It took a “candid” video in a room full of private equity dealers to meet the real Mittens Romney. But now we see him in his element, talking the talk. What struck me first about Romney’s instantly notorious “47% victims” spiel was how confident he sounded. Gone was the nervous, halting humanoid caricature who always sounds like he wants to field research “hello” and “my name is Mitt” with the party base before uttering another sentence.
By contrast, in the Boca Raton speech, Romney’s words move with a fluid cadence. Here is the guy who built Bain Capital and at innumerable points had to build a super salesman’s relationship with skeptical sellers and bankers. (Am I the only one who has wondered how a bumbler like the public Mittens ever pulled that off?) That guy finally appears on the Boca Raton video.
I’m just back from a 10-day trip to Lake Powell, where thankfully the only media was NOAA weather radio and my iPod. So I wondered, from time to time, how many Romney gaffes were going down while I was off the grid? Romney’s fire-aim-ready response to the Libyan consulate attack was pretty good, in terms of knee jerk pandering to … well, I’m not sure, “persuadables” who want us to send troops or more money into the Arab world, and/or nuke Iran?
But this 47% business — in Lake Powell terms — is a deep slot into which I never thought Romney would take us. And of course it turns out he didn’t take us, willingly.
Moreover this 47% victim thing isn’t a “gaffe”, in that it isn’t exactly what he meant to say. Having spent some time recently interviewing corporate leaders for magazine articles, I can assure you that the “47%” business is a frequently-traded meme. What is odd is that the reality of who pays taxes and who gets “government benefits” … instead of “accepting responsibility for their own lives” (gotta love that) is easily understood by any good high school level student. Hell, even David Brooks walks his readers through a few of the most obvious inconvenient nuances of “government benefits” in today’s column. (The key element, for all the moocher grannies and grandpas in Florida, is the taxpayer cost of medical services to the elderly, lay-abouts who as we all know never did a damned thing to help themselves or instill any bootstrap values in their offspring.)
The willingness to (appear to) believe cocked-up bullshit like the “victimhood” of 47% of the population is one of my favorite psychological curiosities. To the truly informed, its junk logic, of use only as a tactical tool. I suspect most of Mitten’s private equity audience are pretty bright people, skilled at reading prospective clients/chumps. Therefore, I doubt they play the 47% card indiscriminately. Most likely they parcel it out to those they find the most politically credulous … much as Team Mittens/Ryan does, in more coded language, to the GOP’s angry, desperate-to-believe-what-they-need-to-believe base. (The essential message is of course: “Your moocher neighbor is the problem in this country, not us private equity traders.”)
It is also worth noting in this episode how once again the mainstream media was nowhere on the story and had to follow the “fringe” into the heart of the matter. But when dissecting public comments of the jockeys and trainers is the essence of your game, you will on occasion miss the extra lead in the favorite’s saddle.
One other thought. As much as the focus will continue to be on the farcical ineptitude of Romney and his campaign, it is important to remember that … this is the best the GOP has to offer. The party today is a creature gorging on unlimited and largely undisclosed fat cat/private equity money and a rube-like base, with the former’s resources keeping the latter angry and misinformed. It is a complete captive of that dynamic.
As I’ve said often, out of the hilarious, beyond-satire cast of Republican characters this season, most of them self-aggrandizing huckster charlatans, Romney was the only one who could go behind closed doors with the monied heart of the beast and speak peer-to-peer, calmly, cooly and without fear of adverse disclosure.