Tag Romney

Mitt Romney’s Gaping Wound

As the media storm surge continues to crash down on Mitt Romney head, it may be worth remembering that modern elections in this country are winner-take-all contests where the goal, for the most part, is to wound your opponent before she wounds you.

The fantasy in the base, as always, is that the candidate will utter one phrase that is powerful enough to simultaneously impress and dissuade.  Such a phrase or magical rhetorical moment does not exist.

What does exist, however, are moments where one candidate is left with a gaping wound–a moment so damaging that it rises above the tit-for-tat of politics and cuts to the core of how we think about ourselves as Americans.

Mitt Romney’s video is exactly that kind a wounding moment and no matter what the Romney campaign does from this point forward, they will never be able to stitch him up.  From this point forward, they need to slap some vaseline over the cut, send him back into the ring, and hope for the best.

So, how do we translate Romney’s gaping wound into basic terms? What was the core American value that he trampled?

Mitt Romney’s gaping wound can be summed up in one word:


The idea that the “haves” in American society are not in fact better than the “have-nots”–that all Americans, irrespective of financial means, all sit at the same table–is one of the most deeply held values in our system. We routinely reference this value using the word “equality.”

Now, given the past 100 years of ongoing civil rights battles in this country, many observers of politics often identify “equality” solely with these struggles for inclusion.  Certainly, these civil rights struggles are fronts in the larger discourse of equality.

Given the relationship between American culture, our Constitution, and the capitalist system, however, there is a much broader understanding of equality situated within the discourse of means, money and wealth.

In those broad conception of equality–which is almost never articulated fully in our system, but is deeply held to be true–Americans believe that the amount of wealth one accumulates does not in turn give one’s individual citizenship more value.  To have millions and millions in the bank does not give one the right to stand in judgement over those less fortunate.

Do not be mistaken, here. Judging others is as American as pumpkin pie.  We are happy to judge people for their looks, their accent, their sexuality, thee shape of their body, and their religion.  The most popular television shows are reality shows in which people stand before a panel of judges.

Judge another person for anything you’d like, so long as you do not stand in judgement over another American for having less money.

Now, to observers of the Republican Party, this may seem like the very thing they do all the time.  Stand in judgement.

In fact, the hallmark of the modern GOP is the extent to which they have always found the cleverest (some would say devious) ways for the wealthy to wield power over the less fortunate without ever judging them for having less.

The advances legislation that helps the wealthy to the detriment of the working class and poor via massive rhetorical campaigns that judge government, Islam, women, atheism, homosexuality, teachers, science, single mothers, and so on, and so forth.  And yet, you would be hard pressed to find a GOP campaign that came right out and said what it was thinking: You don’t have as much as us because you are lazy.

Roll the tape back to Mitt Romney’s key quote:

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…These are people who pay no income tax, 47% of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll (President Obama) 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. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.”

Ignoring for a moment that most of what Romney says is a lie (most of the 47% pay higher tax rates than Romney–deducted from their paychecks), what we see here is a Presidential candidate standing in judgement over those less fortunate.

It is a grand moment of country club condescension caught on video.  Romney is saying that  be someone in this category of the 47% is to be less than a full thinking individual.  You are a person guided by emotions, not reason.  You are easily manipulated and lazy.  And how does he know that you are like this?  Because your lack of “personal  responsibility” has left your bank accounts less substantial than his.  The 47%, Romney is saying, are not as good as the rest of us.

If Mitt Romney ultimately ends up winning the election, pundits will write post-scripts talking about the end of an America based on equality, the rise of neo-feudalism, the Dickensian Presidency.

If Mitt Romney ultimately ends up losing the election, pundits will return to the video as the moment a vast majority of America felt judged by the Republican candidate and, accordingly, turned away in disgust.

Either way, Mitt Romney has doomed himself to a long and painful future with a gaping wound that will never heal.

Mitt Romney is Dead! Long Live Mitt Romney!

NEW YORK – One of the worst moments for any presidential campaign has to be the day reporters stop writing about what your candidate says and does on the trail–the day-to-day stuff of the campaign–and starts jostling for the best post-mortem explanation as to why your campaign failed. Arguably, that day came over the weekend for team Romney.

Less than one week since Mitt “Carnival Barker” Romney tried to turn the tragic deaths of Americans to political advantage for his campaign, the media is now drafting their obituaries for Romney-Ryan 2012. Alas, poor Mitt–nobody knew him very well at all.

Politico’s recent “Inside the Campaign” post leads with the word “stumbled” as it takes the reader behind the disheveled and disorganized scenes of the man who would be king.  What we see is a tale of speeches scrapped last-minute, a carefully scripted campaign thrown off script, teamwork tossed out the door for veteran consultant hail-mary passes that, ultimately, miss by a mile.

On a similar, albeit more subtle note, Sunday’s Washington Post ran a story about a major shift in messaging from the Romney campaign:

The point, the aide said, is that if voters find all aspects of the status quo, including economic and foreign policy, acceptable, they should vote for Obama. But if they are fed up with what Romney argues is failure across the board by Obama, they will turn to Romney.

In other words, the Romney campaign is shifting its message from “Vote for Romney because Obama hates America!” to “America! If you hate Obama, vote for Romney!”

Having tried and failed already at throwing the kitchen sink at the Obama campaign, the Romney campaign has decided to just throw the kitchen. If that fails, one presumes they will throw the whole house.

Is Mitt Romney’s campaign really drowning? Who knows. What we do know is this: We have yet to have a single debate; the Middle East has erupted into violent riots; the combination of high unemployment and bloated corporate executive coffers still weighs down the economy; Israel is threatening to bomb Iran; Iran is threatening to bomb Israel; Occupy Wall Street has returned to Zuccotti Park; Republican voter ID laws are threatening to disenfranchise huge numbers of voters.  As the Starks are wont to say on Game of Thrones: all we know for sure is “Winter is coming.” There is still plenty out there to throw this election into a tailspin for the administration.

What we can pronounce DOA, however, is the image of Mitt Romney as an organized, meticulous business man whose past success was the result of his tireless due diligence and relentless focus.  What America has seen is a sharp contrast to that image.

The Mitt Romney of the 2012 Presidential campaign is a man whose plan for success began by gathering the biggest pile of beans and ended by making the case that the candidate with the biggest pile of beans must be the obvious choice to win. How did Mitt Romney get his big pile of beans? Mitt Romney had us believe it was the result of his organization, hard work, and focus.  If you did not vote for the guy with all the beans then, well, you must be disorganized, lazy, and distracted.

So much for that story.  Nobody believes it anymore.

This image of the business man with a big pile of beans–which has roots in the story of how Mitt Romney saved the Winter Olympics with nothing but a spoon and a jar of peanut butter–has failed to take root amongst voters who either never admired the gluttonous success of businessmen like Romney or, more likely: would admire him were it not for their being unemployed, underwater, and deprived of retirement savings by the same “free” markets that rewarded men like Mitt Romney.

In this environment, campaign onlookers are discovering that in the decade that he has been running for President, the so-called meticulous businessman did not prepare a contingency plan if, say, campaigning as an arrogant rich guy just did not work. You’ve been doing this for a decade and  you have not campaign message Plan B? Egads.

And so, the story that Mitt Romney tells about himself to make middle class voters admire him has become the story Mitt Romney tells that makes middle class voters turn away in disgust.  And his only way out of it has been to toss his hat in with the mob.

Like a tablespoon of spoiled milk soaked up by an acrid kitchen sponge, so goes Mitt Romney into the 30-year-war of the GOP against President Obama.

Having run a frighteningly expensive campaign full of gaffes and disorganization–Romney must now take his chances with the party that never wanted him in the first place.

Mitt Romney’s ability to pull ahead in states like Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, now depends not on how much people agree with whatever message, image or ideas he may have once brought to his campaign from his long career in business and politics.

It depends, instead, on those stale, uninteresting, and repulsive messages dumped into the media by Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, and the various DC stooges who gave up the responsibility of governing to begin the campaign against Barack Obama 5 minutes before he was even sworn into office.

Mitt Romney is dead! Long live Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney, Carnival Barker

I am not entirely sure that I agree with Joan Walsh’s handicapping of the election in early September–so much could happen between now and November.  But I agree with her gist: Romney crossed a line, today, when he held rushed and cheaply staged presser, wherein he used the tragedy of the Libyan embassy deaths in order to once again accuse a sitting President of being embarrassed by–and by extension, disloyal to–the very country he leads.

Even worse, he repeated for the thousandth time this obnoxious smear with the nervous glee of someone truly pleased with himself.  Striking a grim tone as if he had something really serious to tell us Romney pretended to inform us all that the President of the United States isn’t really on our team (e.g.), nor is his entire staff, because they are really on the side of the angry mob that shoots RPGs at cars filled with diplomats in response to some douchebag’s piece of crap video spewing hate about Islam.

Except, Romney forgot to pretend he was grim all the way off stage and off camera.  Instead, he flashed a boyish smile as he turned away from the microphone.

And we all know that smile. It’s the smile that says,”Yeah, that’s right–it was me who put that dead skunk in your gym locker and you’ll never find out because I’m so much bigger and smarter than you.” Except this is not high school anymore for anyone but Mitt Romney.  Behold, America, this is the man who wants to lead this nation.

In my mind, the transformation is not so much from potential winner to just-go-home-now loser.  Rather, the shift is from candidate to carnival barker.

It’s no secret that Romney’s party has become a dime store carnival replete with competing sideshows.  But until now, it was never crystal clear that Romney wanted little more than to be the man standing at the entrance of the dusty lot shouting at passers-by about the wondrous and dazzling sites they will see, all for a dime or your money back.

And that’s just it: Romney did not just embrace his role as a front-man for a carnival full of the political equivalent of bearded ladies, monkey men, and dancing Siamese twins.  He also reminded us just how cheap the GOP carnival is–just how much it scrapes the gutter.

Ultimately, what’s so contemptible about the carnival barker is that the sideshow performers he supposedly manages actually look down on him.  They know that despite their extra limbs, facial disfigurements, oozing tumors, and shocking contortions, their physical ownership of natural spectacle will always get them an audience, somewhere and somehow.  The carnival barker, by contrast, is just a boring opportunist who thinks he can make a name and a quick buck for himself by standing near an empty lot filled with freaks. In the end, the carnival barker needs the freaks much more than they need him.

And that’s Mitt Romney.

That old pretense that Mitt is somehow a man of substance because he helped rescue the Winter Olympics from going into the red (gasp, applause, cue star-spangled banner)–today’s spectacle rendered it insignificant, like the bouquet of fine wine uncorked in a room filled 20 feet high with pig manure.

Mitt Romney may yet be President.  In a world where the Ebola virus exists–nothing is for certain.

But win or lose, Romney gets to spend the next two months barking outside the GOP carnival lot, desperately longing for the pocket change of passersby who wish he would just leave town and vying for the respect of a freak show ensemble that never had anything but contempt for him.

“Step right up!”

Romney’s “Europe Stinks” Narrative

A new poll out, this week, suggests the damage Mitt Romney has done to  himself and to the GOP on foreign policy competency is far more extensive than previously believed possible.  Bottom line: If Romney wins the election, Europeans will hate the US even more than they did during Dubya’s reign of never-ending stupid.  What’s going on, here?

Europeans, obviously, do not follow the endless fascination of the Romney campaign (zzz…). So, this negative view of Romney cannot possible be the result of evaluating his foreign policy positions.  Also: Romney does not articulate any policy positions. No, the problem Europeans have with Romney is most likely a frothy mix of European stereotypes of the dumb American, Romney’s “tour de blunder” overseas trip, and a broad story that the Romney campaign has used as an attack on the Obama administration’s domestic policies–a narrative I call: “Europe Stinks.”

That’s right: Romney has most likely damaged his foreign policy potential with our allies in Europe as a result of being the leader of a party that has tried to rally voters with the accusation that Obama wants us to be like Europe.  Spend months and months on the trail talking down Europe as some kind of Socialist economic nightmare awash with immigrants, out of control debt, hate for Christians, riots, and: “Tell him what  he’s won, Johnny!” It’s a giant shiny box of: Europeans resent you, now.

The irony in all this, of course, is that Romney spent his draft-dodging youth in France.  He could have played up that aspect of his character development and positioned himself as a Commander-in-Chief with an organic connection to our most important global allies.

Imagine a candidate Romney saying, “I know how to work with Europeans better than the President because I lived there, I spoke the language, I got to know run-of-the-mill European citizens in the same way that I know Americans–by talking with them about their hopes, dreams, and prayers. Not only do I know how to work with them on foreign policy issues, I know exactly how to bring European investment to the places we need it most in the United States.  My experience in Europe means more security and more jobs for America.”  Say something like that for a few years and Europeans will be eager to see you take the reins.

But, alas, that Mitt Romney–if it ever existed–is nowhere to be found in a GOP currently lost in the Twilight Zone of its own xenophobia.

In other words: the “Europe Stinks” narrative Romney has embraced by way of lambasting Obama’s domestic policy will, if Romney wins, not only have derailed any chance this country ever has at maintaining our social safety net, but also have deep-sixed diplomatic and economic relations with the EU.

A permanently damaged middle class and the end of European allies–you’re welcome!

Democrats should tread lightly on these EU opinion polls, but should remain aware of how much damage Romney has done to himself and the GOP brand. Nobody likes a candidate who brags about being liked more in Paris than the other guy–unless, of course, you are talking about Paris, Texas.

Still, Democrats would be wise to see how Europe has become a campaign topic in discussions of both foreign and domestic policy.  That is a big deal.

As debate prep revs up, Democrats will want to put a new card into the deck for Obama and Biden: a story about how economic recovery and the generation of new jobs depends not just on investments at home, but also attracting investments from our European allies.

And on the question of working with Europe to invest in, say, manufacturing plants in Ohio, North Carolina, or Michigan, the Obama campaign has a real opportunity to paint Romney as someone who has poked the EU in the eye with a sharp stick instead of extending an open hand.

It’s a way of shining a light on the Romney campaign’s language that could leave a bad taste in voters’ mouths about the GOP “Europe Stinks” narrative. Ultimately, all this talk about Europe could lead many people to give the Obama-Biden ticket a second chance.

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