Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 30, 2011

SO MUCH FOR ROMNEY'S COMING OUT PARTY.... The Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity hosted a high-profile cattle call in New Hampshire last night for GOP presidential hopefuls, and it was Mitt Romney's unofficial debut as a 2012 candidate.

The verdict: the guy still isn't ready for primetime.

During a brief Q&A after an eight-minute speech, Romney was asked about his economic message. He replied, "I just can't help but notice that -- you remember that during the Ronald Reagan-Jimmy Carter debates, that Ronald Reagan came up with this great thing about the Misery Index? And he hung that around Jimmy Carter's neck and that had a lot to do with Jimmy Carter losing. Well we're going to have to hang the Obama Misery Index around his neck. And I'll tell you, the fact that you've got people in this country really squeezed with gasoline getting so expensive, with commodities getting so expensive, families are having a hard time making ends meet. So we're going to have to do talk about that, and housing foreclosures and bankruptcies and higher taxation. We're going to hang him with that -- uh, so to speak, metaphorically, with, uh, you have to be careful these days, I learned that."

As one might imagine, it was the part of the event that received the most attention.

I realize that Romney wasn't literally talking about committing an act of violence against the president. "We're going to hang him with that" is intended to be an expression, so it's probably best not to reach for the fainting couch. Still, it was a very dumb thing to say -- especially given the racial subtext, against a backdrop of recent racially-motivated criticism of Obama from the right -- and Romney knew it was a very dumb thing to say, as evidenced by his near-panic after the words left his mouth.

But even putting that aside, the whole argument was a mess. Romney mentions Reagan, hoping Republicans will forget he didn't like Reagan in the '80s and wasn't even a Republican at the time. Romney mentions "higher taxation," which is absurd given how much Obama has cut taxes for everyone.

And Romney mentioned higher gas prices at a right-wing event hosted by Americans for Prosperity, which just so happens to be financed by oil industry money.

As part of the same forum, the former Massachusetts governor was asked about his health care reform law, which is nearly identical to the Affordable Care Act, and despite welcoming the question, he struggled to answer it directly.

This guy is the Republican frontrunner? Romney's the best the GOP has to offer in presidential politics?

Between last night's performance and his argument that we're in the midst of "peacetime," Romney seems to have a long way to go.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Someone needs to tether this guy to reality. If only we had a fourth estate that wasn't so heavily mortgaged.

Posted by: Danp on April 30, 2011 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Mitt's trying to marry too many things together -"uh, so to speak, metaphorically, with, uh, you have to be careful these days, I learned that" - from Mitt.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 30, 2011 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

More to the point, the guy's economic policy is evidently to blame someone.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 30, 2011 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Well , Bush is someone else . Any sober , helpful , analysis of what has gone wrong in American economics , really needs a course in Bush 101 , or "Lies My sociopath pwesident told me"

Posted by: FRP on April 30, 2011 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

McCain constantly misspoke and got confused. Made no difference to the unimformed and misinformed who voted for him. Romney will not be rejected because of rhetorical or logical lapses, but, to use his metaphor, because other Republicans will hang RomneyCare around his neck.

Posted by: Mudge on April 30, 2011 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

So, are we to surmise that this was the kick-off to the Silly Season? With the rest of the wannabes still to speak out?

Time to invest in shares of Orvil Redenbacker!

Posted by: DAY on April 30, 2011 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Remember "Being There"? I would cast Romney as Chance.

Posted by: Marc on April 30, 2011 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK
This guy is the Republican frontrunner?
Nah, the mukti-bankrupt reality-TV bad toupee is the Republicannfront-runner. Posted by: Bernard gilroy on April 30, 2011 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Not to jump to Mittens defense, but this time four years ago, Obama was stumbling all over himself, giving lackluster speeches and making numerous gaffes. It wasn't until the big Dem dinner in Iowa in the fall of '07 that things really started to gel for him. Romney will be the nominee, and unless the economy picks up for real, he'll be formidable, even if he is a schmuck.

Posted by: NHCt on April 30, 2011 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats, here's a conservative perspective about the Democratic Party's choices beyond Obama.

Want to Win? Make fair trade your core issue. The U.S. has a great bargaining chip for every trade agreement: the biggest consumer market in the world. It's time we start using it.

Want to Lose? Keep playing the race card.

Stay Principled. Blacks need a trade policy that doesn't outsource black jobs more than blacks need lip service in the form of racial hysteria.

This is not about being "moderate". You progressives can be as aggressive as you want if fair trade is your issue, because Americans want leadership which is aggressive on fair trade. Red America cannot stand outsourcing. Neither can Blue America. If both sides hate it, and the GOP does not capitalize on stopping it, why don't the Democrats?

Posted by: Realpolitik on April 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

These Republican Bozos are taking the effect and selling it as the cause!

If the American voter can't discern such a manipulation of history and spinning of the present, whale oil, beef hooked! =Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 30, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

I just heard Romney's comment on NPR. The minute the words "hang him" left Mitt's lips you could sense his hands struggling to reach forward and grab them and pull them back.

Posted by: Art Hackett on April 30, 2011 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

It was government jobs that largely lifted people out of the ghetto's . Those jobs haven't been outsourced they have been sidelined . Along with Food Stamps , unemployment insurance , and any other assistance for your teeming masses . The acceptance of what appears to be outsourced rhetoric , hacked and malicious , being accepted and drawn into the narrative . Rhetoric , or hate speech , only serves a hegemony for money as power , rather than the outdated and useless truth , and need .
The colour of money is certain to be corrected soonest , to keep not just inferior races , whatever that means Mr Birch , but the filthy poor from sullying good clean cash .
Now that the means of reaching the masses has been mechanised there will be no vegetative , or organic response . It won't apparently even be fire .

Posted by: FRP on April 30, 2011 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Mittens, can we talk?

Look, we know you want to be president and all. Problem is, your party hates you, and you stand a pretty good chance of not getting the nomination. And even if you do get it, you stand a pretty good chance of splitting the Republicans enough to get deep-sixed permanently in the general election. And then where will you be?

Now, I know this is a bit counterintuitive, but I have a suggestion. Switch parties. The Dems can always use attractive figureheads unburdened by principles; why not jump? Make a very public statement about how the GOP has gone too far off the deep end and you must pull out. Hell, you probably already think that anyway!

Do it now, and you probably could get a cabinet post or ambassadorship out of the deal next year. And how does a run as the Democratic nominee in 2016 sound? That gives you five years to make everybody forget you were once a Republican, and Biden and Hillary will be too old to run. What's that? You can't go back on your principles? Hee hee, stop it, you're killing me!

Posted by: beejeez on April 30, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

NHC gets it right. Romney will be formidable in spite of all his baggage and tight-rope fumbles. He's the only Republican who LOOKS presidential. Huckabee? God help us. Gingrich? The jokes write themselves. The story about 2012 will be gas prices and why they're too high. That's it. Romney can fail all sorts of smell tests and still win because, ultimately, it's the pain of a fundamental economic contraction that's telling the story. Yes, it's mostly a stupid telling but that hardly matters. People really want Tinkerbell to wave a magic wand and make them gas prices down. And that's how they'll vote. Everything else is noise.

Posted by: walt on April 30, 2011 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

So now we know what in his heart of hearts, his holy of holies, In some quarters, this is a welcome call... He should be on his knees begging Obama's forgiveness for such dark, racist thoughts.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 30, 2011 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I would agree that Romney is not ready for prime time, but that description equally fit George W Bush. Indeed, despite 8 years of practice, I would say Bush is *still* not ready for prime time. So let's not get too relaxed or dismissive. We have seen incompetent morons much worse than Romney become President all to recently.

Posted by: J on April 30, 2011 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Many Americans will vote for Romney because he is Not Black.

And that fact trumps his religion, his flipflopery, RomneyCare, and whatever other negatives he has.

Posted by: DAY on April 30, 2011 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

The Misery Index was first used, politically, by Carter against Ford in the '76 election campaign. However, if one peruses that MI, you will find most of the highest MIs have come during times of major oil increases. When, the MI dropped under Reagan, it was a combination of falling oil prices and a tough stance by Volker, of which, created in more than one "Depression instead of Recession" for many workers.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 30, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

This is very hard for me to say...but I think we need to cut Mitt some slack here. It was obviously a line in keeping with the (poor) metaphor he'd already started, and he corrected himself immediately. It was no deliberate dogwhistle.

There's plenty of stuff to, er, hang Mitt with without blowing up irrelevant gaffes like this

Posted by: Andrew on April 30, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Romney seems to have a long way to go."

No problem. The half-dozen giant corporations that own virtually all of the mass media in the USA will be happy to give him a free ride.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on April 30, 2011 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

High gas prices or more high oil prices result in windfall profit for the producers and some in the supply chain. We cannot tax Saudi Arabia, but we can tax others and thus can capture as much of those windfalls as is possible. Then credit those back to the users.

Posted by: George on April 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Romney's problem is that he really doesn't have a mind of his own. He needs to stop pandering to those hateful wingers. That's how he picked up that wording.

Posted by: Alli on April 30, 2011 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

We only make ourselves look bad by getting worked up over this. The metaphor he's using is hanging a sign on Obama. He clearly had no intention of evoking a lynching in any sense.

Posted by: Lee on April 30, 2011 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Realpolitik

Fair trade is a winner. So is fair taxation. Fair justice. Fair representation (a biggie, with redistricting taking place all over the country.)

FAIRNESS in general is a winner. How is it "fair" that folks whose incomes have jumped 50% or more during the global recession are being taxed less? How is it that those who are suffering are asked to pitch in and suffer more? How come the most profitable corporations pay nothing, and instead get billions back? Why are they paid for moving American jobs overseas?

I would say that restoring fairness to the US would be a big Democratic winner. And it's a simple message, with a minimum of wonkery, which would be minimized further if Dems will just use those geeky Perot-esque graphs and charts.

I mean, REALLY - who can listen to a string of several-digit numbers spewed out and put together the big picture? Why not A PICTURE? Dems tend to be technocrats - time to come out of the closet with it. Americans are getting fed up with 'teh stupid'.

Posted by: zandru on April 30, 2011 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Andrew, I think you miss Steve's point. He's saying that it wasn't the clumsy remark that should be getting the attention but the ignorant/disingenuous string of misstatements about the economy that preceded it.

Posted by: T-Rex on April 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK


Do it now, and you probably could get a cabinet post or ambassadorship out of the deal next year. And how does a run as the Democratic nominee in 2016 sound? That gives you five years to make everybody forget you were once a Republican, and Biden and Hillary will be too old to run.

Really funny post, but in the interest of accuracy, we should note that Romney is actually about seven months older than Secretary Clinton.

Posted by: navamske on April 30, 2011 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but that's in wimmin years, navamske.

Posted by: beejeez on April 30, 2011 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Fairness

How many times have you heard a little kid whine "That's not FAAAIRRRR!" Which means it's a concept that most people will understand, since it's pretty much the first principle they understood. Democrats should go for it.

Unfortunately, economics moves on a glacial scale. Unemployment now is a result of a near- catastrophic failure of the economic system, precipitated by Bush taxation and spending policiies and lack of interest in enforcing what regulations existed at the time, plus previous degregulations.

What is really unfortunate (here I go again) is that Obama has not explained this in any way to the vast unwashed. He should have been calling the near-crash the Bush Recession or something like that. He should have spent the past two years repeating a few well crafted memes about Bush and the economy etc., but is pathologically against blaming anyone for anything. I think this may be the core of his downfall, if it happens.

Unlike some, I don't think he's a shallow craven opportunist shill, but just perhaps lacking experience in his current role, plus his life experience of having to get along in radically different encvironments as a half-black fatherless child. (Armchair phychoalalysis, thankyou.)

Posted by: emjayay on April 30, 2011 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Ann Romney, sad to say, is no better a public speaker than her husband. In early 2008 I heard her on C-SPAN radio (DC) just before the Iowa caucuses, telling Iowans how great they are, and she got herself into a pickle. She started a sentence that could only be ended awkwardly no matter which words she chose:

"The heart of the people of Iowa . . . are good."

Posted by: gottacook on April 30, 2011 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Was Paul "End subsidies to the oil industry" Ryan at the oil industry financed event?

Posted by: sdgsgfsgs on May 1, 2011 at 4:33 AM | PERMALINK

I frequently attend panel discussions, networking events and lectures.

The only time I ever speakers choke under questioning with the bungle tongues and deer-in-headlight eyes is when Republican politicians are speaking to an audiience that is not pre-vetted and provided with softball question.

Posted by: Winkandanod on May 2, 2011 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK
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