After winning a war of attrition in the primaries, Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee for president. He is also a presumptive human being.
Whereas questions still linger as to whether Barack Obama was born an American citizen, I have doubts as to whether Romney was born a member of the human race.
Whereas Obama is thought to be cool, Romney is widely perceived as cold. He is so utterly bloodless, wooden, and flavorless, he makes the robot from Lost in Space seem like Pagliacci. A tree stump has more personality than he does. Even a square has sharp edges, while his are softly rounded. The only remotely magical thing about him is his Mormon underwear. No, I take that back—he’s a miracle worker in that he makes Bob Dole and Michael Dukakis seem absolutely thrilling.
For the past half-year, I’ve tried to ignore him, deliberately slaloming my consciousness around every mention of him. But from now until November, he will be impossible to avoid, and I’m bracing myself for Neocon Water Torture. Constantly hearing about Romney will feel like being locked into a small, dark room and forced to listen to the sound of snoring as it’s blasted from wall-to-wall Marshall amps.
Based on the nonstop squalling of the bespectacled and slump-shouldered progressive jellyfish who hate him, I suppose I should like him through the time-tested equation of “the person who irritates the people who irritate me is my friend,” but I can’t even manage a pearl-sized toothpaste squib of positive feeling toward him. The Obamabots depict him as a hateful, rapacious, bloodthirsty, peasant-squashing monster, which errs in making him sound far more exciting than he is. Painting him as “extreme” may backfire, because it implies he actually has a pulse. I find it impossible to summon strong feelings, whether positive or negative, for the ice sculpture that is Mitt Romney. His critics insist there is evil lurking behind his plastic mask. I suspect there’s nothing behind it at all.
You want out of touch? This is a man who tries appealing to a sidewalk full of young Florida blacks by quoting “Who Let the Dogs Out?” He panders to white voters in the Deep South by calling them “y’all” and saying he had “a biscuit and some cheesy grits” for breakfast. (They’re called cheese grits, you cheesy dork.) And he probably just lost the state of Pennsylvania by first referring to a hoagie as a “sub.”
Critics on both sides of the eternally tedious left-right continuum accuse him of having no “core,” of being an incurable “flip-flopper,” and of placing expediency before principles. I’m not sure whether that’s true, and I don’t know whether it even matters. Even if he’s full of shit, it’s plastic shit manufactured by Chinese slave labor. But rather than being a Machiavellian politician, he may merely be a politically naïve pragmatist. He claims to have “an enormous respect for data, analysis, and debate” and has said that “There are answers in numbers—gold in numbers. Pile the budgets on my desk and let me wallow.”
As someone who respects math and logic more than ideology and emotion, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to appoint a cold-blooded technocrat to steer this sinking ship. I think many of our current problems are due less to cold-bloodedness than to a half-assed, dim-witted, and misguided sense of compassion. The main problem is that human beings are still in a retarded phase of evolution where emotion continues to trump logic. Most people are more comfortable being herd animals than individuals. They crave leadership more than ability. They favor personality over pragmatism. If given a choice between Buddy Love and the Nutty Professor, they’d choose Buddy Love every time. This does not bode well for Romney.
A poll in April found that 5% of American adults found Romney to be “exciting,” while 8% would describe him as “inspiring.” Yet even those numbers sound too high.
In 2008, Obama undoubtedly won a large share of anti-Bush Hate Votes, but he also sailed along on his charisma and empty promises. If Romney is to win in November, he’ll be carried exclusively by anti-Obama Hate Votes, because his hollow corpus bears not even a dewy droplet of charisma.
Robert Draper in The New York Times Magazine suggested that being boring may actually be a cynical Romney campaign strategy, especially for a disillusioned nation whose messianic hopes for Obama amounted to little more than a severely misguided teenage crush. So instead of running a candidate who was all style and no substance, perhaps the Republicans are purposely running someone who is hyper-capable but has zero style. Draper suggests that Romney’s handlers are trying to bore Americans into voting for him, which would make him the first presidential candidate to sleepwalk his way into the White House—call him the Romnambulist.
Such an intriguing strategy might work if people were able to vote by batting their left or right eyelids while sitting on the couch at home, but it seems implausible to suggest they can be bored all the way down to the polling station.
Romney’s main problem may be a toxic wholesomeness. Unlike Obama in 2008, Romney has been vetted from every possible angle, and the worst they’ve been able to dredge up is the story about strapping his dog (inside a dog carrier, mind you) to his station wagon roof rack during a family vacation nearly 30 years ago and a mild 1965 bullying incident involving a forced haircut.
The most humanizing thing I’ve heard about him is that while in high school and college, he played pranks by dressing up as a cop and using a red flashing light atop his white Rambler to “bust” friends while they spooned and necked with their girlfriends in parked cars. His friends were part of the prank and would allow Romney to place beer or bourbon in their trunks ahead of time, which he’d then “discover” and drive away with his new arrestees, leaving the girls behind and terrified.
I had a friend in high school who did the same thing—State Trooper jacket, mirrored sunglasses, and flashing red light—except he had no accomplices in these pranks, and neither would he buy and plant the booze ahead of time. Instead, he’d bust real keg parties in public parks and make off with loads of free beer and hooch.
So even when it comes to cold pragmatism—the Republican candidate’s alleged strong point—my friend was better than Mitt Romney.
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