It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Mitt Romney, who has been running for president since about five seconds after he was born, has been dreaming of this campaign for probably his entire life. He has spent the last decade filling his time with active campaigning of one sort or another, either in the form of actual baby kissing and speech giving, or by the strategic lack of those things, and so it’s forgivable for us to have assumed that he would actually be any good at it. Clearly, we were mistaken.
At first, during the primary, his apparent lack of punch on the campaign trail was due to the out-sized crazy-town behavior of his opponents. You may be a great ventriloquist, but if the other guy on stage just set himself on fire, it’s going to be hard to get the crowd’s attention. People were watching the Republican Primary Debates for the same reason many people watch car races: For the carnage. Romney just didn’t offer enough explosive potential to capture much of the imagination compared to genuine mental patient Michele Bachmann, or 1600’s Puritan reenactor Rick Santorum. And really, Herman Cain? That was unbelievable. And a Newt Gingrich comeback? Newt Gingrich campaign events are like conservative Iggy Pop concerts. This guy is capable of anything. He might just burn the whole place to the ground.
Once the ridiculous and unstable had left the national stage and it was time for the grown-ups to take over the conversation, I expected Romney to improve. Instead, I was treated to one bizarre gaffe after another, week after week, since before the Olympics. At one point, and I’m not even sure when it happened exactly, it became clear that somehow, despite years as a professional candidate for something, Romney just wasn’t that good at this.
Romney has tried to treat Obama like just another Herman Cain, and he is finding the President far more formidable. Romney’s other problem is that he hasn’t successfully answered the central question any candidate has to be able to answer: Why are you running for president?
How could he be this bad, without anyone noticing until it was too late? First, because of the prolonged and unusual primary season, the only thing Romney got really good at was destroying weak challengers. Barack Obama has the best team of campaign minds alive on the planet, some of whom are already hall-of-fame players of historically unlikely skill and talent. No one running anywhere, ever, has had a better campaign staff. After spending all his time beating down all the neighborhood kids at T-Ball, Romney had never managed to cultivate the skill of a Major Leaguer. Romney has tried to treat Obama like just another Herman Cain, and he is finding the President far more formidable. Romney’s other problem is that he hasn’t successfully answered the central question any candidate has to be able to answer: Why are you running for president?
Everything stems from that. It makes up the rationale around which your campaign will be built. Romney has supplied no hint of an answer to that question. He has demonstrated to the public no indication at all about what he would do, who he would be, or why he even wants to be here in the first place. Romney is almost pathologically short on details. About anything. Even stuff no one cares about. Back in August, he took one of those super contrived, “I’m a regular guy” photo ops where the candidate goes shopping. Here an excerpt of the pool report, via Wonkette:
Gov. Romney left Bradley’s Hardware at 8:54 a.m. with a beige bucket of goods. Asked what he bought, Romney told your pooler, “Hardware stuff.” Then, he said, “Going to the grocery store now,” and climbed into his Suburban.
He can’t even come up with specifics about something as trivial as his shopping list. It would be like if he went to Geno’s in Philadelphia on the obligatory “the candidate eats a cheese-steak” campaign stop, and then refused to tell anyone what he ordered. Hey Mitt: It doesn’t matter what’s in the Goddamned shopping bags. It matters that you don’t want to tell anyone. It makes you look sketchy.
You know when you go to a furniture store and they have the entertainment centers set up, and to make them seem more real they put these cardboard televisions and DVD players in them? That’s the Romney Candidacy so far. A Republican would go here.
This lack of specificity isn’t limited to the contents of his shopping list. Let’s not forget about this exchange with Matt Lauer, from back in January. Via the Chicago Tribune:
LAUER: Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?
ROMNEY: You know I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. But the president has made this part of his campaign rally.
What have we learned? That Romney only wants to talk about income inequality and tax policy behind closed doors. Until last week we had no way of knowing what Romney’s real thoughts on the matter were, as none of us are allowed into any of the “Quiet Rooms” he’s talking about. This is why the recently revealed 47% tape is so important. Aside from any of his actual comments, it represents the first time any of us has been allowed to hear what goes on in these exclusive enclaves that serve, by the Romney’s own admission, as the only appropriate place to discuss class and the tax system. So, now that we are somewhere less noisy and more appropriate, please Mitt, share with us your thoughts. From Mother Jones:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48—he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
You may be asking yourself, “Why haven’t I heard any of this before now?” The answer is simple. You don’t have $50,000 to give to the Romney campaign. Only then can you afford to hear Mitt’s thoughts on the non-rich and what hopeless losers they are. He also found time to insult immigrants.
“[If] you have no skill or experience…you’re welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life.”
He also shares a few thoughts on the Israel/Palestine situation.
“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way. And so what you do is you say you move things along the best way you can. You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that it’s going to remain an unsolved problem.”
He just goes on and on like this. It’s really pretty amazing, and the whole thing is worth watching. If you’ve ever had a question about the Romney’s view on something and you are having a hard time getting a straight answer from him, look to the tape. He probably has a candid, though horrible, answer for you.
That the information is only available to those paying a high premium is alarming as well. I wonder how much it costs to find out what he bought at the hardware store? Everything starts to make more sense now. Romney isn’t short on details, he’s just not giving them away for free.
Is this how rich people talk about the poor when they think no one is listening? Apparently. I expected that Romney was no friend to the underclass, but the pure disgust and loathing with which he regards them is a little startling. That the information is only available to those paying a high premium is alarming as well. I wonder how much it costs to find out what he bought at the hardware store? Everything starts to make more sense now. Romney isn’t short on details, he’s just not giving them away for free.
One must wonder, and I’d really like an answer from the Romney Campaign about this, is this what all of his private fundraisers are like? He has them constantly. These are exclusive no-press-allowed campaign events for only the most affluent of Romney Supporters. Romney’s 47% speech comes from video recorded secretly at one of these fundraisers. It was, as far as I can tell, just a typical fundraising stop on the Romney Campaign Schedule. I’d wager this isn’t the first and only time he’s spoken like this to roomfuls of fellow wealthy people. If so, how many times has he made comments like this in the past?
Romney has been caught, red handed, talking behind the country’s back. At the very least, we now know that the Quiet-Rooms-Romney is a lot more callous and uncaring than than Happy-Public-Rally-Romney. Is this the real Romney Campaign, and all the baby kissing and public rallies are just for our benefit? Is he saying one thing in public, and another in private? It would appear so. Keep in mind, this video was shot back in May. It’s not like it came from decades ago. These are comments made in the context of this campaign, so the answers to these questions are of paramount importance. These are, as far as I can tell, the only clues we have to who the real Mitt Romney is. The American People deserve a clearer picture. Exactly how two-faced is this candidate? If the real Romney can only be seen beyond the 50,000 dollar barrier, does it even matter what he says the rest of the time?
Slowly, we begin to see a picture emerge. I immediately thought back to the now forgotten story of the time in High School when he and his gang chased down and harassed a gay classmate. When you start to put that together with the obvious contempt he has for those of lower economic classes than himself, not to mention all of the other tone deaf, hyper rich guy comments he’s made over time, (the $10,000 bet with Rick Perry, the “corporations are people” comment, all the dodgy tax stuff etc.) he starts to look more and more like just another spoiled trust fund baby with a too high opinion of himself, and a too low opinion of everyone else.
And don’t let the Romney Campaign fool you. What he said wasn’t “Inelegant.” I’ve heard loads of Mitt Romney speeches and interviews, and the comments in the video were almost uncharacteristically clear and unambiguous. This is a man that can talk for hours and never say anything, and in the space of about two minutes he outlined a pretty specific theory about the motivations of the American voter, and the lower classes generally. At last, after years of hearing him tell everyone what they wanted to hear, we get to learn of the man himself, and the nature of his values. For the longest time, the campaign has resisted showing us the real Romney, and now it appears that we know why.
Benjamin Phillips is an Essayist, Web Developer, Civics Nerd, and all around crank that spends entirely too much time shouting with deep exasperation at the television, especially whenever cable news is on, and proudly serves as Director of Development for The New Civil Rights Movement. He lives in St. Louis, MO and spends most of his time staring at various LCD screens, occasionally taking walks in the park whenever his boyfriend becomes sufficiently convinced that Benjamin is becoming a reclusive hermit person. He is available for children’s parties, provided that those children are entertained by hearing a complete windbag talk for two hours about the importance of science education, or worse yet, poorly researched anecdotes PROVING that James Buchanan was totally gay. If civilization were to collapse due to zombie hoards or nuclear holocaust, Benjamin would be among the first to die as he has no useful skills of any kind. The post-apocalyptic hellscape has no real need for homosexual computer programmers who can name all the presidents in order, as well as the actors who have played all eleven incarnations of Doctor Who.
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