Posted tagged ‘Romney’

To Moscow With Love

November 2, 2012

Mitt Romney, interview with Wolf Blitzer, March 26, 2012:

I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors, of course the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran, and nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough, but when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to stop them, when [Syrian President] Assad, for instance, is murdering his own people, we go to the United Nations and who is it that always stands up for the world’s worst actors? It is always Russia, typically with China alongside, and so in terms of a geopolitical foe, a nation that’s on the Security Council, that has the heft of the Security Council, and is of course a massive security power — Russia is the geopolitical foe.”

Mitt Romney, Republican National Convention acceptance speech, August 30, 2012:

President Obama … He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.

Mitt Romney, final presidential campaign debate, October 22, 2012:

“I’ll respond to a couple of things that you mentioned. First of all, Russia I indicated is a geopolitical foe. Not … Excuse me. It’s a geopolitical foe, and I said in the same — in the same paragraph I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I’m certainly not going to say to him, I’ll give you more flexibility after the election.

Matt Romney, as reported by Peter Baker in The New York Times, today, November 2, 2012:

…While in Moscow, Mr. Romney told a Russian known to be able to deliver messages to Mr. Putin that despite the campaign rhetoric, his father wants good relations if he becomes president, according to a person informed about the conversation.

The rest of this post, I think, writes itself.

 

Images:  M. Minard, Chart depicting the change in size of Napoleon’s army during the Russian campaign of 1812-13, 1869

Caravaggio, Christ Expels the Money Changers from the Temple, 1610.

Dessert Topping or Floor Wax?

November 2, 2012

Yesterday, Bernard Finel attempted the valiant intellectual feat of trying to get inside the mind of one W. Mitt Romney.  The question:  what lies behind his pre-Sandy hate on FEMA?  His answer:

When Romney talked about killing FEMA it wasn’t because he really thought the states could or should do it, nor did he think the private sector could or should. When Romney went after FEMA in the primary debates, it was all about letting GOP voters know that he sees the Black Helicopters too.

That’s plausible, certainly, and I’ve no doubt that when you’re betting on Romney’s combination of cynicism and opportunism, you’ll never lose taking the over.  But at the same time, I think this particular stance was overdetermined — and that it’s worse, not better, that Romney’s views on federal involvement in any social good derive even in part  from remnants of genuine belief.

Here I have just a hint of (one remove) personal insight to share.  Y’all recall that among the Romney “home states,” Mitt and his family did in fact live in Massachusetts for a lot of years.  Which means he had friends here, people who knew and liked him before ambition consumed his soul.  As it happened, I had dinner with a couple of those folks last week — people who had  met him in the context of (non-sectarian) social action and who had become personal friends over the years the they knew each other, beginning well before Romney embarked on his political career.

My friends barely recognizes their friend any more, which saddens them, but in talking about Mitt’s charitable interests, our dinner companions emphasized two things:  the first is that Romney does recognize that there are people in need, those for whom a helping hand is both needed and likely to be effective.

The second: Romney possessed then, and presumably does now, an enduring commitment to the Mormon church — not just to the formal tenets of the faith, but to the institution as it saw itself, a kind of corporate entity integrated into all facets of its members’ lives.  That’s the context in which Mitt had no problem with the idea of a group responsibility to ensure individuals’ well-being-in-extremis.  But such social service properly takes place (in my understanding of my friend’s gloss on Mitt’s views) within the private sphere, in the settings that Mormons or others find themselves.  The idea of state intervention was not just unnecessary; it was an unwarranted intrusion.

The virtue of such an approach is obvious, I think:  within specific communities, there are real, kept, mutual guarantees.  Its defects are equally plain:  for one, the price you pay for such common cause is that the gentile — and we’re all gentiles to somebody — is not part of the deal; and for another, there’s the problem of scale.  In a country of 310  million-plus folks of all kinds of origins and destinations, the moral and practical implications of that kind of approach are catastrophic.  As Sandy illustrates with brutal clarity, if your approach to the problems of society within the nation we actually inhabit is a canned goods drive…well, were he actually in charge, the consequences that would flow from what at least were once Romney’s beliefs would be pretty certainly disastrous.

And hence the real problem, IMHO.  Throughout this election season, plenty of folks who should know better have floated the notion that the GOP candidate seen on the stump is a fake Mitt — thus enabling the fantasy of some pragmatic, moderate Mitt who would both seek and be able to govern from the sensible center.  I think that’s pretty certainly hogwash on the face of it; the running mate choice, if nothing else, is the one actual Presidential decision a nominee gets to make before the election, and I think Mitt’s shows the direction of a putative Romney presidency pretty clearly.

But even if there still survives some real Mitt behind the facades we’ve seen to date, here’s the rub:  to the extent that the archaeology of friendship exposes that person, we find a man who does not accept the implications of what it means to live in a heterogeneous nation and a pluralistic society.

So, that’s what you have to ask yourself: is it better if Mitt didn’t care what he said about FEMA before it became inconvenient to have uttered his wingnut-bait?  Or should we prefer that he actually believed in the proposition?

To me, it’s the second option that truly terrifies.YMMV.

Image:  Egbert van der Poel, View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654,  1654.

I Believe The Word You’re Looking For Is “Boy.”

October 9, 2012

Soonergrunt and I saw this at about the same time*, but here’s that survivor of adversity Josh Romney commenting on the nature and character of the President of the United States (via TPM):

“I don’t know if you guys saw the debate last week,” Josh Romney said, as the crowd cheered and applauded. “I take a lot of pride in that, because — I don’t know if you noticed, but I was — me and my brothers were responsible for my dad doing so well…

“So as a father, he learned how to debate an obstinate child. We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of fun watching the debate.”

Seriously, once again, I find myself in the odd position of wanting to thank a member of the opposing team.  Really, Josh, I appreciate this insight, this glimpse inside the real views of Team Romney.

The President of the United States — the one who steered the country through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the one who passed the most significant health care reform in two generations, the one who saved the auto industry (in which your own family once took pride, as I recall), the one who steered a very delicate course that ended with the fall of more than one dictator and the transformation of autocratic Arab regimes into something much closer to one their own people recognize as legitimate, the guy who got Bin Laden and all the rest — that great American is to you “an obstinate child.”

Really?

Oh — and I forgot to mention.  That president, our president, your president, like it or not, happens to be the first African-American to hold that office, which among many other things means he has to deal with a level of identity pressure unlike anything a born-rich, never-has-to-wonder-about-your-children’s-children’s-material-well-being guy like yourself.  And with all of that you’re going to call that man “an obstinate child.”  Just a brat arguing with Daddy-knows-best at the dinner table.  A servant, perhaps, a member of the lower orders, who should, by rights, know his place?

As I said, the word you are looking for is “boy.”  Really, you just said it.

IOW:  we approach asymptotically the point at which the entire GOP shouts as one: Ni-CLANG!

Oh. One more thing. Again, thanks Josh.  A significant portion of your dad’s polling boost has come from increased enthusiasm on your side, and a depressed drop on ours.  Stuff like this makes me and mine take notice, and it only does us good when you stir the pot this way.

Speaking out of snark for just one minute, despite all the evidence to date, Josh Romney’s remark reminds me once again that there is simply no bottom over there — no reservoir of shame nor self awareness that can puncture the single conviction that I can be sure the Romney clan possesses:  that theirs is the divine right to rule.  Such faith is, of course, singularly disqualifying its possessors from the reward they seek.

Let us make it so.

*Soonergrunt twittered on it first, but I got to Starbucks WiFi before he did, so there!

.Image: Jan Mitjans, Portrait of Maria of Orange with Hendrik van Zuijlestein and a servant,  c. 1665

Post Debate Punditing Without A License

October 4, 2012

I’m going to do something I very rarely wish to inflict on y’all.  Usually, I like to invoke at least a schmear of empirical evidence to drive an argument, but just this once I’m going to go all pundity…

….which means, I guess, that I gotta with a Penetrating Glimpse of the Obvious:

Last night’s debate was a poor showing for President Obama and those of us who see the prospect of a President Romney as a clear and present danger to the Republic and our kids’ future.

Which leads to the equally obvious (but true) pivot:

No campaign is a single event. Counting today there are 32 full days to go before the polls open on Tuesday, November 6.  Last night’s farrago will become part of the river of stories that flow towards that day — but it is the sum of those tales, not any single shiny moment, that will determine the outcome.

Already, some folks — partisans for now, to be sure — are trying to draw attention to what Romney actually said, and in doing so, identifying the significant vulnerabilities this debate exposed for the Republican cause.  For example, I agree with Mistermix that Romney’s signal mistake was to open himself up for a renewed assault on his Medicare position — and that link to Krugman shows it ain’t just us DFH’s paying attention.   I also think Romney’s tripling down on his tax plan will allow a lot of people, and not just wonks, to remind folks of the gap between arithmetic and all the BS Romney and Ryan have thrown out on this one.

As Josh Marshall says in that second link, this is the kind of thing that takes several news cycles to build.  But recall:  we were all enraged at the brazen embrace of easily refutable lies in the Ryan RNC Convention speech.  We didn’t have faith in either the MSM or the Obama campaign (Democrats after all!) to take on the deceit with anything like the attention needed to defuse such weaponized ruminant excrement.  But they did, and (with some help from the marathon man himself) Ryan has become at least a bit of punchline ever since.*

So:  President Obama missed many opportunities last night, perhaps most significantly in not drawing a sharp enough line between the “you’re on your own” Romney vision and the “we’re all in this together” music Obama has played to such great effect in the past (and I’m sure will again, soon).

But the real test of the Obama campaign will be what it does over the next week with the actual missteps Romney made last night.  How will they use his internal contradictions in the ads?  What will Obama and his surrogates say to local news folks?  How quickly can their operation drive the mainstream media to go to town on stories like this one? (Shorter: it took almost no time at all for a Romney aide to contradict Romney’s core claim about pre-existing conditions and Medicare.)  No guarantees exist, but I have to say I’ve been damn impressed with the side of the Obama campaign that pursues such ends.  (Note also that Fallows reminds us that (in his view) debating is the best campaign technique for Romney.  Obama’s operation has been superior to his rival’s in every other phase so far.)

To repeat the cliché — holy hell, if I’m pretending to be a pundit I’ve got to hammer those too — but campaigns are marathons, not sprints.  Romney’s performance last night was like ripping off an 15 second 100 yard dash in mile 18th on the way to the Back Bay.**  Yup, he won that stretch of road.  Now comes the time to reel him in.

Which leads me to my last thought, the one I hope y’all take home: 32 days, peeps. It’s not just Obama and the grandees of the profession, the Axelrod’s and the Plouffe’s who can’t let themselves get too much sleep between now and then.  There’s the rest of us.  There’s me.

I have to confess — I’ve been less involved in a boots-on-the-ground kind of way in this election than the last, and by a good margin too.  My wife and I have been giving money on a regular basis, but I used to be a phone bank hero, and then got into door-to-door as my preferred mode of participation.  Haven’t done that this year; pretty much all I’ve done that requires me to upgrade from a bathrobe in front of a screen in my basement*** is to show up at a couple of Warren events.  That’s not enough — if there is one true lesson to be gained from the debate it is that nothing is in the bag, not the Presidency, not the Senate, surely not the House.

I’m not Tim F.  I can’t match his gift for catalyzing action.  But action is needed, so here’s my pledge.  I’m going to do something every week from now through Monday, 5 November.  I’ve got the day job and I’ve got the kid and there’s some real life stuff happening in my extended family, so I can’t do what I did when I was a mere pup, and just take off for New Hampshire for the last two weeks of the 1992 election.  But I’ll be heading that way to canvas this weekend and everyday I can liberate from my daily round between now and the 6th; I’ll be tossing more bucks in the pot today, and no doubt on days to come; I’ll keep looking for useful tasks that I can tackle.  I really don’t want to do this — I’m becoming more misanthropic and generally grumpy with each passing year, but that’s what’s required, so I’m just going to kick my ass out the door as much as I possibly can.

You?

Update: Just to show it ain’t just my rose-colored monitor screens coloring my view, here’s a dispatch from the inner sanctum of the Village, NBC’s First Read:

*** Who wins the post-debate? If Romney won the instant reactions from last night’s debate, it is more than possible that the Obama camp can win the next 24 hours. Why? Because Romney said several things that could make life difficult for him today or in the next debate. First, Romney declared, “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” But in addition to supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are skewed heavily to the wealthy, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says that Romney’s tax plan would give the Top 0.1% an average tax cut of more than $246,000. Next, he stated that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” While he has said his plan will be paid for, he’s yet to lay out any SPECIFICS on how he’ll pay for it. Romney also said, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” But the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has said he’d sign into law, leads to long-term spending reductions in education. And Romney also didn’t disagree with the description that his Medicare plan would consist of “vouchers” for future retirees. Winning a “debate” is always a two-part deal — the night itself, and then the aftermath. This is now an opportunity for Team Obama and a challenge for Team Romney.

Update 2: And on cue, here’s an opening shot from Team Obama (via):

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None of this is to say all is well.

It isn’t.

This election is a month away and it really, truly ain’t in the bag yet.  So what I said above:  If the idea of waking up on November 7 to the words President-Elect Romney gives you the cold sweats, listen to the man — and don’t just vote, put mind, money and muscle behind the campaign to get your fri

*Via DeLong, a new game:  Where’s Waldo Paulie?

**Boston stuff — never mind.

***Not intended to be a factual statement.

Image:  Franz Marc, The Yellow Cow, 1911.

Blunt Clarity (From A Source Not Often Cited In This Space)

September 13, 2012

Via Ed Kilgore, I came across this from frequent blogosphere object of scorn, William Saletan.  He first makes clear exactly what it was the US Embassy in Egypt said in its tweets and other communication through the critical period leading up to and during the attack on the compound:

When you read the tweets alongside the initial statement, the message is clear. Free speech is a universal right. The Muslim-baiting movie is an abuse of that right. The embassy rejects the movie but defends free speech and condemns the invasion of its compound….

He then lines that up against Romney’s disastrous and deeply corrupt performance, stating at one point:

Romney’s description of the embassy’s initial statement—“sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions”—was blatantly false…

And at another:

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Romney escalated his assault: “The administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

Until, the ground prepared, Saletan offers this blunt exegesis of that sorry text:

At his press conference, Romney accused Obama of “having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech.” Romney claimed that the embassy had said, in his paraphrase, “We stand by our comments that suggest that there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.” This, too, was a Romney lie. The embassy had declared five times in writing that free speech was a universal right.
What made Romney’s statement and press conference disturbing, however, was his repeated use of the words sympathize and apology to conflate three issues the Cairo embassy had carefully separated: bigotry, free speech, and violence. The embassy had stipulated that expressions of bigotry, while wrong, were protected by freedom of speech and didn’t warrant retaliatory violence. Romney, by accusing the embassy of “sympathizing with those who had breached” the compound, equated moral criticism of the Mohammed movie with support for violence. In so doing, Romney embraced the illiberal Islamist mindset that led to the embassy invasion: To declare a movie offensive is to authorize its suppression….

Exactly so.  And to my mind Saletan here has expressed as well as anyone yet exactly why Romney’s statements over the last couple of days were more than just grandstanding — a case of shoot first and aim later as our President put it last night.  And it’s certainly more than the Smirk, no matter how bizarrely revealing it was to see Romney grin at the thought of having politicized (successfully, he seem to have thought) the deaths of four Americans.

What Romney’s words actually mean, Saletan says (and I agree) is something profoundly un-, even anti-American.

Which is to say that Romney’s behavior over the last couple of days disqualifies him from the job he seeks both because he’s shown he lacks the basic temperament and analytical habits to do the job, and because what instincts he does have are at war with the values of a small “l” liberal polity.

Or, as Saletan concludes:

I don’t know where you were born, Mr. Romney (just kidding!), but where I come from, there’s nothing more American than recognizing the idiocy of a man’s views and, at the same time, his right to express them. If you can’t tell the difference between those two things, the main threat to our values right now isn’t President Obama, the Egyptians, the Libyans, or our diplomats in Cairo. It’s you.

Yup.  Go read the whole thing. (Or at least that rump I haven’t already lifted…;)

Image: Circle of Rembrandt, Bust of a laughing young man, c. 1629-1630

Brutus Is An Honorable Men

August 13, 2012

I’m completely down with DennisG’s post below on the return (did it ever go away) of Romney/Republican racism.  The only signs of progress I can detect are  first,  as we have  seen a lot lately, the Romney team just isn’t that competent as racist scum — and the campaign’s attack on the changes in welfare rules the Obama administration has advanced at the request (inter alia) of GOP governors has been relatively easily countered.  No vicious virtuousity here — just imagine Lee Atwater sitting down and having lunch:  he would have been spitting out the Romney team’s metacarpals by 12:45.

And second, as DennisG rightly points out, it does seem that slowly, slowly, the Village is beginning to recognize the actual evil that lies within the choices the Romney campaign is making here.  One swallow does not make a spring and all that — but when, as Dennis notes, ur-Villager Dana Milbank chides Romney for overt racism.  Here’s a passage that is, frankly, more blunt than I’d thought I’d see this election season from this particular pen:

What makes Romney’s welfare gambit dispiriting is that, as a member of one of the most persecuted groups in American history, he knows more than most the dangers of fanning bigotry. Yet now he has injected into the campaign what has for decades been a standard device for race-baiting — a suspect move because welfare hadn’t been on the radar screen.

Good on you, Dana!  Romney=Race Baiter.  Simple, clear, true.

But then there’s this line:

This is my problem with Romney: He is a decent man, but he’s too weak to stand up to the minority on his own side who are not.

Crap.  Just a steaming pile of that which emerges from the south end of a north facing horse.*  How would you define a decent person?  For me, it’s pretty simple:  that would be someone who does decent things.**

That is to say:  I can’t know, and nor can MIllbank, the true nature of Romney’s heart.

I’m not privy to how he thinks and feels in the long dark teatime of his soul.  And it doesn’t matter.   Who cares if a slug believes himself to be St. Francis?  It’s what happens when he or she actually does stuff in the world that defines their moral valence.  In case you were wondering, the residue of my religious training leaves me an acts not grace kind of person; whether or not that floats your boat as a doctrine of your faith, it seems to me that it is the only possible stance from which to weigh civic life.  No amount of predestination can turn, say, Dick Cheney into a good man.

And so it is with Mitt:

With the welfare attack, he is encouraging them [the indecent minority***]. After releasing the ad claiming Obama would “just send you your welfare check,” Romney made the racial component official when his Republican National Committee hosted a conference call the next day with Gingrich, who, sure enough, reprised his food-stamp assault, telling reporters that “an honest discussion about dependency doesn’t mean you’re a racist.” But what about a dishonest discussion?

Thursday, the RNC hosted a call with Santorum, who did everything but revive the “welfare queen” attack of the 1980s.

“What the president wants to do is turn back the clock and do what he has done with every single other entitlement program in this country, which is increase the number of people on it, increase dependency,” Santorum charged.

To be fair to the He Iz Lerning Milbank, by the end of his column he does seem to get that when someone makes the same choice over and over again, eventually, you have to realize that it is what it is:

The week before launching his welfare attack, Romney told a group of donors in Jerusalem that “culture makes all the difference” in the “dramatic, stark” disparity between Israeli wealth and Palestinian poverty.

Saeb Erekat, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the statement “racist.”

Romney may not have meant it to be — but, as Santorum likes to say, this is a pattern.

Again, good on Milbank here for this save after the stumble above.  That’s as close as I think it possible for a headliner at Kaplan Daily to out-and-out say that Romney is so desperate for power that he’s perfectly OK with trading on hate to get there.

But it is really, really time to stop giving Mitt — or Santorum, or Gingrich, or anyone on the GOP side who does not explicitly condemn this nonsense (Paul Ryan….I’m looking at you) — the benefit of the doubt.

You use bigotry as a campaign tactic?  Then you’re a hater…and not to be trusted anywhere near the levers of government.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.

Bonus soundtrack:

watch?v=snSM7qJiqOs

*Horse HoHos as we used to refer to the stuff as kids.  Just thought I’d share that with you.

**We are all human, and hence fallible, so this isn’t a sainthood standard:  good folks will act in a range of ways, not all of them exemplary.  The issues are what do they strive to do as a default impulse to action…and much more importantly, on balance, how their actions tote up.

***How does Milbank know that those to whom Romney panders are the minority in the Republican party? Could be, I guess — but given the decades-long series of choices to anchor the party in white Southern resentment, I’d say that’s an assumption not in evidence.  Were I Milbank’s editor I would have corrected that line to Romney’s “too weak to stand up to those in his party who are.”  This is a quibble — except it’s not.  One of the most damaging tropes in elite journalism these days is the lazy and/or unconscious weave of “knowledge” that is in fact unknown into the fabric of a piece.  Once assumed, it requires no interrogation by the writer…and bullshit takes on just that little bit of added authority by having become a “fact” within some MSM journal of record.

Image:  Michiel Jansz. van MIerevelt, Anatomy Lesson of  Dr. Willem van der Meer1617

 

Unreal Americans

July 17, 2012

Just to pile on the Sununu meltdown– as one must, in this case:

John Sununu does us all a favor.  He comes ever closer to the moment when some prominent Republican just up and says it.  Not Ni-Clang! exactly — but the underlying conviction that lies behind that word.

As everyone reading this no doubt knows by now, Mr. Sununu, former governor of one of the whitest states in the union, former chief of staff to Bush the First and now one of Mitt Romney’s official surrogates, said this today (via TPM):

John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire and a leading Romney surrogate, told reporters that Obama’s recent defense of public infrastructure shows he “doesn’t understand how America works.”

“I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” Sununu said later.

I’m white.  Have been all my life.  Haven’t had to put up with the daily tests that attend being nonwhite in America.  So I’m not going to go on long about this.  But I can tell you that you don’t need to be African-American to ask yourself what you are hearing when John Sununu tells you that Barack Obama, President of the United States, born here, educated here, married here, raising two kids here, the whole run — doesn’t know how to be an American.

I think I can guess:  hell — I don’t need to guess.  As I said, I’m a white guy, but I hear Sununu loud and clear, and what I pick up is a prominent Republican saying pretty damn clearly that African Americans aren’t real Americans.  They need to learn how to pass…

One could say that I’m being overly particular here.  To Republicans, as we’ve seen over several administrations now, Democrats aren’t real Americans.  When on occasion some Democrat manages to dupe the electorate into sending someone with a “D” after their name into high office, that’s simply an error to be corrected, by restricting the franchise to the right people — real Americans — if need be.

But just because a result is over-determined, that doesn’t mean that the most grotesque explanation isn’t true.  As here, IMHO.

Is John Sununu — surrogate to Republican presidential nominee-presumptive Mitt Romney — a racist?

A simple yes or no is not quite the right way to respond to that form of the question.  Rather ask:  Did John Sununu just say some racist shit, dog whistling to that portion of the electorate that responds to such filth?

I stand within a tradition that weighs works, not any inner manifestation of piety.  By that standard?

Now the question answers itself.

Image:  Jan Steen, A Class with a Sleeping Schoolmaster, 1672.

 

The “Have A Beer With Primary”…

July 14, 2012

…is over.

Well, actually, it’s been over since Mitt clinched the increasingly poisoned chalice that is his nomination, given his religion’s prohibition on consuming alcohol.  (See:  Mitt and Osama do/did have something in common…)*  But this piece in Mother Jones by Tim Murphy (via Ed Kilgore) captures yet one more reason to believe that Mr. Romney is not in fact a human being, but rather a strangely ill-designed bot intended to simulate human behavior.  Consider:

Mitt Romney has a complicated relationship with fast food. He likes pizza, but insists on scraping off the cheese before he ever takes a bite. He likes fried chicken, but only when the skin has been removed. He likes Big Macs, but only after removing the middle bun. He likes Coca-Cola because, he explained in his 2004 book Turnaround, it reminds him of polar bears, but he rarely drinks it because he can’t have caffeine. On the trail, Romney has name-dropped Carl’s Jr. and spoken of the wonders of WaWa but subsists mainly on granola he carries around in one-gallon Ziploc bags.

Anne Laurie blogged on this general topic this morning, quoting Taibbi on how most presidents have some capacity for engaging other human beings — a liberal could enjoy watching football with George Bush and so on.

That seems basically right to me, at least in principle.  I’m not sure if I could at this point stand being in the same room with 43, but I can at least see how it might be possible to have a reasonably pleasant interaction watching my team shred whoever it is he supports.

This is more of the same.  I’ve spent plenty of time in red states or settings, surrounded by folks who are as different from me politically as it is possible to be, and had absolute common ground in the matter of getting elbows deep in food that’ is gloriously bad for us all.  I’ve been taught to suck the heads of crawfish in rural Lousiana with folks with whom I dared not mention politics or faith.  I’ve done double duty at one of the true Meccas of American junk food, the Minnesota State Fair, (bacon ice cream? cheeseburger sticks?) where the proposition that there is nothing that can’t be improved by immersion in vats of fat is annually put to the test. I’ve…well, you get the idea, and we have ample evidence from this blog that lots of folks here take enormous pleasure in dining high and low.

But then you read Mitt’s preferences — or rather I do — and what I see there is someone who’s hinky.  A bit weird.  A control freak and someone deeply uncomfortable — unprepared, even — for the daily reality of, well, just being.  And hence, in some deep way, unprepared, unqualified for the job he seeks.

Seriously.   Put youself in the scene:   imagine you’re at parlous sitting at the counter when Mitt Romney of the Perfect Hair And Teeth walks in.   The guy behind the counter hands you a fresh pie, and a few minutes later RMoney gets his.

You grab a slice (the one you have to kind of torque so the cheese doesn’t slide away), and you get that first bite when the cheese hasn’t fully set yet and it’s still hot enough to burn the tongue if you’re not careful, and it has that same satisfaction that one gets from the very first gulp of a very cold beer on a day as hot as it is as I write this — and then you look up and there’s RMoney, delicately picking at the mozzarrella with a fork as he tugs and pulls with precise movements until the surface of what he’s about to eat is pristine, utterly free of dairy products.  He completes his task, and all he’s got left is a drooping triangle of bread slathered in tomato goop.  A perfectly innocent morsel of wood-fired arterial disease transformed into something miserable, mutilated; almost an atrocity worthy of the folks at the Hague.

By this time, if the “you” here is me, I’m (a) done with my first slice and grabbing more and (b) nervously realizing that there’s something really wrong with the guy next to me.  I’d start to edge away from the counter as I watch him consume in perfect, portion controlled bites the entire tomato-crust exercise in pointlessness.  Horrified, fascinated, I’d find it hard to pull my eyes off him as he takes the next piece and does it again.

Finally I’d come to my senses. That’s when I grab the counterman’s eye and ask for a take-out box.

All of which is to say that Mitt Romney has all the money it takes to become president and then some.  He has the advantage of a complaisant and oligarchic media whose owners have a direct interest in a Romney victory.  He has the challenger’s advantage that the economy still sucks while his allies try to make sure that it continues to do so through November.  And yet I’m not at all sure he can overcome his greatest problem:  he can’t cease being Mitt Romney, and that is someone — or something – that is deeply weird, and not at all in a good way.

Oh — and go read the rest of Murphy’s article; it captures a microcosm of who wants Romney to win and why.  The shorter:  Romney is the candidate for those who think the minimum wage is and ever was too high.

*BTW — I don’t think I’ve seen it written, and it hasn’t occurred to me till now, but how do the geniuses of the birther crowed line up Barack Hussein Obama’s not Islamic and very public pleasure at hoisting a brew and his Sekret Moooslim status.  I mean, I can guess — it’s not a lie if it’s intended to deceive the infidel and all that, but still, I’m not sure there’s enough tin foil in the cosmos to channel the mixed messages those folks must process.

Image: Pieter Breughel the Elder, Peasant Wedding, c. 1587

David Brooks Is Always Wrong, Again–Both Sides Do It Edition/Tricky Dick Bonus Feature.

May 2, 2012

If I wrote for The New York Times it would piss me off beyond measure that I had to share type with David Brooks. I know from direct, personal conversation that actual Timesmen (or at least one of them) don’t feel that way — there’s a pervasive issue there with the self-conceit of a newsroom papacy with concommitant infallibility.  But still, it must gall on some deep level to know that all the hard work of doing actual journalism could get lumped in with the sloth and intellectual dishonesty of the newspaper business’s best two minute man.

Case in point: today’s Brooks keening that is almost a type specimen of the hackery.  It’s a perfect more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger column about the terrible nastiness of politics today (it wasn’t like that when honorable men walked the land!) that somehow manages to land on precisely the talking point the Romney campaign hopes will offer some cover for their candidate’s foreign policy and security weakness.

Let’s go to the videotape! (h/t Warner Wolf).  Brooks starts out by trotting out what appear to be casual, but are in fact carefully crafted assertions:

Maybe a campaign is like a courtship…Maybe a campaign is like a big version of “American Idol.”….Maybe, on the other hand, hiring a president is like hiring a plumber….You could make a case that most campaigns are a little of all three, though the proportions vary from year to year.

Study those phrases well, grasshoppers, for here you see one of Brooks’ standard tropes, and a measure of the skill he wields to much greater effect than lesser hacks like McArdle or his mini-me, Douthat.  What he’s written is mostly piffle, of course — but he has, as he usually does, inserted the crucial weasel words: “maybe…maybe…you could…are a little of…” Push him on any part of his claim here, and he can just pillsbury doughboy back into the “maybe nots” or the “perhaps you could make a different case…” and wobble on.

More important for his rhetorical aims, Brooks cleverly poses what appears to be an open ended list, which he then slams shut by declaring that “most [weasel again] campaigns are a little of all three.” What was a chain of musing suddenly becomes the ground of all that follows. He’s transformed assumptions into facts — his single most common stupid pundit trick — and we’re off to the races.

Up next, the pearl clutching:

So far, though, the 2012 presidential campaign is fitting into none of these categories. It’s being organized according to a different metaphor.

As an aside: Dear David:  Out here where most of us live, campaigns are organized in the material world, and this one now confronts corporations, metamorphosized into  people, along with crazed billionaires, dumping unlimited boluses of cash into the race.  The framing of political dispute in that context is not built on a metaphor; it is a direct response to an actual present, in-the-world circumstance. Just saying, you pretentious sack of wind.

But I digress…

This year, both organizations seem to visualize the campaign as a boxing match or a gang fight. Whichever side can hit the other side harder will somehow get awarded the champion’s belt.

So far this year, both President Obama and Mitt Romney seem more passionate about denying the other side victory than about any plank in their own agendas.

Another sidetrack:  Dear David:  I know that this will cause you pain, but I have to break it to you that campaign politics at this (or really any) level is actually about winning.  Denying your opponent victory is not an aesthetic choice.  It’s the goal.  Sorry, old tool.

But I digress…

Both campaigns have developed contempt for their opponent, justifying their belief that everything, then, is permitted.

Oh my! Mabel get my nitroglycerin! I do declare that I feel palpitations!

Both sides do it.  Of course!  How could I have been so blind?

In both campaigns, you can see the war-room mentality developing early. Attention spans shrink to a point. Gone is much awareness of the world outside the campaign. All focus is on the news blip of the moment — answering volley for volley.  If they bring a knife, you bring a gun. If they throw a bomb, you throw two.

Really?  First, again, it’s not exactly news to anyone who actual does politics that you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.  But anyone watching the actual Obama campaign claiming that they aren’t playing a long game as well as a short one isn’t paying attention.  In Brooks’ case, that means he’s willfully not doing so; he’s actively not-knowing anything that would confound his ability to depict his fantasy world. That’s what, in real journalism, we call failure. As for awareness of the world outside the campaign…let’s try to finish this screed before 0-dark-hundred and simply say that I haven’t noticed Obama ceasing to do his presidenting whilst kneecapping his eminently target-rich opponent.  Last I heard, walking whilst chewing gum is a requirement of the job.

Both sides are extraordinarily willing to flout respectability to show that they are tough enough to bare the knuckles.

Oh, Thank You Lord.

He actually just says it.  “Both sides…” do it.  It’s the one sure sign that points to the howler to come. For we know that in just about any dyadic relationship, both sides don’t do it in the same way, whatever it may be.  Given that it’s Brooks, we know that what’s about to come is a beauty of false equivalence.  Let’s see…

In November, the Romney campaign ran a blatantly dishonest ad in which President Obama purportedly admits that if the election is fought on the economy, he will lose. The quote was a distortion, but the effectiveness of the ad was in showing Republican professionals and primary voters that Romney was going to play by gangland rules, that he was tough enough and dishonest enough to do so, too.

Note two things:  Romney is. by Brooks own statement, a blatant liar.

See also that Brooks is a rather more subtle corrupter of the truth:  he claims that the point of the ad was to persuade Republicans that Romney is enough of a thug to be president.  I’ll grant him that, but this was hardly the only point of the Romney spot; rather, this ad is one of a series, still ongoing, trying to paint Obama as a failure as a steward of the economy.  To suggest that this was mere inside GOP baseball and hence, by dogwhistle implication, not quite a real lie, is itself a material distortion.

But remember:  Both Sides Do It!  So what was the Obama sin, equivalent to Romney’s out-and-out lie?

Last week, the Obama campaign ran a cheap-shot ad on the death of Osama bin Laden. Part of the ad was Bill Clinton effectively talking about the decision to kill the terrorist. But, in the middle, the Obama people threw in a low-minded attack on Romney.

That would have been this ad:

This,  Mr. Brooks, is what Harry Truman meant when he said that he didn’t give the Republicans hell, he  just told the truth and they think it’s hell.

It is a fact that Obama made the final decision and gave the order to attack bin Laden.  It is true, as President Clinton says in the piece, that we hire our presidents to make exactly this kind of hard choice. It is true that Romney publicly suggested that this was not a high priority goal of his, and that it was not something he would necessarily do.  The record isn’t obscure or controversial here.

And it is just as true that this is a campaign.  We’re in the midst of making a choice presented to American voters as to which of two men we wish to take on such difficult tasks.  Directly comparing one record to another is not just an ordinary feature of any campaign; it’s essential. There’ nothing “low-minded” about pointing out that Obama did one thing, while Romney had indicated he would not.

Plus, of course, there’s that deeper problem:

Brooks himself admits Romney is a liar. Brooks himself acknowledges, in effect, that the Obama piece is accurate.  He just doesn’t like it.  So he lies himself, and says the two acts — lying, and presenting a  factually supported argument that caused Brooks pain — are the same.

It’s just a coincidence, of course, that this false equivalence falls directly into line with what has become the chorus-line GOP response to the embarrassing truth that Obama pursued and caught  bin Laden where Bush did not and Romney — taking W. Mitt at his word* — would not have done.

I admit that there isn’t much else available to the political hacks trying to prop up the kind of mendacious and unqualified candidate presented to them in the person of the failed one-term governor of Massachusetts.  But Brooks’ problem, and that of everyone who gets a byline at his shop, is that if you lie down too often with the hogs, it becomes harder and harder to tell the difference in between one mammal and the next in the wallow.

PS:  I realize I never actually got to the Nixon howler up top of the column.  Basically, Brooks claims that Nixon ran as a plumber (and yes, he made that joke) … the guy who would come in and fix stuff.  I guess Brooks has forgotten about the Southern Strategy and the “secret plan to end the war.”  Ah well.

*A high risk proposition, I’ll concede.

Image:  Leonardo da Vinci, Lady With an Ermine, c. 1490

 

 

Mitt Romney, Visionary

March 27, 2012

From his Leno sit-down:

Though Mr. Romney has devoted much of his campaign to promising to get the federal budget in order, he dodged a question about whether he’ll name the federal agencies he’d like to cut. “Depends on whether I have that answer to that,” Mr. Romney said.

Huh?

 

I mean, I know that Romney is trying to do everything he can to avoid the career ending disaster of actually detailing the plans behind the impossible claims he’s made about the taxes, budget, and the stuff he’s going to cut that no one beyond the 27% wants to see drowned in the bathtub.  But even with that goal, this with Leno is simply nonsense, vapor, word salad worthy of a Palin. “Depends on whether I have that answer to that” ! ?

Dude:  you do have that answer. It’s your proposal.  Your campaign.  You can say it:  you’re going to put most of us on the rack so that the Nascar owners and your Malibu neighbors can grab a bit more.  Get it off your chest.  You’ll feel so much better…

Instead we get an answer that is composed of equal parts contempt for his fellow citizens and a banality so deep it blows right past Arendt’s evil and catches up to the absurd well before the ringmaster calls the blow off.

This is the man that thinks he’s suited to the presidency.  And in head to head polls dangerously more than 40% of American voters agree with him.

I’m bringing out the heavy artillery. Brandy till bedtime, my friends.*

*It’s all good news for John McCain.

Image:  Henry Justice Ford, The Circus, 1904


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