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The Serially Insincere Mitt Romney

June 26, 2011

Last December, the conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat fretted that Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney is "serially insincere." His concern is well-founded. After all, Romney gymnastic flip-flops don't merely make it "awfully hard to figure out where he would actually stand when the pandering stops and the governing begins." As his latest failed ad campaign once again featuring a Republican activist posing as a victim of the economic downturn shows, Romney's insincerity is greatest precisely when he is trying to show he cares the most.

Just days after the multimillionaire venture capitalist joked to a group of jobless Floridians that "I'm also unemployed," Mitt Romney introduced a new web video featuring Michigan's Ryan King as the poster child for the so-called "Obama Misery Index." In the spot, the unemployed King laments, "How can I get experience if no one is going to hire me in?" But as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal among others revealed, Mr. King only needed to turn to his friends in the Republican Party.
As Greg Sargent explained:

It turns out there's a bit more to King's story than that, though.
In 2009, King was identified in the local press as the vice treasurer for the Midland County Young Republicans. He seems to have been a local Republican activist since; his Facebook page shows him partying away at the 2011 state GOP convention.

"Among his 'likes' on Facebook," the Journal's Jonathan Weisman reported, "The Midland County Republican Party. He happens to be vice chairman of the county's Young Republicans."
It's no wonder Weisman asked if Romney was serving Americans "a baloney sandwich." As it turns out, it wouldn't be the first time for the "guy from Detroit" who later wrote "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

During his first run for the White House, Romney held a photo-op with an unemployed single mom on the eve of the Michigan primary. But that attempt to show Mitt's concerned for the struggling workers of Michigan quick ran into a now familiar problem. As Politico detailed in January 2008:

A well-publicized weekend photo-op for Mitt Romney turns out to have been missing a piece of information that might have undermined its credibility: the unemployed single mom at the center of the event was the mother of a Romney staffer...
What wasn't reported - and what the Romney campaign did not reveal at the time - was that one of Sachs' sons, Steve Sachs, is a paid employee of Romney's campaign, organizing five counties in Michigan.

Caught red-handed, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden responded that Sachs "work in the field doesn't change (his mother's) situation." If that sounds familiar, it should. This week, Mitt's man Eric Fehrnstrom defended the campaign's choice to highlight Ryan King, claiming "He's struggling right now, just like millions and millions of other Americans."
And, apparently, just like millions of British workers in the late 1970's.

As David Weigel noticed last week, a new Romney web ad announcing "Obama's Not Working" was lifted from the 1979 UK Conservative Party campaign that helped put Margaret Thatcher in 10 Downing Street:

Those people aren't dressed like Americans in the year 2011, are they? No. That's because this is copied from (or lovingly designed in tribute to!) a classic ad run by the UK's Conservative Party against the incumbent Labour Party in 1979.

"Romney adman Stuart Stevens," Weigel added, "tells me the tribute was intentional, and that there are parallels between Thatcher's 1979 victory and today." Which makes perfect sense. After all, four years ago, Mitt Romney celebrated the Reagan-Thatcher era, and tried to claim the Gipper's mantle. Alas, Romney's paean to St. Ronnie was belied by his 194 rejection of the GOP's current patron saint:

"I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush; I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush. My positions don't talk about the things you suggest they talk about; this isn't a political issue."

Of course, with Mitt Romney, as Ross Douthat lamented, everything is political. To his defenders, Romney's cynical façade "shows that try as he might, he can't give himself over completely to the carnival of a primary campaign, because he's fundamentally too sober and serious to be a carnival barker." For Romney's backers, Douthat pondered, "Maybe his transparent insincerity is even a virtue."
If so, in that Republican moral universe Mitt Romney would be a cross between Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Let's just hope that in this world, it won't make Mitt Romney President of the United States.
(For more background, see "You Know Mitt Romney is Out of Touch When...")


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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