Romney Camp Admits Mitt's Cowardice is a Feature, Not a Bug
Last November, the New York Times ran a piece titled, "Building a Better Mitt Romney-Bot." Assessing the aloof and socially awkward Romney's stumbles during his first White House run, author Robert Draper explained, "His camp doesn't need to turn their guy into someone you'd have a beer with. They just need to eliminate the bugs in the machine."
Now as Election Day nears, Romney and his programmers have made quite clear that they have designed political cowardice into his operating system. And with good reason. After all, Romney's gymnastic flip-flops serially transformed him from "progressive Republican" to social conservative and back to business manager left both him and American voters dizzy. Just as problematic, his pathological lying spawned its own cottage industry (Steve Benen's chronicles of Mitt's Mendacity is now up to Volume XXX), leaving analysts to turn to Freud, Shakespeare and even quantum physics to comprehend the scope and speed of his dissembling.
So to avoid political self-destruction over the details of his own policy proposals, Team Mitt has coded its Romney-Bot to auto-respond, "no comment."
As evidenced his campaign's bogus charges on Medicare, Mitt Romney has an attack mode. But when it comes to the specifics of their ticket's plans, Team Romney wants both Mitt and his running mate Paul Ryan to zip it:
Advisers say the campaign has no plans to pivot from its previous view that diving into details during a general-election race would be suicidal.
The Romney strategy is simple: Hammer away at Obama for proposing cuts to Medicare and promise, in vague, aspirational ways, to protect the program for future retirees -- but don't get pulled into a public discussion of the most unpopular parts of the Ryan plan.
"The nature of running a presidential campaign is that you're communicating direction to the American people," a Romney adviser said. "Campaigns that are about specifics, particularly in today's environment, get tripped up."
That secrecy has been at the center of every Romney discussion of taxes, both his own and those of the American people. Regarding his own mysterious finances, Romney explained that "I don't put out which tooth paste I use, either" and branded the 63 percent of Americans wanting to see his tax returns as "small-minded." As for the Romney-Ryan tax plan which relies on closing trillions in loopholes and deductions over the next decade, that too cannot be revealed in "the light of day." In March, Mitt boasted that was also a feature and not a bug:
"So I haven't laid out all of the details about how we're going to deal with each deduction, so I think it's kind of interesting for the groups to try and score it, because frankly it can't be scored, because those kinds of details will have to be worked out with Congress, and we have a wide array of options."
Earlier this year, Romney revealed the roots of his voter phobia. As he explained to the Weekly Standard, when you make promises to the electorate, they have an unfortunate tendency to take you at your word:
"One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don't care about education," Romney recalled. "So I think it's important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we'll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I'm not going to give you a list right now."
For months, the Romney campaign auto-response of "no comment" has been on display across a gamut of issues ranging from the mass deportation of illegal aliens and Ohio's anti-labor laws to extension of the payroll tax cut and even GOP debate attendees booing a gay active duty U.S. soldier. In a December interview with the Wall Street Journal, the Romney-Bot acknowledged his cowardice was simply his app working as designed:
Amid such generalities, it's hard not to conclude that the candidate is trying to avoid offering any details that might become a political target. And he all but admits as much. "I happen to also recognize," he says, "that if you go out with a tax proposal which conforms to your philosophy but it hasn't been thoroughly analyzed, vetted, put through models and calculated in detail, that you're gonna get hit by the demagogues in the general election."
Of course, what the Romdroid identifies as "demagogues," most Americans call "voters."
That's why the Romney campaign is going to focus on his professional life rather than his personal story at this month's Republican National Convention. And with good reason. Romney's persistent "empathy gap" shows that the American people don't want a robot to lead them. But they may yet get a robot in the White House, and a cowardly one at that.