Romney’s campaign into oblivion

By Harold Evans
September 24, 2012

Willard Mitt Romney was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

It is possible to forgive it as a congenital trait. After all, his Dad, the genial George Romney, successful head of the American Motor Corp and governor of Michigan (1963-69), lost his bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1968 by setting a world record for the mass manufacture of gaffes. He had such a penchant for saying one thing and then retracting it, the reporter Jack Germond announced he was fixing his keyboard so that one keystroke produced “Romney later explained…” It was charming for a time to hear what George had said lately, but when he came back from a look at the Vietnam War, he announced he’d had “the greatest brainwashing anyone could get.” His rival Eugene McCarthy cracked that a light rinse would have been enough to relieve George’s neurological condition, but this time George had gone a gaffe too far. Some American prisoners released by the Chinese had renounced their U.S. citizenship, saying they’d been brainwashed, and primary voters had no enthusiasm for electing a president who might turn out to have been the Manchurian candidate. So we got Nixon and Agnew instead. Thanks, George.

Mitt was on a similar jag through the nomination process. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me… My wife drives a couple of Cadillacs… I’m not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net…” Men and women who’ve been looking for work for a year are supposed to appreciate the irony when he opens up: “I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.”

It’s tough getting through the Great Recession when your net worth is just a few hundred million. Mitt doesn’t understand why there should be an intake of breath across the continent when in a televised debate argument about a healthcare detail with Republican Governor Rick Perry he says: “I’ll tell you what, ten thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?” His attempt to cozy up to followers of Nascar races is: “I have some friends who are Nascar owners.” Arriving in Britain for the Olympics, of course, his tin ear wins a tin medal for finding the organization “disconcerting.”

These gaffes have been seen as evidence of the insensitivity of a man who inhabits a parallel world, embarrassments all round rather than manifestations of ineptitude disqualifying him from high office. He undoubtedly has the managerial competence for that. For all the left’s demonization of Mitt’s venture capital company, Bain, he showed he could chart a future for dying companies and create a thriving new one (like the Staples stationery chain) just as he turned a corrupt shambles of the Utah Winter Olympics into a showcase. He will never be the president who can figure out bipartisan deals with the opposition, as Reagan did regularly over drinks with his “old buddy” Speaker Tip O’Neill (neither can Obama). Nor will he be a bumbling Warren Harding, captive of corrupt, whisky-sodden cronies. Mitt is squeaky clean. And it can fairly be said that while Obama is a very likable president who inherited a financial catastrophe, he has not exactly excelled as a Reagan-style rejuvenator. He gave priority to Obamacare over jobs, failed to retain convincing economic counsel and unwisely delegated his vital stimulus package to a pork-barrel Congress. He is seen more now as a caretaker of decline, rather than a healer of the planet, a pacifier of the oceans.

This is where Romney’s latest excursion into unreality is so maddening to Republicans with only seven weeks to voting, less in early voting states. A select few wealthy men and women were present at the dinner where Mitt asked for their donations, but the videotape, made in May, is now being viewed by millions of voters as the secret unveiling of the portrait of Dorian Gray, Mitt revealing his dark soul. See, Democrats are saying nationwide in a swelling chorus, see his contempt for half the population, the other half, the ordinary decent Americans. You there in the 47 percent whom Mitt says will vote for Obama are lazy good-for-nothing moochers. You must be. You don’t pay any income tax, you gorge on food stamps, you “believe you are entitled to healthcare, to food and housing, you name it.” No amount of retouching can change the image: not Mitt bounding on stage a day later to say this election is about the 100 percent; not the energized hard-right Tea Party activists whose views are flecks of foam on the Internet websites (“The bastards should be paying taxes like the rest of us…”); not Donald Trump telling him he has nothing to apologize for.

Mitt may have quelled the anxieties of the right that at heart he was still a closet liberal, the governor of Massachusetts whose healthcare law was a model for Obama’s, but at what a price! His conflation of the 47 percent who pay no federal income tax with feckless Obama voters is also offensive to millions of his own voters who don’t earn enough to pay federal tax but do pay state and payroll and sales taxes and pride themselves on their sense of responsibility – among them, the elderly, the military, the disabled, the young and the poor but proud Hispanics.

It has to be said, amid the uproar, that a few of the things Romney was captured saying on the unwelcome videotape are true or defensible. The country is concerned at a culture of dependency. The huge and astounding mistake Romney made – out of his lack of real connection with people – was that he blamed this on the Americans and not the administration. Forty-one million Americans don’t want to be reliant on food stamps. They want work, and that’s what the administration has singularly failed to effect.

The election of 2012 looks as if it will go into the history books as the Battle of the Percentages. Surprisingly for a man who eats balance sheets for breakfast, Romney chose the wrong percentages. The left has drummed up a phony populism around the 1 percent who own the country. But the critics of Obama have a higher percentage of the percentages on their side on what they show about how the administration has failed to achieve a recovery

18 percent without full-time work

40 percent of the unemployed out of work for six months or longer

15 percent dependent on food stamps and Social Security disability (up from 7.9 percent from 1970-2000)

66 percent now believe the country is heading in the wrong direction

40 percent decline in middle-class families’ household net worth from 10 years earlier and with lower incomes for the first time in the post-World War Two era

The percentage that must worry the Romney team, of course, is that Obama is ahead by five or six percentage points and ahead in battleground states with a large number of electoral votes. This is crucial. The winner-takes-all system in state voting awards all a state’s electoral votes to the one with the most popular votes in that state.

GOP leaders were already lukewarm about their man, but their hopes of putting a Republican back in the White House and retaking the Senate are hardly assisted by the formation since the speech of a circular firing squad of top party intellectuals facing grassroots activists. Influential Republican columnists like David Brooks, Bill Kristol, David Frum and former Bush aide Mark McKinnon are aghast at the Romney Ramblings: “The tape reveals a deeply cynical man who would likely govern in a way that would only further divide us.” [McKinnon]; “Stupid and arrogant” [Kristol]; “He has committed the worst presidential candidate gaffe since Gerald Ford announced in 1976 there is no Soviet domination of eastern Europe.” [Frum]

But this is heresy to Red State’s Eric Erickson, who speaks for the hardliners: “For once we see Mitt Romney undercover and off the record and he sounds like a real person not pulled [by] the gravitational forces of the DC GOP media elite who have capitulated to $16 trillion in national debt. And suddenly those Beltway Republicans are beating up on Romney for saying something off the cuff, maybe not as polished as he should have but that is agreed by a majority of Americans.”

The “Beltway Republicans” that the hard right assails know full well that “God bless half of America” is not much of a prayer for getting out the vote, but it seems that in their hearts they’d rather not win than see the party of Lincoln lose its soul to the far right. They are aghast at what they see as a betrayal of the ideals of the Great Emancipator.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove, the Svengali who won two elections for George W. Bush, has his tin helmet on, and he’s whistling in the dark, trying to reassure one and all that the uproar will die down – that this is not Romney junior’s brainwashing moment.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney waves as he boards his campaign plane in Denver, Colorado, September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder


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“…but it seems that in their hearts they’d rather not win than see the party of Lincoln lose its soul to the far right.”

Well, what are they doing about that? Who let the inmates take over the asylum? When is some senior RNC poobah going to tell Limbaugh that he’s full of it and no, I’m not going to bow and kiss your ring, either. When is someone going to tell Trump that he’s a fat-headed, self-promoting sideshow freak with a lousy haircut and an even lousier personality? And when is someone going to tell the TP’ers that the earth isn’t flat, it wasn’t created in 6 days 6,000 years ago, and that they are NOT going to drag us back to the 1800s?

Posted by Quatermass | Report as abusive

Surely they can both offer better than this…

This is going to be the most interesting and unpredictable debating season/ presidential election, in some time. Both sides have a lot of convincing to do…

> “…while Obama is a very likable president who inherited a financial catastrophe, he has not exactly excelled as a Reagan-style rejuvenator. He gave priority to Obamacare over jobs, failed to retain convincing economic counsel and unwisely delegated his vital stimulus package to a pork-barrel Congress. He is seen more now as a caretaker of decline, rather than a healer of the planet, a pacifier of the oceans.”
— Obama doesn’t deserve a second term unless he apologizes for the errors of his first, convincingly promises to do better, and lays out a vision for doing so.

Romney doesn’t deserve a first term unless he can start focussing on the problems faced by 100% of Americans (especially those Americans who are being held back the most at this time, for whom, a small improvement in circumstances would work wonders for the whole of the American economy)… And starts explaining in convincing rational outline, how he’s going to solve their problems and untangle the economic gridlock.

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

I wish there was a LIKE button on this blog, because I would totally click it for everything I’ve read on this page so far (including the comments.)

Posted by bryanX | Report as abusive

Obama thanks you for writing this article.

Posted by Vison8 | Report as abusive

Romney is nothing more than an “empty suit.” My ole granny would have said of Romney: “He’s got nuthin’ ” Perhaps the Republicans can do a better job of candidate selection in l2016.

Posted by explorer08 | Report as abusive

There is no Republican alive that can pass muster with the party purists, AND be elected by normal people.

Posted by gordo36563 | Report as abusive

Romney is just another W-like turd waiting to happen.

You have it right Republicans will do a better job in 12016.
I’m glad I won’t be around to see that.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

The title of this commentary was interesting; the contents are not. Your attempts to portray Romney as a ‘mouth run amuck’ are disingenuous at best and, at worst,are dishonest and deceitful.
His campaign trail is littered with lies, smears and misquotes. His policy positions, plans and priorities remain as secretive as past tax returns and offshore money caches. He has flipped-flopped on every issue so much that he can’t remember what he said as evidenced by this quote, “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.”

His, self-admitted, disdain and contempt for 47% of Americans was publicly exposed and undeniable.

“I’m not concerned about the very poor,” and his past business dealings clearly show that.

Your assertion that Mitt would be a president better than President Obama using this example; “He gave priority to Obamacare over jobs, failed to retain convincing economic counsel and unwisely delegated his vital stimulus package to a pork-barrel Congress” is using facts to lie. The crisis of 40 million uninsured Americans without a medical care safety net is evident; the GOP became a majority in the 2010 Congress promising job, jobs and job legislation and DID NOT PASS A SINGLE JOBS BILL and opposed each of President Obama’s attempts to create jobs and didn’t even bring President Obama’s stimulus package to the floor for a vote.

Mitt Romney has only one interest – self interest. That alone disqualifies him for the office of President of the US.

Posted by JBltn | Report as abusive

Quite a good column, Sir Harold, with the exception of the section that you must have copied from the hate radio libertarians, “He gave priority to Obamacare over jobs, failed to retain convincing economic counsel and unwisely delegated his vital stimulus package to a pork-barrel Congress. He is seen more now as a caretaker of decline, rather than a healer of the planet, a pacifier of the oceans.” A far right turn if there ever was one, and one not really in your style. Reminding you that the Republicans would rather see the US fall apart than do anything to advance jobs, all jobs bills, the farm bill, all bills that would have helped the US in any way were stopped by the GOP. Blame it on Obama? Perhaps we should wonder why this is the first GOP congress EVER to refuse to compromise on anything. What is different? What is the Elephant in the room that no one will EVER admit? Why do they so desperately want to get that man out of there? The first what? They won’t admit it but it is true. Colour. And Europe is so far behind the US it isn’t funny. Sorry to bring it up, and I know everyone will deny it, but it is still there. I have lived in Georgia, and when they start to accept you (I am white), then the ‘N’ jokes start. Appalling. I moved away as fast as I could. The colour barrier is still there and I believe that is the reason the GOP wants to get the POTUS out of the White House, and I believe that that is the reason that we MUST KEEP HIM THERE.

Posted by Expatbrit | Report as abusive

How depressing.

The once-great home we loved, the greatest country in history, has a president who’s a useless good guy and a candidate who’s a less-useless less-good guy.

Nice choice.

Let’s see what 2016 brings. It would be nice to have people like Colin Powell and Bill Bradley, and definitely nobody who has spent a good deal of their adult life wanting the job.

Posted by WeWereWallSt | Report as abusive

I guess when the author’s name starts with “Sir”, you should expect elitist pablum. To blame the president for the lack of action in Congress is just not believable by US citizens who watch the intentional morass for four years led by imperial GOP.

Posted by sylvan | Report as abusive

If the GOP doesn’t start expressing a little solidarity, start acting like Reagan (by reaching across the aisle) instead of just deifying him, it will be Democrats in the White House and Senate from now until 2052.

Posted by smanchwhich | Report as abusive

The inaction and ineptness of our current Congress is more to blame for the general morass of our present recovery from the worst Depression since the Great Depression. I think Sir Harold Evans is confusing the US government system with the British Parliamentarian system. Despite Obama’s priorities it is hard to work with an opposing party whose only function and efforts are to oppose the current President, the country be $#%@!@.

Posted by Saywhaaaaa | Report as abusive

It is very difficult to take Mitt Romney seriously. The man encourages distrust and disappointment like Sarah Palin did before him. In some instances is plainly shocking and irritating his lack of commitment to truth and facts. Underneath his ruthless and unsubstantiated attack on the President there is a subtle tone of discrimination. It is obviously clear that it never had occurred to Mr. Romney that the President doesn´t have to be socialist to try to solve the overpowering economic mess left behind by his predecessor and the corrupt boys of Wall Street. Romney´s wealth blind him from grasping that a large percentage of Americans are living in conditions that defy rationality, citizens for whom life is a tragedy, a life full of debts triggered by a corrupt financial system that screwed them and a former President (Bush) who chose to look the other way.. Surely making money is not a vice, the true vice is to hide income in tax-heavens and not to pay a fair share of taxes. Romney fail to see that it is in the best interest of all, Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, U.S citizens and immigrants, capitalism and capitalists, and men and women of all ages, ethnicity and religions, to solve the social and economic problems overwhelming the United States in a manner never seen since de Great Depression.

Posted by ZAMORANO | Report as abusive

Of course, Romney was correct that 47% of the electorate would not vote for him no matter what – there are swaths of the electorate who would vote for Obama if unemployment were 50% – Romney’s inelegant expression conflated that 47% with the dependent class, an ever growing part of the electorate – the part that will be watching “The View” today -which is why Obama will be there and not talking to world leaders – he is politically astute and knows where his constituency is.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

If you notice the amount of money Mitt made in 2011 off $250 million– somewhere around 4%? Either the guy is a moron, which I do not believe, or most of his money is invested overseas in tax havens that we poor middle-class voters do not get the option of using. he owns up to two years of his taxes, because that’s when he was running for office. He can’t release the rest, because there is too much to hide. It is just too obvious. And this man is the best the GOP had to offer? No, just the only one that the Tea Party would let into the ring, hence, the GOP will never win a presidential election again until it restructures itself. Romney could have been a good candidate if he was the Romney that was the governor of Mass. But he is not that man anymore, perhaps he never was.

Posted by Expatbrit | Report as abusive

“He gave priority to Obamacare over jobs, failed to retain convincing economic counsel and unwisely delegated his vital stimulus package to a pork-barrel Congress.”
This couldn’t have been more elitist claptrap if it had been written by a duke rather than a mere knight.

Posted by geojohn | Report as abusive

The only thing more pathetic than partisan politics–is partisan jopurnalism in a format that claims to be non-partisan.

Posted by abb68 | Report as abusive

The sad reality of this article is the fundamental truth that Mitt Romney cannot inspire. He doesn’t just need to worry about the 47 percent, he needs worry about 100 percent of the electorate. Well, why is this so, you might ask? Because there really isn’t much inspirational about a child of the upper 1 percent. He can’t tell us a good story because he doesn’t know one. Obama, on the other hand, has a great story…in fact, it’s so great that people are willing to overlook his basic incompetence in office. The reality of our present situation is that if the GOP is looking for someone born of the elite class to represent them in the highest political office in the land, they’d better be prepared for crop failure from time to time.


Posted by Gettinold | Report as abusive