Does Obama Want You to "Vote for Revenge"?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 4 2012 5:55 PM

Does Obama Want You to "Vote for Revenge"?

CINCINNATI, Ohio -- I spent Friday morning at Barack Obama's rally in the Columbus suburbs and Friday evening at Mitt Romney's Republican Woodstock in West Chester. That means I missed the actual rally where -- according to Romney -- Obama called for his supporters to "vote for revenge." When Romney quoted this back to his West Chester crowd, there were murmurs of disbelief and sighs of resignation. How pathetic was Obama, to suggest something like that?

Well, it's complicated. In the speech I saw, Obama gave voters a litany of reasons that Mitt Romney had lied to them and ways that Republicans would wreck the economy, based on the experiences of the 1990s. It's a little strange, yes, but the closing argument of the guy who assured Democrats that they DID NOT WANT a Hillary Clinton presidency is now running on Bill Clinton's record. Clinton, as I found last week, is going along with it.

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"At the time," said Obama, "a Republican Congress -- and a Senate candidate named Mitt Romney said that Bill Clinton's plan would hurt the economy and kill jobs. It turned out that the governor was just as bad as math back then."

The "Senate candidate" line was an invitation for boos. Obama got them in Columbus, and got them in his later speech. In the first speech, he kept talking. In the second, he said: "Don't boo, vote! Voting is the best revenge!"

Was Obama calling for a REVENGE VOTE? Heck, I thought he was referencing the aphorism "living well is the best revenge." There are lots of ways to take revenge. Most of them involve doing harm to the person who wronged you. The point of this aphorism is that, to get your satisfication, you should suck it up and move on and live well. "Vote for revenge" is a very different sentiment, one that implies that, rather than moving on, you are coming after your enemy with a hobnailed club.

Is that it, then? Okay. Time for two, maybe three more insta-gaffes before the election's over. I see that the Romney campaign released an ad on the matter, but have not seen it on TV in Ohio -- if any reader sees it, please tell me.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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