Klein on Romney’s shameless duplicity: “You can go negative on your opponents, but it’s a stretch to attack them for taking the same positions—on immigration, most notably—that you used to take, especially when you keep getting caught having illegals tend your garden”

“What a nice guy!” writes Joe Klein in a Time.com expository burst titled A Tale of Two Romney’s

Mitt Romney is all humble and reasonable, a human goose-down comforter lulling the Iowans who have come to hear him at a classic heartland café in downtown Newton on a Saturday morning. “I don’t think anybody votes for yesterday,” he says, streaming balm …

Streaming balm?

… On second thought, nope. This guy is, literally, unbelievable and completely at odds with the Romney festering on television screens and in mailings throughout Iowa and New Hampshire. That Romney is nonstop negative, and jingo-crazed about the perils of illegal immigration. He offers exclamations, not balm: John McCain wants to make ’em citizens! Mike Huckabee gave them college scholarships! And McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts! And Huckabee pardoned all these criminals when he was Governor of Arkansas, while Romney pardoned not a single one of his Massachusetts felons!

Klien develops a new take on the TWO ROMNEYS trope that gets retailed every fortnight or so. Here would be another:

Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”

Here would be another:

Brooks of the NYT: “But [Romney’s] biggest problem is a failure of imagination—Market research is a snapshot of the past—With his data-set mentality, Romney has chosen to model himself on [And the painfully literal rubes of the National Review have chosen to endorse] a version of Republicanism that is receding into memory—As Walter Mondale was the last gasp of the fading New Deal coalition, Romney has turned himself into the last gasp of the Reagan coalition”

Back to Klein:

All these claims are accurate, or nearly so, and well within the smarmy bounds of political advertising. The problem is schizophrenia: negative Romney on television, positive Romney on the stump. Moderate Massachusetts Mitt vs. Raging Romney of the primaries. “Pay attention to both,” New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor wrote in an extraordinary editorial, “and you’re left to wonder if there’s anything at all at his core.”

There are limits in politics. You can get away with changing a position—perhaps Romney really did see the light on abortion, not just the results of an Iowa focus group—but you can’t just reinvent yourself out of whole cloth. You can go negative on your opponents, but it’s a stretch to attack them for taking the same positions—on immigration, most notably—that you used to take, especially when you keep getting caught having illegals tend your garden. The sheer cynicism is driving Romney’s Republican opponents nuts. He is wildly unpopular among his peers. “I just hate the guy,” says a rival campaign manager. “If we can’t win, I want to be sure he loses” … etc.

We sure do too. The emphases, by the way, are ours, all ours.

Here is the problem for us: Romney is an apparition—he doesn’t really exist as a political entity. He has no natural constituency (who does he represent, what community does he claim as his own, super-rich leveraged buy-out specialists?), and no territorial base (he cannot deliver his home state!—he could not run in his home state in his current incarnation and survive; imagine how this troubled man will fare in the south after he savaged Gov. Huckabee). Romney is not simply running from his record of policy and governance, he is running against his record, passionately against it!

Our conclusion: The man has nothing, nothing that would recommend him to our highest office.

Yet the goofballs at the National Review endorsed this human work of farcical high fiction to be our president. Dr. Dobson praises him, Rush Limbaugh extolls his questionable virtues, and ideological courtesan Hugh Hewitt writes book-length love-peans to the non-entity candidate from nowhere.

Suddenly—overnight, perhaps while we were sleeping peacefully—the conservative worldview came to mean its precise opposite—it suddenly came to mean a naive faith in human and political agency to not only improve and perfect, but to recreate the human condition, starting with the person and character of Willard Milton Romney. In him consists the solution to our most pressing social problems: it is accept that truth is a socially negotiated artifact, and that we may construct our own realities if we would just believe—that is, believe in Romney.

Also: Why is everyone only now waking up to the grim fact that Romney is an ugly, vicious, hateful cipher of a man, despite his primped and proper exterior? We have harped on this finely-tuned string for months now …

yours &c.
dr. g.d.


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