Liberal columnist Michael Tomasky was on record as believing that Mitt Romney is “spineless,” so it is no surprise that Newsweek asked him to write the essay introduced by a magazine cover asking “Romney: The Wimp Factor – Is He Just Too Insecure To Be President?”

The title is what we call a “rhetorical question” – a statement with a question mark after it.

The conservative John Locke Foundation replies by proposing a Newsweek cover with a rhetorical question of their own: “Obama the Whipped Factor, Is He Just Too Emasculated to Be President?”

This plays off a recent report that presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett persuaded him to put off the Osama bin Laden raid three times, and the president’s confession that Michelle tells him what to eat.

Neither version is civil and both appeal to partisans of one candidate or the other.

Yet, the “spineless” sneer reflects a nonpartisan view as well, since an undetermined number of people consider “spineless” an apt description of both candidates.

Some conservatives, feeling that the country is on a course that will end in national disaster, doubt that Romney has the resolution necessary to address the problems they fear.

It worries them that when Romney made a Wisconsin campaign stop he carefully avoided saying anything of substance about Scott Walker’s recall victory or Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals. They fear that this reluctance to get involved in “controversies” means that a President Romney will recoil from grasping the nettles of national policy they believe must be grasped good and hard.

I recently got a call from a Republican state representative who expressed his exasperation with Romney’s evasive response to a question about the horse his wife entered in the Olympics dressage competition.

He felt the man should have expressed pride in being identified with an American entry into an international competition. Instead he treated the matter as all his wife’s business and none of his own.

A number of conservative commentators are growing critical of the Romney campaign’s single-minded emphasis on Obama’s record along with boasts about his achievements as governor and Olympic games organizer

They would like to see a lot more on what he proposes to do as president. They know that positive proposal always present targets for the opposition, but feel he should take the risk.

He can’t claim an electoral mandate for an effective administration if he doesn’t take the risk of telling the voters what policies he hopes to enact. Some among conservatives and most libertarians suspect that his core policy is simply to get elected.

Obama’s liberal/left base shows similar suspicions about the excessive suppleness of their man’s spine.

The gay activists were critical of the president’s failure to support the last gay-marriage referendum in Maine, the slow “evolution” of his views on the Defense of Marriage Act, and his tardiness in ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.”

Advocates of a straight-forward Canadian-style single-payer health insurance program view Obamacare as a set of timid half-measures.

What may be called the Cindy Sheehan Left agree with a common Republican view that Obama has left the Bush anti-terrorism policies fundamentally unaltered, a thing which infuriates them.

The point is the president is not being accused of being a crypto-conservative or a helpless moderate.

He is being accused of wimpishness. Quite a lot of press commentary seems to hint at this.

Months ago, a conservative blogger compiled a list of “finally” headlines in the liberal media, e.g., “Obama Finally Flexes His Muscles, “Obama – Finally – Starts to Sweat,” “Obama Finally Finds His Inner Outrage,” “Obama Finally Toughens Up – About Time!” “After Waiting 14 Months Obama Finally Chooses To Show Up, Govern,” Obama Finally Drew the Line,” “Obama Finally Gets Tough.” “Obama Finally Shows Some Leadership … in Europe?”

A July 30 poll by Pulse Opinion Research suggests voters see little difference between the candidates on character issues.

It appears that 48 percent of voters consider Romney the stronger leader while 44 percent favor Obama.

We have no way of knowing how many voters consider the rivals to be equally spineless, but there seems little doubt that some hold that view.

A July 31 article in U.S. News & World Report titled “Occupy Wall Street Protesters Targeting Obama At Democratic Convention” demonstrates Obama’s problem. Organizer John Penley, a veteran of the original Occupy Wall Street protest in New York’s Zuccotti Park explains: “We’re targeting Obama’s out-of-control military spending. It’s the key to so many problems in the U.S. That, and the drone strikes on American citizens.”

 


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