Some Dare Call It Treason

At Ten Miles Square, Jonathan Bernstein makes a good point about the brouhaha over Mitt Romney not contradicting a woman at one of his town hall meetings who said Obama should be tried for treason:

[I]f everything that Mitt Romney, Republican Members of Congress, and the other Republican presidential candidates say about Barack Obama was true, then Obama should be tried for treason. It’s that kind of rhetoric that’s the problem, not Romney’s immediate response to what someone says at a rally.

As Jonathan notes, encouraging “the crazy” has become an extraordinarily regular feature of GOP politics these days:

[W]hat Romney did say in answering the question [about Obama’s “treason”] was just about as goofy as what he didn’t say. The question was about Obama supposedly not governing within the Constitution, and Romney, in answering that, made sure to say that in his view the Constitution and the Declaration were “not just brilliant, but probably inspired.” Which is standard rhetoric these days within the GOP — it used to be good enough to just emphasize the Declaration (because it specifically invokes God), but now one has to pretend to believe that the United States is all special and all (that is, “exceptional”) because God wanted it that way. You know — in the old days, we would call that a “dog whistle” and move on, but I watched an awful lot of GOP debates this year, and the truth is that the presidential nomination was about 90% dog whistle and 10% substance. And that’s probably a generous reading.

So why should have Mitt Romney turned a hair when one of his supporters came out and said what his party’s rhetoric has been encouraging them to think all along? The “crazy people” aren’t just more honest than many conservative pols; in some respects, they are even more logical.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.