Friday, January 11, 2008

The Dirt on Romney

Taibbi's got it, again.

Take home:

The most common thing you hear from voters after a Romney event is how impressed they are by his demeanor and delivery, his obvious vitality, by the fact that he looks like he could do this twenty-four hours a day and twice on Sunday, taking off only twenty-six minutes once a week to make monogamous, missionary-position love to his baby-factory wife. And that's precisely the way Romney wants it: He wants voters focused on him the man, this unblemished, in-control Example for All who, unlike his Republican rivals, is in no danger of collapsing onstage, or getting caught on camera with his cock in some bruise-covered stripper or Jack Russell terrier.

You can learn a lot about a candidate by what his leadoff line is, and in Romney's case, when he's not in New Hampshire (where he unfailingly kicks off every event with a Red Sox reference; I actually clocked him at one stop mentioning the Sawx as early as three seconds after grabbing the microphone) he plunges right into his I-know-the-way-because-I've-made-shitloads-of-money act.

"The challenges we face are beyond the scope of just a politician," he says. "It's going to take somebody who's been able to live in the private sector, who learns how the economy actually works, who knows how to get the job done. It's going to take someone like that to get America on track again."

Only in America do audiences not burst out laughing when a guy worth $250 million gets up onstage and says he and his CEO buddies spend their spare time racking their brains to find ways to help people.

In a delicious detail that says a lot about the nature of Romney's morality, the investor had no problem making piles of cash off companies that executed mass layoffs or defrauded the government, but he balked when asked to invest in a Bain deal to acquire a video distribution company called Artisan Entertainment. "I didn't want to profit from a studio that made R-rated movies," he huffed.

The real question is this: If you're gunning for the GOP nomination, where do you run these days? Do you strap on your medals, limp into VFW halls and do a Band of Brothers act, a la John McCain? Do you stand up before suburban crowds, tell horror tales of hairy Muslims lurking near reservoirs and promise to bomb them all back to the Stone Age, like Rudy Giuliani? Do you wear your WWJD cap and quote the Bible, like Mike Huckabee, or freak out about rape-hungry Mexicans, like Tom Tancredo? Or do you do what Romney does: Look smooth, keep your nose clean and tour the country talking about business being the answer to all the world's ills?

It's a conundrum, and the problem isn't just that the current batch of ruling Republicans have horrified the whole world through their insane invasion of Iraq, run up record deficits despite campaigning on a platform of fiscal restraint, punted the ethics issue deep into Democrat territory with a parade of staggering corruption indictments and turned their pompous emphasis on personal morality into a late-night punch line through their hilarious high-profile pursuits of little-boy pages and anonymous bathroom sex. It's also that America is getting older, and yesterday's liberalism is slowly but surely turning into a new generation's conservatism. So when some starched-up, smooth -talking, TV-ready creature like Mitt Romney, who made his fortune laying off factory workers, walks onto college campuses and starts bashing cohabitation and having children out of wedlock, he loses young people who are tired of watching our leaders fuck things up on a grand scale and then turn around and blame our problems on stoned teenagers. Back when the Gingrich revolution was hot, even college kids bought into the reactionary rhetoric. But now that Bush and Cheney have blown that revolution to itty-bitty pieces, the Republican morality line sells like warmed-over horseshit; on college campuses, Romney comes off like a parent trying to maintain his moral authority after a messy divorce in which the kids got to watch Daddy shacking up with his secretary and Mommy hauling out the lawyers to repossess Dad's fridge.

His interesting ethical stances in his lucrative business ventures were, for me, the most interesting and illuminating (though hardly surprising) details of the story.

Here is an oddly prescient piece.