Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political science professor, put it this way: “To know Mitt Romney is to dislike him. That is the moral of the story.”
I’ve been around the block a time or two, but even I have difficulty recalling a Presidential campaign in which one of the candidates was as almost-universally reviled (even by supporters) as Mitt Romney. If you think I’m being the partisan Liberal that I am, allow me to offer something in my defense. In Massachusetts, where Romney was a one-term Governor, President Obama leads Romney by 18.5%. Yeah, I get the whole “a prophet is honored everywhere but in his hometown” thing, but there’s more to it than that.
The voters of Massachusetts, having seen evidence of Romney’s leadership first-hand, know all too well that he’s possessed of neither honesty nor integrity. How bad is Romney’s relationship with the truth? He even lies about being a man of integrity. Whether it’s out of an epic lack of self-knowledge or being completely divorced from the truth (and conventional morality), the end result is a politician who defines the term, “flip flop.” Loathe though I may to quote Ronald Reagan, “He was for it before he was against it.”
Mitt Romney isn’t stupid. Far from it, but I believe he’s operating under the assumption that voters are stupid…and in that assessment he may not be far wrong. When you assume that voters are stupid, they become less people than obstacles to be negotiated and manipulated for your own self-aggrandizement. Propaganda becomes the primary reality, and the truth becomes whatever you need voters to believe. This is what “talking points” were invented for.
Romney’s biggest obstacle is self-created; he has a serious “weasel problem.”
On multiple occasions over the last year, Romney has shown a tendency to dodge, weave, parse or deny in such a way that it outweighs the original offense. It’s his weasel problem, a real character flaw.
On the bully attack of the boy with the bleached-blond hair, Romney issued a standard political non-apology, chuckling at first, saying he couldn’t remember what he called “high jinks,” but also not denying the incident.
Asked to clarify, he went into weasel mode. “I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why I’m afraid I’ve got to say I’m sorry for it,” he said on Fox News Radio, the corporate couch for Republicans who need a reassuring hug in a bad moment.
The controversy surrounding Romney leading a group of his prep school buddies to attack a classmate in 1965 is but one example of Romney’s inability to own up to…well, anything. His explanation of the incident simply isn’t credible, if for no other reason than none of the witnesses to it have forgotten it to this day. It simply isn’t convenient for Romney to remember…and so he prevaricates and dissembles in the belief that voters are too stupid to take much notice.
If it happened, own up to it. Apologize profusely. Reach out to the aggrieved former classmate. Make it crystal clear that you were a stupid kid, an asshole…and that you sincerely regret doing it. Honesty has a way of reassuring people. If people can sense that you’re being straight with them, more often than not, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Lie about something, though, and it will most likely hang around far too long and do damage you could never have expected.
The issue from where I sit isn’t the incident from 1965, reprehensible though it certainly is. It’s that Romney chooses to lie about it, as he has so often about so many things. It’s no exaggeration to say that it would probably be easier to chronicle the instances where he’s been honest than to subject ourselves to the catalog of his lies and dishonesty.
It’s been said that people hire people they know and like, which, from my experience, seems to hold true. Viewing the election through that filter, it would appear that Gov. Romney is going about things completely back asswards. When even your supporters dislike you…well, you can figure out the rest, right? If he can’t be trusted during the campaign, how can he expect to convince Americans that he’ll be trustworthy once he’s in the Oval Office?