By Robert S. Becker
Mitt the Great Imposter
Great news this week for majority rule: CNN polling reported 63% think Bain Capital exploits make Mitt Romney more likely to "make good decisions handling" the economy over the next four years. What else matters to hardscrabble anguish in towns like Peoria, Illinois? Let's hire a tough, no-nonsense CEO to remake America as Bain remade venture capital -- and none of that feel-good, sentimental socialism.
Moreover, six in ten honorable voters (CBS/NY Times) won't let jaw-dropping Bain revelations "matter to their vote" (so much for predation, outsourcing, job demolition, and tax-avoidance sleaze). Finally, 54% (USA Today/Gallup) affirm Mitt's "personality and leadership qualities" are what a "president should have." Exactly what "qualities," pray tell, other than deviant capitalism and a gaffe-filled, policy-free pageant that glorifies his zealous "elasticity"?
When did we ever nominate, let along elect a slippery, fabulously wealthy corporate raider? Not once. So, why not worsen terrible times with more Reagan-Bush-Cheneyism? Look, do we honor majorities or not, however they tilt to ruthlessness over familiarity, the economics of hard-knocks over mushy Obama rhetoric? Of course, early polling tracks the devil voters don't yet know (really?) vs. the champion, in this corner, of podium populism loved or hated by one and all.
Ruthlessness, devoid of "ruth"
Predictably, more telling Romney assessments are less kind: NBC/WSJ folks confirm he's the first GOP presidential nominee whose unfavorable ratings (40%) continue to surpass favorables (35%). That means a 65% majority isn't charmed by Mitt's compassion-free conservatism and/or weird personality. Could Bain's modus operandi of take-no-prisoners, ruthless pragmatism have no impact? Add that to the GOP's politics of austerity, and let the good times roll from a Romney presidency. Hail, the righteous rich in charge, sanctifying the status quo even beyond that of Obama's miscast, non-job-creating duo, Summers and Geithner? Hail, the self-consuming dogma that socializes corporate risk while privatizing profits.
So, let's not altogether abandon distinctions between the "devoutly non-ideological," ex-liberal Democrat who fudges major campaign promises (but "means well") vs. the plastic Romney eagerly morphed into radical extremist. Brace for hard-knuckled, Republican Ruthlessness with two capital R's and no "ruths" (its word root being "pity"). Romney's like the 17-year locust, muddling along underground for decades, only to emerge with a rock-hard shell and insatiable appetites. Incredibly, the GOP's guy displays more ambition than Obama, the careerist politician who never met a higher office he didn't like better. Romney's locust eyed the White House for at least 17 years, when Obama was neither Muslim nor socialist.
For pragmatic Yanks, Romney's merciless solutions, per Gallup survey, award him the edge vs. Obama in "getting things done." Echoes of Larry the Cable Guy: "Git-R-Done." I wait breathlessly for this era of "fooling some of the people all of the time" to end. If neither centrist voters, labor, elected officials, nor intellectual elites can offset fat cat reactionaries, the public only gets a choice of political fakes, here divided into genuine fakes (W. or Obama) vs. fake fakes (Romney).
Distinction without a Difference?
Thus, Dubya exemplifies the genuine fake, his calculated oafish manner in sync with benighted Tea Baggers. Likenesses attract so W. never presumed great intellectual or educational prowess (rightly so). His mind was so genuinely ordinary that completing an entire book made news, more evidence this genuine fake was educated outside of Texas. W. wasn't nearly as stupid as he appeared, though clumsy articulations encouraged many to misunderestimate his tenure. In the end, while he conned the majority (and got re-elected), one sensed this dim bulb only got part of the con. Bush's one talent: making fakery seem downright, down home genuine, like another great phony, Sarah Palin. Hokey, western, cowboy, chainsaw manliness made Bush "easy to have a beer with" -- and genuine fakes rarely threaten the intellectual comfort zone of others.
Though far more literate, smarter and self-aware, Obama sadly qualifies as genuine fake, especially compared to the utterly fake fake called Romney. The president is a genuinely fake liberal, despite populist rhetoric and one truly progressive speech a year. He has a woefully, genuinely fake awareness of economic and military matters, displaying no more expertise now than three years ago. Is backdoor plutocrat Geithner not still in charge, with or without scandals? Is not militarism in high gear, what we'd expect from a fake anti-war candidate? Worst of all for a law school instructor on the Constitution, not only has he extended the Bush-Cheney whack job, he embraces transparently phony legal stances, alleging the Supreme Court wouldn't dare, even lacked the authority, to deny his health insurance reform. Oh, yeah?
In not protecting the middle-class decline, Obama nearly matches Dubya's duplicity about helping "the people." Obama is truly a genuine fake, Chicago-crunch politician, so lacking in backbone he gets whipped by the insipid Senate and the shrill House. Considering his '08 mandate, Obama shows he's the most genuinely fake, backroom Washington deal-maker since Carter. In short, here's a fake reformer, systemic or otherwise, a fake challenger to crazed military spending (or gun sales) and fake populist, defective on economic matters. What's genuine about Obama is how seamlessly he's morphed into garden-variety politician, scared to death of any risk jeopardizing re-election. That one of the weakest GOP nominees in years, a mismatch for today's Republican party, is running neck and neck implies that genuine fakery just isn't selling as it did in '04.
Drum roll . . . the ultimate fake fake
And now the fabulous fake fake of our time -- the secretive, weird, protean shape-shifter whose only identifiable political constants over 20 years are his last name and loyalty to the LDS. With more oblique sides than a diamond ring, without signature policy on any major issue, without clear incentive why he merits high office -- and performance blunders in league with Palin, Romney takes the cake as political fake. Of course, as presumptive, bloviating pretender, he's not yet even a real nominee. We're breaking new ground here, pockmarked by huge blunders during an England trip intended to establish his overseas and diplomatic bona fides. Irony, anyone?
Mitt's effortless transformation from a 20-year moderate to extremist bespeaks no ordinary fakery. One feels W. and Obama have some overlap between personal and political beliefs, now and again. Not Romney, not in public, and his smug presumption that vulture capitalism makes him presidential signals an especially noxious fraud, capped off by having so little to lose (not HIS fortune). We've never had a genuinely super-rich industrialist for good reason: the skill-set between finance and politics is opposite, especially at the top. Autocratic control lets a strong CEO have his/her way, say hire or fire at will as long as money flows in along with market share.
What does Romney the fake fake bring to the White House table where nuanced people-management reigns supreme? With less elected experience than any other recent top nominee, he disowns awful "mistakes" in his sole public office. Consider what he doesn't know about diplomacy, foreign affairs, the Pentagon, or about Washington, history, or the Constitution. Other than Herbert Hoover, what business tycoon succeeded in winning a campaign, let alone gaining White House success? The number of failed business wizards, athletes, actors and astronauts who tried politics is legion. Romney's beyond a disaster waiting to happen, he's halfway home.
Finally, that Romney displays the tinniest of tin-ears, coming across as a bullying, cold fish with a weird non-sense of humor, makes him appear dumber than he probably is. But it's his rare package of phony "qualities," personal and political, that gain gold in the Olympic Fraud competition. With the wrong skills and the wrong instincts -- plus, no Karl Rove -- no wonder Romney staggers into a shrill party's convention for which he's hardly the perfect fit. As more scandals pour out over the months, on Bain, Massachusetts, Mormonism, the Olympics, and unknowns yet to surface (please, no more pet abuse), I ponder: what can this guy deliver that wins over cranky centrists in a dozen key states -- other than that Obama stinks? That may work if jobs wither but where's Mitt's legitimacy after winning.