The last thing any of us wants to do is revisit or, God forbid, relitigate the hapless campaign of Mitt Romney. But with the release of the new Netflix documentary, Mitt, a small segment of the pop culture conversation has returned to the strange man whose presidency we mercifully escaped.
The Romney Revival Tour took the former candidate to the friendly territory of Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday, and you'll be pleased to know he's still smarting over his performance in the second debate against Barack Obama -- that would be the one in which he walked right into a mine field and blew himself up on national television when he tried to deliver a talking point on Benghazi and was corrected right there on the spot by debate moderator Candy Crowley. Oh yeah, in other news, Mitt Romney remains convinced Benghazi is a big scandal.
While it may cause a hellacious headache to dive back into this inanity, Romney's comments to Hewitt provide some fascinating insight into not only how Romney viewed his relationship with the media but really how Republicans in general regard the press, its role in American politics, and what they believe its role should be.
Hewitt: Now in the film, Mitt, the conversation comes up, that sequence in the debate and Candy Crowley’s intervention in it. But the only negative word, Mrs. Romney at one point says Candy Crowley and sort of mutters under her breath. Did you feel she was unfair at that moment in the debate?
Romney: Well, I don’t think it’s the role of the moderator in a debate to insert themselves into the debate and to declare a winner or a loser on a particular point. And I must admit that at that stage, I was getting a little upset at Candy, because in a prior setting where I was to have had the last word, she decided that Barack Obama was to get the last word despite the rules that we had. So she obviously thought it was her job to play a more active role in the debate than was agreed upon by the two candidates, and I thought her jumping into the interaction I was having with the President was also a mistake on her part, and one I would have preferred to carry out between the two of us, because I was prepared to go after him for misrepresenting to the American people that the nature of the attack.
Do we need to translate what Romney is essentially saying here? During the first 2012 presidential debate between the two candidates, Romney turned in a stellar performance, seeming to stun Obama over and over again with one blow after another. Of course it's easy to do this to an opponent when you're not tethered at all to the strictures of reality. Romney lied his ass off in a manner that was almost otherworldly, misrepresenting his own positions, suddenly pivoting on distinctions he'd clearly drawn against Obama in the past, and basically spewing so much bullshit that Obama could barely catch his breath.
In the second debate, he found that he wasn't able to get away with that when it mattered most -- and his frustration over that fact showed and still does. It's both shocking and not shocking in the least that Romney really believed -- and again, still does -- that it was the job of the journalist moderating the debate to simply sit there and allow him to lie unchallenged. Romney knew that if no one stood in his way, it would again be his word against Obama's, with his side providing enough post-debate spin and nonsense "fact-checking" to confuse the American public. In Romney's case, a lie repeated not only often enough but with enough polish and confidence would become the truth. It was cynical as hell, but it's the way Republicans in the era of Fox News have been led to think these days: the media are there to be stenographers, diligently complicit in keeping the hot air flowing into the epistemic bubble. They're not supposed to be adversaries (except when a convenient boogeyman is needed). When they do their job, guys like Romney cry foul and whine about it.
Mitt Romney may be gone, but that philosophy remains. As a liar who believed the press was there to either parrot his horseshit or stay out of his way, he may have been exceptional. But he certainly won't be the last.