Any attack on me frees me from any standard of truth or relevance whatsoever in counterattack.
Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins gets the formal declaration* of this one from an unnamed Romney campaign adviser:
Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney's finances and business record, the Republican's campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston's pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a "liar" — very little will be off-limits, from the president's youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.
"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," the adviser said. "The bottom line is there'll be counterattacks."
The immediate application of this rule is an intensification of Rule #1: Context doesn't matter. Anything you say I may use against you, e.g., by making it sound like you said the opposite. A Romney aide stated this as an explicit principle last November, and Romney seconded it in a debate on Jan. 26.
The latest instance is a willfully deceptive exploitation of Obama's accidental pronoun-antecedent ambiguity in an Elizabeth Warren-esque riff telling business owners: Bravo, but you didn't do it alone -- a kind of second-person "without whom this award would not have been possible" routine. The now-famous line in this 7/13 speech in Roanoke, VA -- "you didn't build that" -- plainly refers to infrastructure (note 'the point' at the end'):
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.Here is how the Romney campaign has edited it:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.
If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be ‘cause I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
An exact analogue would be an Obama video highlighting Romney saying "I like to fire people" without adding the rest of the sentence "who provide services to me" -- or the context, in which "people" plainly referred to "businesses" (an odd reverse-affirmation of Romney's "corporations are people too," which it seems he's internalized). As Romney's "people" denoted service companies (with specific reference to health insurers), Obama's "that" denoted "roads and bridges" -- and, in the broader context, the various forms of infrastructure cited.
But "never mind, he said it." If the Obama campaign responds in kind, we'll be another step deeper in the Big Muddy of post-truth politics. The is always the way with Republican destruction of norms and taboos, from fair taxation to torture to parliamentary gamesmanship to campaign discourse. The GOP degrades and destroys standards, and the Democrats are dragged onto a new playing field.
* See the Dish for a roundup of further comment on this stated strategy.