Sep 18, 2012

Mitt Speaks His Mind

The just-leaked secret footage of Romney being candid paradoxically contains the first comments I've ever heard from him--apart from glowing generalities about the goodness of good things and badness of bad things--that I agreed with.  For instance:
... you see, you and I, we spend our day with Republicans. We spend our days with people who agree with us. And these people are people who voted for him and don't agree with us. And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them.
Quite so, and that's one of the harder lessons for any specialist--policy wonks in particular--to learn: the public does not care about the things you care about nor follow them with the interest that you do.  Thus, campaigning is like any other form of advertising: you don't tell your customers what you personally like best about the product, you tell them what is most likely to get them to buy it.  Tell your story in language that the listeners can relate to.  Likewise:
Well, I wrote a book that lays out my view for what has to happen in the country, and people who are fascinated by policy will read the book. We have a website that lays out white papers on a whole series of issues that I care about. I have to tell you, I don't think this will have a significant impact on my electability. I wish it did. I think our ads will have a much bigger impact. I think the debates will have a big impact.
Again, spot-on, and I heartily agree with that wish, though I might quibble with how important the debates really are.  Why is it spot-on?  Because everyone who actually knows policy already knows who they will vote for.  Thus, the election will come down to the "good citizens" who haven't been paying enough attention to Romney for the past year, Obama for the past four years, or the Republican party for the past ten, to have made up their minds which of these things they prefer.

When he drops the robotic public persona, Romney can be cold, cynical, calculating, and right on the money--which I admire.  It's like when Obama had his little donor meeting leak:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
My reaction upon hearing that soundbyte was the same as my reaction upon reading those Mitt quotes above: yep.

Of course, I'm cherry-picking the few things that I liked.  The other bits were incorrect ("He told you he'd keep unemployment below 8 percent. ... Fifty percent of kids coming out of school can't get a job."), delusional ("[I]f we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We'll see capital come back and we'll see—without actually doing anything—we'll actually get a boost in the economy."), nasty (My taxes pay for the prisons and workhouses, the poor must go there!* "[M]y job is not to worry about those people."), or some combination of the three.

We'll hear the core of the leak--the really juicy bits--done to death in coming days.  The gleeful little partisan in me is binging on Schadenfreude even as I type this, and I note in passing how incredibly lucky a campaigner Obama has been to have opponent after opponent self-destruct.

But on another level I'm glad to have it out there, and not just because I think that it makes my guy more likely to win.  Past all the campaigning, the not-quite-laughs, the hair-gel and the ads, we've been privileged with a glimpse of who he really is and what he really believes.  This is Mitt Romney, take him or leave him.

Would that we had that privilege with all those who would lead us.

*Yeah, yeah I know that's movie Scrooge, but the conversation in the book is considerably more drawn out and lacks that one snappy zinger.

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