Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades sent out a fundraising email Tuesday morning accusing President Obama of "deceitful rhetoric."
"During a surprise media briefing yesterday - the first in eight weeks - he claimed that his campaign had never called Mitt Romney a criminal," Rhoades said. "But back in July, his campaign did just that, saying Governor Romney 'could be guilty of a felony.' Let's be very clear: when you accuse your opponent of committing crimes and refuse to condemn attacks that link your opponent to killing someone, you have lost all credibility."
Rhoades concludes in his missive that "(t)here's no doubt that President Obama will say and do anything to save his job. This is not the first time his campaign has distorted the truth or engaged in outright dishonest and personal attacks. But the President's untruthful denial and his continued failure to stand against such deceitful rhetoric have diminished the office he holds, and it's another promise to voters he's broken."
It's interesting for the Romney campaign to object to misrepresentations and lack of candor, since it has engaged in much of that as well - starting with that notorious out-of-the-box TV ad in which the Romney campaign engaged in deceptive editing so as to make Obama citing a McCain aide saying something questionable sound as though Obama was saying it himself, continuing up to its misleading welfare reform ad , which is on TV today.
And yet, Rhoades' umbrage is worth looking into.
His email makes reference to, as we noted yesterday , the president being asked about the tone of the campaign.
CBS News' Nancy Cordes said that "your campaign has suggested repeatedly without proof that Mr. Romney might be hiding something in his tax returns, they have suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon for the way that he handed over power of Bain Capital, and your campaign and the White House have declined to condemn an ad by one of your top supporters that links Mr. Romney to a woman's death from cancer."
"I'm not sure all those characterizations that you laid out there were accurate," the president said. "For example, nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon."
But what Cordes said was that the Obama campaign "suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon," and she had it exactly right.
Last month, referring to documents filed with the Security and Exchange Commission by Bain Capital that consistently listed Romney as the CEO even though he had relinquished that power, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said, "Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony. Or, he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments."
As for Cordes noting that the Obama campaign and the White House "have declined to condemn an ad by one of your top supporters that links Mr. Romney to a woman's death from cancer," the president said "I don't think that Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad. But keep in mind this is an ad that I didn't approve, I did not produce and, as far as I can tell, has barely run. I think it ran once. Now, in contrast, you've got Governor Romney creating, as a centerpiece of his campaign, this notion that we're taking the work requirement out of welfare, which every single person here who's looked at it says is patently false, right?"
But it's not just the pro-Obama super-PAC, Priorities USA Action (run by two former Obama White House officials), that has cited Missouri steelworker Joe Soptic's story - it's also the Obama campaign.
On its website right now is a slideshow about the closure of GST Steel in which Soptic is quoted saying "I worked hard all my life and played by the rules, and they allowed this to happen."
Soptic is described as an "employee for 28 years, whose wife died of lung cancer after he lost his GST health plan."
Moreover, the Obama campaign held a conference call in May during which Soptic told his story.
If the president doesn't "think that Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad," his campaign sure seems to be suggesting otherwise.
In short, the president's responses were at best less than candid and at worse downright misleading.