I’m well aware that politicians are supposed to lie, evade, and pander on a regular basis. That’s part of their job. I also know that when President Obama “evolved” over gay marriage, it was more likely his timing that had evolved; he used to be in favor of it, then he waffled when he hit the big time, and then he finally played his cards and told the truth about his beliefs.
But with Mitt Romney, there don’t seem to be any beliefs! He appears to spout whatever is convenient for him at the moment, without an ordinate amount of backbone, realism, or sense of responsibility as to what he has said before. He’s the perfect candidate for an era of drive-by news hits that are quickly consumed and expectorated by an ADD-addled populace.
But I imagine that he’s not good enough to win, thanks to the very same contradictions and lack of purpose. Even if the public promptly forgets the last instance of that slipperiness, there’s always another one coming to take the wind out of his appeal. His views tend to re-volve.
A popular YouTube video compiles some of Romney’s biggest flip-flops through the years. By the end of it, you wonder if he’s an acute schizophrenic, a pathological liar, or someone who’s simply honing his views to please the conservatives. Romney has said that he’s dead set against letting lobbyists run a campaign, but he has had at least three of them working on his. He wants universal coverage, but when it’s called Obamacare, the ex-gov is against it—though wait, it turns out that he does like some of it. He supported strong gun laws, then tried to distance himself from that, no doubt to curry favor with weapon holders. He reversed on Social Security benefits and did somersaults on abortion. (In 1994, he was crazy for Roe v. Wade, but more recently, he said he wants it overturned. At least he acknowledged his turnaround and said his original opinion was wrong. Not as wrong as the new one!)
Romney’s also divided himself about bailouts, No Child Left Behind, and whether gays should serve openly in the military. Mitt Romney doesn’t want government to step in and take care of all your problems. He just wants it to step in and cause you problems by denying rights to gays, women, the needy, and the arts.
And when he does slip and say what he means, he gets in serious trouble. His instantly immortal remarks about 47 percent of America being dependent losers—remarks he finally admitted were “just completely wrong,” like liking Roe v. Wade—showed a patronizing lack of insight or compassion. (Is he aware that you actually pay for your Social Security benefits with money taken out of your paychecks your entire life? This is not any kind of handout, Mittens.) And how would Mitt solve the foreclosure crisis? By limiting the tax write-off for desperate people paying off their mortgages. Brilliant, no?
As if any more evidence is needed that the guy is poised to lead us into an age of sheer stupidity, his attempts to connect with everyday people have backfired whenever he reminds them that he’s a wealthy businessman with enough cars to fill a parking lot. And this is a guy who believes so strongly in America that he puts tons of money into overseas tax havens and even invests in foreign currency, maybe in case he ends up running for office in Norway or Australia.
As for the lightning rod issue of our time—gays trying to get hitched—here’s some recent hot air Romney spouted: “We will defend marriage, not try to redefine it. We need a president who understands that we will not have a strong economy unless we have strong communities and strong families.” Does the man not get that LGBT communities and families are strong, and besides, all those extra weddings help the economy?
Meanwhile, the running mate—Paul Ryan—is Romney’s perfect accomplice, a hollow bigot who always seems to be ad-libbing, without having been distracted by fact-checking of any kind. Ryan’s convention speech was even more fictional than anything by Ayn Rand. He conveniently misrepresented topics like downgrading, a shuttered General Motors plant, and Medicare, and also criticized Obama for not taking the suggestions of a debt commission that filed an urgent report. But as you might remember from all those quick-news hits during the convention, Ryan had rejected that report, saying he “could not support the plan in its entirety”! He should have been thrilled that Obama ignored it. Even an editorial on the Fox News site noted, “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”
I’ll admit that Romney wiped the floor with Obama at last week’s debate. He came off slick, confident, and contemptuously grinning, even demanding more time when moderator Jim Lehrer tried to cut him off. (What’s more, Romney nervily threatened to put Lehrer out of a job—all while bragging about how he’ll help employment!) Yes, his views were still icky and evasive, but he kept putting Obama on the defensive with his well-oiled bravado, and that does take some kind of chutzpah cocktail that Obama seems to need right now.
But don’t be fooled. Mitt hasn’t evolved. A vote for Romney/Ryan is like asking two seals to perch on a glass table and stay there. If you disagree, you probably want to strap Big Bird to a car and drive cross-country.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 10, 2012