On Andrea Saul and Sister Souljah

by Michael Potemra

There has been some talk recently to the effect that it would help Mitt Romney if he did a “Sister Souljah” manoeuvre to reassure non-ideological Americans that they can trust him with the presidency. But are we perhaps in the middle of just such a moment, right now?

Katrina Trinko posted yesterday about Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul’s comments about how a woman in a controversial pro-Obama ad would have had health-care coverage if she had lived in Massachusetts under Governor Romney’s health-care plan. The conservative punditocracy lit up with outrage: Ann Coulter said Andrea Saul should be fired. Erick Erickson said her response raised doubts on the right about Romney himself; and even Rush Limbaugh said her statement could help the Obama team.

Look, I’m as dismayed as anyone by the low-road tactics on view in the super-PAC ad accusing Romney of being responsible for a woman’s death. (The ad is debunked — by CNN, hardly a right-wing source! — here.) But isn’t there a chance that Governor Romney knows what he’s doing? There are different ways of dealing with slime ads from independent groups. Romney’s spokeswoman decided not to descend to the level of the people who were attacking her candidate, and pointed out that the candidate’s policies — back when he was governor of Massachusetts — would actually have helped the person in question.

The undercurrent of the criticism of Saul is that Romney should be deeply ashamed of the policy he himself implemented just a handful of years ago. But I think it’s highly unlikely that Romney actually feels the level of shame some extremely demanding people are requiring of him. He attacks the Obamacare policy because he believes it is different in significant ways from his own Massachusetts health-care plan. As someone who is not a policy wonk — something I have in common with, oh, at least 97 percent of Americans — I believe him on this.

If he sticks with Andrea Saul, publicly and vocally, it would send a message to the American people that he is not under the thumb of the punditocracy, and reassure Americans that he is his own man, and might just have the strength of character it takes to be a good president.

(N.B.: I don’t know Andrea Saul or Mitt Romney personally and thus have no parti pris on this particular controversy.) 

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