Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I'll Happily Vote for a Robot....

... If I understand how it is programmed.

Well, not really, but when I read stuff like this, my thought is, "Yes, connecting with people is important, but... not as important as we like to pretend."
Romney's failure to "connect" was about more than the clich├ęd who-would-you-rather-have-a-beer-with question, though his social awkwardness played a part; you were always aware of how hyper-aware Romney was of the artifice of the interaction between politician and voter. But perhaps more important, it seemed as though Romney's whole life set him apart from others—as the son of a governor, as a Mormon, as a CEO—making it impossible for him to speak for anyone other than himself. For all the efforts of Republicans to cast Barack Obama as The Other, Romney was the one who always seemed alien.
I was perfectly prepared to like Mitt Romney, but I still feel like I never met the man. I watched him campaign for six years and I still have no idea what he stands for, other than himself. I read a profile in which Romney talks about how he likes to talk about policy, not politics, but policy was absent from his public statements. I read another profile in which he was described, in the context of Massachusetts healthcare reform, to have overtly rejected a political approach to an aspect of reform, insisting that he wanted to do the right thing - but when it came to advancing his presidential candidacy he was more than happy to open fire on his primary... really his only significant political accomplishment. He showed few scruples, and teamed up with others who had none. He demonstrated little intellectual curiosity about issues important to the presidency, not the least of which is foreign policy, and as a result made numerous risible statements, embarrassed himself during his trip to London and tripped over his own attack-line (one he reportedly didn't want to pursue but... by that time he had no interest in choosing the right thing over politics) in the second debate.

I know it's crazy weird, but I don't care if my president is an antisocial nerd, a bookworm, an intellectual, a guy who doesn't even drink beer, if I think he's going to do a good job in office. The beer thing is a fantasy anyway - it's only relevant that you want to have a drink with somebody if they're actually inclined to have a drink with you. Sure, a candidate might conceivably be so socially awkward that it would get in the way of his being able to do his job but... let's be real, even our most introverted and intellectual presidents have had sufficient social skills for the job - you can't get the job without that basic skill set. Romney would have been fine.

Does America want a person like you to be the President? If so, and you're not Bill Clinton, Barack Obama or George W. Bush, are re you planning on running in four years? If not, how does that tie into the notion that the President should be somebody like you?

My problem with Romney was not his business background, his wealth, his awkwardness, his inability to understand the concerns of people of ordinary means, his religion, his ambition (in and of itself)... it was his character. As much as some of his defenders want to pretend that the Republican Party made him what he was, I disagree - he was a willing participant in that process, willing to bend as far as necessary to advance his ambitions. Where another man might say "That's a bridge too far," or, "If that's what it's going to take, I'm going to sit this one out," Romney ended up contradicting himself so many times and in so many ways it became impossible to know what, if anything, he actually believes.

Mark Twain: "If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything"

Mitt Romney: "I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said whatever it was."

We will never know if Mitt Romney could have been a great president, but for that he has nobody to blame but himself. Had his father been the nominee this time around, I think we would be talking about President-Elect Romney, but alas, I suspect George would have been one of those guys saying "That's a bridge too far," or, "If that's what it's going to take, I'm going to sit this one out."

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