The other day someone asked me if I “liked” Mitt Romney. There is a word for people you like: friends. Friends are people you enjoy spending time with and who enjoy spending time with you. However, as Groucho Marks might have put it: I would not vote for any politician who would have me as a friend.
Clearly, a lot of Barack Obama’s putative appeal to liberals (or “progressives” as they like to be called nowadays) is that he is or at least tries to come across as someone you (or at least they) would like to hang out with. How else to explain his undignified appearance “slow jamming” on the Jimmy Fallon Show and his non-stop pandering to all the politcally correct victim groups: “women,” Hispanics of the non-white variety, college students, and the non-“rich,” among others.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.” Though I am not religious myself, I have always admired Chesterton’s insight into the liberal mind. The guy who asked me if I liked Romney was really asking if I believed in Romney.
Perhaps this is why Jay Leno recently observed that conservatives are better able to laugh at themselves than liberals. Conservatives don’t believe in politicians the way liberals do, and to believe in politicians is to condemn yourself to a lifetime of bitter disappointment. Perpetually disappointed people are incapable of being amusing or amused.
To be sure, conservatives have raised Ronald Reagan to near demigod stature, but I consider that similar to Jews making a big deal out of Hanukkah so that their kids won’t convert to Christianity for the presents. The Democrats are always looking for a savior, while the Republicans are looking for someone merely to prevent or undo the damage.
If you allow yourself to think about it, the Democrats, I must conclude, were extremely irresponsible to thrust an inexperienced community activist on the nation because it made them feel morally superior that their candidate was not “white” and thus would redeem them and the rest of us from the mortal sins of slavery and Jim Crow. Surely there were more experienced and tested Democratic politicians than Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton).
Take Evan Bayh: a two term Indiana governor and U.S. Senator. He’s young, articulate, good looking and to my knowledge did not attend a racist church for two decades or obstruct justice (as a special prosecutor reported in the case of Hillary whom he refused to indict because he didn’t believe he could get a Democratic D.C. jury to convict her). But Bayh is merely a white guy, not a redeemer.
Which brings me to Mitt Romney. I wish he would stop trying to be a regular guy like Obama pretends to be. I wish he’d lose the blue jeans and put on a suit and tie. But most importantly, I wish he’d start talking about the serious stuff in a serious way. An example: He should admit that the 2008 meltdown was a bi-partisan production caused mostly by government pressure to get banks to provide mortgages to unqualified people which thus created a system doomed to collapse when the inflated prices of houses went south. It is Romney’s responsibility to counter Obama and the Democrats’ claim that the debacle was the fault primarily of the loosely regulated private sector.
Dorothy Rabinowitz urges Romney to get serious in today’s Wall Street Journal:
…It would help if [Romney] showed, first of all, a capacity to run a campaign not obviously dependent on the latest polls, or the fears of consultants. He could begin by ignoring the chorus of hysterics agonizing over the gender gap, then proceed to comport himself like a presidential candidate who grasps that women see themselves as citizens like any other—not as a separate group assigned victim status, to be favored with special tenderness…
He’d do well, too, to discard the established wisdom that his indisputably appealing wife is his most powerful weapon—and to cease regularly throwing her at audiences. There is only one campaign presence that counts for voters, and his name is at the top of the ticket.
If that ticket is to be a winning one, Mr. Romney had better begin doing what Republican primary candidates so assiduously avoided doing for so many months. Other than those pronouncements extracted by debate moderators, there has been no silence more deafening, more ridden with fear—fear of the isolationist wing of the tea party—than that shown by the Republican candidates this year on matters of foreign policy.
Mr. Romney had better spell out clear positions on that, and on our national security. Even now the ideologically deranged sector of the tea party—tormented believers whose every living hour is devoted to the discovery of newer and more terrible violations of the Constitution—is pushing a serious legal war on the government’s right to detain terrorists.
We should hear from Mr. Romney on a matter of this kind. And in full and bold detail, what the voice of America will be in a Romney presidency—what it will stand for in regard to Syria, Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan. It won’t be enough to assert in passing that we intend to stand by America’s allies, or that there will be no more apologizing for the United States, splendid vows though they are.
Mr. Romney will have to run against President Obama with roughly the firepower with which he dispatched his competitors for the Republican nomination—and he’ll have to do it in his own voice, unflinchingly. He might take a lesson from the example of John McCain, today the most formidably cogent, spirited and relentless of Mr. Obama’s critics.
Little of this was on display four years ago, during Sen. McCain’s own presidential run, a picture of hesitancy and political caution. A campaign in which the candidate—fearing charges of racism—refused even to mention the reality of Mr. Obama’s 20 years of happy obliviousness to the hate-consumed, anti-American tirades of his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Such cautions did not prevent the Obama campaign and its surrogates from hurling charges of racism at every opportunity, including in the primary race, when Bill Clinton himself—known to some as the first black president—stood accused.
Things won’t be different this election season, Mr. Romney should know. The race card will be played even more energetically this time around, despite such proof of racism as white America’s overwhelming support that put Mr. Obama into the presidency in the first place. Mr. Romney could do worse than a presidential run in the spirit of the Mr. McCain we see today—a man free of useless caution. Of course, the senator now has a fat target: the four years of the Obama presidency. But so has Mr. Romney.
The Republican nominee to be may not find it easy to drop the habits and training of his primary campaign—the most cautious, heavily managed, no-unplanned-moment-allowed quest for the nomination in memory. He’ll have to do it, nevertheless—perhaps by recognizing that he won not because of that caution but in spite of it.
It would help, finally, if Mr. Romney proved himself the first candidate in years to grasp that aspirants to the presidency who appear on late-night comedy shows invariably end up looking like buffoons. That’s in addition to denigrating their candidacy, the presidency itself, and looking unutterably pathetic in the effort to look like regular guys.
Most voters with any sense—this will perhaps exclude a fair number of the screamers in the late-night studio audiences—will understand that the candidate isn’t one of them, not even close. That voters in their right minds don’t choose a candidate for president because they’ve had the privilege of seeing him look unspeakably absurd while engaging in obsequious exchanges with late-night hosts…