Mitt Romney: Generic Republican Running For President Or Whatever
Some days, I wonder if Mitt Romney is actually running for President. I don’t question that the Republican party has chosen someone to be their nominee, but I wonder if Mitt Romney — the man — is truly running for office. This is largely a function of his “do no harm” campaign, in which he offers no serious specifics to bolster his candidacy while adopting a “whatever seems to work” attitude towards his inconsistent attacks on President Obama.
Romney is bland, in a way that previous bland candidates — Bob Dole, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis — were not. In recent campaigns, at this point, I feel as if we were collectively further along in knowing who the candidates were, for better or for worse. Obama hope, McCain maverick, Kerry bumbling, Bush II folksy, Gore robotic, Clinton touchy, Bush I out of touch, Dukakis hopelessly liberal, etc.
Mitt Romney is just… there.
His selection of a running mate has become an unusual touchstone for the way in which it provided something to latch on to about the ticket. I think of this less of a statement in the supposed “substance” of Paul Ryan’s past proposals, but more about just how vacuous the nominee has been so far. Romney’s been running a “do no harm” campaign to an extreme. Ryan’s plan to kill Medicare became the Romney plan by osmosis, not out of any sense of initiative on the candidate’s part.
Throughout his two candidacies for the presidencies, Mitt Romney has never communicated a passion for why he’s doing this. He says the right stuff in front of Republican audiences about saving America and something something Reagan and how about that socialism and you didn’t build that and something here about taxes and end scene. But I don’t get the feeling he really cares much about any of this. He made a lot of money, got elected governor, got bored with that and other than staying at home counting his money and playing with his grandchildren it seems that running for president was just something to do.
Romney is the blank slate people on the right and left often have accused President Obama have being. If the Republican party were either in pre-Reagan moderate mode or current wingnut Tea Party mode, Mitt’s that… whatever “that” is.
This week you have the absurdity of the RNC chairman insisting that the party platform was not indicative of the presidential candidate’s positions. But can you blame people for trying to latch on to something to stand-in for what Romney believes? Because he sure won’t tell us. Even after choosing Paul Ryan and praising his supposedly bold policy initiatives (in Washington, kicking the poor and elderly in the teeth is bold and brave), the Romney campaign quickly told reporters that the Ryan Medicare killing plan was not, actually, Romney’s plan. Which was contrary to the story the Romney people were simultaneously peddling to friendly conservative outlets.
Mitt Romney’s just for “that,” whatever it might be at the moment that can earn him a percentage point or two.
To a certain extent, that’s what John Kerry was to Democrats in 2004. He was a Democrat who had never seriously rocked the boat on Democratic issues. He was good enough. But at least Kerry had an interesting background. He had entered politics from the unusual position of being a soldier turned anti-war activist. At some point, before his years in the Senate, we knew John Kerry had cared about something once.
That isn’t the case with Mitt Romney. He never seems to have cared in his past, nor does he now. He’s a generic Republican, and nothing much more than that. It was something to do.
Maybe he’ll take up model trains next.