The Incredible Shrinking Candidate!

Of all the many odd things that are happening in this election cycle, maybe the oddest is the current strategy of those looking to put Mitt Romney in the White House.  I could be wrong, of course, but it certainly appears that there is a concerted effort by both GOP operatives and right-wing pundits to pretend their candidate doesn’t exist. The GOP campaign is becoming more and more like those God-awful Joel Schumacher Batman movies, where the role of the over-the-top bad guy took up so much space that the more compelling Bruce Wayne storyline was more-or-less scrapped.

Has this ever happened before, this late in a presidential election?

The theme of the now put-to-bed Republican convention was, essentially, De-Elect Obama.  That Mitt Romney would be the de facto leader of the free world should they succeed seemed something of an afterthought. Over at Reason, Jesse Walker argued that Clint Eastwood’s taking the spotlight from Romney on his Big Night actually worked in Mitt’s favor; that Jesse believes the country’s laughing at crazy old Uncle Clint rather than discussing Mitt’s words or vision somehow betters the GOP’s chances of victory come November is curious – and telling.  Earlier this summer, Speaker John Boehner explained that the country “probably [wasn’t] going to fall in love with Mitt Romney,” and asked the party faithful to focus instead on the giant elephant donkey in the room:  “95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November are going to show up in that voting booth, and they are going to vote for or against Barack Obama.”  And this was at the presser he had prepared to endorse Romney.

Almost no one’s talking about Romney except his opponents.  Of those on the right that are talking about Romney, everything is couched in a “Leftists say this about Romney, but it’s not true” strategy; they come not to sing his praises, but to dismiss his critics.

They’ll talk incessantly about Paul Ryan.  They’ll talk about what a great future the GOP has in Rice, Rubio, Christie, and Jindal.  They’ll talk about Barack Hussein Obama until the cows come home.  They’ll even talk about what a great First Lady Ann Romney would make.  But no one on the right seems to really want to talk about Mitt.  I find this bizarre.  And more than bizarre, I think it’s a terrible strategy.  I actually believe there is a compelling argument to be made that Mitt Romney would be a terrific president, regardless of the alternative.  In fact, I think the most compelling arguments to be made are those that would appeal to moderate, undecided and swing voters.  Hell, I think he’d make a really good president.

Conservative pundits want their readers and listeners to believe that the “real” Mitt Romney is the extreme-right-wing-rhetoric guy that he played in this year’s primaries – and so do liberal pundits.  But it seems obvious to me that the “real” Mitt Romney is the guy with an 18-year track record of being a moderate centrist, not the guy that said “Yeah, me too!” for three months every time Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum got applause for saying something nutty.  In fact, I feel pretty confident that those conservative and liberal pundits privately think the same thing about Mitt that I do, regardless of whatever self-affirming message they dish out for their readers.  What’s more, I suspect that’s what most Republicans thought when they elected him to represent their party.  I don’t mean the loud, noisy, talk-radio, squeaky-wheel set of the party – and let’s be honest, those people didn’t vote for him anyway.  No, I mean the sane, reasonable, hidden majority of the party – the ones that you don’t hear these days because they don’t say wacky, vitriolic, ratings-getting absurdities that land them 15 minutes of fame on Hannity and Mark Levine.

The current Romney strategy seems to be to recreate Mitt into a poor, struggling archetype who pulled himself up by his bootstraps by becoming an uber-conservative.  They have decided that the unpopular decisions he made at Bain or the now-politically unfashionable positions he took as Governor of Massachusetts are best handled by clumsily pretending like they never happened.  They foolishly want to beat Obama at his own game of connecting with people as a “dude,” and have amazingly encouraged him to do that used-car-salesman fake laugh at every opportunity.  If you’re a moderate like myself, this approach grates on you.  None of it comes off as being remotely sincere, which only adds to Mitt’s reputation as a plastic windup doll that has no substance.

But to the moderates, centrists and undecideds that are reading this, let me ask you: How would you react if Mitt’s people ran him honestly, transparently, and unashamedly?  Imagine hearing this stump speech:

“In every job I’ve ever had, my strength has been managing others to achieve a common goal.  Now, I’m not going to lie to you – some of the goals at one job probably conflicted with other goals at other jobs.  But that’s the nature of business – and it’s also the nature of running a nation.

When I was at Bain, I was forced to make tough choices – choices that weren’t popular back then, and aren’t especially popular now.  Sometimes those decisions shut down plants where real people worked.  I didn’t enjoy making those decisions, but I made them anyway – because making those kinds of decisions was my job.  I didn’t let the mission I was hired to achieve suffer because I knew I’d be running for office someday.  And if I had – if I had let down the people that trusted me with their money, just to try and position myself to look a little prettier for some other folks somewhere down the road – well, then I truly would have reason to be ashamed.

As Governor of the Great State of Massachusetts, I worked with Democrats.  Let me repeat that: I worked with Democrats.  I didn’t work to shut them down, because I was hired by the people to serve all the people, and to manage all of that great state – not just the parts my party wanted me to manage.  When we were having a healthcare crisis – one similar to that one the rest of the country now faces – I helped find a solution.  I know that President Obama likes to tout his own healthcare initiative, but mine was better.  The best parts of the Obama plan were taken directly from what we did in Massachusetts.  That Congress used part of our plan as a starting point is something I am incredibly proud of – but they didn’t finish the job the way we did in Massachusetts, and that’s not excusable.

I like to think I’m a somewhat smart man – even if Ann sometimes has to remind me that I’m not always as smart as I think I am – so I know that if you look at my record at Bain, or my record as Governor – or heck, even my record with the Salt Lake Olympics – you’re going to see some decisions that you don’t like.  And that’s going to be the case if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican or a true-blue liberal Democrat.  And there are good reasons for some people not to like all of those decisions; I’m certainly man enough to admit that.  But when you do look at those decisions, all I ask is that you ask yourself this:

If you had been the one that had hired Mitt Romney to accomplish those tasks, and it have been your money or state that you had entrusted to him, would you have wanted him to make those kinds of hard, unpopular decisions to protect your interests?  Or would you have preferred that he considered his own future political ambitions instead?

Ladies and gentlemen – Republicans, Democrats, liberal, conservative, Americans all – if you elect me to the most honored office in the land, I make this promise: That I will lead this country with the same tenacity and drive to succeed as I did with all the positions I have been honored serve in the past, private or public.  That I will make the hard decision that need to be made to make this great country thrive again – even at the expense of my ability to be elected again.  That I will put the interests of you, and your families, and your neighbors, above all else – just as I have done with everyone in my past gracious enough to give me a job to do.

I’m Mitt Romney, and I want you to hire me to lead this country back to greatness.”

To the moderates here, I ask: Isn’t this a message that would resonate with you?  Wouldn’t you consider voting for this guy more than the guy who tries hard to tell you the reality of the past never happened, and that he knows you’ll want to have a beer with him if you’ll just let him tell you one more time that America is awesome?  Wouldn’t you actually be willing to vote for this guy?

Shit, I would.

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83 thoughts on “The Incredible Shrinking Candidate!

  1. I’m not sure the “He acts crazy because his base is crazy, but don’t worry he’s secretly awesome and sane” argument has ever actually influenced anyone with a brain — ever.

    I mean, let’s take a look at the options here:

    1) Mitt’s moderate, but pandering to the worst impulses of his base.
    2) Mitt’s very conservative, but pandered to the (much more liberal) Massachusetts base.
    3) Mitt’s whatever the heck Mitt needs to be to be elected.

    What do all three scenarios have in common? Mitt’s a liar. Whatever Mitt believes, Mitt’s keeping it secret. Whatever Mitt plans to do — he’s not going to tell. You have to guess. Maybe you’ll guess he’s a “good guy” — wherein his secret plans are what you’d like to see done. Or maybe you think he’s a “bad guy” and his secret plans are in opposition to yours.

    Either way, you have no idea.

    Now, of course, to be a politician requires parsing the truth. It requires pandering. It requires lying. Howevr, despite this — most politicans run for office being somewhat forthright about what they want to do. They exagerrate more than lie, downplay more than prevaricate, change the subject rather than baldly contradict themselves.

    Obama, Bush II, Bush Senior, Dole, McCain — we all had a pretty good idea of they wanted to do. And Obama, both Bushes — they went ahead and pretty much did what you expected, whether you supported them or not.

    But Mitt? You’ve got no idea. Your “pro-Mitt” piece is “Mitt’s secretly lying about being crazy, trust me, he’s an awesome moderate Republican”.

    I can’t vote for that. No sane person could vote for that. The ONLY way you can vote for that is if you’re convinced Mitt’s fooling all the rubes — and you’re not the rube. Mitt’s running a con, by your own admission, and you’re just hoping it’s against them.

    No offense, but the best con is the one that screws all your marks — and the best mark is one that’s convinced you’re on his side.

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    • Well, 2 things (to both you and DBrown):

      1. You guys aren’t really what I’d call moderates, so clearly any strategy Mitt uses is going to have little effect on you

      2. I’m less curious about whether you’d vote for Mitt, and more curious about which message you’d be more inclined to vote for: a candidate claiming the past didn’t happen despite all evidence to the contrary, or someone that owned the past – even if you didn’t like all the choices he made?

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      • The latter, actually. I don’t mind people changing their minds (in fact, I’d find it more worrisome to meet someone whose views didn’t evolve as they grappled with a problem or worked a job. Experience is supposed to change you!).

        I’d prefer a guy that I can vaguely understand — “you believed this, and now you believe that, and this is your basically quick version of what led you to change your mind” — I can think of a number of politicians on a number of topics that underwent that, even 180 switches.

        That’s…being human. Heck, I even have a lot of room for guys who have an unpopular view and change it according to public pressure. A lot depends on the where and whys (it might be a good thing that he’s willing to bow to public pressure, it might not — depends on how core a belief it is to him).

        The first? That’s not just flat lying, and it’s not just insulting lying (“You’re too damn stupid to remember what I said last week” is the implication). It’s dangerous lying, because you have someone looking for power who refuses to be honest with what he intends to do with it.

        About all Ican tell you Mitt Romney would do FOR SURE with the Presidency is try to elimate the capital gains tax and keep the Bush tax cuts. Have no idea what he’d do about anything else. It’s not like he’s hiding it in white papers no one reads, or not bringing it up because it’s boring to the voters he’s trying to sway — he’s simply not talking specifics, and when he does he’s as vague as possible with no supporting details.

        Even if I was a Republican and very GO TEAM RED I’d be a little…unhappy…voting for such a question mark.

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      • Todd, yes, 100% very left learning liberal (I only accept facts as truth). As to the other question – except for Ryan’s sellout to be a VP (that causes me a lot of issues with him, now) I really liked his Social Security idea (mostly brilliant) and even his voucher approach is a good, solid and fair starting point for compromise with democrats. If he accepted settle law with respect to Row vs. Wade – and in the words of one commenter here – so Ryan would stop murdering so many babies – then I’d really like him and consider voting for him as President. If Ryan also promised to cut defense spending significantly along with social programs then I would move him up to a sure thing for me.

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  2. Uh, first this candidate Romney will have to describe an economic plain that is heavy on details and light on dogma – the exact opposite of what Mr. Romney currently says now, endlessly. Why trust someone who is so afraid of telling his policy and can speak only in useless dogma, out-right lies and simple minded nonsense? These are the Romney campaign promises and until and unless he tries stating real policy, only a fool would follow such a leader.

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  3. Damnit, Todd… Stepping all over a (series of) post(s) I’m planning. In a nutshell, I think Governor Romney is a much more palatable and viable option than Candidate Romney.

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  4. I disagree that Romney is secretly like this – I believe he’s an amoral Wall Street guy who’ll do whatever he has to to win for the sake of winning. Even though he has a quarter of a billion dollars in his pocket, there are still people out there who have more. So how to get past them to the top of the heap – get elected President. Only 44 people in the history of America have done that! That’ll show those guys in business school with me, or the partners at Bain who took in even more money!

    This is in the public realm, mind you. In his private life, I am sure that all the people who said he had helped them in his private capacity as a active member of his church were genuine beneficiaries of his acts. I admire him for walking the walk instead of talking the talk of his faith – helping others in need instead if just coughing up his tithe and riding around on a yacht all day.

    I really admire him as a cheapskate. Some interview that he did in the primaries was played over and over because he made one of his many gaffes. I can’t remember which one. But for some reason I watched the whole interview and one thing really hit me hard. The local reporter asked him if his people were in a specific hotel and he said yes. Then he corrected himself and said something like no, I’m forgetting which town we’re in, but we’re staying at some other hotel across the river because it’s much less expensive for the same sort of room. His biographical video showed his son complaining because they had put a too-large light bulb in the fixture over their microwave and Mitt refused to change it even though it hurt the eyes to look at it. Instead he taped a piece of paper over the hood to direct the light downward but keep from having to put another one in. I’d love to have more people like that in government. Both parties fling taxpayer dollars out like the balloons and confetti that ends their conventions, just to different recipients.

    If he had run against President Obama in 2008 (without all the lying, as y0u hypothesize) I would have voted for him like a shot. But he didn’t. And couldn’t. If he had said all the stuff you wish he had, he would have been demolished in the Republican primaries. I agonized over that ballot, but this time I won’t. Because even if Romney felt like you think he might, he’s probably still going to have a Republican Congress I loathe, and they need to be negated as much as possible.

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    • These are all pretty good points. Actually, I think this post is one where I needed to stop writing about halfway through, and make the second half a separate post.

      As to the amorality part, as I get older I’m more on the fence about that being a disqualifying quality. When I think of all the candidates that really scare me, they’re always the ones that I am 100% sure are not amoral, and really, really believe in the morality of what they’re trying to do.

      If I name the candidates I absolutely, positively believed were 100% moral (and morally honest) in this past primary, I’d probably go with Santorum, Bachmann and Paul. Any one of those would have been a disaster.

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      • Mitt’s a double problem — you have no idea what he believes and is willing to go to the mat for, and he’s got a history of switching to fall in line with whatever his base is telling him.

        So, who knows what you’d get. You don’t know what he wants, you don’t know what he’s willing to do, except that he’s willing to disavow his entire governmental experience to get votes.

        I’m sure he’ll stand up to his base on the important things, if they disagree. But only Mitt Romney knows what he considers “important” and he’s not telling.

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        • Yeah, agreed.

          I know I’m the only person on the planet that believes this, but if I had to pick an American politician today that is closest to where Mitt actually stands on most of the big political issues like abortion, foreign policy, SSM, safety nets, etc. – what he really believes, deep down inside – it might be Barak Obama.

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          • Tod–how can you possibly know where the Mittster actually stands on things? His stance changes with the situation. I think Mary is spot on. Romney’s only running for president so he can cross it off his bucket list.

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            • Generally agreed. Romney has demonstrated that he will go in the direction the winds of his party blow. So in essence a vote for Mitt is a vote for the GOP as they have done business for the last four years. Obviously I’m biased but from my point of view the manner of business they have run has been lock step ideological opposition to any form of compromise (and God(ess?) knows Obama offered some huge compromises, I can drag out the apoplectic liberal corpses to demonstrate it) and a cynical positioning of partisan advantage over national interest. Even if I were a moderate I’d be extremely loathe to reward the GOP for they way they’ve done business (even if I’m not over the moon with the Dems performance).

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        • You don’t know what he wants, you don’t know what he’s willing to do, except that he’s willing to disavow his entire governmental experience to get votes.

          That’s pretty much how democracy’s supposed to work, isn’t it?

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          • “Supposed to work”? If you had said, cynically, “isn’t that how Democracy works” you’d have a small point.

            But supposed to? No, actually. You’re supposed to elect people based on who they are and what their goals are in office. When you have someone like Mitt there — you can’t be sure of either. You know he’ll SAY anything to anyone, but who knows what he’ll do? What’s really important to him?

            You might as well pick a name out of a phonebook.

            There’s a reason for all those platforms, those endless white papers, those debates and inteviews. Obama? Was no surprise. Bush Junior? No surprise. Bush Elder? No surprise. They were, more or less, exactly who they campaigned as — and what they did was attempt, to the best of their abilities and circumstances, to do what they said they’d do. (And deal with stuff no one had considered).

            Mitt? I’m pretty sure he’s serious about the tax cut stuff. Other than that? I don’t know. Is he pro-choice or pro-life? What does he think about Afghanistan? Iran? Iraq? What’s his real position on energy, on oil?

            Is he pandering or serious on any given issue? Did he pick Ryan because of his budget? Or because of his base’s LOVE of that budget?

            He’s endless question marks. And electing Captain Mysterious was not, in fact, how democracy is supposed to work. (And I’m being charitable to Romney — I’m assuming he has principles, deep-seated idealogies, and ideas and is merely hiding them and pandering. The less charitable view is that he’s spineless, power-seeking, just wants the brass ring, whatever it costs).

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  5. Interesting post.

    But can a “non-evangelical, once pro-life, supporter of universal healthcare that is mandated and subsidized by gov’t, who thinks liberal democrats in Massachussets aren’t that bad, who is le pf Ted Kennedy on gay rights, etc.” candidate keep his evangelical, tea-party, laissez faire, taught to hate liberals base?

    I’d say no.

    If Romney runs the campaign you want for a long period, there would be a third party candidate on a Tea Party ticket, or the base would stay home by a few points. Maybe Romney picks up a few right-center moderates, but he loses more than that in the base.

    The base of the Republican party is huge and powerful, heavily influenced by Hannity’s and Limbaugh’s, and controls the party. That is why you saw the primary you saw and that is why Romney won’t do what you hope.

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    • Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting he would win – I really don’t think he can, under today’s circumstances. But even to have a shot, I think his people need to stop putting him in a position where nobody on any side particularly likes or trusts him.

      I know cons will show up soon to say their team loves the guy, but I still say if that were the case they wouldn’t be highlighting any bright shiny object that wasn’t Mitt Romney.

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      • But if he gives that speech (well written, BTW) how will Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin, Norquist, Cantor, etc. react?

        They might try to go along, but at some point someone will see an opportunity to be more “virtuously, purely” right wing. Then the representatives of the base start subtly jabbing Romney. That leads others to get more heated in a competition to see who can be the most outraged (and thereby sell the most books and guest appearances). Eventually, the jabs that Romney is a socialist on healthcare, a RINO, someone who doesn’t understand “evangelical family values” start to stick.

        If Romney walks back from your moderate speech, the critics would calm down. But if he confronted the critics, he’s done. At that point even more centrist hard right people like McConell would throw him under the bus, and that’s intraparty war during a presidential campaign right there.

        I just don’t see how Romney could govern any differently either. I think Boehner is secretly very centrist, but he can’t do shit about it. He has to say and vote like a tea party evangelical or he’s dead in the water and Cantor takes his spot. Romney would have the same problem but magnified by his moderate liberal past and his lack of being evangelical or Catholic. The base will trust him less, so they’d give him a short leash as president. He could try to run against his base as president, but that would be the boldest move by a president in recent memory. (I don’t see Romney as the bold type. Even in Mass., he went along to get along.)

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      • Sorry I misunderstood your reply. Disregard that last post.

        I think the right or the Republicans are more orthodoxical than any party at any time in my lifetime. (They are even voting in near perfect unison like a parliamentary party.) Everything that could be used to sell Romney to moderates would make him look heterdoxical. And even small amounts of heterodoxy are intolerable to the Republican base.

        The most logical outcome, IMO, is that we start to see third party centrist challengers (who will steal some moderate Dems) to Republicans at some point in the next few election cycles. But people have gone broke betting that third parties would take off. So, who knows.

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      • Why are you assuming his people are putting him in this position where neither side likes him? From what I understand Romney is a very hands-on kind of manager. I read recently he was intricately involved in the stage design for the DNC.

        This whichever-way-the-wind-blows persona is the real Romney. It’s been his approach at every stage of his life and career. I think he’s been remarkably consistent in this regard. From his grade school bullying to his charity through the church to his ruthlessness in business to his moderation as governor of a Dem state he has taken the path of least resistance. You want to know how he’ll act as President? Look at who’ll be his Congress. He will give them everything they want.

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        • ” From what I understand Romney is a very hands-on kind of manager. I read recently he was intricately involved in the stage design for the DNC.”

          I know the DNC isn’t run by the sharpest set of tools in the shed, but I sure do wish they’d look to someone else to come up with their stage design. :)

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        • The word on the street a while ago was that Romney is an incredibly savvy campaigner, he’s very actively involved in day-to-day structuring of themes and overall direction, and that his past indicated that he’d base his entire campaign on going negative. Which is Burt’s catfood thesis in action, as well as Tod’s shirinking candidate thesis. But I see no reason to think this isn’t being orchestrated by Romney himself. He can’t run on the merits of anything he’s done in the past politically or privately, since it runs counter to TP dogma – and the GOP Plan for Prosperity is so riddled with problems in specific he can’t include that in the platform. So he’s reduced to expressing contentless platitudes of conservative principles and attacking Obama.

          But I might be biased. I think Romney is just a grifter, when it’s all said and done.

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          • He can’t run on the merits of anything he’s done in the past politically or privately, since it runs counter to TP dogma…

            With respect to the private part, hasn’t the TP pretty much given up the “you’re for Wall Street or for Main Street but you can’t be for both” piece of their anger? Or at least let it be overridden by their fear of big government?

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        • “You want to know how he’ll act as President? Look at who’ll be his Congress.”

          Pretty much the same exact people that are in there now. The funny thing is the best shot for the Dem’s to take back the House (in ’14) is a Romney Presidency.

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      • But to even have a shot, I think his people need to stop putting him in a position where nobody on any side particularly likes or trusts him.

        Unfortunately for Romney, most people don’t like or trust him. None of his fellow candidates in either 2008 or 2012 did and it was pretty clear from the reaction of the crowd at the RNC that most of them weren’t exactly enthusiastic. An arrogant amoral prick with a robotic personality is a tough sell no matter how you look at it. Moreover, even if he said all those things you suggested, his reputation for mendacity is so well entrenched that nobody would believe him.

        If he’d gotten up on that stage and acknowledged his good fortune and the role wealth and connections, as well as ability and hard work, played in his success then actually laid out the bare bones of a plan to improve the economy, he might be moderately appealing. Instead, he and Ann both talked about their younger years of struggle as if most people had a pocketful of Daddy’s stocks they could sell whenever needed.

        As for the lightbulb story you found so endearing, it struck me as an example of stupidity rather than frugality. Why not simply replace the lightbulb and save the inappropriate one for a place it would be better suited? That would make sense.

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        • As for the lightbulb story you found so endearing, it struck me as an example of stupidity rather than frugality. Why not simply replace the lightbulb and save the inappropriate one for a place it would be better suited?

          Yeah, that was my thought too. What I took away from the anecdote was that here’s a man who is willing to put the people around him through some amount of pain simply for the sake of saving a bit of money, without considering that there are other options that can save the money and avoid the pain. I’d be more impressed if the message was “I can find creative ways to solve problems” than simply “I’m willing to inflict pain.”

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          • I credited it to Tod, when it was actually Mary who wrote about it. Romney may well be a tightwad, although I’d argue that spending millions to build a car elevator belies any notion of frugality, but the lightbulb story strikes me as a great example of the saying “pennywise but pound foolish.”

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  6. I don’t know what Romney believes about foreign policy. All I have to go on is the editorials that have gone out over his name and who his advisors are, and frankly, both are scary as hell: pure neo-con. To support him, I’d have to believe those are all lies too.

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    • Romney is as close to a “generic” Republican as it gets.

      The slogan and the strategy are now as they always have been: “I’m not Obama.” Had Obama been a stronger President, this would be risibly insufficient. As it is, it’s still pretty watery ketchup. (I can read Nate Silver as well as all the GOP’ers already thinking about twenty sixteen.)

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      • Setting up the election as being a referrendum on Obama is not the dumbest thing that the Republicans could do before the convention, after it, they really, really ought to push why Romney is someone worth voting *FOR*.

        If they weren’t going to be doing that, they should have had Romney open his speech with “Reporting for duty!”

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        • Well, I agree with this. But neither you nor I live in the Conservabubble. To those who either must or choose to reside there, the past four years have been a non-stop repeat loop of “Obama is the worst President — ever. And he’s a secret Muslim and a Kenyan and a socialist and an atheist and a Manchurian Candidate who gates America like his weirdo preacher and he pals around with terrorists.” If that was all you’d heard, then a half-eaten can of wet cat food would be a better choice than Obama so nothing more need be said than “I’m not Obama.” Granted that Romney has more technical skills than the cat food. But the only question in my mind is whether the GOP’ers really think all they need to do is mail this one in, or they just plain aren’t trying in the first place. You refer to 2004 but I wonder if 1996 might be a better analogy.

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          • But those folks weren’t going to vote for Obama anyway. Romney’s got to find a way to A) drive more conservative/Republican voters to the polls, B) steal voters away from Obama, and/or C) capture “independents”. And he’s got to do this almost exclusively in swing states. I don’t now if “I’m not Obama” works for that. My colleague who has been saying since September of 2010 that “Obama has got to go” isn’t a factor… she was already going to vote Republican and she votes in New York as it is.

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          • Granted that Romney has more technical skills than the cat food.

            I think you’re just falling for the campaign rhetoric here Burt. Personally, I want some proof that Romney’s got more skills than cat food before I sign off on his legitimacy. Long form, raw data with no hockeystick upticks.

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  7. Would I vote for that nice, moderate, sane technocrat? Sure. What does that have to do with the Mitt currently running for President? I see precious little resemblance.

    Many other commenters have already mentioned how Romney is essentially a stealth candidate, without much basis to know exactly what he’d do as POTUS. But what I see is a man beholden to a party that is itself beholden to its most conservative elements. Romney, if elected, will not have been elected with any kind of mandate, and will have merely wheezed over the finish line as a barely palatable alternative to Obama. He will have diddly-squat in terms of political capital to defy that ultra-conservative base, and will have a GOP Congress (certainly House) to reckon with. He’ll be in no position to chart a moderate course, but will instead have to prove to his base that he wasn’t the moderate they feared but instead the true believer he told them he was. Look at who he’s already chosen as his running mate! One of the most prominent members of a GOP caucus that was willing to stare a debt ceiling crisis in the face, and the author of a massively unpopular Medicare “reform” plan.

    It doesn’t matter what, if anything, Romney “believes.” That’s a moot point. He will do what he’s told by the party, because nobody runs for the White House and tries for just one term.

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  8. The idea that Romney is a moderate who would veto a bill to raise taxes on the middle class and cut taxes on himself (the over-riding redistributionist goal of Romney and Ryan’s tax plans) is insane. He is an extremist who is campaigning explicitly to redistribute as much wealth as possible from the middle class to the 1%. That’s the entire goal of the Republican party. The idea that he won’t take the middle class’s money and use it for upper-income tax cuts and free money for corporations is ludicrous.

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  9. Tod,

    Even though I like to consider myself a moderate, I’m not a moderate in the commonly used sense of the word, and I’m not really undecided. My main issues in who wins this election are the following: to preserve the ACA (or improve it without gutting its essential protections); to put some sort of sanity and more due process into our foreign policy and our guarantees to civil liberties; to reform marijuana laws or at least defer more to states’ reforms than Obama and Bush have done; to restore some fiscal sanity, although this might conflict with my support for the ACA.

    On these issues, Obama seems the less worse candidate. Romney may or may not have his Nixon in China moment when it comes to scaling down interventionism abroad or restoring the civil liberties that have been arrogated to the executive in the last 12 years or so, or or respecting mj reform or balancing the budge, but his rhetoric suggests not only that he won’t, but that he’ll make things even worse.

    On the ACA, he seems to be riding the “repeal or bust” bandwagon. However, on that front, he might be more squishy. At his convention speech, he used the phrase “repeal and replace,” which in a more hopeful mood and a different context I might take to mean he will approve a repeal of the ACA only if a comprehensive replacement is offered, as opposed to merely repealing it with the vague promise that “if we can get a filibuster proof majority in the senate, we’ll do something meaningful.”

    Now, to the ideal speech you cite. That Romney seems less scary, provided the speech be made consistent with his other statements before and after he gave the speech. It can’t be a one-off. I wouldn’t vote for this Romney anyway–and I’d be wary because Bush Jr. portrayed himself as a moderate (or at least moderate to me) and having been once bitten I’m twice shy–but I’d be less concerned about him than one who would kowtow to a GOP majority in one or both houses of Congress.

    If the Dems controlled Congress, a Romney presidency (the real Romney or the hidden moderate who you describe) would be less scary to me, especially because he seems opportunistic enough to work with them. But that would still leave his foreign policy and department of justice prerogatives for which the incentive to overexert is too high really to trust anyone. In that arena, Romney–the one we’ve seen or the one who gave your hypothetical speech–is the devil I don’t know and Obama is the devil I do (cliche number for this comment: two by my count).

    Finally, and referring to that portion of the speech that deals with Bain, I really don’t care about what Romney did with Bain unless he did something illegal or criminal, and that hasn’t been demonstrated or even really alleged.

    Sorry about the long rant.

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  10. So, if it is accepted that Mitt is amoral, agnostic on principles, and will always take the path of least resistance;
    Isn’t it completely fair to discuss whether or not the term “sociopath” applies to him?

    Not as a casual epithet, or snarky comment, but as a serious description of his behavior and character.

    Even by the standards of ruthlessly ambitious politicians, his ability to jettison any principle on a moment’s notice, his inability to conceive of anyone other than himself as being worthy of respect or humanity, is pretty breathtaking.

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    • Charles Stross’ second to latest book — Rule 34 — takes the concept that sociopaths make the best CEO’s and upper management (because they’re competitive, ego-driven, and amoral — which is what the marketplace demands if profits and market share are all that is important) to it’s logical conclusion.

      Which is, you know, the nature of modern capitalism is such that sociopaths really DO make good management in terms of “company succeeding” — at least in the short term. In the long term? Not so much — marketplaces are still social constructs between people, meaning a certain level of “not being an evil douchbag” is required to avoid regular negative impacts to your company — or society.

      One of the characters in his book’s actual day job is social conscience audits of companies. Basically to make sure the people are in charge aren’t TOO sociopathic — or at least good enough to act like they have a few bits of human empathy and understanding of the social impacts of their company.

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  11. I used to say that liberals wanted laissez faire in the bedroom, while conservatives wanted it int he boardroom.

    Except liberals are content now with the concept of an ordered society, where personal relationships are governed by a code of ethis and morality. While it is only conservatives who cling to the concept of unfettered freedom, an absence of a universal code of behavior.

    Why do we consider self interest and greed to be salutory from 9 to 5, then call it sociopathy when the man arrives home?

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  12. I don’t think it matters who the “real” Mitt Romney is. He’s proven that he’s willing to be a tool of the extreme Right. If that doesn’t change now that the convention is over, why will it change after the election?

    As soon as he takes office, President Romney has to start thinking about the 2016 primaries, where the Right will absolutely run a candidate against him if he fails to completely toe the line. So he’ll completely toe the line.

    I don’t care what’s in Mitt’s heart. I care what he’ll do if he’s president. And I think that’s pretty clear: He’ll govern as an extreme right-winger.

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