Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An actual interview: Romney the enigma

By Carl 

There is a thing. It's called "reporting." This is a thing that so very rarely happens in America these days.

There is a thing. It is called "transcribing." This is a thing that happens far too often in America these days, even at places where known journalism is said to occur.

This is an example of "reporting" (bonus video at link):

Christie said in a recent speech that "you can't lead by being a mystery, you can't lead by being an enigma," but denied that he was referring to Romney's unwillingness to disclose more of his personal financial information. 

"I don't think he's been a mystery and an enigma in terms of what he stands for and what he believes," Christie said. "I think you can always look back in retrospect and maybe say 'I would've done this or that differently,' but in the end do I think any American voter is going to say, 'I'm not voting for him?' No. I think they're much more concerned about mounting debt and deficit and the other issues we're talking about, [like] joblessness, and those are things that are going to decide this election."

In less than five minutes, Matt Lauer made Governor Short Round squirm to any number of comments he's made in the past, and made Gov. Sammiches (Chris Christie, R-KrispyKreme) sound like a blithering idiot.

Not that Christie is a fount of intellectual wisdom, but he can put two sentences together, even off the cuff.

As an example, here's Christie's defense of Mitt Romney's recent birther "joke":

"I think if he had to do it over again, he wouldn't make the joke," Christie told Matt Lauer on TODAY Tuesday. "But you know what, when you're on camera 12, 14 hours a day, and you're at a big rallies and you're just going off the cuff, there are going to be times you're going to say stuff you wish you could take back. If you get a chance to talk to Governor Romney, I think he'd tell you that he wishes he could take that one back."

Er, shades of the 3 am phone call. Gov. Christie has just admitted that Mitt Romney is not up to the physical challenges of running for president, much less the 24-hour-a-day torture of actually being president.

When a president commits a gaffe, he's usually, generally, not making fun of another person. If a president pointedly makes a personal joke about someone -- like Donald Trump -- he means it, even if it's made in jest. Indeed, one reason kings kept court jesters was that court jesters could be brutally honest with a king, something no one else could be, simply because they were amusing.

Now, I suppose we can give some berth for the fact that Romney was on the campaign trail and needed to energize his lackluster base. That's fine. That's why a smart politician hires a warm-up act, either his vice-presidential nominee (Sarah Palin was a fine example) or another surrogate who can speak for the candidate without the responsibility of answering for him.

Bill Clinton, when Hillary was running in 2008, is a pretty good example of this. Clinton could raise the race issue -- pretty authoritatively, too -- while allowing Hillary the option to step away from his comments.

If Mitt really wanted to play the birther card, he has a myriad of folks lined up who would do just that on his behalf, some of whom haven't thoroughly disgusted the American people by now. If Mitt really did just, out of exhaustion, illness or plain mean-spiritedness, blurt it out, then he needs to take care.

After all, Obama has pretty effectively refuted that base canard, and while there is still a small but not insignificant minority (not insignificant in terms of a voting coalition) of people who cling desperately to the image of Obama as some kind of carpetbagger, a fascist Commie Muslim atheist -- go ahead, I'll wait... dum de dum dum dum, de dum, de dum ...OK, get it? -- the vast majority of Americans have, either willingly or grudgingly, accepted that he's a natural-born American and legitimately our president.

Conventional wisdom accepts that the convention (er, pardon the clumsy pun) is where the candidate gets to define himself. Romney, despite Christie's protests, is an enigma, and for the last month or so, has defined himself badly.

Indeed, this may have been the quietest I've ever seen an incumbent in recent memory. The Romney jokes have just written themselves from New Hampshire to England and back again. President Obama has literally been able to talk about the crabgrass and still seen his poll numbers improve.

Romney gets a bump, particularly tonight when Ann Romney speaks, humanizing her husband to "you people." Chris Christie will jab and poke President Obama and I'll be interested to read (I'm not watching. I have paint drying. More exciting.) how many blatant lies he tells.

Christie strikes me as a master politician, so I suspect he'll be long on interpretation and short on out-and-out misstatement of facts. But still, there's a lot of anger on the right and he may fall prey to his own vanity and go off the cuff.
(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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