The former Massachusetts governor speaks to delegates at the New Hampshire Republican Convention in Concord, N.H Saturday.
Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats. The ancient Greeks had word for it—a phrase, actually: Character is Fate.
In one misstep after another, Mitt keeps revealing his true character. What we’re learning about him is that he is another rich guy who is disdainful of ordinary people; that he can’t speak off the cuff without blundering; and that he is clueless when it comes to foreign policy—not to mention ordinary diplomacy.
A lovely pattern has set in. Mitt says something truly dumb and alienating to ordinary Americans. The campaign goes into panic mode, and can’t decide whether to walk it back or double down.
Meanwhile, some militant conservatives insist that their clueless candidate had it exactly right, as Bill O’Reilly tried to do on Fox News last night. Romney was statistically correct, O’Reilly insisted. 47 percent of Americans do pay no income tax. What’s the big fuss?
The problem, of course, is that the Americans who benefit from government include not just bums and freeloaders, but appreciative recipients of Social Security, Medicare, pubic education College Aid, Head Start, Veterans benefits, and the other elements of our social contract that make Democrats the normal majority party when they retain a little spine and hang on to their principles.
Romney’s campaign has been resorting to pathetic gimmicks to show that their man is a regular guy, but he keeps blurting out what he really thinks. Nobody put it better than that uneasy Republican, New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote:
Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.
But that’s not even the best part. Whenever Romney stumbles like this, while some true believers like Bill O’Reilly declare, “Right On,” others run for the exits. The litany of Republicans who publicly distanced themselves from Mitt’s comments reads like a Who’s Who of the GOP. Senate candidates in swing states fell all over each other in rushing out statements that Romney didn’t speak for them. Peggy Noonan, in a Wall Street Journal blog, didn’t mince words:
The central problem revealed by the tape is Romney’s theory of the 2012 election. It is that a high percentage of the electorate receives government checks and therefore won’t vote for him, another high percentage is supplying the tax revenues and will vote for him, and almost half the people don’t pay taxes and presumably won’t vote for him.
My goodness, that’s a lot of people who won’t vote for you. You wonder how he gets up in the morning.
This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. They’re usually young enough and dumb enough that nobody holds it against them, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know much about America.
Wow! And this is the other problem for Republicans about Romney’s serial stumbles.
The story becomes the incompetence in the Romney campaign and the disunity and disarray in the Republican Party, not the campaign’s attempted message (which is nothing to write home about either.)
The very faction of the Party that privately can’t stand Mitt (like O’Reilly) feels compelled to defend his artless remarks because of their anti-government theme, while the grown-ups who were hoping for a moderate who could attract independent voters feels compelled to retch at the sheer ineptitude.
Meanwhile, the election clock keeps ticking, and the long-shot project of getting Romney-Ryan back on a believable message keeps being deferred.
Barack Obama may be one of the luckiest politicians in American history. Remember that in his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate, which began as a long shot, both his strongest Democratic primary opponent and his strongest Republican opponent in the general election were felled by sex scandals.
Obama showed in his tough primary battles with Hillary Clinton that his success wasn’t all luck. But then he had the fortune to draw John McCain and a September financial collapse that he handled much better than his opponent.
And now, with the economy still far from in recovery, Obama has drawn perhaps the most inept Republican nominee ever. And it’s only mid-September, with the debates still to come. If the Greeks were right that character is fate, Mitt will keep on delivering for the Democrats.
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About the Author
Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, as well as a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.