Opinion | The tragedy of Mitt Romney: A less than conservative candidate
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 23:09
Previously in this space, I have advocated for Mitt Romney to get specific and give the American people more of a window into his soul. However, if Romney’s 47 percent comments gave us a peek through the window of the man’s soul, I don’t like what we found out, and it just made our choice for President infinitely worse.
I’ll venture to say when Mr. Romney told a bunch of big shot donors that 47 percent of our country is dependent on government and will never take steps to improve their lives we found out what the signs have been pointing to all along – his heart is filled with a disgusting brand of conceit. Furthermore, his elitism has detached him from the realities of every day life in an irrevocable way.
It appears former RNC Chairman and Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour was right when he said, paraphrasing Democratic messaging, “You know, he’s a plutocrat who’s married to a known equestrian.”
Conservatives of every stripe but one are horrified over the remarks.
The moderate David Brooks of The New York Times penned a column Tuesday entitled “Thurston Howell Romney” in which he called Romney’s statements “a country club fantasy.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, a clear main street Republican and former Reagan speechwriter, said it’s time for an intervention on the Romney campaign, which she called “incompetent” Tuesday night in highly critical a blog post.
The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, representing the neo-conservative wing, wrote a blog post Tuesday morning entitled “A Note on Romney’s Arrogant and Stupid Remarks.” He closed out the post with a stinging indictment on both candidates, “Has there been a presidential race in modern times featuring two candidates who have done so little over their lifetimes for our country, and who have so little substance to say about the future of our country?” he asked.
Only tea party cranks like Red State’s Erick Erickson, who tweeted “Dammit! I’m just now seeing these Romney secret videos. We need that guy on the campaign trial!” have defended Romney.
Now I’ll pile on.
In the past, I’ve always assumed Mr. Romney, in his heart, was somewhat like his father – a coalition building moderate.
His spineless campaign up to this point has slowly destroyed this theory, and it completely died when I heard Romney, who speaks conservatism as a second language, sound totally at home disrespecting nearly half of the country.
Romney’s inability to clearly communicate like a conservative has always been problematic. It’s the reason he ran as a self-professed “progressive” in 1994 against former Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.
He then basically governed like one during his single term as a Governor — although it’s clear when you read about that term, Romney did not care one bit about being governor and only put in any real effort to pass his health care plan.
Mitt is the ultimate power-hungry political shape shifter.
He ascribes to no ideology, which is why he is unable to effectively lay out the conservative path forward for America.
While he may understand the conservative movement intellectually, he doesn’t feel it in his bones the way the Reagans of the world do.
True conservatives have a real framework to make deals from. They know where their lines are, and they have to figure out how to bridge the gap between the other side’s lines and their own.
It seems that a President Romney would be utterly unable to cut acceptable legislative deals because of his lack of ideological core (side note: don’t read this as an insistence to not raise revenue, I’m in favor of this, given our current situation, and President Reagan did it when he had to).
He would rely too much on polling data, and too little on the all-important internal compass, which in his case, appears to be permanently broken or ignored.
Then there’s the man who has come under fire publicly in the recent days, Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist. Stevens and Romney are pretty much a match made in hell, because Stevens, like his boss, is not a conservative.
In his book about the 2000 Bush campaign, The Big Enchilada, in which Stevens worked on the ad-making team, he describes himself a middle of the road guy in a conversation with then Governor Bush.
Stevens pretty much just does campaigns because it’s something fun to do between ski trips, hikes in Europe and safaris. Seriously. He and Romney must love to sit around and make snarky remarks about movement conservatives in between their discussions about each man’s last visit to the south of France.
Jokes aside, there’s nothing wrong with being a middle of the road guy — in fact, I think the middle of the road is probably the best way forward for our country — but it becomes a huge problem when a candidate in the middle tries to speak like a conservative. It sounds forced.
This is why there’s a certain tragedy to the way Mitt Romney has operated as a candidate.
In reality, the pragmatic centrist Mitt Romney of 1994 would likely do an excellent job as President of the United States. The problem is the extremists in power today would never nominate him.
But the fake “severe” conservative Mitt, the one who has the support of the base, who only stakes out conservative positions because he thinks its what people want to hear, that guy would be a terrible President.