Mitt Romney has fighting clothes in his closet, after all. He has taken them out twice over the past fortnight and his new duds have made a difference already.
If his new aggressiveness lasts, it’s a sign of good things to come in November. Defense wins football games, but only offense wins elections. Republicans, who instinctively prefer drawing-room niceness, often have trouble getting their heads around that.
Instead of continuing to playing the sucker in the Bain blame game, endlessly trying to explain away his success in making money — which has always been the national pastime — the Republican challenger is finally taking the fight to the president, taking due note of what a new campaign commercial calls “a perverted form of crony capitalism during his first 3½ years in office — to the detriment of the American middle class.”
“This is a tough time for the people of America,” Mr. Romney told a Fox television interviewer. “But if you are a campaign contributor to Barack Obama, your business may stand to get billions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from the government. I think it’s wrong. I think it stinks to high heaven, and I think the administration has to explain how it is they would consider giving money to campaign contributors’ businesses.”
This burst of aggressiveness followed one of his best speeches so far, to the national convention of the NAACP, telling the delegates bluntly why he intends to repeal Obamacare. Nevertheless, he said, he and not Mr. Obama is really the One they have been waiting for. “If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him.” No cheers, but when the scattered booing subsided, he pressed on: “You take a look.”
This beats by a mile the repetition of trivia and the reprising of stale talking points. Most of all, it beats repeating demands for apologies for the assorted libels, defamations and slanders that are the standard fare of political campaigns.
Nobody this side of state prison likes being called a felon (and felons don’t like it much, either) and when an Obama campaign aide said that Mr. Romney was “either a liar or a felon” for his explanation of how he filled out certain reporting documents about his employment at Bain, Mr. Romney was right to call her out on it. But then it was time to let it go. Apologies are for sissies and they’re rarely sincere, anyway.
We’re becalmed in the midsummer doldrums, when political speech rarely impresses voters, if indeed any are listening. But fighting speech fires up the troops that Mr. Romney must count on to win.
Tom Davis, the former congressman who is an honorary chairman of the Romney campaign in Virginia, observes that the doldrums are the time to fill up space because “if you don’t fill it, the other campaign will.” Kenneth Cuccinelli, the attorney general of Virginia, tells David Sherfinski of The Washington Times that the change in Mr. Romney may reflect not tougher, but smarter. “I think Gov. Romney is by nature a nicer guy than you’re used to seeing in politics.” Perhaps, but nice guys, as baseball legend Leo Durocher famously said, finish last.
There will be time later for speech more substantial than name-calling. The president’s proposed cuts in defense spending will be one of them; Mr. Romney promised during the primary campaign that he intends to reverse “the hollowing out of the Navy.” When crisis calls, every president first dispatches the Navy’s carriers, which now number 11.
Not only is the Navy being “hollowed out,” but, like the other services, its fighting spirit is being crippled by politically correct admirals ever ready to retreat at the first sound of grunts and squeaks by feminists, gays and powder-puff warriors.
Only this week, the Navy announced that it would not outfit its newest carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, with urinals. “Heads,” as the Navy calls shipboard latrines, must be redesigned to accommodate the ladies. “Gender-neutral bathing,” the Navy says, will ensure “comfort” aboard the carriers. The sight of a urinal on the wall might offend feminist delicacy. The chief of naval operations must make sure the swabbies put down the toilet seat before they leave the gender-neutral head, and the only solution might be an order, backed by threat of drumhead court-martial, for everyone to take a seat. Hollowed-out Navy, indeed.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.