With his blatantly dishonest "Jeep" ad accusing President Obama of ruining the American auto industry, Governor Romney has pulled out the last desperate arrow in his quiver: the Swift-Boat tactic.
You will recall that during the 2004 presidential campaign, a group of President Bush supporters calling themselves "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" launched a vicious series of charges aimed at destroying Senator Kerry's reputation as a military hero. Since we were at the time mired in Bush's devastatingly ill-advised war in Iraq, Kerry's military credentials were a paramount asset in his effort to displace Bush as Commander-in-Chief.
Despite abundant factual evidence that Kerry had repeatedly risked his life in combat situations in Vietnam while commanding a Navy vessel called a Swift Boat, the attacks on Kerry set out to destroy his positive image as a war hero. And despite their scurrilous intent and dishonest content, the ads proved to be highly effective at doing just that. They skillfully cast doubt on Kerry's qualifications and reputation, and some observers regard them as having been crucial in Kerry's defeat.
What made "swiftboating" so effective? Precisely this: It attacked a competitor at the very heart of his greatest strength. Quite the opposite of conceding and working around a formidable strength, swiftboating wades right into it and slashes away until some buckling occurs.
In this regard, it is the equivalent of the picadors at a bullfight. On my first visit to Madrid back in the 1960s, I witnessed a magnificent bull enter the ring rippling with a thousand pounds of muscle and quivering with dangerous energy that was poised to massacre a 160-pound matador. I was full of admiration for whichever matador would enter the ring to do battle with this awesome creature.
But wait. Before the bullfighter came into the ring, the picadors arrived. Two fellows bearing long-handled, razor-sharp lances, they rode circles around the bull astride well-padded horses, slashing at those burly muscles, cutting deeply into the bull's shoulders and the back of his neck. Each well-placed cut was perfectly designed to reduce the bull's ability to hold up his head with its fearsome horns. Thus crippled, the bull was forced to hang his head low enough for the matador to reach over those horns and thrust his sword into the back of that once-proud neck, which he eventually did, turning a magnificent beast into a heaving corpse.
Well, both the picadors and the swiftboaters were disgusting to watch. But they were both highly effective at doing what they set out to do: destroy their opponents' greatest asset in the impending competition.
No wonder Romney, no stranger to disgusting mendacity in his campaign tactics, would now pull out his little October Surprise of suddenly trying to persuade the voters of Ohio and Michigan that Obama's rescue was actually their ruination.
One would think that someone so egotistical and arrogant as Romney would have at least the tiniest amount of pride that would preclude his airing outright lies so blatant that the executives of the automobile industry feel constrained to chastise him in public. Imagine: If George Romney were still CEO of an auto company, Mitt Romney's own father would be among those having to publicly declare that this unprincipled man is lying. At long last, Mitt, have you no decency?
Apparently not. If there is anything we have learned about this pathetic man, it is that he is willing to say anything -- absolutely anything -- in his quest to ascend to the office to which he feels entitled. Devoid of any enduring principle or value that he would not sacrifice to this quest, he will go down flailing desperately.
And he will go down. He will go down in defeat on Nov. 6, 2012, because even his supporters now lament his desperation. And he will go down in history as a prime example of how low a decent man can sink in the service of ambition.