A perfect follow-up to the last post insofar as both demonstrate betrayals, in different ways, of the Hopenchange brand circa 2008. Back then, Senator Above The Fray scolded people about small, divisive politics. Today, President Above The Fray runs ads on Big Bird and binders and openly describes his opponent as not “one of us.” Had Romney pulled this on him, we’d need a special two-hour episode of “Hardball” to deal with the dog-whistle implications; as it is, Team Obama will skate on this even though Romney also famously belongs to a group that’s fairly high up on the list of “others” for whom some people simply won’t vote.

But never mind that. I had the same reaction as Charles Cooke after watching this, thinking back to the first strong dose of Hopenchange that America ever got. Remember?

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America…

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?

Here he is eight years later, his spin masters and negative ad peddlers fully embracing the politics of anything goes. I’m giving you two clips to illustrate his own participation in the “politics of cynicism.” One is the new ad, the other is the Romney appearance on CBS’s “Early Show” in June 2011 from which the ad’s footage is taken. (The key bit runs from 1:24-3:10.) Watch them back to back and see for yourself how Obama’s ad team transformed Romney’s call for a restructuring of the auto companies in bankruptcy court into a to-hell-with-them death wish for the industry. Note the language in the ad: “Mitt Romney would have just let us go under… And for him to just say, ‘let ’em fail’…” Romney didn’t want the industry to fail, though. The whole point of his Times op-ed in 2008 was that the industry needed to be made viable long-term and a simple bailout from the feds wouldn’t achieve that. Reorganization was in order, and the only way to do that was through a managed bankruptcy. “Detroit needs a turnaround,” he wrote in the Times, “not a check.” He even goes on to say in the piece that it’s not wrong for the companies to ask for “government help.” Does that sound like “let ’em fail”?

The punchline here is that the “let ’em fail” spin on Romney’s op-ed doesn’t even make sense under an unflattering view of Romney the candidate. He’s supposed to be the guy who’ll say anything, at any time, to maximize his chances of winning, right? (“Romnesia!”) Well, a man who’s thinking of running for president again in 2012, as Mitt surely was when he wrote that op-ed, isn’t about to tell an industry that’s critical to Ohio’s and Michigan’s economy that he hopes it dies. Even if he secretly felt that way, for whatever strange reason, it’d be electoral-college suicide and Romney surely knew it. So the “let ’em fail” read on his position is false under any circumstances, but it does fit nicely with Obama’s caricature of Romney as some sort of Gekko/Scrooge hybrid who hates working people and loves giving them cancer, just because. Read the fine print on that 2004 convention speech; O said we shouldn’t be divided into red states and blue states, not that we shouldn’t be divided between “us” and those heartless one-percent bastards.