Right now Mitt Romney is caught in the scissors. He has to tear Barack Obama apart in the debates or lose. But if he gets aggressive, he won’t look presidential and will let Obama have the chance to play rope-a-dope and look relaxed. In other words, Mitt Romney is the hard-charging underdog against Obama the way Jimmy Carter was against Ronald Reagan in 1980. Remember what happened then.
Romney has thrown away a presidential race it should have been impossible to lose. And he did it all in a couple of weeks starting from his own nominating convention. His choice in his two most crucial personnel decisions so far – his vice presidential running mate and his chief campaign strategist – have been catastrophic.
I was fascinated by Paul Ryan’s spectacular rise and gave the admiring benefit of the doubt to him at Tampa as an outrageous liar who could get away with his amazing chutzpah. Now instead he looks like Richard Nixon with his tits caught in a wringer — as the late, unlamented Watergate president’s Attorney General John Mitchell so charmingly once referred to Katherine Graham, the distinguished publisher of the Washington Post.
Ryan was mauled by an AARP audience for a full hour. His outright lies in his vice presidential acceptance speech went viral within the 24-hour news cycle. And the Tea Party’s love for him has finally irrefutably proven a) that they are all incapable of basic arithmetic and b) that all their passion for cleaning out Washington of long-serving politicians is a cheap, empty sham.
After all, Ryan has never in his adult life worked anywhere else, done anything else, and has been a seven-term congressman. If term limits were in, he would have been out of Washington anything from six to 10 years ago.
Ryan is proving as attractive to the crucial independent voters who will decide this election as the bubonic plague. His coattails aren’t even boosting Romney in Ryan’s own native Wisconsin. Yet Romney could have had Sen. Marco Rubio of crucial Florida for the taking, or the articulate, poised and highly effective Gov. Sandra Martinez of New Mexico. By ignoring them, he sent clear message to all the Hispanics and women’s issue lady voters in America – “As far as I’m concerned, you’re with the 47 percent, losers.”
And let’s not forget Romney’s bizarre replacement for Karl Rove, the ineffable Stuart Stevens: This fellow deserves a loving “In His Own Words” full biographical treatment all by himself. He is Walter Mitty reborn as a slick, fake politico. He has no record of achievement, no serious credentials. He is Wile E. Coyote, super-genius – A Renaissance Man, as he describes himself, but of course only in his own imagination.
His joint writing of Romney’s acceptance speech with the candidate proved a disaster. His managerial structure for running the campaign makes Rube Goldberg look effective. Democrats around the country are still laughing at his decision to allow Clint Eastwood’s appallingly embarrassing rambling monologue with an empty chair gobble up the prime time at the Republican National Convention. He let the Democrats outspend the cash-rich GOP seven to one on national TV ads during the convention season. Where on earth did Romney find this guy? And why on earth does he still stick with him?
What could and should Romney have done?
- He should have fired Stuart Stevens right after the Tampa convention fiasco. Or better yet, never have hired him in the first place. There was never any need to.
- He should have picked Rubio or Martinez as his running mate: Or failing that, Bobby Jindal, say or Christine Todd Whitman –a classy lady who could have accompanied Ann to the dressage shows, and who has a serious record of accomplishment under her belt. Any of those picks would have been infinitely better than the ever-more woeful, Power-Point obsessed Ryan.
- He could have and should have spelled out a credible financial plan to save the United States from national bankruptcy. This is far easier than it sounds. The hard work has already been done.
All Romney had to do was say he would push as president to enforce the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson Commission. Instead, he chose as his running mate Ryan – a man who voted for the TARP bailout, who voted for the Michigan automakers bailout and who led the GOP congressional assault that killed any hope of implementing the Bowles-Simpson Plan stone dead.
Instead, Romney followed Ryan’s shameless example in lying through his teeth offering vague numbers that contradict each other and could never add up – not a penny off the defense budget – which everyone knows is bloated. Not a single tax rise, even though the sainted Ronald Reagan raised taxes repeatedly whenever he had to. And push ahead with slashing taxes on the ultra-rich even though there is absolutely no economic justification for such a policy at all.
By taking the easy way out to court favor with the Tea Partiers who have never loved him and never will, Romney squandered his greatest asset with the American public, and especially with its besieged middle class – that he was a brilliant businessman and financial strategist who had the Right Stuff to save the national economy.
Coming on top of all this, the now-legendary “47 percent of Americans” remarks were simply the last stake through Dracula’s heart – and he hammered it home himself. (See Samuel Jackson’s video at the end of this article) He knew when he made those remarks he was running for president. Clearly, he really was so trusting, so naïve – so simply plain witless that he thought they could never be taped, never leak, never be attributed to him. That comment could have killed his campaign all by itself. But it didn’t have to. Romney has done a brilliant job of gutting his own presidential hopes single-handed.
Now Romney dreams that his brilliant debating skills will make up for all this self-inflicted ineptitude and spineless pandering. Keep dreaming, pal.
Martin Sieff is an editor at Sputnik, the Russian-owned news organization. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East (2008), Gathering Storm (2014) and Cycles of Change: The Three Great Eras of American History and the Coming Crisis that will Lead to the Fourth (2014). Follow Martin on: @MartinSieff