Mitt Romney reminds me of a salesman I used to work with. To say he was loose with the facts would be an understatement. No matter what the circumstance or customer, he would come up with just the right scam to close the deal, and the deal was all that mattered to him. The sad truth was he was very good at finding pigeons that were gullible enough to fall for his crap, and the company he worked for, which is now thankfully out of business, rewarded him handsomely for his efforts.
For most of his life, sans the four years he spent as governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney has been the guy who closed the deal, making a ton of money for his investors – not to mention himself – and fleecing a good many innocent people along the way. And he has managed to do virtually all of this without being subjected to the microscope of public scrutiny. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so the saying goes. That’s the beauty of the private sector. Silence is golden.
Of course the problem for Romney is that politics eschews secrets. Sooner or later, who you are and what you did are going to catch up with you. You may think you’ve buried the skeletons deep enough, but inevitably someone will find them and dig them up. Right about now, Romney looks more like Vincent Price in a horror movie than a presidential candidate.
Mitt Romney had to know this day was coming. He’s not an idiot. Indeed, considering who he was up against during the primaries, the former Massachusetts governor might as well have been Albert Einstein. And, despite the narrative that is currently being masterfully written by the Obama campaign, he's really not such a bad person. He is most certainly NOT responsible for killing any one, as a thoroughly repulsive ad by an Obama super PAC speciously claimed.
His crime? He’s a chameleon, a “yes” man who says whatever he has to to get what he wants. He’s Gordon Gekko incarnate, and he’s about as authentic as a $2 bill. Throughout the Republican primaries, Romney did everything imaginable to convince the Tea Party he was the genuine article, to no avail. Though he prevailed, most of the base is still not sold.
And now that the general public has finally gotten a close look at him, those same shortcomings, plus a few more, have become painfully obvious. He’s arrogant, self-righteous, obstinate and completely devoid of even a semblance of principles. He thinks he knows everything, has a problem relating to people and genuinely believes he doesn’t have to justify himself to anyone.
He’s the perfect CEO, but for the GOP he has become the perfect storm. With three months to go before the November elections. Romney’s approval numbers are headed south fast. Despite a fragile recovery that has seen unemployment remain stubbornly high, President Obama is leading the presumptive Republican nominee by 7 points nationally, according to a recent poll.
But more disturbing than Obama’s lead, is the alarming rate at which Romney’s negatives have climbed in recent weeks. His unfavorable rating stands at 49%, the highest for a presumptive nominee since 1984, the year Walter Mondale got his clocked cleaned by Ronald Reagan. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the number of voters who are uncertain about Romney has gone from 37% last September down to 11%, meaning the electorate has, for the most part, made up its mind about him.
Some of this, no doubt, can be attributed to the aggressive, negative attack ads that the Obama campaign has unleashed on Romney. Whether you like them or not, the simple fact is that negative ads work. Just ask George Bush and Dick Cheney. The kitchen sink strategy, as I referred to it in an earlier piece, has prevented Romney from developing a narrative that he can sell to the voters. When your opponent has you up against the ropes, it’s a little hard to throw any body punches of your own.
But the biggest reason for Mitt Romney’s plummeting fortunes has been Mitt Romney himself. To put it simply, he’s been his own worst enemy. In an ironic twist of fate, Mitt Romney’s biggest asset in his private life has turned out to be his greatest liability in his public one. His steadfast refusal to explain himself, his inability to disprove negative assaults, and his constant gaffes – whether it was the Olympics’ comments he made in London or the culture speech he made in Israel – have further eroded a reputation that was already on shaky ground to begin with and left many in his party shaking their heads in bewilderment.
The charge by Harry Reid that Romney hasn’t paid any taxes over the last ten years prior to the ’09 returns he released could easily be disproved simply by releasing two or more additional years of returns. But Romney’s pigheadedness has allowed what could’ve been construed as nothing more than an astute business man taking advantage of the tax code to rise to the level of scandalous. What might’ve been an awkward moment – one that Romney could’ve used to his advantage by calling for the need for true tax reform – has now come to define his entire campaign.
Would you trust someone to “reform” the tax code when he won’t even reveal how much he’s paid in taxes? Fair or unfair, it’s a legitimate question to ask, and Romney has nobody else to blame but himself. The more Mitt Romney refuses to release additional tax returns the more it looks as though he has something to hide. Not even Thurston Howell III would be so stupid.
And now, with his campaign bogged down defending the molehills he himself has turned into mountains, Mitt Romney has demanded that the Obama campaign cease and desist the attacks on his tax returns and business background. In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Romney said that his “campaign would be helped immensely if we had an agreement between both campaigns that we were only going to talk about issues” and not engage in attack ads based on “business or family or taxes or things of that nature.”
He went on to say that his campaign has resisted the temptation to go after the President personally. “We haven't dredged up the old stuff that people talked about last time around. We haven't gone after the personal things.”
So, let me see if I understand Mitt Romney correctly. He wants to run on his business record, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. He also wants to “reform” the tax code so everybody keeps more of their income, yet he won’t say how much he paid in taxes. And, finally, he believes that any attempt to force him to explain himself on both topics constitutes a personal attack on him that is on a par with all the Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, and birther assaults by the wingnuts on the Right; assaults, by the way, which failed miserably, I might add.
Yes this sure has been the summer of Mitt Romney’s discontent. At the rate things are shaping up, it could turn out to be one hell of a fall finale. In politics it’s pretty tough trying to beat both your opponent and yourself. But danged if Gordon Gekko isn’t going to give it his best shot.