Posts Tagged ‘op-eds’

Context: Romney issued his typically noisy stump-speech jeremaids and scolding op-eds on the issue of Ahmadinejad’s addresses to the UN and Columbia University.

The response?—predictable. Consider

“Voters expect a certain amount of malarkey in political ads designed to press emotional hot-buttons,” begins a section of a Boston Globe editorial subtitled Romney: I run, therefore Iran

But the recent campaign ad for Mitt Romney exploiting anxieties about Iran sets a new standard for cynicism. The radio ad lauds Romney for denying a State Police escort last September for the reformist former president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, when he visited Harvard and MIT. The reality was that Khatami was escorted everywhere by the State Department’s special security force for foreign dignitaries. Romney insulted Harvard and MIT more than Khatami when he called their invitation to him “a disgrace.” Instead of showing that Romney can be tough on terrorism, the ad suggests that Romney has little idea who Khatami is or what his role had been in Iran. Toughness may be a desirable quality in a president; indifference to the complex realities of foreign hot spots is not more [emphases ours]

Or consider:

“Another Republican contender, Mitt Romney, grandstanded even more shamelessly [about Ahmadinejad’s visit and address], proclaiming that the Iranian shouldn’t have received an entry visa in the first place,” argues Jesse Walker in a reasononline article titled Who’s Afraid of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? After all the trembling, the Iranian president got a bruising instead of a boost.

 If you suspected that Silver and Hunter represent just a tiny sliver of the electorate, Romney’s statement should give you pause. Romney isn’t an ordinary flesh-and-blood candidate, after all; he’s a machine calibrated to say whatever is most likely to emerge from a focus group of Republican primary voters more [emphasis ours]

For more on the evolving Romney-rhetoric, see:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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Today, our country faces an inflection point where our course must change if we are to meet unprecedented challenges here at home and abroad,” writes Romney himself (presumably) in a redstate.com post titled Change Begins With Us

An inflection point?—say what!?

An inflection point is a point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature (i.e., the concavity) changes. Inflection points may be stationary points, but are not relative maxima or relative minima. For example, for the curve y==x^3 plotted above, the point x==0 is an inflection pointmore

We are at “a point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature changes?”—huh?—is this an inspiring metaphor in some niche community? Who does Romney presume is his audience?

As we have always done, the American people will rise to the occasion. But at this critical time, Washington is failing us.

Romney: We will rise. But Washington is failing us. (Wait. Does this mean that we won’t rise after all?) Romney warms to his theme by means of a distinction: by Washington he means the parties, Democrats and Republicans.

The blame for Washington’s failures lies not just with the Democrats but with Republicans as well. We have to put our own house in order. We can no longer be a party of big spenders with ethical standards more fitting of a Jay Leno punch line. We can no longer pretend our borders are secure. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It’s time for change in Washington and change begins with us.

Romney: Republicans share the blame for Washington’s failures. Our house is out of order. We spend too much. Our ethical standards are low. We pretend that our borders are secure. Hence: we are behaving like Democrats. Conclusion: we must change, and change begins with us—and by us Romney means Republicans—only Romney means some but not all Republicans, because Romney qualifies the term Republican with the prepositional phrase for change.

Romney enlarges on his distinction of Republicans as opposed to Republicans for Change by using it to introduce the topics of the next 7 paragraphs. The topics are:

  • limited government
  • fiscal responsibility
  • strength
  • ethical standards
  • civility and respect
  • tackling big problems, which for Romney is a way of introducing the War on Terror, which Romney articulates as checking the “spread of radical, violent Jihadism.”
  • protecting families from obscenity, pornography, child predators etc.

The list resembles a series of power-point slides. This is argument by catalogue or bullet points. And: These are all Republican core issues. Here is the problem: the list of issues Romney develops here are not the issues that Romney is running on, at least not on the stump, and at least not according to Mary Jacoby of WSJ.com in a release titled Romney Tries to Show Voters He ‘Gets It,’ a release we commented on earlier.

Jacoby describes Romney as attempting to argue for center-left issues, e.g. healthcare, education, and economic security, in the idiom of the center-right. Hence Romney “can sound at times part Rush Limbaugh, part Bill Clinton, braiding red-meat conservative lines with feel-your-pain prescriptions for health care and retirement security“—translation: Romney “can sound” incoherent.

Romney digresses from his values list to propose “easy to engage” content “filters” on computers to protect our children from the “culture that surrounds them,” a culture that happens to be our culture, before Romney returns again to Republicans for Change on the concluding topics of faith and patriotism. (Note to Romney: we like, nay, we love our culture; we are, after all, cultural conservatives. What e.g. porn sites purvey is not culture, Mr. Romney.)

American patriotism is why I am convinced this nation will always prevail as the greatest hope of the earth. America faces unprecedented challenges, a virtual perfect storm buffeting the pillars of our strength. The course of our history will change. For America to remain the great nation it has always been, it will look to Republicans for leadership.

A “perfect storm” “buffets” our “pillars”? What an interesting image. The “course of history” will change, like a ship. Question: What happened to Washington?—the Washington that was failing us? What happened to our point of inflection—we will be able to halt or arrest the turn of the curve? Is this what Romney means by course changing?

If we read Romney’s composition correctly—and we are not by any means confident that we are—Republicans for Change, with whom the reader is invited to identify, stand as the antithesis to Republicans who behave like Democrats, bogus Republicans who e.g. spend too much, pretend as if our borders are secure. In other words, for Romney the crisis is effectively one of blurred distinctions; we cannot tell the Republicans from the Democrats; one behaves like the other. Hence Romney addresses in Perelman’s terms an elite as opposed to a general or universal audience—in this case, an imagined vanguard of Republicans who are genuine as opposed to nominal Republicans, a dissociation of the term Republican into the real and the apparent.

The argument is functionally identical to a rationale or an alibi. Many Republicans may oppose us, the Romney supporter is invited to rationalize: but real Republicans support us. Hence: raw numbers, or the actual non-performance of the ailing Romney campaign, fails to tell the real story. To dissociate the real from the apparent is often the instrument of the scold as it so easily issues into a double bind, e.g. “if you really loved me … “—blaming and scolding is emerging as Romney’s preferred idiom, see:

Romney’s language of blame indicates a personality that believes itself powerless and uncared for

Also: Continetti of the Weekly Standard demonstrates how the Romney message lacks moral courage in that it affects to criticize the GOP on grounds that any Republican or conservative would heartily agree with. Hence, what masquerades as a critique is in affect an empty, epideictic display.

Romney the scold of the GOP (ii); Continetti: Romney hates fake people

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“I’m not in this race for the next step in my political career. I don’t have a political career, to tell you the truth,” Romney said during a stop at Chapman University. “I’ve only been in politics four years as a governor. I loved the experience, but my life is my wife and my family. My career was building an enterprise, a business, with some other fellows”—so says Romney himself as quoted by Glen Johnson in a HuffPo transmission titled Romney touts his business experience

Note the litotes or deliberate understatement, a figure of ethos: “My career was building an enterprise, a business, with some other fellows.” This is the Romney ethos—the latest one, the one he wants you to accept now—epitomized—it is almost as if Romney is reading from a rhetoric textbook. Here he establishes—or attempts to establish—(a) his phronesis, or practical wisdom (“my career was building a business”), (b) his virtue, or his values (my life is my wife and family), and (c) his alleged disinterest (“I’m not in this for the next step in my political career. I don’t have a political career.”).

Here is the problem: nothing connects; inconsistency, everywhere, abounds. Here is why:

“In the battle to define his presidential candidacy, the former Massachusetts governor is trying to swat away charges that he has changed positions on hot-button issues such as abortion, immigration, gun ownership and gay rights to appeal to his party’s conservative base,” writes Mary Jacoby in an onlineWSJ.com article titled Romney Tries to Show Voters He ‘Gets It’; Republican Reframes Democrat-Owned Issues In Reach for the Middle.

Yet, even as he tries to distance himself from his moderate record, Mr. Romney also embraces it to reach voters in the middle — both Republicans uncomfortable with the direction of the party and independent voters he would need in a general election.

The result is that Mr. Romney’s stump speech can sound at times part Rush Limbaugh, part Bill Clinton, braiding red-meat conservative lines with feel-your-pain prescriptions for health care and retirement securitymore

Romney seeks to capture the middle—OK., fine, whatever. Only Romney never captured the base. Conventional wisdom specifies that a candidate first capture the base of his or her party—or develop a base or a coalition—and only then pivot and attempt to occupy the center or as much of the center as the candidate can capture. Romney, as yet, has no base, has no coalition—Romney has nothing, and what little he has is slipping away. Yet here is Romney, all alone, pivoting and pirhouetting as he enlarges on center-left issues and concerns all the while insisting that he is not just a conservative, but a staunch conservative. (We, by the way, were conservative way back when Romney was voting for Paul Tsongas in a Democratic Primary. To be lectured to about conservatism by this obviously ill-informed newcomer—i.e. Romney—is somewhat galling.)

Further problem: Romney’s lurch to the right in the form of a caricatured and unreconstructed conservatism—a mock-conservatism that takes the form of scolding other candidates for their lack of conservatism, or of railing on largely symbolic and cultural issues—alienates moderates and independents, the very people that Romney is alleged by Jacoby and the Romneys themselves to be positioned to persuade into a broad-based coalition.

See:

Here is a thought: if moderate and independent votes are Romney’s true object, why did he not start with them? Why did he not try to build a base on their support and only then reach out to conservatives once he had the numbers to argue his case? Was it Romney’s famous arrogance or alienation? Or did Romney truly believe that movement conservatives were gibbering idiots moved only by empty symbol and vain gesture?

So: Go ahead, Romney, rail at Ahmadinejad in your noisy stump-speech jeremaids or in your scolding op-eds. This only helps you appear reasonable, as any reasonable person should oppose a figure like Ahmadinejad. This does not help you appear conservative or leader-like.

We concur with Romney’s claim: he has “no political career.” His instincts and habits of mind are simply not those of a politician, or even those of one who is accustomed to being being challenged or disagreed with.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.