Romney’s disqualification

Romney denies that he hired illegal aliens, though they were hired by his contractor to work on his property. If Romney’s idea of delegation is abdication, and if he thinks it’s not his fault when someone working for him does the wrong thing, then he’s profoundly unfit to be President.

Unlike the circus clowns he’s now forced to share a stage with, Mitt Romney is a plausible candidate for the Presidency. But he’s also a singularly unappetizing one, even putting aside his loyalty to the plutocracy.

Some people think Romney got the better of his set-to with Rick Perry over immigration, though winning a battle of wits with an unarmed man isn’t such a great accomplishment.

But if we get away from the drama and focus on the facts, Romney’s answer was actually a double disqualification for the office he seeks. As Steve Benen points out, Romney engaged in “accidental candor” when he quoted himself as saying to his lawn-care firm, “Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”

In other words, his objection was not to breaking the law, but to how it would play politically.

But that’s the shallower of the two disqualifications. The deeper is embodied in Romney’s claim that he never hired illegal aliens. They were hired, by his contractor, to work on his property, but Romney disclaims responsibility because he didn’t do the deed himself but delegated it to someone else, and can’t be held accountable for his agent’s misconduct. In other words, he’s satisfied that he had deniability, and thinks we should be satisfied, too.

The President does very little himself; most of his actions are through subordinates. The most important skill of a President is giving clear instructions and finding people who will carry them out correctly. If Romney’s idea of delegation is abdication, and if he thinks it’s not his fault when someone working for him does the wrong thing, then he’s profoundly unfit to be President.

Moral Midget of the Month Award

… goes, not to Rick Perry – though his integrity is so minuscule you’d need an electron microscope to see it – but to Mitt Romney. How low to the ground do you have to be to allow your ancestral faith to be insulted and not hit back?

… goes, not to Rick Perry – though his integrity is so minuscule you’d need an electron microscope to see it – but to Mitt Romney. How low to the ground do you have to be to allow your ancestral faith to be insulted and not hit back?

Contrast Benjamin Disraeli, a baptized Christian and a faithful member of the Church of England but a Jew by ancestry, taunted about his Jewishness by an Irish opponent: “Yes, I am a Jew. And when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.”

Now, that’s the way it’s done. But the Boneless Wonder doesn’t have it in him. It’s not that Romney has any scruples about fighting dirty: his attack on Perry over immigration was about as raw as they come. But Romney is a coward and a bully. He knows the mob isn’t on his side about Mormonism, so he’s prepared to absorb the insult to his religion rather than make it an issue.

How Romney’s Hypocrisy Helps Him

Via Sullivan, Jon Stewart’s take-down of multiple-choice Mitt is as good a short summary of the GOP’s front-running chameleon.  But I can’t help but think that Romney’s transparent hypocrisy would help him in a general election campaign.  Democrats should avoid making it the center of their 2012 anti-Romney strategy.

First, it would detract from any substantive attack on the GOP agenda: attack on his lack of core beliefs would obscure the fact that we elect parties, not individuals, and a Romey Administration will essentially enshrine the Tea Party in the executive branch.

Second, voters think that all politicians are hypocrites: the question is which hypocrite they want.  So attacks on Romney’s lack of sincerity won’t do much damage anyway.

Third, and perhaps most important, when it comes to the wingnut Republican base, Romney’s whole general election strategy will be one huge wink: don’t worry, guys, you know I’ve got to say this, but I don’t really believe it.  Attacking Romney for hypocrisy thus will this reinforce his attempt to move to the center.

At the end of the day, a President Romney will essentially be George W. Bush redux.  Hypocrisy doesn’t enter into it.  If you loved what George W. Bush did to the country, you’ll adore the Romney Administration.  That’s the message, which will not only be politically more effective in my view, but does carry the additional merit of being true.

Mitt Romney, alleged grown-up

Makes a foreign policy address that doen’t mention al-Qaeda.

Did he just make a major foreign policy speech that didn’t mention al-Qaeda? And promised to reverse “massive defense cuts” that haven’t actually been made?

It’s mostly a long list of scare stories, unaccompanied by any actual plans other than chest-thumping and sabre-rattling.

And yet this empty suit – in Charlie Cook’s phrase, a man who “still looks like he could be a Haggar slacks model” – is the pundits’ idea of a “serious” Republican. Has there ever been a major party so utterly devoid of talent?

Self-destruction

The Tea Party is unpopular, but Mitt Romney has to pretend to be “in synch” with the movement. And that’s the box the GOP finds itself in.

The Tea Party is unpopular (though admittedly less unpopular than the Republicans). The NYT poll shows 20% of the voters favorable to the movement, while 40% are unfavorable, while CNN shows an even worse 31%-51%.

So what does Mitt Romney, who supposedly wants to be President, think he’s doing when he claims (falsely) to be “in synch” with the yahoos? Answer: seeking the Republican nomination. And there you have the box the GOP finds itself in. Even with a thoroughly rotten economy, the positions someone has to take to become the Republican nominee will make it almost impossible to get elected President.

Footnote Coincidentally, a new op-ed by David Campbell and Robert Putnam (drawn from the same research that produced their magisterial American Grace) discredits the Tea Party promoters’ origin myth about politically naive folks coming together to oppose “big government.” In fact, Tea Party supporters are characterized by long-standing Republican affiliation, religiosity, opposition to abortion, and hostility to blacks and immigrants. Putnam also claims that TPers are now less popular than Muslims or (shudder) even atheists, but doesn’t provide the actual data.

Romney does the full wingnut

Fiscally irresponsible AND socially intolerant.

The “grown-up” Republican candidate favors not only having the country welsch on its obligations, but also passing a constitutional amendment that would have the effect of un-marrying the same-sex couples married under New York law. Of course, that amendment will never pass, but in the meantime Romney has pledged to support the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies those married couples all the benefits extended to opposite-sex couples under Federal law, and to appoint only judges who promise to uphold its constitutionality

This will cost him precisely zero support among glibertarians and fair-weather federalists. But it provides more support for the idea that no one can win the Presidential nomination of today’s Republican party with a set of positions that would allow him to win the Presidency.

Tell me again that Obama – who has refused to defend the constitutionality of DOMA before the Supreme Court, and appointed two Justices sure to vote to strike it down – is no different from a Republican? I didn’t hear you the first time.

Rope-a-dope Dep’t

Romney endorsed default. How’s that going to play in November?

When the chips were down and the alternative to the debt-ceiling deal was default, Mitt Romney, the one Republican running who might actually get the nomination (unlike Huntsman) and might seem like a plausible President (unlike Bachmann or Perry), came out against it. That should play well in Iowa. But in November? Not so much. The voters didn’t like the deal, but demanding a vote for default was a classically un-serious thing to do.

What if they gave a theocrat rally and nobody came?

Rick Perry booked a 71,000-seat stadium for his “come-to-Jesus-and-elect-me-President” revival this Saturday, but only 8000 people are now scheduled to show up.

I’ve been convinced for some weeks that Barack Obama was very likely to find himself facing Rick Perry in November 2012. Against what must be the weakest field of Presidential candidates a major party has ever assembled, Perry has name recognition, fund-raising capacity, and good relations with all three wings of today’s GOP: the plutocrats, the Teahadis, and the theocrats.

My model of the process was that Perry would replace Bachmann as the non-Romney candidate, and then roll over Romney. Unlike a situation where Romney was head-to-head with Bachmann and the grown-ups might think about intervening, I don’t see the Republican establishment – what’s left of it – getting freaked out by a Perry candidacy, as weak as it might prove to be in November.

(Apparently Perry is seriously stupid, but that’s no bar to his being nominated; nor is the innocent man whose death warrant he signed and posthumously called “a monster,” or the subsequent cover-up of the blunder; nor his bizarre claim that Texas might secede if Democrats kept winning elections.)

Perry’s co-sponsorship with the American Family Association of the “Response” revival meeting this Saturday was meant to burnish his theocratic credentials and to mobilize the faithful against the Kenyan Muslim communist. His formal entry into the race would have followed.

But right now there are only 8,000 people scheduled to show up, which is going to make a 71,000-seat stadium look pretty damned empty. From the perspective of Perry’s candidacy, that’s both a bad thing and a bad sign. Correspondingly, it’s good news for Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney.

Wish-I’d-said-that Dep’t

Steve Benen:

Mitt Romney is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.

Steve Benen, for the win:

Mitt Romney is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.

This is where the lack of a liberal Fox News-equivalent hurts. Benen’s wisecrack deserves to become it cliche, but it almost certainly won’t.

Do Romney and Huntsman Have a Prayer in the GOP Primaries?

As a group, political reporters are far more secular than the rest of the country, leading them sometimes to misrepresent or underappreciate the impact of religion on voting. I think there is some informative shoe leather reporting undone about how Mormons are perceived by GOP voters.

When I talk to Christian Evangelical friends who are active in Republican politics, their first concern about Romney is not Massachusetts’ health care program and their first concern about Huntsman is not that he worked for President Obama. Rather, they just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a Mormon President. They generally do not consider Mormons to be Christian and harbor deep distrust about much of LDS practice and beliefs. This Pew poll is a bit out of date, but check out the subsection on GOP Christian Evangelicals to get a flavor of these attitudes.

I don’t see how a Mormon candidate gets out of closed GOP primaries in states like South Carolina and Pennsylvania which have high proportions of Evangelicals. And it’s even worse when they are two candidates competing for the same subset of such voters who are willing to vote for a Mormon.

The history here is interesting. At the wonderful moment in 1854 when the Republican party came into existence and catapulted the career of the man who became perhaps our greatest President, its founders pledged to wipe out “the twins relics of barbarism”. One of those of course was slavery, but few people recall that the other was Mormon polygamy.