on Morning Joe today that anyone using the word "weird" would be fired from the campaign.
The word "weird" gets you fired? That's extraordinary. (Though I imagine it won't apply to the numerous aforementioned advisers who have now very firmly planted the idea that Mitt Romney is "weird" in the public's consciousness.)
But that was what Axelrod said, while also calling the original Politico story "garbage."
STEELE: Do you think taking it to the level of referring to Romney or any of the Republican candidates as "weird," is that more personal or is that more a reality in terms of an issue you want to talk about? How do you guys plan to really define this discussion if the team is already throwing out stuff, we want to show America he's weird. How about we just speak to the issues?
AXELROD: Michael, lets you and I make common cause right now. No one on my team believes that. And anyone who purports to be a source within the Obama camp who used that term and some of the other terms that were in that story according to unnamed sources should be ripped out of whoever's Rolodex considers them sources. That doesn't reflect our thinking. We have real legitimate differences with Mitt Romney, some of which I just spoke about.
SCARBOROUGH: Again, this is the news here. That Politico story that said that the Obama campaign said they wanted to, quote, kill Mitt Romney, that you were going to trash him, that you were going to make him look strange, that you were going to make fun of his tight jeans which I think are kind of sexy, all that is garbage, right? Are you saying that story is false?
AXELROD: Yes, I think -- all of it is garbage. I'm still trying to get my mind around your fascination with his jeans. All of that is garbage.
SCARBOROUGH: If the President found out or you found out or the Chief of Staff found out that somebody working for President Obama was trying to take that tack, would you all fire them?
AXELROD: I would -- if someone used words like 'weird,' I would certainly do that, yes.
Wow, okay. Let's get our head around this: it's now no longer acceptable in the Obama campaign to say that Romney is "weird." Well, the Obama campaign had better get used to constantly implying that Romney is as normal as a blue sky in springtime, because here's how politics works: the second anyone from the Obama camp says something that even glances at the implication that Romney is at all strange, there's going to be a demand for someone's head on a plate -- if not from Romney's Camp Of Perpetual Anguish, then from the media.
But beyond that, who gets fired in politics for calling somebody "weird?" Good lord, this is not touch football, this is running for president! Don't you have to be a pretty strange person to want to run this country in the first place? What's more, as Greg Sargent points out, it's not like the Romney team is planning on hewing to the same standard. Their constant message has been: "OBAMA, HE'S WEIRD."
Romney’s announcement speech was all about reinforcing the message that Obama isn’t one of us. He questioned Obama’s appreciation of America as “we” understand it, and suggested Obama has transformed our country into something no longer recognizably American. Romney has accused Obama of “counterfeit values” that would “change the very character of America.” Romney has said: “I believe in the Constitution — and I believe in the greatness of America,” clearly insinuating that Obama doesn’t.
Romney has explicitly stated that Obama’s American-ness and cultural instincts will be central to the 2012 campaign. “The American people have established a perspective on the President which is going to be lasting — that he has not understood the nature of America,” Romney said earlier this year. No, the parallel is not perfect, but the two cases are awfully similar.
This has just been the strangest series of events. Referring to Romney as "weird" or "phony" or "inauthentic" is pretty sound strategy. You can tie it to things Romney has done. He's flip-flopped on countless positions. That's inauthentic! He's turned his back on his CommonwealthCare health care reform plan -- the very thing that got him in the presidential mix in the first place. That's phony! HE STRAPPED A CAGED DOG TO THE ROOF OF HIS CAR. That's weird! But if you say these things now, you will get fired, per David Axelrod.
Good luck keeping to these absurd new rules of engagement, David!