Mitt Romney has spent much of August complaining bitterly about the tone of the presidential campaign. He's accused President Obama repeatedly of making "personal attacks." He recently told an Ohio audience, "Take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America."
Much of the political establishment agreed. Obama's team is pushing the race into the "gutter." The president is making the race too "small." Why, oh why, Republicans have cried, can't the campaign be about substance and issues?
For those who can't watch clips online, Romney told a Michigan audience, "Now, I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital; I was born in Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate -- they know that this is the place that we were born and raised."
The Republican crowd cheered and applauded.
Tell us again, Mitt, about the scourge of personal attacks and how desperate you are for the campaign to claim the high road.
Maybe Romney was trying to be funny? Not according to a campaign spokesperson, who said the candidate "was just illustrating he was born and raised here in Michigan."
Right, of course. And if you believe that, I have a bridge to nowhere I'd love to sell you.
Some of the same folks who've been complaining about the tone of the campaign are immediately embracing a false equivalency: "Obama makes Seamus the dog reference, Romney makes birther reference. Smallness of our politics is amazing."
It's true that the president made a joke last week in Iowa. "During a speech a few months ago, Governor Romney even explained his energy policy," Obama said. "This is what he said; he said, 'You can't drive a car with a windmill on it.' That's what he said about wind power -- you can't drive a car with a windmill on it. I mean, maybe he's tried it; he's put other things on the roof."
Maybe you found the joke funny, maybe you didn't. But can we at least agree there's a qualitative difference here? Poor ol' Seamus really did get stuck on the roof of Romney's car, while the birther garbage is based on a racist conspiracy theory with no basis in reality.
For that matter, Romney's the one who's spent the last several weeks whining incessantly about personal attacks and the tone of the race. Is this how Romney intends to claim the high road? By echoing Donald Trump? Is this a new approach to "reuniting America"?