Worse Comes To Worst
By Chez Pazienza: While it may seem like I write about politics quite a bit, the reality is that my output on the subject this election season is nothing compared to what it was during the same period four years ago. Or is it? It dawned on me recently that despite politics having been a semi-regular topic at my blog, Deus Ex Malcontent, since the beginning, I didn’t really jump into the fray of the 2008 presidential election until one campaign made a decision so staggeringly irresponsible and transparently opportunistic that I felt like I had to say something and keep saying it. I didn’t really become inspired to crank out reams of material until John McCain cynically handed me and the professional political press the easiest target for amusing and sometimes furious incredulity anyone had ever seen in a national race: Sarah Palin. His vice-presidential pick was so incompetent, such a laugh-out-loud caricature, and so thoroughly, dangerously dumb from the moment she first opened her mouth to the day she and McCain went down in flames at the polls (and eventually well beyond that) that she was like a smart-ass political writer’s muse.
Unfortunately, politics has gotten so ugly, even in just the subsequent four years since that historically stupid campaign, that I’ve been inclined to drop out on occasion this time around. I’ve mentioned it before so it’s not worth rehashing, but these days there are times when you simply need to put the headlines aside and not think about the mess our political system and discourse have become in order to ensure that you stay something close to sane. I now value my free time and my desire to have a life that isn’t burdened by the constant personal crisis of fretting over who the hell’s going to take the presidency in November or what one partisan ideologue is saying about another. I have my wonderful 4-year-old daughter. I have a gorgeous, smart and understanding girlfriend. I have a pile of work on my desk that keeps me unbelievably busy. It’s generally 82-degrees and sunny outside in Los Angeles. I submerged myself in enough chaos and sadness over the last several years — with the break-up of my marriage, the separation from my child and the legacy of loneliness and distrust I was left to trudge through in the wake of that personal catastrophe — that I’m not going to punish myself for actually finding a little happiness and wanting to protect it at all costs. If that means I have to tune out from politics on occasion, shirking my responsibility to be a ferocious pain-in-the-ass online, it’s a small price to pay.
But then something happens like what we’ve seen over just the past few weeks. Sarah Palin enters the campaign and asserts herself forcefully. Well, not Sarah Palin, but the next best, or worst, thing — this election cycle’s version of Sarah Palin: Mitt Romney.
I get that Romney’s been in the race for some time and that he’s screwed up almost the entire way, making gaffe upon gaffe and generally being a cringe-inducingly awful presidential hopeful for the Republicans — but the last month or so has really seen him hit his stride when it comes to wrapping his hands around the figurative award for Worst Presidential Candidate Ever and raising that sucker high over his head while tears of joy stream down his cheeks. It was just three days ago that I wrote, right here, that the Romney campaign was in a state of utter turmoil, that its various lies, miscalculations and amateurish screw-ups had even the GOP faithful screaming for Romney’s blue blood — and that piece was actually written as a response to an earlier column that examined Mitt’s shortcomings as he fumbled his way toward election day. But every time I think Romney’s achieved a personal best when it comes to his willingness to say or do anything, no matter how ridiculous or divorced from reality, to put himself in the White House, he one-ups both himself and my expectations.
His response to the attacks on our embassies in Libya and Egypt is entirely virgin territory in Romney’s apparent ongoing quest to sabotage the Republican party from the inside — or at the very least to give journalists, pundits and even his own supporters new ways to publicly lambaste him for his cluelessness, political ineptitude and disastrous lack of decision-making skills. I’ll give Romney this: He’s the gift that keeps on giving, and a guy who’s provided plenty of head-scratching, tightrope-walking entertainment in this campaign for someone who’s as insufferably dull as he is.
By now you all know both the timeline of events from yesterday and the night before and Romney’s insistence on, of course, sticking firmly to his near-universally derided, disgraceful and almost shockingly fact-free comments on what took place overseas and the Obama administration’s reaction to it; there’s no need to run down the minute-by-minute again. You’ve heard the statements; you’ve seen the self-satisfied smirk; you’re aware of just how far removed from the reality of what actually happened Romney’s take on the events in Libya, Egypt and Washington DC is. Best of all, you know why he did what he did. You know whom he’s hoping to impress by immediately going on the offensive and clumsily attempting to cram the past 36-hours into the “Obama the Apologist” narrative he’s pathetically nurtured since the beginning of his campaign.
Eager to please and to score partisan political points as his campaign goes down in the flaming wreckage of one massive mistake after another, he jumped the gun and ran his mouth off about the embassy attacks before all the facts were in, getting things horribly wrong in a craven attempt to use the violence overseas to paint the president as weak on foreign policy and someone who’s embarrassed of the United States. Worse, he’s continued to repeat that false information over and over again despite being called out for being wrong. Like a suburban wimp boastfully hamming it up for a gang initiation, he’s trying so hard to prove that he’s got what it takes to be one of the tough-talking chicken hawks on the right that he’ll literally say anything to endear himself to them, and all it really takes is to point at an empty chair where a phantom Obama is supposedly sitting and blame it for everything.
The beauty of this new colossal screw-up is that it’s so perfectly Romney — it really shows off everything worth disliking about him and his campaign. You’ve got the flop-sweaty stench of desperation, the inadvertent flaunting of his complete lack of knowledge about anything related to foreign policy which leads to far more harm than good, the comical inverse correlation between how tough he aims to appear and how tough he actually is, and of course the blatant lying followed by the inevitable doubling and tripling-down on that lie. Romney launched a coordinated attack on the Obama administration, based not on its actions but those of an embassy about to be under siege in Egypt — one whose staff was trying desperately to defuse a situation that was threatening the lives of Americans — and did so under false pretenses. He got the entire story wrong and then, despite being called out, just kept hammering away on that mistake — that lie. It’s been said quite a few times by different people and different outlets over the past two days, but this time what Romney did was so egregious and misguided — and such painful proof that he’s a dilettante on the world stage, an empty suite and nothing more — that it almost single-handedly nailed his coffin shut, showing once and for all that he has no business even being in the running for the most powerful office in the world.
A lot of people are comparing Romney’s actions to the moment in 2008 when candidate John McCain rashly “suspended” his campaign to concentrate on the economic disaster that was gripping the country. McCain never recovered from the reputation he instantly cultivated for being unable to think on his feet and being out of his league. This could certainly be that all over again. But I actually think that this is something else: This is Mitt Romney’s Sarah Palin moment. This is when he officially turns into a national punchline. When it becomes obvious to all but the hardcore faithful desperate for a far-right swing at the top of our government that he’s not ready to lead, that allowing him to do so would be a catastrophe. It’s of course still possible for him to win in November — never forget that — but to any sane person following national politics, even part-time, and concerned for what’s best for our great country, this should be the moment when the decision is made that Mitt Romney cannot be allowed to win.
Yes, he’s great material — the inspiration people like me need to keep writing about politics this season — but don’t ever forget how dangerous he is.