Why Mitt Romney is Dangerous for America

5 10 2012

Romney won the first debate, no doubt, whatever “winning” the charade of a serious TV broadcast we witnessed Wednesday night means. (Full disclosure: I saw the debate over the Internet hours after it had been televised.) Obama, by contrast, looked flatfooted, almost shell-shocked by the spectacle of having to defend his record while he was knee-deep in the midst of it (“it” being running the most powerful country in the world and trying to rescue Americans from the intransigent choke-hold that the faltering economy continues to place on the citizenry while he simultaneously negotiates the withdrawal from two wars and anticipates the beginning of another. Welcome to an average day for Mr. Obama).

But winning, of course, isn’t everything. How Romney won is an equally interesting and, frankly, far more important question. He won in two ways: by being winsome (or “cheeky” by some accounts) and by lying. Politicians routinely don’t get their facts straight, to be sure, and Obama and Romney were examples of that on Wednesday night. But the fudge factor in such a forum like a live televised debate, which are increasingly resembling one-ring circuses, is larger and more forgiving. But Romney didn’t simply fudge the truth. He lied about things he himself had said earlier in his campaign. He didn’t just get his facts wrong — he got himself wrong, and that’s a problem.

What’s puzzling to any reasonably perspicacious person is the nature of Romney’s game, to loosely paraphrase the wisdom of the Rolling Stones. What, exactly, is he up to? Does he really suddenly care for the rabble, otherwise known as the “middle class”? Has his empathic sensibilities been tickled by the political process? Or is he simply an opportunist in the grand tradition of, say, the Medicis or Rockefellers, Astors, and Mellons? Is it even possible to have empathy for something you’ve never experienced? Or just sympathy? I have no doubt that Romney sympathizes for us 47%ers, which brings me to the point of this blog entry (and leaves aside for the moment just how fickle sympathy is as a human impulse… I mean, Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps already!)

Romney just recently (as in today) reversed himself on his 47% comment, and herein lies the bigger problem. When he had the chance to reverse himself last week, he chose instead to double down. Romney assured us he really did mean what he said, it’s just that he didn’t say it quite as elegantly as he should have. But now, a scant week later when the polls show that 47% of us really were offended by that comment — a momentary burst of guileless honesty from Slick Mitt that confirmed our worst suspicions about him — he says he was wrong.

This is the problem with a shape-shifter like Mr. Romney. He’ll say whatever it takes to win the prize. He did it in the debate, he’s been doing it on the campaign trail, and one wonders if he hasn’t been doing it all his life. He is, after all, a member of a cult that prizes more highly than almost anything else the importance of appearances. Have you seen any LDS literature lately? You be the judge.

Mitt Romney will say almost anything, it seems, to get what he wants, and this goes a long way in explaining why he has been so reluctant to share specifics regarding his policies, and why he has chosen not to show earlier tax returns. Because things like that speak for themselves. Once he lets them out into the cool and bright air of public scrutiny, he cannot retract them. He can’t say he didn’t really mean it. And what does this mean, then, for a man who will be put in the world’s most powerful position, that he can’t speak his mind until others have given him his opinions?

But perhaps more importantly, what does it say about his character, that he is a shape-shifter the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time? I predicted months ago that Mitt Romney would be Obama’s rival (not exactly a difficult prediction given his Republican rivals), and I know now what I only suspected then: Romney is dangerous for America because he appears to have no moral compass of his own, and the only positions he holds with any equanimity are the ones he’s told to believe (and the ones that would benefit him and the other 1%ers in the first place).

Americans will rue the day Romney is elected. May it never come to pass.

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