Wow. Just wow.
There is a very good chance that, for everything that has happened and all his efforts to win the Presidency, Romney's eventual legacy will be the statistic '47%', in the way Michael Dukakis' legacy came down to a tank ride, the way Larry Craig's legacy came down to foot tapping in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall, and the way Gary Hart's legacy came down to a boat called 'Monkey Business'. Politics is cruel like that. Whatever good or ill you may have done in your career, sometimes your downfall is all that people remember in the end.
But the 47% part of Romney's remarks, viewable as part of an hour-plus worth of video that David Corn of Mother Jones has compiled here, is not where we'll focus today. You have untold thousands of places to go for that analysis. You don't need me.
Our focus is on another part of the video, which was picked up on by, among others, the Chicago Sun-Times. It's little surprise they did. The quote they picked up on was:
"If I were Iran, if I were Iran -- a crazed fanatic, I'd say let's get a little fissile material to Hezbollah, have them carry it to Chicago or some other place, and then if anything goes wrong, or America starts acting up, we'll just say, "Guess what? Unless you stand down, why, we're going to let off a dirty bomb." I mean this is where we have -- where America could be held up and blackmailed by Iran, by the mullahs, by crazy people. So we really don't have any option but to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon."
But that's really all they did- mention the fact that he used their hometown as the example city. Joe Cirincione of Foreign Policy gets more in-depth as to the details. The main front of outrage here is that dirty bombs don't use fissure material, and Cirincione rips into Romney on this. There is also the matter of Iran being full of "crazy people"; Cirincione hits on this line of thinking as well, noting that as antagonistic as Iran's government is being, they at the very least know what they're doing and are attempting to advance their geopolitical position. "Crazy people" would simply do whatever the hell with no rhyme or reason.
A secondary front of outrage, though, a little further off the radar, is that Romney is giving Iran ideas; Whether or not Romney knows what he's talking about, one worry is that Iran might not have thought to put a dirty bomb in Chicago until Romney brought it up, and gee, thanks, idiot, now we have to worry about that.
Let's just focus on the 'thanks for giving them ideas' point. It may or may not have merit per se in this case. I don't know whether or not it does, though it can't be dismissed out of hand. The circumstance does come up; in World War 2, that was the entire point behind the phrase 'Loose Lips Sink Ships'.
But if you do buy into it here, you should know that Romney is not the only candidate running for federal office this year who has run into such a problem.
Tommy Thompson, running for the Senate in Wisconsin against Tammy Baldwin (and polls say it's a close-run thing), left his post as governor in order to become Bush 43's first-term Secretary of Health and Human Services. He left as part of a large-scale Cabinet personnel swap at the end of Bush's first term, a typical circumstance for two-term Presidents (which, assuming Obama wins in November, don't be surprised if you see eight or nine Cabinet members leave, because that's normal). On his way out, he made the following comment:
"I, for the life of me, cannot understand why the terrorists have not, you know, attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do. And we are importing a lot of food from the Middle East, and it would be easy to tamper with that."
Thompson also noted that, though they had increased the amount of inspection of food imports, "it is still a very minute amount that we're doing." He caught hell for it, as he was all but placing a neon 'ATTACK HERE' sign on the nation's imported food supply, but as he was already leaving, there wasn't much that could be made of it in the end, especially since it was the period between elections and inaugurations, when the voters have already spoken and there's not much more they can do to anyone who acts up.
Thompson had that luxury then. Neither he nor Romney do now.