A couple of weeks ago, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a scathing piece about Mitt Romney's "47 percent" video, saying "It suggests that Romney doesn't know much about the culture of America." But now that Romney has moved to the center, not only is Brooks back on board, he's here to testify that this new moderate Mitt is the "authentic" one. I kid you not:
But, on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself...
Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity. And, having taken this step, he's broken the spell. Conservatives loved it! They loved that it was effective, and it was effective because Romney could more authentically be the man who (I think) he truly is.
And what do you know, the "authentic" Romney just happens to be the one who adopts a perfectly Brooksian version of conservatism, one in which you say nice things about bipartisanship and compassion, then pursue dogmatic right-wing policies.
Let me repeat what I've said before: There is no "authentic" or "real" Mitt Romney. Neither the moderate we saw in the debate, nor the Randian of the "47 percent" video spewing contempt on society's moochers, nor the "severely conservative" candidate (his own words) of the primaries is the real Romney, because there is no real Romney. He is whoever he believes the political requirements of the moment demand him to be. His persona is always in flux, changing as the political situation changes. And he obviously surmised—quite accurately, as it turned out—that with conservatives growing increasingly desperate over his campaign's prospects, he could unveil a newly moderate persona at the debate and they would silence their objections.
If there had ever been a single moment in his political career in which Romney took an unpopular stand, assuming a real political risk out of conviction, you might say that he had revealed the "authentic" Romney. But he never has. Yet David Brooks apparently believes that when Romney changes his identity once again, in a way that just happens to improve his political fortunes, that he has brought forth his true self. I suppose if Brooks were some kind of Hannityesque partisan hack, you could assume that he's only saying this because it helps Romney. But that's not who Brooks is. He actually believes it.