In a radio interview this morning, asked about how he felt when President Obama had called his dad a liar, Tagg Romney joked that he wanted to “take a swing” at Obama.
When he had heard Obama say that, Tagg told North Carolina radio host Bill LuMaye, he wanted to “jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the stage and take a swing at him. But you know you can’t do that because, well, first because there’s a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because that’s the nature of the process.”
Tagg’s voice is jokey, and a Romney aide e-mails, “He was joking about how frustrating this process can be for family.”
As my colleague Charles C. W. Cooke recalled, Michelle Obama made a joke along similar lines to the Guardian in 2008:
[Michelle Obama's] pride visibly chafes at being asked to subsume her personality, to make herself seem duller and less independent than she is, even in the service of getting her husband elected President of the United States. In Wisconsin, I asked her if she was offended by Bill Clinton’s use of the phrase ‘fairytale’ to describe her husband’s characterisation of his position on the Iraq war. At first, Obama responded with a curt ‘No’. But, after a few seconds, she affected a funny voice. ‘I want to rip his eyes out!’ she said, clawing at the air with her fingernails. One of her advisers gave her a nervous look. ‘Kidding!’ Obama said. ‘See, this is what gets me into trouble.’
As far as I can tell, Michelle Obama was never accused of a racist mindset for making that joke.
UPDATE: Ta-Nehisi Coates responded to me here. I misunderstood his original post, which I had read as an implication that Tagg Romney was racist. But based on his response to me, it appears that Coates wasn’t saying that, but that if a black man had talked like Tagg Romney had, it would have a different reception in our culture.
However, I didn’t bring up Michelle Obama as an example in response to Coates’ post (which I didn’t see until after I had seen the quote from Mrs. Obama), but simply as a point that making jokes about hurting an opponent is not a behavior limited to one side of the aisle.