White House race turns nasty as Mitt Romney brands Barack Obama a 'disgrace'
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Thursday 16 August 2012
So much for a lofty battle of ideas. The arrival of economic "big thinker" Paul Ryan on the 2012 Republican ticket has instead triggered an avalanche of personal attacks and insults unusual even by the bare-knuckle standards of US presidential politics.
Yesterday brought no respite as challenger Mitt Romney went on national television to accuse Barack Obama of being ready to stoop to anything to hang on to the White House, and running a "demeaning" campaign built on "division and attack and hatred".
That broadside, on the CBS This Morning show, followed a tirade the previous evening at a rally in the key swing state of Ohio, in which Mr Romney told his rival to "take your campaign… back to Chicago". The President's sole strategy, he went on, was to "smash America apart and then cobble together 51 per cent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose."
The cause of Mr Romney's uncharacteristic display of fury was a speech earlier in the day by Vice President Joe Biden, who told a largely black audience in Virginia, another battleground state, that the Romney-Ryan recipe of budget cuts and deregulation would "put y'all back in chains".
The Republican reaction was a mixture of righteous indignation and outrage: "Had Ryan said that, he would have been told to get off the ticket," one party strategist commented. "This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like," Mr Romney declared, condemning "wild and reckless" accusations that "disgraced" the presidency.
The abuse continued as an Obama spokesman then called Mr Romney's criticism "unhinged" – drawing the schoolyard retort from the latter that the only "unhinged" campaign was the one being run by the President.
But the roughhouse Obama tactics are deliberate, and the anger of his opponents anything but synthetic. The rhetoric and TV ads from both sides have been at best misleading and often downright fallacious.
In terms of sheer nastiness however, Republicans have yet to come up with one to match a Democratic ad suggesting Mr Romney was directly to blame for the death of a woman deprived of health coverage when her husband lost his job at a steel mill taken over by Bain Capital, the private investment firm run by the Republican candidate.
But the criticism will not bother the Obama campaign one bit. The blistering attacks are part of its basic strategy – which Mr Ryan's arrival has only accentuated – of portraying its opponents as advocates of law- of-the-jungle economics, that help the rich minority at the expense of middle- and working-class Americans. Whether that overall strategy is working is unclear.
Some post-Ryan polls suggest that Mr Romney has drawn level in the national race, but in key states like Ohio, the President still seems to enjoy a narrow lead. Republicans can expect a further boost, albeit modest, from their convention starting in 10 days in Tampa, Florida.
For the time being though, Democrats will keep up their barrage, focussing especially on Mr Ryan, author of a tax-cutting, welfare-slashing budget passed in March by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. There are some signs too that the tactics are hitting home.
Mr Romney once said the Ryan budget – which most controversially part-privatises Medicare, the popular federal health programme for the elderly – was "marvellous". This week however, anxious not to upset the large contingent of seniors in states like Florida and Ohio, he insisted the budget proposals he would sent to Congress if elected would be his own.
For now though, one thing is sure. The high-minded discussion about eliminating the deficit and America's future that was supposed to be unleashed by the advent of Mr Ryan has not come to pass.
scienceScientists find the answer to a question that even puzzled Darwin
arts + entsThe 'Friends' actor on his new role as campaigner on addiction issues
Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
Colin Farrell reveals ‘affair’ with Elizabeth Taylor: 'She was my last romantic relationship'
Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
India-US row over escalates over arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York
Peter O'Toole: Tales of the late film icon
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 Facebook 'self-censorship': study records when you don't post to find more ways to share
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Vitamin pills are a waste of money, offer no health benefits and could be harmful - study
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£450 - £500 Per Day Flexible: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: EC1N 400-500/da...
£44000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Top Independent Practice -...
£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Geography ...
£40000 - £60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Business Developme...