A backer introduced Romney by slamming President Obama for taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden, comparing Obama to Ronald McDonald. And when a woman said Obama should be tried for treason, Romney didn't disagree and asked the woman to follow up her question.That was awfully nice of McCain, but let's remember he lost. And I think I remember him having a rather exaggerated fear of criticizing Obama. Now, I think McCain had some reason to worry that people in the audience would say something racist or arguably racist or somewhat racial and that anything like that would be exploited by the Obama campaign. But at this point in American history, 4 years later, we are free to criticize Obama. Romney doesn't need to go all beta when an audience member states her antagonism to Obama in a strong way. He doesn't need to scold and discipline Obama's antagonists. Romney's approach to answering the question asked was just fine, though it is perfectly understandable why the Obama campaign would like Romney to get sidetracked into defending Obama.
Later, when asked by reporters about the treason comment, Romney said he did not believe the president should be tried.
But by then, the moment was already being compared unfavorably to Sen. John McCain's handling of a similar situation during his 2008 run against Obama.
When a woman said she couldn't trust Obama because "he's an Arab," McCain responded immediately and forcefully: "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about."
Do you remember the 1964 book "None Dare Call It Treason"?
John A. Stormer's polemic sold 7 million copies in its day. Here's Daniel Pipes reviewing the "25 Years Later" republication, in 1991:
Arguing that the United States had been betrayed by its elite, it is a classic in what Hannah Arendt has called "backstairs political literature." Surprisingly for the genre, it did not contain the usual virulent animosity toward Catholics, Jews, and the like; rather, it blamed communist sympathizers. Nor did it unambiguously point to a plan: "Is there a conspiratorial plan to destroy the United States into which foreign add, planned inflation, distortion of treaty-making powers and disarmament all fit?" Stormer went no further than to resort to a metaphor about the pieces all fitting, whether planned by communists or not.The "treason" label has a venerable tradition. Anyone who has taught Constitutional Law — like me or the President of the United States — is familiar with the way Chief Justice John Marshall used it in Cohens v. Virginia: to express the wrongness of exceeding the bounds of the Constitution:
It is most true that this Court will not take jurisdiction if it should not; but it is equally true that it must take jurisdiction if it should. The judiciary cannot, as the legislature may, avoid a measure because it approaches the confines of the Constitution. We cannot pass it by because it is doubtful. With whatever doubts, with whatever difficulties, a case may be attended, we must decide it if it be brought before us. We have no more right to decline the exercise of jurisdiction which is given than to usurp that which is not given. The one or the other would be treason to the Constitution.With Marshall's great example, the word treason belongs in the American tradition of free political speech.
IN THE COMMENTS: Bryan C reminds us of an even earlier venerable use of the word treason in American history. Patrick Henry said: "If this be treason, make the most of it." The country was founded on treason. We celebrate the treason we like.