Republicans in the Wayback Machine

A lot of this is just a frantic effort to generate some sort of counter-example to Mitt’s Boca Moment for the benefit of other conservatives and of MSM types looking for “balance,” but it’s striking how much wind is in the air today regarding “revelation” about Barack Obama’s words and deeds of the distant past.

Most prominently, of course, is the 1998 Obama speech that positively mentions “redistribution” (and also, in a section nobody on the Right is talking about, praises “markets” and “competition” and “innovation”), which Romney is talking about and will soon, I gather, be featured in ads. But we’ve also got a mammoth Washington Examiner “expose” of “Obama’s past” its reporters have been beavering away on for four months. And I guess you know that the Breitbartian wing of the wingnutosphere has as its foundation the belief that Obama’s past is the key to all his nefarious schemes to rob us all of our priceless birthright of freedom.

That all this digging around is being done for a Romney/Ryan ticket that exhibits vast amnesia about its own past words and deeds should be discussed a bit more often. At what stage of his ideological evolution or devolution or whatever you want to call it was Mitt Romney at in 1998 when state senator Obama was speaking at Loyola? I sure don’t know, other than being aware that this was after his fighting-Republican-liberal campaign against Ted Kennedy yet before his let’s-have-universal-health-insurance stint as governor. Do we need journalists to vet him a bit more?

And then there’s young Mr. Ryan, who would have us believe his famous 2005 speech at the Atlas Society’s “Celebration of Ayn Rand” was in a distant era, presumably before he became a student of St. Thomas Aquinas (just today the Catholic magazine America reported on un-transcribed portions of that speech which turn Ryan’s admiration of Objectivism into a practical agenda for dismantling the “collectivist” heritage of the New Deal).

In any event, it’s increasingly laughable for our friends on the Right to hold Barack Obama strictly accountable for everything he’s ever said (along with everything said by anyone he ever associated with), while Romney and Ryan shouldn’t be held accountable for what they’ve said the day before yesterday (or more accurately, in May, when Mitt played Boca). The Wayback Machine is not very friendly to their case.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

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.