Political Animal


May 22, 2012 10:55 AM The Etch-a-Sketch Moment Has Already Happened

By Ed Kilgore

Some political observers have set up observation sites and calibrated their instruments to detect whether or when Mitt Romney’s campaign will execute its “Etch-a-Sketch Moment:” its long-awaited shift to a “general election message” that is not contaminated by the radical issue positions and toxic themes of the GOP nomination contest.

The argument in my latest TNR column is that it’s already happened. A lot of people have missed it, because it has not involved any modifications of his issue positions, or any “shift to the center,” or any disrespecting of the conservative “base.” It’s no more or less than the Romney campaign’s extraordinary narrowing of focus to the claim that the election is “about” Obama’s economic performance. So Mitt hasn’t abandoned the right-wing policy commitments and social-issues extremism he was forced into during the primary season (and for that matter, the last presidential cycle). He’s just not going to talk about them unless he’s compelled to by restive conservatives or the Obama campaign.

Hard-core conservatives may let him get away with this micro platform so long as it looks like he’s at least an even bet to win. But like John McCain in 2008, if Mitt’s in trouble come September or October, he’ll face more and more open pressure to bring The Crazy out of the closet to “energize the base” and bring the horrifying secular-socialism of Barack Obama to the attention of swing voters. And we can only assume the Obama campaign will be working to ensure that those same voters (not to mention his own party’s “base”) will be regularly informed of all the many indications that a President Romney would oversee one of the most thorough-going right-wing administrations in living memory.

It would be nice, of course, if the MSM would take notice of how Romney is trying to label any discussion of matters that go beyond “the economic referendum” as “distractions,” when he’s actually trying to distract everyone from his own platform. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • SadOldVet on May 22, 2012 11:07 AM:

    Dear Ed,

    Please stop referring to them as the MSM. They are the Corporately Owned Media (COM). Fox/General Electric/Disney/et. al. Who among these is 'main stream'? Do you really believe that the 'liberal media' exists other than in the fantasies and lies of the reich wing and the COM?

  • stormskies on May 22, 2012 11:17 AM:

    Thanks SadOldVet ............. of course the corporate media and it's 'media elite' we go all out and do anything and everything to help Romney become 'installed' as the next president.

    It's what they are paid to do. You know it, I know it, most of us here know it. And corporate filth like David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory know why he had made his Faustian Deal to be among the 'media elite'. And, of course, it's why General Electric pays him, and all the others like him, the millions that that they do.

  • bigtuna on May 22, 2012 11:51 AM:

    Romney’s background, and the self-enforced myths of the radical republicans will have significant implications in a Romney administration. Based on his social/political/religious/cultural/educational background, It is extremely likely that Romney will hew closely to/ religious and business interests of his backers. Here are some examples of likely outcomes:

    - The legal system and the courts. Romney will support a continued strong push to very hard right [not conservative] courts. See Sen. Mike Lee, who served as a SCOTUS clerk, for insights. Courts will veer to a sympathetic view of corporations, “religious freedom” cases that will in fact negate the protection of minority views and beliefs; the almost certain repeal of Roe v. Wade, and a strengthening of states abilities to investigate and prosecute.
    - Campaign financing by the uber wealthy will be strengthened and supported at all levels.
    - Anti union, anti worker policies will be pushed
    - Anti science, anti education, anti intellectual laws and spending will be enacted
    - Real health care reform will be gone.
    - Social security, Medicare, etc. will be brutally restructured
    - “Women’s issues” and women’s rights – which are really human rights issues. The male-dominated, misogynistic realm from which Romney and the hard-right come will result in a Romney administration that support further restrictions on women making choices regarding their own health care; will likely support the institutional rape laws being enacted in which women will be required to have certain probes inserted w/o consent; sex ed will be restricted; and a host of so called “social issues” will be raised under the spurious veneer of “religious freedom” [such as the recent catholic church suits regarding health care], and “States rights”, 10th amendment sorts of ideas.
    - Business and investment – A Romney administration will support further relaxation of banking and investment rules; it will portray a tax code revision cloaked as a “fairer” system of taxation, tax cuts will and a a tax system will support the wealthy and investor class over the workers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs. Bush was a failed businessman who took orders; Romney became rich by being a buy out king, and will use that experience to justify his policies
    - Foreign policy – Where do we even begin? Anyone who listens to newscasts about what goes on in the world knows that any president has to engage in an incredible complex world, with nuanced foreign policy, acceptance of other cultures, and a deft handling and portrayal of US interests in the world. There is no indication in any thing the radical republicans say that indicates they have any sense of any of this.

    People need to be very clear about the implications of a Romney administration. He and the minions are setting up a meme for the race, and they are running immediately to a “ oh that’s a distraction, that’s not fair” response when issues regarding Bain Capital, or his corporate supports [see, for example, the response of Frank van der Sloot to questions regarding his spending], or how his faith informs his life.

    The hard right is harder, meaner, and richer than in 2000, and they will not let Romney do a Bush on them.

  • T2 on May 22, 2012 12:03 PM:

    "It would be nice, of course, if the MSM would take notice......" Ed, you are starting to sound like Benen.
    The MSN is IN ON IT. They WON'T NOTICE. They can't, their jobs depend on it.

  • c u n d gulag on May 22, 2012 12:06 PM:

    What's the stat?

    That 80% of the media (mediums) in this country are owned by 6-8 corporations and rich people.

    And those are the very "people" who don't want taxes to go up for the 1%, and who don't give a flying feck what happens to the 99%, even though we're the consumers who fill their coffers.

    Vulture Capitalism" may not be the right bad term, because REAL vulture's circle the dying, and don't start feasting until the bodies dead.

    May I suggest "Cannibal Capitalism?"

    They kill and then strip the bodies of meat for themselves, and leave unwanted parts and the skeletons to fend for themselves."

  • SecularAnimist on May 22, 2012 12:07 PM:

    Ed Kilgore wrote: "It would be nice, of course, if the MSM would take notice ..."

    Oh please.

    NPR is regurgitating Romney campaign propaganda as part of their half-hourly news updates -- literally reading Romney's anti-Obama talking points as news headlines.

  • SadOldVet on May 22, 2012 12:16 PM:

    re c u n d galag...

    As of a very few years ago, it was 90+ percent of ALL print and broadcast media majority owned by 6 corporations. Broadcast media including 'over the air', cable, and satellite 'channels'. Print media include newspapers and magazines.

    Just part of the centralization of ownership and control into fewer and fewer hands.

  • Mimikatz on May 22, 2012 12:22 PM:

    Obama gave the framing in his news conference yesterday. The job of President goes far beyond the economy and even within that sphere it encompasses the welfare of everyone, not just the investor class. Being Pres is so much more than improving the profits of investors, and Romney, the corporate media and the people need to be reminded of that constantly. Romney really knows nothing outside his narrow life experience of privileged education, private equity and e Mormon church, a short stint as Governor of a small state and then retirement/running for Pres for the past 6 years.

    Romney is not only the captive of his base but the servant of the wealthy corporate interests from whence he sprang.

  • Peter C on May 22, 2012 12:35 PM:

    Romney has been in constant 'etch-a-sketch-mode' for his entire life. If he has a 'core', that's it.

    That said, @bigtuna is right. The people twisting his knobs are really mean, really cruel, really zealous, really greedy, and REALLY WELL FUNDED. If Romney wins, we're really fracked.

  • Anonymous on May 22, 2012 12:36 PM:

    ...Romney is trying to label any discussion of matters that go beyond “the economic referendum” as “distractions,”...

    Are we allowed to talk about foreign policy and the war in Afghanistan, or is that also a distraction?

  • T2 on May 22, 2012 12:39 PM:

    Lets get this over with. If the Broadcast, Cable and Print Media were doing their job as defined in any definition of Journalism, no Republican candidate would be elected. But they are being elected, therefore....today's "journalism" has become propaganda.

  • T2 on May 22, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Mimikatz says "Obama gave the framing in his news conference yesterday"

    hummmm......when does Romney give a news conference? Where, you know, questions are asked (by crappy journalist tools)?

  • SecularAnimist on May 22, 2012 1:18 PM:

    Mimikatz wrote: "Being Pres is so much more than improving the profits of investors, and Romney, the corporate media and the people need to be reminded of that constantly."

    No need to remind them. The "investors" who OWN both Romney and the corporate media are well aware that you -- and many other Americans -- feel that way. They just plain don't care.

    As far as they are concerned, the ONLY purpose of the President, indeed the only purpose of government, is to improve their profits.

    Indeed, as far as they are concerned, YOUR only purpose is to improve their profits.

  • Marc McKenzie on May 22, 2012 6:36 PM:

    @Bigtuna: "People need to be very clear about the implications of a Romney administration."

    Spot on. And I'm sorry, but anyone who still blurts out the "both parties are the same/Obama's as bad as Romney" swill has got to take a verbal 2x4 to the head. The differences between the President and the ex Governor are as vast as the Grand Canyon. If you cannot see that, then there is something very, very wrong with you.