Those bad, bad GOP boys

Tagg Romney wants to "take a swing at" Obama while Tommy Thompson's son would send him back to Kenya. Classy

By Joan Walsh

Published October 18, 2012 2:13AM (EDT)

Mitt Romney's weird aggressiveness toward President Obama has been widely discussed since Tuesday's debate. He stalked him back to his chair a couple of times, told him, "You'll have your turn" and otherwise treated him in ways no one can remember a challenger treating a president. That's after his amped-up, periodically disrespectful first debate performance.

Romney's son Tagg took the innovative disrespect to another level Wednesday, telling a North Carolina interviewer that watching Obama call his father out over what I would call lies (but Obama never did) made him “wanna rush down to the debate stage and take a swing at him.” All that constrained him, said Tagg, was knowing that he was surrounded by Secret Service and also, that “this is just the nature of the process.”

I'm not someone who thinks the president can't be challenged, but I thought Romney reached a remarkable new high of disrespect Tuesday, after establishing an earlier benchmark in the Oct. 3 debate. Hearing his son Tagg say he wanted to "take a swing at him" makes me scratch my head and try to remember another presidential candidate's son – or daughter; let's not be sexist – expressing that kind of hostility toward a president. It just hasn't happened.

I can't help thinking it's either consciously or unconsciously channeling the unique disrespect and combativeness the right feels toward Obama. Add to that Wisconsin Senate candidate Tommy Thompson's son Jason wallowing in birtherism, telling a Kenosha crowd "we have the opportunity" to send Obama back to Kenya. It turns out Jason Thompson made a birther joke earlier in the campaign, but only after someone in his audience made it first. Yet that doesn't exonerate him.

The fact that Thompson got the joke from someone in the GOP crowd only provides more evidence that this kind of disrespect is meant to play to the Obama-haters. Just a couple of days later Republicans at a Paul Ryan rally handed out copies of the deranged anti-Obama book "Dreams From my Real Father," which alleges the president's mother conceived him with Frank Marshall Davis, a left-wing writer who's the topic of myriad anti-Obama paranoia. Also this week, Cindy McCain tweeted about Dinesh D'Souza's cheesy anti-Obama fantasy: "Watched 2016 Obama's America. Certainly makes me feel unsure. GOP must win!"

Tagg Romney's ostentatious faux-macho shot at the president is designed to elicit the same kind of Obama-hate from his party's base. Yet we're supposed to give Romney credit for having a wonderful, loving family. Maybe that's classist. Sarah Palin dipped into the dregs of Obama-hate four years ago, but nobody in her family talked about punching Barack Obama.

It's going to be a tough three weeks.

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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Mitt Romney Tagg Romney