Willard Agonistes


What, me worry?

Like my PJ colleague, Victor Davis Hanson, I too am pessimistic about the future of our country. Like many of us, I fell into the trap of thinking that, during the election of 2012, the country would somehow come to its senses and evict from the White House an obviously unqualified charlatan with a threadbare act, and that we would begin the slow restoration of Foundational values to the Republic. Andy McCarthy, Roger Simon, Victor, Roger Kimball, Dr. Helen, J. Christian Adams — all wrong. And these are not stupid people; neither is Michael Barone, who also fell on his face.


But we have an excuse — we were had. By the GOP nominee, Willard “Mitt” Romney, a man with apparently serious daddy issues who never should have run because, deep down, he knew he wouldn’t win. And therefore didn’t even really try. If Obamacare is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated upon the American body politic, then Romney’s candidacy runs a close second. (And here we thought that the wretched John McCain was the worst candidate we’d ever get.) It’s time that conservatives learn and absorb that lesson, and ensure that it never happens again.

What else to make of a new documentary film, Mitt, whose principal message was recounted by Byron York the other day:

For viewers who follow politics closely, especially for Republicans who desperately wanted to defeat Barack Obama, there is a revelation in “Mitt” that is not just unexpected but deeply disheartening. At a critical moment in the campaign — the two weeks in October encompassing the first and second general election debates — the Romney portrayed in “Mitt” struggled with a nagging pessimism and defeatism, unable to draw confidence even from a decisive initial debate victory over President Obama. Deep down inside, the Romney seen onscreen in “Mitt” seems almost resigned to losing to Obama in those crucial showdowns.

Yes, you read that right; as they say in Cajun country, it’s enough to make you want to slap your mama:


It didn’t start well. Team Romney went into the first debate bruised and reeling from the controversy over Romney’s “47 percent” remarks. “Mitt” includes a scene from Romney’s debate preparation in which Sen. Rob Portman, playing the president, used the controversy to nail Romney in a quiet but devastating way. The “47 percent” statement was so damaging, Portman/Obama argued, not only because it was made behind closed doors — and thus represented Romney’s true feelings — but also because it was the foundation of Romney’s policy proposals. Romney didn’t have a very good answer.

On top of gloom about the fallout from “47 percent,” there was a general fear in the Romney camp about Obama’s debating skills. “We were really nervous, just thinking about President Obama,” son Josh Romney said. “He’s a great speaker and he has the mantle of the presidency.”

In a family get-together before the debate, someone in the family noted that Romney had done well in many, many Republican debates. “Will this debate be different?” one son asked. “Will you be intimidated by the fact that [Obama] is president?”

“Sure,” Romney said. “Are you kidding?”

“We shouldn’t be intimidated,” interjected wife Ann, sounding concerned. “You should not be intimidated by him. I am not kidding, Mitt.”


“He’s a very good debater,” York quotes Romney saying of Obama. “He’s a lot better than the other guys.”

What, him worry?

What, him worry?

Let the record show that I was never much of a Romney fan. As I wrote in January of 2012 in the New York Post:

Lost in the weekend’s back-to-back debates in New Hampshire was this illuminating remark by Democratic strategist Donna Brazile after Saturday night’s soporific contest in Manchester: “Mitt Romney won tonight because no one touched him. And for Democrats, you know what? It was good news for us . . . because we believe that the weakest candidate is the candidate that the Republicans are not attacking. And that’s Mitt Romney.”

The remark drew guffaws from some of the other assembled party faithful and media commentators, but Brazile spoke the truth. Democrats do believe that Romney is eminently beatable, the perfect foil for President Obama, in fact…

After all, the whole point of the primary season is to let the rank-and-file electorate decide whom the nominee should be — not the party elders and the media. And yet, from the start, it’s been clear that Romney is the choice of the Beltway GOP establishment, which regards conservatives and Tea Partiers as the grubby unwashed.

Meanwhile, Democrats and their media allies have been busy measuring Romney for the Occupy Wall Street/One Percenter memorial bad-guy suit. They can’t wait to rip him apart over his background as a corporate turnaround specialist who may have saved some golden parachutes but put ordinary folks out of work.


My conclusion then is my conclusion now:

But expect more of this as the campaign progresses, as the Democratic media complex desperately tries to change the subject from Obama’s failed stewardship to those nutty Christian moralizers on the right.

Will the Republicans let them get away with it? Or will they heed Brazile’s words and make sure they field their toughest candidate in November? Because this race is not to the swift, but the strong.

As the originator of Romneycare, Mitt was the single worst candidate the Republicans could nominate in an election that should have turned on the now-confirmed disaster of Obamacare, the one man who could not take on Obama’s “signature legislative accomplishment.” And, of course, he didn’t. Romney was despised even in his own “home” state of Massachusetts for trashing the state of which he was a one-term governor when it suited his larger political ambitions. Naturally, he lost it in a landslide, 61-38.

But wait, it gets worse. After winning the first debate against a listless Obama, Romney still thought he hadn’t done well, that the president would do better next time, and that he didn’t really have much of a chance:

Romney wasn’t buying it. Instead, he went into an extended monologue on how his father, former Michigan Gov. George Romney, was a better man than he will ever be. As he spoke, Romney held the notes he had made during the debate (candidates are not allowed to bring any notes with them to the stage, but are allowed to make them during the debate). Romney pointed out that in every debate he began by writing “Dad” at the top of the paper.

“That’s what I start with: ‘Dad,'” Romney explained. “I always think about Dad and about I am standing on his shoulders. I would not be there, there’s no way I would be able to be running for president, if Dad hadn’t done what Dad did. He’s the real deal …”


Good Lord. 

Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit has some trenchant thoughts:

I think Romney lost for three reasons. One: He’s right that Obama isn’t an aberration. There’s a huge constituency for the European/blue-state model in the U.S., whether it’s fiscally sustainable or not, and demographic change is more likely to expand it than shrink it. I don’t think it’ll be many years before we see another Republican president but I do think it’ll be many years before we see another Republican landslide. Two: He got out-organized. The irony of the passages from the movie flagged by York is that Mitt was, understandably, worried about his obvious weaknesses (his ability to communicate with voters, his unjust image as a rich guy who’d inherited all his successes) but not worried about his supposed strengths, i.e. his managerial acumen and organizational efforts. He should have been. Obama’s data-crunchers and behavioral analysts evidently ran rings around Team “Project ORCA.” Oh well. Three: Romney suffered from the same problem McCain did, albeit to a lesser extent — there was no real point to his campaign.

No point, that is, except a conflicting sense of entitlement (on display during the nomination fight) and a crippling lack of confidence that sought to atone for his privileged upbringing. It’s worth noting that that dear old dad, George Romney, was also a loser, who torpedoed his own presidential campaign in 1967 with his notorious “brainwashed” remark about Vietnam.


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The textbook definition of “empty suit.” And yet, for some reason perhaps even unknown to Mitt himself, Dad was his beau ideal. In this clip one can clearly see that the acorn didn’t fall very far from the tree: good old having-it-both ways Mitt, as adumbrated by his father. Romney’s refusal to admit that Romneycare was fatally flawed and conceptually harmful resulted in his pretzeling on the subject, which convinced a grand total of nobody that he would repeal Obamacare (because, let’s face it, the GOP doesn’t really want to repeal Obamacare) or could somehow make the gigantic kludge work.

And that, in the end, was the story of the election. A man born to wealth who also made his own way in the world felt that he could not beat a man from nowhere of no accomplishment and no discernible skills other than the ability to read a TelePrompter. Only in America.

Related: “Don’t Feed Us This Mitt Again,” Tom Blumer implores the GOP, elsewhere at PJM.

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com.)


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