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Who Are Ya, Mittens?

Who is Mitt Romney? It’s a question Via Meadia has been pondering for some time, and it appears we’re not alone. An editorial in The Economist does a good job explaining why Romney needs to let voters in on who he is and what he really believes:

But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper.

The Economist goes on to say that the convention may well be Romney’s last chance to grab hold of his narrative. If Romney doesn’t soon seize the initiative and define himself, his opposition will tell the voters who he is. That would not be a good thing for Governor Romney, and it would not be a good thing for the country.

We need an election in which the two candidates make the most cogent possible presentations of their points of view. President Obama’s record in office gives Americans a lot of information about his priorities and his vision. But voters trying to understand Mitt Romney have a harder time. Do we judge him by his record in Massachusetts? Which of his past statements are, as the Nixon people used to say, operable?

The good news for Romney supporters is that their candidate recognizes the urgency of the situation. In a recent interview with Politico, Romney outlined how he plans to respond to the Obama advertising blitzkrieg, close the massive “likability gap,” and present his vision for the country:

“Certainly, their ads have some impact or they wouldn’t be running them,” he continued. “But there would be an opportunity for people to get to know me better during the debates and during the time in the campaign season when people are actually paying a lot of attention to the candidates.”

This is quite a gamble: whether there is enough time for Romney to hit the reset button (or to shake up the Etch-A-Sketch, if you will) remains to be seen. Come November 6, the decision for Romney to wait so long before introducing himself to the American people will be revealed as either inspired or impaired.

And of course, it’s possible that to know him isn’t to love him. Voters may get a clear sense of Romney’s identity and his preferred politics, and then go with the other guy. But either way, Romney owes it to himself and to the voters to tell us as clearly as possible what he thinks about the big issues of the day — and to give us some sense of who the man is who will be making such consequential decisions in our name.


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  • thibaud

    “Romney owes it to himself and to the voters to tell us as clearly as possible what he thinks about the big issues of the day”

    This is assuming that the man ever thinks coherently about “the big issues of the day.” The evidence is that he does not.

    Romney’s in favor of mandates to buy health insurance (at the state level). He’s against mandates to buy health insurance (at the federal level). Why the one is a necessary and appropriate policy and the other is a wicked and tyrannical imposition, he can’t say.

    Romney’s a Keynesian; Romney’s not a Keynesian.

    He proposes slashing federal spending and simultaneously slashing income taxes on the wealthy. Then, when asked what he’ll do in 2013, he says he will definitely not slash spending assuming the economy’s still in recession – which of course is the entire premise of his candidacy.

    Romney’s in favor of abortion rights. Romney’s against abortion rights.

    Romney favors exceptions to proposed laws criminalizing abortion; Romney and his newfound mate are against all exceptions to such laws.

    Romney in foreign affairs favors … nothing, really.

    The GOP’s old-guard realists listen to his haphazard feints at neoconservatism and think he can’t be a realist at heart. The GOP’s neoconservatives hear his feints at Ron Paul-style isolationism and think he’s definitely not an interventionist. The Ron Paul isolationists look at his occasional interventionist gestures and think he’s not one of them.

    The man clearly is passionate about making money, about his family, about supporting fellow Mormons who need help. He’s a decent man.

    But as a presidential candidate, he’s a hollow vessel. There’s nothing there, and he’ll be lucky to get 200 Electoral Votes in a race that he should have won by a mile.

  • Tom Gates

    Who in the heck is running Via Meadia today? Romney has been much clearer about his intentions and knowledge of his qualifiecations than the current WH occupant. The focus today should be who is BHO! Has he said one thing about a second term except he is willing to compromise? What possible reason should we buy that? Ask any 100 americans what he stands for and you will get 100 different answers. Nobody did their homework in 2008 and it looks like that trend continues.
    WRM said earlier that he would not endorse anyone in this blog and that is OK. We know he has to exist in the faculty lounge in what “Minding the Campus” says is the 9th most liberal school in the US. But c’mon, posts like this make make this pledge ring very, very hollow.

  • thibaud

    The big irony about Romney is that, because the man is such a cipher, so distrusted by his own party’s base and by the only demographic (white working class voters) who could possibly put him over the top, he will abandon scruples and play the race card.

    It’s already happening. Romney’s scurrilous lie about welfare was an obvious attempt to resurrect a race-baiting winner from the dead.

    Much more creative – extra points for chutzpah here – is the Romney/Ryan redirect about medicare, the absurd lie about how ACA siphons money away from white medicare recipients to non-whites now covered due to the ACA.

    Worthy of Lee Atwater, that one. It would have a good chance at working – IF Team Obama were not equally (or more) ruthless. But the smart money isn’t betting on that.

    When it comes to hardball politics, Romney’s a naive college freshman. He’s about to get schooled.

  • Douglas6

    I have only heard a few speeches by Gov. Romney, but it seems to me that he is a capitalist, and speaks forthrightly in favor of capitalism. The other issues in the election are not very important to me, so I’m happy to vote for the capitalist, and against the “social-democrat.”

  • stephen b

    B0 may be more willing to “compromise” in his second term, but he also wants to be more “flexible” with Vladimir.

  • Lyle Smith

    Mitt is for profits, whereas Obama is against profits. That should be good enough for everyone this year.

  • Nathan

    The problem with this discussion is that Mitt Romney isn’t really a flip-flopper at all, at least no more than we can expect of any politician. He has had a few policy reversals over time, but nothing that we haven’t seen from any number of other politicians. I’d be far more scared of a man that *never* changed his mind on anything.

    In the end, I find that the people that claim that they don’t know what Romney stands for at this point haven’t done their homework.

    The best analysis I’ve seen on Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper is a bit dated (November 2011) but seems solidly supported at

    Not that the truth will cut through a media narrative that vacillates between calling Romney a flip-flopper and an ideologue…

  • nadine

    The irony of this advice is that Obama himself ran as blank project screen in 2008 (he himself admitted it) and still refuses to tell us anything of his plans for a second term, should he win one.

    Why should Romney alone have to go into detail? He has already given far more detail about his economic and energy policies than Obama. Is this not a clue that they are just trolling for details they can use to attack Romney? Why don’t they ask Obama what he intends to do?

  • gracepmc

    Perhaps the question is not so much who is Mitt Romney, a proven competent executive, compared to the “likeable”, never vetted Barack Obama, but who is running Via Media these days? Romney at least tries to present the “big issues” of the day while dodging arrows of murder and felony and the hard hitting questions from the MSM about anything but the economy. I wonder what big issues Barack Obama tackled in his recent interview with Glamor Magazine. In this age of “reset”, “etch a sketch” this is part of the Obama campaign’s “soft media strategy” — you know like leading from behind.

  • John Stephens

    “Not Barack Obama” is good enough me.

  • David

    I’m in the camp that sees the two major parties as slightly different faces of the same monster: a corporate controlled political system.

    Corporations get as much welfare as the poor & middle classes do. And we need controls. Greed gets the better of too many when things are too deregulated. I worked in the financial industry and I saw it first hand. It’s not complicated. People are predictable.

    Romney should admit that the Republicans and Democrats ALL screwed up over the past 10 years and stop trying to blame everything on BHO. Politicans are acting like children. If he was a man of the people he would find common ground with the other 50% of the population and the same with BHO AND admit that the Republicans are not lilly white.

    Romey likes to harp about the “failed” presidency. No one would have been able to turn things around after the fiasco we experienced.

    I wish the Republicans didn’t have the social agenda they have. It’s just not going to fly, maybe ever.

  • Sam L.

    I don’t have to love him. He’s competent. BO ain’t. And can’t learn it.

  • thibaud

    David #10 – “… admit that the Republicans are not lilly white.”

    Do you mean, admit that the Republicans cannot win the presidency with only white voters?

    Actually, Romney’s people told Ron Brownstein that they believe they can get zero % of the african-american vote, and only a quarter or somesuch trivial percentage of the hispanic vote, and still win this election.

    With one catch: as the Romney adviser stated, “This is the last time anyone will try to do this.”

    2012 is the last gasp for the GOP’s hard-right, race-polarized Tea Party strategy.

    The party’s best minds know, as they will admit privately, that the GOP is “too old, too white and too fat.” (I gather that “fat” refers to uneducated/blue-collar whites; no offense to the credentialed and corpulent).

    The numbers are against the GOP. Their demographic base has been in structural decline now, as a % of the electorate, since 1992, shrinking steadily each year.

    Romney cannot win without sweeping the white working class vote, by an extraordinary margin of more than two to one. No presidential candidate has achieved that kind of lopsided victory with the white working class in the modern era.

    Romney has a losing hand, and the only card that can save it – one last time for the Tea Party-whipped GOP – is the race card.

  • Alan

    “Not Barack Obama” is not enough for me this year or any year. Especially when its tied to the GOP social agenda that seeks to reduce my personal individual liberties. Its sad to see so many American willing to sacrifice their constitutional rights to the dangerous, growing national security apparatus. We don’t even blink an eye at the daily snooping into our lives via phone, email and video surveillance. The government has used the war on terror and the war on drugs to move us ever closer to a police surveillance state. Both parties are complicit in this but the GOP has been especially eager to ignore their supposed commitment to the Constitution and to individual personal liberty. I expect that from liberals but its especially disappointing from a party professing its support for a strict interpretation of the constitution.

    Democrats prefer crony capitalism benefiting unions, lawyers, enviros, multinationals and Wall Street at the expense of the common man. Republicans prefer crony capitalism benefiting energy companies, defense contractors, the prison-industrial complex, the very wealthy, multinationals and Wall Street. They distract us by arguing about gay marriage, abortion and insignificant differences in tax rates. Nobody is looking out for the majority of America.

    As bad as Obama is that is not enough for me to support Romney and his big-government nanny state. When the GOP becomes a more libertarian party concerned with real freedom, with rolling back the post 9/11 police state, and with ending the foolish war on drugs I will be happy to rejoin what is now an awfully small tent.

    Until then Gary Johnson and the libertarian party is my only option. And if that gives Florida and the election to Obama I can live with that. He and Mitt are just two heads on the same snake.

  • The Reticulator

    To know Mitt, know his advisers.

    We’ve had other presidents who lacked the vision thing. Don’t like them. But I will probably vote GOP this year for the first time in four elections. The Ryan pick made me think it could be worth the chance.

  • Luke Lea

    I can’t imagine how he can defend his Swiss bank accounts.

  • Brendan Doran

    I always wonder why he didn’t run as the experienced executive that gets things done. Then again he has McCain people advising him.

    I actually didn’t think he was serious until he picked Ryan.

  • Larry Kaplan

    I find this article light on critical thinking.
    Let me list some things Mitt Romney does not believe in.

    1. Mitt does not believe in stopping the the XL pipeline which would be helpful in being independent of Mideast oil, and create non government jobs.

    2. Mitt does not think we should tax or fine coal power plants out of existence which would could possibly more than double electric prices particularly in the Midwest.

    3. Mitt Romney does not believe in lying to the American people that a modest tax on the rich would solve all our fiscal problems. Depending on who you read the government is borrowing or printing 30 to 40% of the money it spends. Obama’s tax would only cover 6 days of expenses.

    4.Mitt does not believe we should stick our head in the sand until Medicare goes broke. What’s Obama’s plan? Oh yeah, it was to rob it of 760 billion dollars and give it to a new entitlement that most Americans are against.

    5. Mitt Romney does not belong to a party which controls the Senate and violates it’s constitutional obligation to propose and pass a budget. The Democrats have not done so for over three and a half years.

    6. Mitt does not believe in over regulating business so as to quash any chance of a recovery to prosperity.

    7.Most importantly Mitt Romney does not believe in unilaterally changing our laws to please a subgroup in order to win an election. Specifically I’m talking about the recent changes to the Welfare and Immigration laws. Whether you agree with his policies or not he had no right to change the law by doing so without the consent of Congress. This is the work of a cynical dictator.
    Incidentally so called political fact checkers have said Obama did not change the Welfare work requirement. He did, Mickey Kaus a Democrat blogger explains here:

    There is more but I will stop here. Anyway if you agree with Obama he is your man

  • Noah Pology

    NEWS FLASH!! Dateline London. The Economist magazine has published an article critical of a conservative American presidential candidate. They also report the sky is blue and water remains wet.
    Is this what we’ve come to? The Economist tees up a predictable mud ball and Via Media takes a swing at it? Who’s running this place Chris Matthews? If this is what passes for elevated analysis, someone should check WRM’s elevator. It appears stuck in the basement.

  • Tom Mulrooney

    Perhaps his onvention speech will change my mind, but thus far I see Mr. Romney as a very clever man who figured out how to make pots of money in the hedge fund industry by buying underperforming companies and selling off valuable bits. Perhaps as president of the USA, which is certainly underperforming right now, he can sell Hawaii to Disney, Alaska to Russia or Canada, and Florida to Venezuela. Then, after deducting his commission, he can distribute the remaining profits to the upper 1%, so they can invest it wisely.

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