Conservatives wonder: If Mitt Romney won't make the case for their policies, won't he, at the very least, bash President Obama in the way John McCain refused to do in 2008? For today at least, the Romney campaign answers: Yes! A Romney adviser tells BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins that Romney "believes it's time to vet the president. He really hasn't been vetted; McCain didn't do it." The adviser doesn't mean dig up new secrets from Obama's past, because he or she listed several stories we're familiar with from 2008: "I mean, this is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate." Instead, the Romney campaign appears to be using the word "vetting" the same way Sarah Palin does, which approximately means "calling Obama a leftist foreigner." We got an early preview of where those attacks are headed on Tuesday, when Romney surrogate John Sununu told Fox News that Obama "has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn't be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago."
The idea that Obama wasn't vetted has been an obsession on the right for years. Bretibart.com launched a series called "The Vetting" a couple months ago. Sarah Palin picked up on the idea in March. And conservatives see a huge opportunity for vetting in the Romney campaign's "Death Star," the attack machine that was able to annihilate Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum in the Republican primaries, but so far hasn't been nearly as successful against Obama. On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh said, "Romney knows how to do this. He did it to Newt and he did it to Santorum. He knows full well how he has to do this." Then he offered his own suggestion, just in case Romney doesn't know how to do this. Romney should say to Obama, "Look, pal, when I was out creating jobs, investing in businesses and growing this economy, you were at Columbia smoking weed and snorting coke."
"How did vaunted Romney Death Star break down?" Byron York asks Wednesday in the conservative Washington Examiner. York writes that while Romney was able to crush his primary opponents, he hasn't been nearly as successful against Obama. (Yet!) Why? Among other reasons, York suggests general election voters are more interested in attacks on Romney's wealth than primary voters were, plus, well, Romney's just being a little wimpy about it. While Romney gleefully mocked Gingrich for whining about negative attacks in the primary, York says, Romney's the whiner now. "Romney is far more self-controlled than Gingrich, but the effect is the same; he’s whining about the other guy treating him badly."
While some conservatives have begged Romney to start talking about his own conservative vision for America instead of just attacking Obama, he can't, The Daily Beast's David Frum writes. Romney can't excite the base "not only because of ideology, but even more because of sociology. Romney's life, career, and manner all combine to remind the white working class why their parents and grandparents voted Democratic. But what can be done is to rev up fear and dislike of the president."
Now that Romney's campaign is doing more of that, look at how well it's playing with the Republican base. At RedState, Erick Erickson synthesizes the last few days of Romney's messages in a post urging conservatives not to freak out just yet. Erickson writes:
Barack Obama was raised first in Hawaii where his mentor was a communist. Then Indonesia and then back in Hawaii where he spent his time in a prestigious private school stoned. Then he went to private, super liberal colleges where his autobiographical fiction suggests he basically played the role of emo wanderer. Then he became a self-described failed community organizer. Then he entered the ranks of academics and politicians.
Of course Barack Obama believes successful people should give back to government. He’s been quite successful in government. It is the only success he has ever really known.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.