Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 22, 2010

ROMNEY'S WILD-EYED FLOUNDERING.... I get that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is in a tough spot. After one unsuccessful presidential campaign, he's positioning himself for another, hoping to curry favor with the right-wing activists who make up his party's base.

But he has a problem. Well, more than one, actually. The newest problem is that Democrats are wrapping up a historic victory on health care reform, and their plan looks quite a bit like the health care reform plan he implemented during his one term in office.

The more Republican activists and donors hate the Democratic policy, and notice that their policy is Romney's policy, the more they'll likely end up hating Romney and the one major thing he got done during his only experience in government at any level.

What to do? Apparently, Romney's decided to lash out wildly, attacking the Obama-backed policy in unusually stupid ways, and hoping no one notices the similarities between the president's plan and Romney's.

Romney, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, responded on Monday to the new health care legislation on the National Review's Web site. The president, he wrote, "has betrayed his oath to the nation" by failing to attract any Republican votes for the bill.

Romney's statement reads like something written by a Glenn Beck intern, complaining about an "unconscionable abuse of power" -- apparently defined as lawmakers voting for and passing a bill they like -- and a "historic usurpation of the legislative process," though he doesn't say why. It goes on from there, before concluding that the "act should be repealed."

The whole thing would work well in a fundraising letter from Steve King or Michele Bachmann, but Romney is supposed to be at least a little less ridiculous.

But therein lies the point: Romney doesn't have a choice. It's one thing to undergo a dramatic metamorphosis from a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-immigration moderate to ostensible right-wing hero. It's another to get stuck attacking the president for supporting a health care policy that's practically identical to his own.

It's worth emphasizing the shifting ideological ground on which Romney cannot find his balance. When he supported his own health care policy, it was not only a pretty good plan, it was perfectly in line with what a moderate Republican who cared about this issue would support. Indeed, notice that Romney ran for president for over a year in 2007 and 2008, and no one -- not even his aggressive primary opponents -- accused of him advancing a radical Soviet-style takeover intended to destroy everything that is good about American freedom. Romney's plan just didn't seem that radical.

That is, until now, as Democrats advance a very similar plan. It's left Romney in an impossible spot, and it's forcing him to sound like a lunatic. I almost feel sorry for the guy -- it's not his fault his party's gone mad, and he's struggling to keep up.

Steve Benen 3:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

I almost feel sorry for the guy --

Almost...but then I realize that he, like McCain, has no real principles at all and will pander to extremists just to win an election...so I don't feel sorry for him at all. In fact he deserves to go down in flames as he most certainly will in a Republican primary.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on March 22, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is about the only non-wingnut Pres. candidate I can think of this far out, certainly with the most name recognition. If he flames out as is suggested here, the GOP bullpen is pretty devoid of 'talent' that the indies could stomach. I hope this analysis is correct.

Posted by: Bill From PA on March 22, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

An oath, an oath, Obama has an oath in heaven!

Posted by: Bob M on March 22, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

That's why I like Hukabee strategy. I think he's banking on the right-wing radicals imploding and the GOP looking for a sensible, pragamatic (in 2016) who can hold the line on abortion but not sound like a nihilist on economic and foreign policy matters.

Posted by: Archon on March 22, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Romney's decided to lash out wildly, attacking the Obama-backed policy in unusually stupid ways, and hoping no one notices the similarities between the president's plan and Romney's.

Given the supine nature of the so-called "liberal media," you can't really blame him for taking that bet.

Posted by: Gregory on March 22, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

The American voter has a memory that can be measured in minutes, so sadly I don't think Romney has too much to worry about when it comes to inconsistency.

Posted by: Gummo on March 22, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Allan Snyder @ 4:04 beat me to it.

As a resident of Massachusetts who, to my undying shame, actually voted for the guy for governor (he projected the aura of a sensible technocrat, and his Democratic opponent was a hack), I can vouch for the fact that there is literally nothing he wouldn't do to curry favor with a potential voting bloc.

He's despicable and deserves no sympathy. If he judged that skinheads were a significant source of votes, he'd shave his head and carve a swastika in it.

Posted by: JCB on March 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

"I almost feel sorry for the guy -- it's not his fault his party's gone mad, and he's struggling to keep up."

The problem is the "struggling to keep up" part. Few of us can direct the herd, but each of us gets to decide whether or not we should follow it.

To any not-insane human being, this is clearly and obviously the wrong crowd to follow around. Yet Romney's ambition has him doing just that.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 22, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

You think right-wing voters care about logical consistency? The fact that Romney's current positions contradict past positions means absolutely nothing to them.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 22, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

"... Romney is supposed to be at least a little less ridiculous."

Oh really? Do Steve and Michele wear funny underwear, too?

Posted by: Cal Gal on March 22, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see: He was a progressive when he wanted to become governor of a progressive state. Now he's forced to sound off like a Tea Bagger in order to get his party to even listen to him.

Sounds like a dad-blamed Flop Flopper to me.

In fact, the conservative "movement" resembles a clique in junior high school these days. They shout during assemblies, make fun of gay people, and do nothing but posture in front of each other, trying to see who can look the most "bad-ass." And they get shitty grades because they watch too much Fox News and slack off in science lab. And they don't know anything about history. And they're counting on their rich parents saving them.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country just got an advanced degree from Harvard.

Posted by: chrenson on March 22, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

(he projected the aura of a sensible technocrat, and his Democratic opponent was a hack)

Two times makes a pattern: the lesson we learn from Mitt Romney's conversion and Scott Brown's near-derailing of HCR is that it is still better to vote for a Democrat who is a hack than any Republican, no matter how nice the sheep's clothing in which they appear.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 22, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

The base's fury is not about some violated principle or socialist policy. It's about screaming real loud and feel resentful. If Kristol, Beck and Limbaugh decide to tweak a different nerve ending, they'll scream about something else. You can't even call this hypocrisy because that presumes some basic level of awareness.

Still, it is curious why the party's ideologues are so willing to give a pass to Romney when they were - and still are - really ticked at McCain. I suspect it's just McCain not honoring their basic W idolatry. I want to ask the Full Mooners if they can trust Romney not to become a pragmatist again. I'm sure they can reconcile anything but Romney seems like a bit of a risk.

Posted by: walt on March 22, 2010 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I think low-tech cyclist is on the right tract. Romney's ambition is so powerful he is willing to do or say anything, and I mean anything, to get elected. That means under no circumstances should any one vote for the guy, ever. The good thing is that his naked and very ugly ambition is obvious. Aside from a few beltway bandits and the Morman leadership he doesn't have any natural supporters. His chances of being nominated by the Republicans are somewhere between slim and none.

If he had principles and stood up for his own accomplishmnents he might be a hard man to beat. As he is he is a pathetic joke.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 22, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

The whole thing would work well in a fundraising letter from Steve King or Michele Bachmann, but Romney is supposed to be at least a little less ridiculous. -- Steve Benen

Romney had been ridiculous throughout the '08 campaign -- I still remember his claim about his 5 stalwart sons that, shilling for him on the campaign trail equaled military service -- and that was before the loss of the nomination curdled the remaining bits of his brain. There's absolutely no reason to think that he's "supposed to be at least a little less ridiculous" *now*.

Spencer Ackerman, over at the Washington Independent, took Romney's foreign policy "credentials" apart too, a couple of weeks ago. There's no real town behind the cardboard facade, when it comes to Romney.

Posted by: exlibra on March 22, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

The more Republican activists and donors hate the Democratic policy, and notice that their policy is Romney's policy,

They won't. They hate the Democratic policy because it is the Democratic policy. They don't care about the actual policy details -- haven't you noticed that by now? -- and it won't make a lick of difference in 2012.

In fact, by then, Romney can say, "I did it the right way, just like I did the Salt Lake Olympics, vote for me and I'll fix it!" A string of non sequitors, but so what?

Posted by: phein on March 22, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but you know what really gets my Special God-Friendly Underpants in a bunch?

I've had ABBA's "Waterloo" stuck in my head all day. And I blame Obama.

Posted by: Cazart on March 22, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

wow..and the President "unleased the nuclear option", too?? who knew?
If by usurped he means "used", yes.

Posted by: bruce k on March 22, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Given how reality is the last thing that concerns the Republican base these days, all things being equal, Romney could probably get away with pretending he had never been governor of Taxachussetts and had never heard of any health care initiative he signed in this so-called state. I think his Mormonism's a bigger problem for Republican primary voters than his Makin'shitupism.

Posted by: jonas on March 22, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't feel sorry for any Republican about anything. They're wrong, they've always been wrong, and they always will be wrong. As for Romney, he proves why the best way to understand his religion is to leave out the second "m".

The far right wing is always the nutbags, whatever country, whatever era. These guys prove why it was so important to win WW2 and why it was so (relatively, compared to what it would have been had actual smart people been running the Major Opponent) easy to defeat that moron known as the failed paper-hanger. (Didn't use the "H" word anywhere!)

Posted by: TCinLA on March 22, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Yoo-hoo sailor...

I almost feel sorry for the guy -- it's not his fault his party's gone mad, and he's struggling to keep up.
Old saying: When the tide goes all the way out you can see who is swimming without a suit.

Well the tide is all the way out for our fellow republicans...
And rather than sensibly covering up, these guys (McCain, Romney, et al.) are howling to the teabaggers on shore: Yoo-hoo sailor, lookie here!

Or putting it in web-haiku longform:
Best. Shameless pandering. Ever.

Please someone...
remind me again why this bill was a bad idea...

Posted by: koreyel on March 22, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

You wrote "After one unsuccessful presidential campaign, he's positioning himself for another . . ."


Here's hoping that you meant an implicit second occurrence of "unsuccessful" right after that "another," which is the way it read most naturally to me.

Posted by: Ian on March 22, 2010 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Sucks to be an a**hat. Poor, poor Mitt...

Posted by: cm on March 22, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

So Romney is gonna go all McCain on us now. What else is new...

Posted by: ComradeAnon on March 22, 2010 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

on the upside, Steve can freshen up his John McCain Weathervane and start compiling a fresh list of Romney flip-flops. Wonder what the line is on whether McCain or Romney ends up with more?

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 22, 2010 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Romney is, of course, a transparent phony even by the standards of politicians, but if you put a gun to my head and said there would be a Republican President in 2012 but I get to choose who it is, Romney would be my second choice -- behind "Fuck you, go ahead and shoot." He is so thoroughly unprincipled that he might actually revert to relative sanity when in a position of actual responsibility. It's dangerous that everyone else is certifiably nuts and, apparently, serious about their insanity.

Posted by: CJColucci on March 22, 2010 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm late to the party here, but what JCB and Ron Byers said (except that I didn't vote for Romney for MA Gov. Came close but made the right decision in the end). The man is toenail dirt.

Posted by: noncarb on March 22, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

What's funny is watching new GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker following along in Romney's bath. Last month he was pretending not to have an opinion on man-made climate change, for example.
(http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/editorials/articles/2010/02/11/charlie_bakers_willful_ignorance/)

That's not a stance that you need to take in order to win the Republican slot in Massachusetts, so why'd he volunteer a stupid position? Bet's are that he's going to head for a national election first chance he gets, just like Romney did.

Posted by: lahke on March 22, 2010 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Romney's health care policy "was what a moderate Republican who cared about this issue would support" [...] "Democrats advance a very similar plan."

It sounds like you are saying Obama's health care plan is about what a moderate Republican would propose! ;)

Posted by: flubber on March 22, 2010 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

There's only one bullet left in his chamber:

ROMNEY '12: AT LEAST HE SERVED A FULL TERM

Posted by: Zorro for the Common Good on March 22, 2010 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

The newest problem is that Democrats are wrapping up a historic victory on Health Care reform, and their plan looks quite a bit like the Health Care reform plan .

Posted by: acekard on March 23, 2010 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

Just a random thought, did his 4 sons join the military after his last presidential run or are they still too busy as he said when he was on the trail?

Posted by: JS on March 23, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

3, 2, 1 Go haters go! Romney is well read, has the education, experience, and business sense to be an oustanding President for all Americans. Conservatives and Independants alike are tired of the popularity contests. We want someone who can do the job and do it well. Run Mitt Run 2012, you have my vote along with the votes of millions of Americans!

Posted by: Mike on March 23, 2010 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK
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