It is a sad state in the world of politics that probably one of the most important elections in this Nation's history has descended into a perception of the past. Poll after poll indicates that jobs, the economy, health care, and budget deficits are most on the minds of American voters. Instead, in Congress we are debating campaign finance reform in the non-starter DISCLOSE Act taking up two days of the Senate's time. Instead, President Obama is attacking his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in the press, with campaign advertisements, and in speeches about his time as head of Bain Capital, a private equity investment firm which Romney effectively left in 1999- thirteen years ago. When we are not discussing Bain, we are debating how many years worth of tax returns Romney should release for public consumption. As I sit writing this, Charlie Rose is playing in the background hounding Tim Pawlenty about this issue and citing the fact that John McCain and George W. Bush released more years worth of tax returns than Romney.
The Obama campaign will counter that Romney invited this upon himself since he is using his "business experience" as a selling point to be President. Alternately, they assert that the actions of Bain under Romney's leadership give clues as to what type of President he will be and, naturally, they interpret it as not a very good one and as looking out for the rich at the expense of the middle class. There is something ironic about a president who espouses basic socialist policies portraying himself as the protector of the middle class. At the end of the day, Obama's America envisions a classless state beholden to the federal government.
But, overlooked in the debate is what if Obama is correct? What if Mitt Romney's stewardship of Bain Capital or as Governor of Massachusetts or as head of the Salt Lake City Olympics does give us a glimpse as to what type of president he will make? If this line of debate is fair game, then Obama's past is also fair game. True, he is the incumbent president and we know now how he envisions America's future. Unfortunately, four years ago we failed to read the warning signs and connect the dots. And while enlightened people know this now, it still leaves his past fair game for analysis.
Concurrent with this debate, a lot of media speculation is over who Mitt Romney's running mate will be. There is no shortage of punditry in the lamestream media and here at Redstate.com and other conservative websites. Over at the liberal websites, the Democratic line of attack on potential running mates knows no bounds either. When Marco Rubio's name is mentioned, there are the inevitable attacks on Rubio and his parent's past in the liberal media. Tim Pawlenty? Again, the media scrutinizes him to the minute details of his life. Like Supreme Court Justices, Vice-Presidential hopefuls are generally well studied and vetted by the campaign. No repeat of Thomas Eagleton's electroshock therapy this time around! Short of a public colonoscopy, vice presidential aspirants are thoroughly vetted by the party, the campaign, and the media.
And there is the irony in this whole charade of a campaign thus far. If Barack Obama was vetted only half as thorough as any vice presidential aspirant, he may not be president today. If, by refusing to release tax returns, Obama is suggesting improprieties on Romney's behalf, there are certainly enough skeletons in Obama's past to fill an entire grave yard. In 2008, he received a free pass from the media and from the McCain campaign. Most of this was probably attributable to a combination of the Nation's Obamamania (best exemplified by tingling legs of news commentators) and the color of his skin. Objecting to an Obama policy or questioning something from his past was, by inference, a racial attack on the candidate. Leaving aside that racial animus was not involved in these serious questions, many meekly and sheepishly shied away from pressing Obama on these issues.
And those unanswered questions from 2008 are as important in 2012 and more so if they want to make Romney's past an issue. If his actions as CEO of Bain in the 1990s are fair game, then Obama's actions as "lawyer" and community organizer in the 1990s is fair game. If Mitt Romney's actions as Governor of Massachusetts is an issue, then Barack Obama's actions as a state senator in Illinois is an issue. Mitt Romney may have signed Romneycare into law in Massachusetts, but Barack Obama four times voted against outlawing live-birth abortion in Illinois (despite the nuanced "Not present" votes). If Mitt Romney allowed gay marriage in Massachusetts in response to a court decision, Barack Obama sided with organizations that wanted to limit the number of guns a law-abiding citizen of Illinois could own and even voted against a law in favor of self defense using a firearm. If Mitt Romney had or has an offshore account, then Barack Obama used his community organizing connections to funnel state funds in Illinois to pet peeve projects that benefitted his campaign donors. Mitt Romney was duly elected Governor of Massachusetts- a Republican in a deeply blue state. Barack Obama had to use challenged signatures to clear the primary field, then have court records unsealed in order to defeat a Republican in the general election. Quite frankly, a Republican Governor of Massachusetts is a bigger achievement than a black community organizer being elected state senator from Chicago, Illinois.
The fact is that are so many questions left unanswered or swept under the rug from 2008 regarding Obama. We have come to accept the excuse that Bill Ayers was just "some guy in the neighborhood." Simply being in the home of someone who founded the violent and radical Weather Underground that bombed buildings and had political assassination targets is more suspect and more telling about a person than the number of jobs ultimately outsourced when you headed a private equity firm. A person sitting in the pews of a church and listening to the racist ranting of Jeremiah Wright is more telling than a tax return. A person's political strategy in gaining office by removing your opposition by gaming the system or sexual/violent innuendo is more telling than a Republican being elected fairly in a state like Massachusetts. And I have not even addressed the unanswered questions involving Steven Rezko and his "slumlordship" which Obama helped create in Chicago.
If we are going to talk history of the candidates in order to gain an understanding of what type of president they will be or are, then that goes for both sides. Here's to hoping that Mitt Romney and his surrogates do not keep the gloves on like John McCain did in 2008. We cannot afford to give Barack Obama another free pass. This election should not be about the past, but face the challenges of the future and a vision for America. But if Obama wants to bring up the past, then it goes both ways. The fact is there are more disturbing skeletons in Obama's past than there are in the past of Mitt Romney.