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January 23, 2012
Romney: Gingrich is a "Failed Leader" Who "Resigned In Disgrace"
Good run-down from Allah last night about a big reason Gingrich won South Carolina, and leads in Florida -- he is channeling the anger and frustration of the Republican electorate.
My own opinion on this is closer to Coulter's -- railing at "elites" in "the media" is an immediate feel-good catharsis which probably has nothing to do with the actual goal here. It feels good, sure. But my own experience in life is that if it feels good -- especially if it fees sooo good -- I should probably be on high alert that my hedonistic side may just start making some bad decisions.
Personally, I think of this as Cheap Date Conservatism, if we don't bother to check if Gingrich is really promising anything "fundamentally transformative" in substance, and instead focus on the soundbite or taunt which has an emotional payoff but doesn't actually advance anything in terms of persuading independents or making promises to the conservative base.
That's what I think.
But the Republican electorate does not think that. And if Romney is half the businessman he's cracked up to be, he must realize The customer is always right.
Even if he's wrong.
Romney cannot refashion himself into a tart-tongued firebrand like Gingrich. It would be yet another contrivance stacked upon his already contrived persona.
But there are some things he can and should do, if he wants to win this thing.
I vented about Cheap Date Conservatism on Twitter last night (I do that now, so I can test out what I'm thinking before polluting my own blog with positions I might decide are wrong), and after thinking about, I'd say the people who want Anger and Fighty Fighters Who Fight have three decent interrelated points underlying that:
1. You have to prove you will not buckle under the media's suasion to go easy on Obama.
Now Romney plays tough and nasty. I have no idea why conservatives don't at least credit him with that, given that he attacks his opponents so damn much. As a former supporter of Perry, I know Romney can be a dick when he decides it's in his best interests.
However, I think some are a little bit concerned that Romney will shy away from taking Obama on aggressively. And that he's only comfortable attacking conservatives, like John McCain was. And will play nice when he senses pushback from the media, when they rush to bodyguard their Precious.
Now I don't believe that. Romney's produced a whole series of ads attacking Obama. He has been the most consistent in debates about turning questions into attacks on Obama (and not John King, who isn't on the ballot).
But, having said that, some might still doubt that he has the same zeal for attacking Obama that he's shown for attacking Perry and Gingrich.
And he needs to convince the GOP on that score. It doesn't matter what I believe. What matters is what 51% of the party believes. And if 51% of the party thinks he will shy away from a brutal attack on Obama, if needed (or, frankly, even if counterproductive -- a lot of the base wants brutal attacks whether or not they advance the cause), he's got a big problem.
One minor thing Romney can do: Stop saying Obama's a "nice guy" who's just "in over his head."
Obama will have lots of supporters vouching for what a well-intentioned soul he is. We do not need Romney joining them in this.
Romney does not have to make the most rabid possible attacks on Obama. But for the love of God, can he stop vouching for him, too?
Make the attacks you're most comfortable with. Stay neutral about whether he's a "nice guy" or not.
Even if he was going to deploy this hedged criticism, save it for the general, you dope. In case you haven't noticed, it doesn't play well in a primary of infuriated conservatives.
2. Romney has to make the right enemies and burn the right bridges.
Because Romney has the reputation of a flip-flopper, moderate, and side-winder, voters have the suspicion that he will drift to the left while governing, or govern straight from the middle, ignoring conservatives.
When the Cortez set out about conquering the Aztecs, he burned all of his ships so that his band of adventurers knew the only possible way home was through conquest. Conquer the Aztecs, and then force them to cut new timber for new ships. Only way out. Conquest and glory, or death in the malarial swamps, far from Spain.
Romney may have some illusions that the media considers him a bright, rational, non-crazy Republican and will be nice to him. Yeah, McCain thought that too.
I would not say Go out of your way to alienate the media if I thought such a strategy carried a cost, if it could wind up losing media support.
But it can't. If Romney gets the nomination, he will be the most demonized Republican in history (each new Republican nominee becomes the most dangerous lunatic the party has nominated in history).
So alienating liberals (not moderates-- liberals) and the media cannot hurt Romney; if he thinks he has an in with them he's a fool who should not be president.
But, like Cortez, he's got to establish that there's only one way to glory, and in this case, it's through conservatism. Voters do not want to see him protecting a Moderate Plan B (or worse yet, Plan A!) and keeping that option open.
They want to know there's one, and only one, option for Romney -- governing from the right. Even if from the centerish side of the right. It must be from the right.
He must burn his ships. He must stop acting as if it's possible to win the well-wishes of the institutional left. Only a fool believes that, and only a man planning to govern from the center would plan for that.
It's time for Romney to stop only attacking Obama, and begin attacking the least-defensible aspects of the entire left.
3. He must demonstrate he comes from the same place as conservatives and thus will tend to have the impulses of conservatives.
This is similar to the bit about saying Obama's a "nice guy."
Huntsman was a great candidate on paper. In reality, he cared very, very deeply for the opinions of the left/media and went out of his way to show his disdain of the opinions of the right.
People are not just political constructs. They are social ones. What we believe, and what we feel comfortable saying, isn't shaped purely by ideology and philosophy. It's also shaped by the millieu we live in.
If someone, for example, has a fair number of good liberal friends (as I do), he's going to hedge about saying all liberals are, due to politics, bad people. How can one say that about friends he likes and admires?
If someone has a wife who's all about the arts, and would think less of you as a husband if you cut funding for federalized artwork, he's going to be reluctant to cut that funding. He may even increase it -- as George W. Bush did.
Romney is a wealthy man. That might read "conservative" to some, but most know better -- most know that the very wealthy tend to be the first adopters of the faux-aristocracy's habits and beliefs. And that faux-aristocracy is the liberal establishment.
Most conservatives suspect he's not with us where it counts, in the gut. He's not with us temperamentally. On some abstract intellectual matters, he's with us; but the people you're with are the people you're with emotionally, not intellectually.
Romney needs to stop demonstrating that he is surrounded by people -- who will influence him -- who think it's a scandal if he doesn't always vouch for Obama as a "nice guy."
He has to start signalling -- whether it's true or not -- that he's surrounded by people who don't think much about Obama, and therefore he shouldn't seem to falter on this point, questioning whether it's "controversial" to say an abject failure of a president, who was always unprepared for the job and a charlatan, is an abject failure of a president who was always unprepared for the job and a charlatan.
Romney's readiness to get bloody with conservatives, contrasted with his frequent vouchings for Obama's alleged nice guy quotient, indicate that the people he tries to impress in his own life -- whether it's colleagues or his family or his closest supporters and advisers -- indicates that in his circles, it's gauche and unrefined to say the president just isn't very smart.
I understand the politics of why Romney refrains-- he doesn't want to lose the moderates, later.
But does he understand the politics of so refraining-- that he's losing conservatives, now, and not later?
I don't think Cheap Date Conservatism is any kind of a replacement for real conservatism. Given a choice between a cute quip and a substantive commitment, I'll take the latter all day.
But there's nothing in the book that says they can't go together.
And particularly with a... recent convert to conservatism, like Romney, there is a strong suspicion that his alleged positions are merely positionings, not terribly strongly held, as they've been held for such short period of time.
It thus becomes more important, not less, for Romney to seek to demonstrate that his gut is with us, and against the left.
I don't know how Romney can get angry.
But, if I were advising him, I'd try to get him angry. I'd tell him to think of the worst company he ever came in to take over, rescue.
When he looked at that company -- stupid choices, bloated management taking money they really hadn't earned, opportunities squandered, human potential left to rot like garbage in a basement -- did he ever get angry about it?
Angry that simplest rules were ignored? Angry that stupid men thought themselves clever? Angry that unproductive, lazy men padded their pockets as if they were wealth-creators entitled to massive salaries and wild perks?
And if he ever did feel that anger, that rage at pure incompetence and wasted money and wasted human potential -- can he look at America, Incorporated and try to channel the same anger?
At the colossal waste of government money? At wealth-creators hectored and harassed at every turn by rent-seekers, by useless family members demanding that the company owes them a salary?
Can he view this as a horribly mismanaged business, full to the brim with corruption, payoffs, wishful-thinking, laziness, and stupidity, and channel some palpable anger about it at Obama?
That, I think, is something he should be able to manage. It fits with his campaign narrative. It probably fits with his psychology.
I don't think Romney's good at politics. I think he's a smart man, but he seems rather dull when it comes to reading people, reading the room, taking the political temperature. His instincts are poor.
Maybe that can be overcome.
I'd like to see him try.
But if he doesn't do that, then he's dumber than Rick Perry, at least at some things, at the things that matter in politics. And then I'm not sure I'd say he's smart enough to be Commander in Chief.
He says he's the kind of guy who loves to "wallow in data." I respect that. But then he should check the data-- the Republican electorate, whether it's right or wrong, wants some anger. Directed at Obama, and not at Perry or Gingrich or other conservatives.
Can he read the data and come to a good solution? Or is he just going to ignore reams of data screaming in his face?
I have to stress I'm actually more on Romney's side as far as this whole "say counterproductive things to show how angry you are, because of course voters really love a commander in chief who's only barely keeping it together emotionally."
But I've lost that argument. So has Romney.
And if he can't at least muster some righteous anger about Obama's efforts to quash virtually every business venture -- this sap doesn't understand that making things is dirty and sweaty; it's not all passing files back and forth as in The Only Industries That Are Noble, law, media, and academia -- then he's not the candidate for me.
Even though I really want him to be. Because while Newt can throw out red meat like a champ, I really think he's a walking disaster area.
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