By Chez Pazienza: Well, I'll say this for Mitt Romney: No one's better at snatching startling, overwhelming defeat from the jaws of mere crushing defeat. I'd run down the ways in which the Romney campaign has committed ritual political seppuku, or at least should have in the eyes of most voters, over the past 24-hours, but really it's a waste of time at this point. This would be the, what, fourth column I've written in the past couple of months -- the last three coming within the span of just two weeks -- tackling the subject of the Romney campaign's almost astonishing incompetence?
There's no sense in detailing at length the specifics of what Romney said during a secretly recorded fundraiser earlier this year, his arrogant, John Galt-like speech to his fellow masters of the universe at the mansion of a wealthy supporter who apparently uses at least one of his other homes to host sex parties. Every objective news outlet in America is providing the details of his staggeringly callous assertion that 47% of America is made up of feckless victims who are more than happy to live off the largess of the righteous producing class and who'll vote for Barack Obama no matter what simply to keep their government checks coming; Ezra Klein is breaking down the numbers which prove the Romney worldview dead wrong; an almost humorously flabbergasted Jonathan Chait is summing up the importance of Romney finally revealing his true nature, that of a "sneering plutocrat," to the country; and Josh Barro at Bloomberg said that yesterday's opera of awfulness marked the official moment when Romney lost the election. (And for the record, I'm not sure I've ever seen a candidate running for any office garner more declarations of "he just lost the campaign" at various times and by more people than Mitt Romney.)
True, there's something especially disconcerting about seeing and hearing Mitt Romney speak in such an uncharacteristically statesmanlike manner, free of all the usual clumsy, spastic tics that hamstring his every attempt to interact with normal people, and knowing that the reason for it is that he's comfortable around millionaires and billionaires -- and they may be the only people in the world in whose presence he truly is relaxed. Figuring he was away from both the judgments of the underclass and the need to perform the regular balancing act required to make him appear empathetic and human, he let the flag of the real Mitt Romney fly high and the result painted a picture of a guy who may truly be borderline sociopathic. The window into the mind and personality of the Mitt Romney we've all been trying to figure out for months suddenly brought all those odd personalty quirks of his into sharp focus: they now seem more than ever like glitches in the construct he's created to be able to appear human, the cracks in the mask of sanity Patrick Bateman was forced to wear when he wasn't hitting people in the mouth with an axe in the middle of his living room.
What's interesting about this latest mess for the Romney campaign, though, isn't simply the fact that it happened at all -- that Romney didn't understand that he's being watched at all times and therefore can never let his guard down completely -- or that his response to it, which came in the form of a hastily called press conference, made him look like a man in the throes of a full-on panic attack. No, the fun to be had in this is watching the conservative media reaction to it -- because very little clearly defines the difference between the mentality of the modern conservative and just about everyone else these days like hearing both the cheerleaders at Fox News and the tea partying insurgents embrace Romney's claim as no big deal. It should be obvious by now that the whole of the Republican party power structure -- both the extremists on the far right and the establishment that's allowed them to pull the party off an ideological cliff -- fully endorses the obscene Randian worldview which dictates that there are two classes of people in the world and if you're unfortunate enough to be desperately trying to get by it's your own damn fault, that wealth directly correlates to character and morality.
Right-wing pundits like Laura Ingraham are already giddy at the notion that Romney is finally standing up and brashly preaching the gospel instead of pretending to give a crap about society's moochers, who apparently happen to be half the country. This is the Republican ideal these days; gone is the time when Ronald Reagan at least paid lip service to the notion of not letting the poor fall through the cracks, to say nothing of simply calling for them to drown in their own lethargy and worthlessness. As Frank Rich reported in New York Magazine this week, Fox News may have been behind Mitt Romney since day one of his ascension, but the grassroots right-wing media have been slow to get on board. That could all be about to change now, however. Now he's speaking their language -- the language of white economic and cultural resentment. That he was speaking it to a collection of men and women whom most average Republican voters will never in their lives come into contact with, let alone resemble in any meaningful way, doesn't much matter. The anger on the right aimed at the welfare queens it believes are ripping proud, hardworking conservatives off is just too strong to overcome with humanity or even rationality. And the conservative media will milk that outrage for all it's worth.
Maybe this is why I keep thinking that while Romney's moment of honesty will kill him with the independents that he's, by his own admission, trying so hard to reach, it's only going to shore up his right flank. They're going to love him for slamming those lazy parasites even if they at one point or another were in the position -- or still are -- of being down on their luck and having to accept a little assistance from on high. In other words, while Romney's in big trouble, I don't think he's been completely blown out of the water by this -- even though he should be.
Of course this is Mitt Romney we're talking about. Give it a couple of days and he'll do something new that will lead yet another round of astonished journalists, pundits and political insiders to declare that he's a goner.