Try as I might, I sometimes can't help feeling sorry for poor Mittens:
[A]pparently because he is something of a masochist, [Mitt Romney] went to CostCo, inviting mocking comparisons to Old Handsome Joe Biden, who recently pushed a cart around at the very same discount warehouse chain for the good of the economy.
This is really quite funny, though I should mention that I have argued semi-seriously in the past that Romney ran for president in 2008 as a member of the wrong party. Assuming that he only was running to be president, and that no other particular policies mattered to him, the smarter political move for Mitt Romney to have made in 2005 would have been to switch parties and run for president as a Democrat on the basis of his unique experience implementing a universal health care system, and pledging to do the same nationwide. The contrast with Hillary Clinton, who conspicuously failed to do the same thing, would have been notable. What’s more, he would have had an intriguing narrative: a moderate Republican who was (theoretically) outraged by Bush’s policies and attitude of intolerance, who then bolted parties. I think there’s reason to think this pitch would have been effective since one of the more desperate tendencies of the left during the ’00s, when confronted by the reality of an utterly hapless Democratic opposition, was to build up/fantasize about Republicans finally deciding they’ve had enough of Bush and his arrogance and incompetence and standing up against him. This played a part in McCain’s transcendent popularity, at least for a while. Romney could well have been the incarnation of this trend. No doubt there would have been some serious qualms about his business record and personal history in progressive circles, but it’s not hard to imagine him making a much more competitive race against Clinton/Obama/Edwards than against McCain/Huckabee that year. Having executive experience when none of the three top Democrats did would have set him apart, and he could have smacked down Obama’s opposition to the mandate far more effectively than Clinton ever did.
While this idea is sort of kind of fun to think about, I think it pretty clear by now why it couldn’t have happened: Romney does, sadly, actually have some values. Mitt Romney might actually have been able to be an effective Democratic President, if he’d handled the party switch smoothly. Certainly it would have been a cleaner path than reversing himself on every issue, renouncing most of the public policy positions he’d ever taken, and then pandering insincerely and often ineffectively for six years to try to run a party that is, well, really not worth running at this time. But he wanted to be a Republican President, and his off-the-record comments to fundraisers provide some easy-to-interpret hints as to why he wanted that.
Here’s Mr. Cold Hard Data for you:
Romney and his campaign had gone into the evening confident they had a good path to victory, for emotional and intellectual reasons. The huge and enthusiastic crowds in swing state after swing state in recent weeks – not only for Romney but also for Paul Ryan – bolstered what they believed intellectually: that Obama would not get the kind of turnout he had in 2008.
They thought intensity and enthusiasm were on their side this time – poll after poll showed Republicans were more motivated to vote than Democrats – and that would translate into votes for Romney.
As a result, they believed the public/media polls were skewed – they thought those polls oversampled Democrats and didn’t reflect Republican enthusiasm. They based their own internal polls on turnout levels more favorable to Romney. That was a grave miscalculation, as they would see on election night.
Forgive me for finding this incredible. Romney was sold (and sold himself) for years as a guy who was obsessed with data, only cared about data, after all that’s what he did in his business career! And in the end, his campaign’s analysis was all about intangibles like momentum, enthusiasm, energy. The data had to take a back seat.
To be fair, this is human nature. The unwillingness to face up to dire situations, to try to escape into more comfortable fantasies, is universal (if unequal) in human beings. Still, it’s notable now that Mitt Romney’s political career is at an end, that he every bit the mediocre politician everyone pegged him as. Four times he went before the voters as a candidate for office. Three of those times he lost. At no point does it appear he worked to improve at his deficiencies–his 2012 primary campaign wasn’t any better than his 2008 campaign, it only was waged against weaker opposition (and he barely squeaked by this time). And the only legacy he leaves behind is a mammoth pile of lies, deceptions and distortions that my guess is are unequaled since the final campaign of Richard Nixon. I know that popular sentiment holds that all politicians lie, which is to true because all people lie. But it’s always worth noting that politicians that lie, cheat, steal, and intrigue as a matter of course are simply bad politicians. There are people in all fields who do those things, and for the same reason: they’re not good enough to earn it on their own. Mitt Romney is a world-class liar because he simply doesn’t have the capability to lead. America wisely turned his bid down, and we can all be thankful for that.
This one could really get interesting:
Maureen Stemberg alleges that Romney lied under oath about the value of the company’s stock, so that she would get less money in the divorce settlement.
Maureen Stemberg’s high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred requested that the gag order on the case be lifted so that her client “can speak about his testimony, his statements, his conduct, and their interactions.” The request was denied because Allred never submitted an official motion in court.
Admittedly, it’s Gloria Allred, so this is something you automatically have to take with a grain of salt. But it looks like there might be something there:
At the time of the divorce, Romney was the owner and chief executive of Bain Capital, a private equity firm that invested $650,000 in Staples to help the office supply company open its first store in Brighton in 1986. In total, Bain Capital invested about $2.5 million in Staples and reaped a $13 million profit when the company went public in 1989. Romney sat on the Staples board of directors.
Of course, this would require believing that Mitt Romney is willing to lie to protect his own interests, has no personal integrity, is greedy as fuck and doesn’t really give a shit if he’s caught in a lie. That’s an awfully hard pill to swallow, no doubt about it. But sometimes, it’s necessary that we just suspend our utter shock and disbelief to accord for new facts as they arise. I’m just worried that his well-earned reputation for decency and sincerity will never recover after this.
This should be interesting. Nobody seems to think Romney will win or even do all that well, which is probably a decent prediction. Romney’s foreign policy is centered around white-hot attacks on Obama that nobody outside the far-right really believes or cares about, and many of them will be difficult-to-impossible to bring up in a scenario where Obama is standing right next to him, since all of them pertain more to the imaginary Obama of Clint Eastwood’s chair than the real deal. For example, if Romney accuses Obama of launching an apology tour, Obama could simply ask for the dates, places and content that Romney objected to. Since the tour never existed, Romney will have a difficult time coming up with something even remotely compelling, and he’ll be giving Obama a chance to harshly berate Romney as he did on the Libya exchange in the last debate. He’d probably lose yardage from that play is all I’m saying
I think this is a pretty good summation of what to expect:
Based on his public statements, Romney’s understanding of these issues ranges from poor to mediocre, and the more he is forced to answer in detail the more difficult things will become for him. Obama’s goal will be to draw him into exchanges that force him to do this, and the extent of Romney’s loss will be determined by how often Romney can escape from those exchanges without blundering. Romney’s goals will be to survive the evening without inflicting any major wounds on himself, and to distinguish himself from George W. Bush enough that most viewers don’t think his foreign policy would be a disaster waiting to happen.
The only remaining question is whether Romney tries to “moderate” his foreign policy statements, something he conspicuously hasn’t done in his ever-more-unctuous attempt to say anything in order to win the presidency. Sadly, voters tend to make decisions based on their gut instinct and emotional reactions to the candidates instead of any sort of factual rigor, so this has borne some fruit. But foreign policy has been notably absent in these plans, so I wonder if we’ll see any change.
I would like to add my voice to those complaining about the agenda on the foreign policy debate, which is going to be more than half devoted to the Middle East. It’s rare that a large chunk of the electorate is going to pay attention to foreign policy in any way, so why not use the opportunity to discuss important issues and places that don’t make the front page very often? Proving again that the purpose of news organizations is to exploit rather than to convey the news, the format seems engineered to force maximally hawkish stands and to create tense and “newsy” moments, rather than to illuminate the public. Spending fifteen minutes on Iran and “red lines” is incredibly unfortunate, since this issue is exhaustively covered by the media out of any sense of proportion to whatever consequences an Iranian bomb might conceivably have.
I have always been kind of curious about the famous 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, which has the historical reputation of being a completely one-sided Reagan rout that may singlehandedly have handed Reagan a close election. Since the popular historical recollections of debates seems to be very hit-and-miss (did you know that Kennedy beat Nixon by basically out-hawking him, and that Nixon was arguably more liberal on domestic issues?), I decided to go find it and give it a watch.
Here’s a link to the debate, which is not embeddable.
Anyway, it’s definitely interesting to watch it outside of the original context, and with 32 years distance. Nothing at stake, no high inflation rate, no hostage crisis. I think it’s safe to say both that Reagan’s performance has aged quite poorly, especially in terms of substance, and that Romney appears to be trying to copy it note-for-note. Some observations:
- In the first exchange, Reagan presents the (now cliched) idea that the deficit could be cut solely by tackling waste and fraud (Reagan doesn’t mention abuse, which would eventually complete the cliche). He is unable to really explain how the numbers are going to add up because they didn’t, there’s some handwaving about a five-year plan, but no real answer for how to pay for a large tax cut and new defense spending without major cutting. I guess “dynamic scoring” wasn’t a thing yet. We all know now that he wouldn’t bother to try to balance anything, of course. Hearing Reagan say almost exactly what Romney said in both debates is eerie. Also, Reagan’s answer that a deficit-financed tax cut wouldn’t be inflationary essentially proves how little economic knowledge he had–inflation is caused by too much money in the economy, which is what a deficit-financed tax cut would have (and did) cause–and his reputation wasn’t helped by when he tried to search for the figure of how much waste there was, couldn’t come up with it, and just shrugged and said tens of billions of dollars.
- It’s pretty amazing that a question on minority issues came up in a presidential debate once, but it did. Reagan’s response was hilariously perfunctory: he literally said that he would use the bully pulpit to help minorities get ahead, and that’s about it. No different from Romney’s responses on, for example, immigration or women’s issues in substance. (Carter’s answer, on the other hand, talked about his history beliefs on race, his policies, and on the ways he’d directly contributed by making minority appointments. Substance, yes, it can be shocking.)
- Reagan’s famous anecdotes make a few appearances here, and perhaps because the rhetorical technique has been worn out in the 32 years since this, they mostly fall flat. I find it hard to believe that a black man in Detroit went up to the man who opened his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, MS, and asked him to please give him some hope. It’s a pretty absurd picture, though I suppose it’s not impossible. At his best, Reagan’s “real people” anecdotes were both plausible and on point. Definitely not the former here.
- The question on the Iranian hostage crisis and terrorism generally is fascinating. Carter audibly gulps before answering the question and the follow-up, for one thing. But Reagan essentially says he can’t say anything because he doesn’t want to do anything to compromise secret negotiations, out of patriotism, and then calls for a post hoc investigation. Admittedly, the Libya “controversy” is nowhere near the same league as the Iran hostages, but there’s a similar circular argument here to Romney’s, only Reagan is more skilled at pulling it off. (Also, this is kind of irrelevant, but Barbara Walters was seriously hot.)
- On the other hand, Reagan was pretty cogent on the arms control treaty question, though the point that the treaty couldn’t get through a majority-Democrat Senate (it would have needed 2/3) hearkens to Romney’s point about how Obama failed to get through the DREAM Act despite majorities. They didn’t even have the filibuster back then to the extent it exists now.
- Reagan makes an identical point about drilling about public lands to the one Romney did. I was wondering why he kept pounding that issue because it seemed like an esoteric detail. Now we know where he got it from. (Interestingly, Reagan touts his environmental record and hits Carter from the left there–I wonder how much longstanding right-wing dismissal of environment and energy efficiency is due to Carter’s association with them.)
- Then he just flat-out lies about his history on Social Security and Medicare. Again, very Romney.
No doubt that Reagan performed better here, since Jimmy Carter has the energy of someone tired of getting punched in the face. Which I suppose he was in 1980. But it’s appalling how little Reagan gave the people he was asking for votes–guess after four years of Carter they didn’t need much from him at all. Still, seeing this now, independent of all the awfulness of the ’70s, it’s no mystery why the GOP and its standard-bearer is so contentless now. Romney is merely carrying on the glorious tradition of Ronaldus Magnus.
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