Romney? Really?

This is not — really — a joke. So Mitt Romney walks into a the offices of a GOP phone bank. To rally the troops, you see. The place is crowded with volunteers furiously dialing up voters to prevent what appears to be the certain overturn of the Wisconsin-like anti-collective bargaining legislation rammed into law by Ohio’s new and now deeply unpopular (54% disapproval) governor.

The standard move in these situations is for the candidate to make — at least one — call himself. For the cameras. “Hi, Mrs. Lebowski? This is Mitt Romney. No, really, Mitt Romney. Yes, yes, ‘the guy who looks like he turned your dad down for a loan’, that Mitt Romney’. But no. Not only doesn’t Romney dial-up an Ohio citizen and urge them to support their Republican governor and his aggressive, 21st century union-busting, anti-middle class Republican legislation … Romney doesn’t even endorse what everyone in the room is working so hard to save.

From the CNN story:

Romney expressed generic support for Kasich’s efforts to curtail union rights, but he would not say whether he supports or opposes the specific measures.

“I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney said, only after repeated questions from reporters. “Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to reign in the scale of government. I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. But I am certainly supportive of the Republican Party’s efforts here.”

If you’re like me you say, “Well, that’s classic Romney. The guy gives shameless, naked pandering another even worse name. He’s been on five sides of every issue you can think of.” Democrats love the guy for precisely this kind of completely craven and predictable waffling. In addition to the deliciously ripe story of his career as essentially a corporate raider, many times eviscerating American companies and requiring hundreds of middle-class lay-offs in exchange for his own fast profit, Romney is the kind of competition that manufacturers his own oppo-research and attack ads. And, more to my point here, the modern conservative “intelligentsia”, a crowd heavily self-invested in rigid-sounding, ersatz-populist dogmas and total victory-without-compromise is well aware of it. Hence his 25% polling … behind … Herman Cain, a guy who hasn’t even bothered to assemble a full function campaign apparatus.

And ladies and gentlemen, Mitt Romney is where he is today, among the leaders for the Republican nomination, because he is regarded as “the most electable of those running”. Of all of the cartoonish characters on the GOP candidate menu, Romney is the default candidate because he seems the guy with the best chance of beating Barack Obama …. which could still happen. Even the heretofore commonly accepted icons of conservative thought — people like George Will and John Podhoretz — have gone public with very serious doubts about Romney and the rest of the cast.

Said Will Sunday: “Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.”

Earlier last week Podhoretz, in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post wrote of the entire GOP field, “Memo to the Republican field: You’re running for president. Of the United States. Of America. Start acting like it. Stop proposing nonsense tax plans that won’t work. Stop making ridiculous attention-getting ads that might be minimally acceptable if you were running for county supervisor in Oklahoma. Stop saying you’re going to build a US-Mexico border fence you know perfectly well you’re not going to build. Give the GOP electorate and the American people some credit. This country is in terrible shape. They know it. You know it. They want solutions. You’re providing comedy.”

Podhoretz may have been referring less to Romney and more to completely bogus, ego-acts like we’ve seen from Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, “candidates” in name only with, in many cases, not even the pretense of hiring staff and operating a legitimate campaign, but Mitt comes awfully close to comedy.

But, without ascribing any undo legitimacy to the Tea Party’s intellectual foundation, what fascinates me most at this moment is watching to see how that crowd, so pleased with their moral/intellectual purity, and the more mainstream Republican faction that has enabled the obstructionist mayhem the Tea Party has leveled on this economy rationalizes Mitt Romney as their standard-bearer. True, he is not Obama. But for every time Romney has said something supportive of the Tea Party’s take-no-prisoners jihad against common sense and social decency he is also on record saying precisely the opposite.

Were the Tea Party truly rooted in the “principles” they’re constantly professing to fight to their (and our) death for, Mitt Romney would be an absolute anathema, exactly the untrustworthy, self-aggrandizing empty suit they couldn’t possibly trust in good conscience.

More to the point, true Tea Party revolutionaries would have no honorable course of action other than to launch a third party candidacy behind a bona fide flag bearing warrior spirit like … Ron Paul or Bachmann?

As I’ve said before, the Tea Party movement is rooted far more in long-standing cultural and social issue grudges than middle-class economic “populism”. But that makes support for an on-again-off-again whenever-opportune social liberal like Mitt Romney all the more preposterous … and comical.

20 thoughts on “Romney? Really?

  1. PM. says:

    Interesting to find you and George Will agreeing about something (besides baseball, I mean).

    I think this is a good illustration of the differences between the ideological wing of the GOP, and the K Street wing (the professionals, whose livelihood depends on government spending and largesse–as long as it is on their projects, such as jet fighters, etc.). Of course, the same split exists in the Democrats, but it is naked for all to see right now among the Republicans.

    (BTW, Lambert, i am expecting you to post a review of In Time here for us to view)

  2. john sherman says:

    What do the Republicans have left? Cain’s ducking and dodging a sexual harassment rap, Perry’s NH speech looks like an out-take from The Exorcist, the rest are about as popular e-coli.

      1. john sherman says:

        As the guy who left first the state and then his campaign deeply in hock, he certainly has the economic resume to be the Republican candidate.

  3. Ellen Mrja says:

    1. Years ago in graduate school, Prof. George Hage – a persnickety editor and lover of literary journalism – assigned a reading that went something like this: Presidents are Three-Quarters Men. Not full men. Can anyone help me out on this? Who was the author?

    2. I met Garrison Keillor at George Hage’s retirement luncheon.

    3. All of this is to say that I’ve had it with the entire field of “candidates” for President of the United States. Republican, Tea Party,
    Independents and even Democrats – useless. All useless.

    It’s not just “Romney? Really?” It’s “Can’t We Produce Any Candidates Better Than This? Really?” Wow. I’m embarrassed at how low we have sunk.

    And BTW: If the Democrats could find a decent candidate to run against Obama, that challenger would beat Obama in the primaries and could probably beat any of the looney tunes mentioned in Brian’s post above.

    Hillary Clinton is the strongest, most effective and honorable member of the Obama administration. She’ll never do it, of course, but wouldn’t it be something if she would run against the good ol’ POTUS she currently outshines?

    1. PM. says:

      Ummmmm… it would be a disaster. Which is why she won’t do it.

      She had her shot, and she lost. Pretty badly, too. She should be admired for the fact that she isn’t (apparently) dwelling on this, that she is concentrating on the job she has, and is doing a damned fine job of it.

      She has apparently gotten over the what-ifs, Ellen.

      1. Ellen Mrja says:

        Yeah but I haven’t.

        Seriously, she proved during the ’07-’08 primaries that she could take anything anyone could dish out; there’s never been any compromise found in her background – then or now. She’s also become a true world leader.

        Here’s what Rush could come up with against her: Perhaps yelling and humiliating Vince Foster so much at “the last straw” meeting with aides that this sad and deeply depressed man committed suicide. Oh, and she and her husband made some money off of some stock (has anyone else done this?) back in Arkansas AND don’t forget – how dare she – trying to work on healthcare reform and being pounded so hard by hospital and pharma groups that Congress whimpered and slunk away, leaving all chances at reform tumbling down around her. Yeah. That was pretty raw of her.

        Oh, and don’t forget. She has stayed married “for better or worse” and has, to the best of my knowledge, managed to keep her lady trousers zipped.

        There. That’s it.

    1. PM. says:

      Of all the Republican candidates, he is maybe the only one who could potentially be a good president (maybe Huntsman as well). That is really more of a comment on the weakness of the republican field this time around than an expression of confidence in Romney. But, yeah, his haircut is pretty bad.

      What does it say about the state of the republican party that the only two candidates who appear to have at least half a brain are both Mormons?

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