Who is Mitt Romney anyway?

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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54 Responses

  1. Patrick Cahalan says:

    (nitpick) It’s only four days to 7,000,000,000 people (/nitpick).Report

  2. Tom Van Dyke says:

    But for all of Romney’s messianic American supremacism, for all of his detached-from-reality bluster about America reigning as the benevolent dictator of the roughly 6.7 billion other human beings on the planet, for all his dog-whistles and sly winks to the neoconservative camp and its pathological insistence on regarding any philosophy of American foreign policy less interventionist than its own to be “isolationist,” I still hear more than a bit of Dick Whitman in Willard Romney’s latest reach for diplomatic gravitas. It’s all bluster and bravado; there’s no there there…

    9 pejoratives in one paragraph, counting conservatively. Well done, although my own preference is for English.Report

    • Since the mere use of pejoratives is in itself no evidence either for or against the appropriateness of their use, merely noting their existence and number is about as meaningless a statement as a commenter could ever hope to make. It seems to imply something, but at the same time allows the commenter to quickly duck away from any accusation that it actually did mean something. It suggests a desire to critique without being willing to take a firm stand. In other words, it’s a classic comment from this commenter.

      For what it’s worth, I entirely agree with Elias. The only wrinkle I’d add is that maybe there’s a touch of “make up for dad never getting the presidency” in Mitt’s inner drive.Report

      • The inability to make a point without begging the question with pejoratives speaks insults both the reader and writer. Sir.

        Unless it’s funny, as is Ann Coulter. Then it’s cool, although intentionally shutting itself off from all but its Amen corner. Sir.Report

        • Pejoratives != begging the question. Here’s a review sheet for you.Report

          • James, I’m sure it seems fine over there in the Bearded Spock universe. To normal people, it’s a bit risible, so I rizzed.Report

            • Uh, yeahhh, normal people never use pejoratives.

              I think you’ve forgotten the first rule of holes.

              As usual, you’re amusing as all get out when you get on your high horse.Report

              • James, the left’s addiction to pejoratives has become a running joke.


                I’m amazed you’d attempt to defend it on even a sophistic level.

                Well, actually, I’m not.


              • the left’s addiction to pejoratives

                Heh, good thing the right wing doesn’t have such an addiction, or who knows what political rhetoric might look like in the U.S.!

                I really think you’re onto something here, Mr. Van Dyke. The left really ought to adopt the right’s principled refusal ever to engage in the use of derogatory adjectives for their political opponents.Report

              • BSK in reply to James Hanley says:

                Common TVD tact: focus on style over substance. Style matters, but if the shoe fits…Report

              • As usual, James, you reduced your own argument to absurdity. But the question isn’t pejoratives, of course, it’s 9 of ’em in a single paragraph.

                By all means, let’s praise Elias for his restraint instead, because after all, “they” use them. You win, as always.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to James Hanley says:

                James, since the joke isn’t pejoratives but the left’s overuse of them, you’re not even in the ballgame.

                But since there are people who’ll swallow anything you write regardless of its coherence, go whole hog and praise him for his restraint. That’ll probably fly in their universe.Report

              • since the joke isn’t pejoratives but the left’s overuse of them,

                Again, thank God the right doesn’t overuse them. It’s a shame the left can’t rise to the noble levels of discourse exhibited by Free Republic, Jihad Watch, Ellis Washington, Rush Limbaugh, Sean O’Hannity, Glenn Beck, or Bill O’Reilly, our generation’s collective Publius.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                You’re still off point, James: you’re either eliding it or it eludes you.

                since the joke isn’t pejoratives but the left’s overuse of them

                Either way, you can only fool some of the people some of the time. Since I’ve already cited Ann Coulter and RCheeks, your tu quoque is already stipulated, so you’re arguing with the ether. It’s not the right doesn’t overuse pejoratives itself, it’s that the left has turned it into a genre. [See linked example above.]

                I realize some people get very hostile when you try to deprive them of their hostility. The Bearded Spock Universe people.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                It’s not that the Right isn’t as bad as the Left, it’s that the Left is worse.Report

              • Tom,

                Either “turned it into a game” is a criticism or a compliment. Personally I’d see it as a compliment, that they’re having fun with it, all tongue-in-cheek like, compared to the right wing, which does it with rabidly hateful intensity.

                Somehow I don’t think that’s what you’re saying, though. I think you’re trying to say the left uses pejoratives more frequently, and in a worse way than the right. But I think you’d have a damned hard time supporting that claim empirically.

                Of course, speaking of game playing, you’re playing your usual game of refusing to make a clear specific statement about what you mean. That, of course, allows you to keep pretending that others are misinterpreting you, and allows you to avoid ever having to take a firm stance on something and risk actually getting pinned down on something specific.

                Seriously, Mr. Slippery, exactly what do you mean by “making a game out of it?”

                I don’t expect a straight answer, but your next soft-shoe tap-dance should be amusing.Report

              • It’s not that the Right isn’t as bad as the Left, it’s that the Left is worse.


              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                There you go again, Dr. Hanley.


                9 pejoratives in a single paragraph is the point. It’s funny in its banality, and that it’s become a cliche in Leftese literature. Of course I don’t get upset anymore. The OP reduces itself to absurdity with no outside assistance. My own reproval of it was tongue-in-cheek and quite mild until you made a thing of it, as is your custom.

                Until and unless you address my actual point, please let me go.Report

              • Until and unless you address my actual point, please let me go.

                And, there we go! Mr. Slippery has assiduously avoided making a clear point, and then he complains that the point he’s never clearly made isn’t being addressed.

                God bless you, Mr. Van Dyke, you’re so predictable. You’re fun to fish with when you’re playing your dodge and weave game.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                the left’s addiction to pejoratives

                Yeah, they’re a bunch of douchebags.Report

        • > The inability to make a point without
          > begging the question with pejoratives
          > speaks insults both the reader and
          > writer. Sir.
          > Unless it’s funny, as is Ann Coulter.

          Tom, this may come as a surprise, but many people on the left don’t find Ms. Coulter the slightest bit amusing.

          I’m pretty sure Elias can find you a nine-count plus paragraph of pejoratives written by her without too much trouble.

          Now, you might not find Elias funny, but if pejoratives are only funny and therefore okay when they come from someone on your political side, I think we can say that one either ought not to use them at all, or everything is fair game.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

            You almost got my point, PatC—I was definitely invoking Coulter as someone addicted to pejoratives, albeit with an attempt at wit.

            Also acknowledged infra

            intentionally shutting itself off from all but its Amen corner

            is that the left wouldn’t find her funny and also that she shuts out the general audience with her polemical rhetoric.

            But 9 pejoratives in a single paragraph with no attempt at wit, on a front page that ostensible welcomes gentlemen all across the political spectrum, well, that’s just numbing.

            If we recall—and perhaps we don’t—I’ve made the same observation and implicit plea to our beloved Mr. Cheeks’ use of “commie-Dems,” and that’s only the comments sections. Since Cheeks only manages a handful of pejoratives per paragraph, I will praise him for his restraint afterall if our standards are to be those of the Bearded Spock Universe.

            Your call, everybody. Whatever. I’ll continue to note when such things sink to self-parody. This did.Report

          • I still can’t figure out why you guys treat Tom’s numerous pathologies, grudges, and other manifestations of apolitical pique with such earnest fisking…Christian charity?Report

    • JG New in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Then here it is quite simply put: Mitt Romney will say anything, anything at all, to get elected President, and it matters not a jot what he said last decade, last year, or last Tuesday. The contempt in which he holds the GOP base, and the rest of his fellow citizens, is quite breathtaking to behold.Report

  3. A Teacher says:

    That does beg the question of what you want in President. Do we want a Philosopher-in-Chief or a Handyman-in-Chief? On the one hand, the president can be seen as a role of “Think big thoughts and let the congress make it happen”. On the other hand there’s value to a president who looks at what needs to be done and pragmatically deals with “problems”.

    I think there is interesting conversation on the issue of “Flip Flopping” vs “Taking Each Problem as They Come.” In some cases that can seem like flip flopping because each situation is unique and I do agree that it’s poor leadership to find oneself doing “Bad Things” because you’ve created a prescident that requires you to do so.

    It’s one of the frustrating things in this job of mine. There are simply some assignments/ quizzes where partial credit doesn’t make sense as a tool for assessment. But because I’ve done it on previous assignments I’ve got parents screaming at me to do it again, even if it has “Bad Outcomes”. And this in turn forces me to spend my summers trying to tweek my policies so that I’m sure that every rule will work “Pretty Well” in every case, rather than having the freedom to adapt my rules to the specific case.Report

  4. A couple things:

    (1) The Soviet Union wasn’t evil. Stalin was evil. Lenin was arrogant and wrong. Trotsky was weak. The Soviet Union was tragic in the Greek sense of the word.

    (2) The neocons are not dumb; Charles Krauthammer went to Harvard Medical School and more-or-less discovered bipolar disorder. The neocons are wrong and have twisted values.

    Really, I think Romney’s trying to win, and he probably will, which makes him potentially a good executive. I see little or no qualitative difference between a President Obama and a President Romney, except in the degree to which Romney will not be willfully obstructed by his own party in control of Congress. So, if you really want “change”, vote Romney.Report

    • I had no idea about the bi-polar stuff. Really interesting! (And, no, Kraut’s not dumb. Kristol/Podhoretz the Younger, on the other hand….)Report

    • Chris in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      The primary reason to pick one party over the other for the presidency, for me at least, is the Supreme Court. That’s why I’ll vote for Obama.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

        not me. the primary consideration is “which bastards gain more power” where the bastards != the people in congress. Dems win, antinukes gain more power, anti-genetic engineering, unions, etc. Republicans win, financials/wealthy gain more power. Society ossifies, social mobility decreases.Report

        • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Kimmi says:

          Republicans win say good bye to birth control of any sort. They really care about making sure that no orgaism goes unpunished. Don’t believe me look at what they have been doing for the past 2 years alone.Report

          • Murali in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

            Republicans win say good bye to birth control of any sort.

            I really dont see that happening. Not even in the states where these republicans are popular do you see that happening.Report

            • dexter in reply to Murali says:

              Murali, google Initiative 26 Mississippi and then get back with some thoughts about your last sentence.Report

              • Murali in reply to dexter says:

                A few things

                1. Here’s what I see happening.

                either it would get voted down in the ballot, or it would be challenged as unconstitutional same way prop 8 was challenged.

                2. This is not going to have anything to do with birth control pills, condoms which prevent fertilisation.

                3. Given tha this is just about abortion and IVF, saying that this is about punishing orgasms is not borne out by the evidence.

                4. This has no chance of working at the federal level

                5. All said, it is not clear that the move is necessarily wrong. The mere fact that the burden of pregnancy falls on women does not mean that they have a right to abort the foetus.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Murali says:

                “The mere fact that the burden of pregnancy falls on women “

                Really? You’re not ging to give dudes just a smidgen of responsibility?

                When I was a young man, this was the very argument conservatives gave for why laws that forced deadbeat dads to pay child support* were wrong and twisted – after all, men taking responsibility for their part might muck up a guy’s long term goals.

                *(And yes, for those of you on the younger side, 30 years ago it was actually a controversial R vs. D issue that men should have a financial responsibility if they knocked up a woman. I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh lament that deadbeat dad legislation was proof that liberals were against the laws of nature, and Mort Downey claiming the laws were designed to eliminate procreation.)Report

      • Franz Gruber in reply to Chris says:

        Well isn’t that a shocking admission. And here I thought you’d be leaning towards Santorum. Or maybe even Bachmann–only, of course, if she picked Palin for VP. You’re just full of surprises you jolly ole chap!

        Here it is folks, Chris’s barrel of fun–Cheers!

        p.s. Chris, do you ever laugh–or smile?


    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      For the record, it is my considered opinion that it is not only possible to be brilliant and stupid at the same time, it is likely that these two conditions co-exist in many-if-not-most brilliant people.Report

    • Chris in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Charles Krauthammer went to Harvard Medical School and more-or-less discovered bipolar disorder.

      Huh? No. Bipolar disorder’s been around a lot longer than Krauthammer. He and his colleagues discovered a form of mania (not bipolar, just mania) associated with certain illnesses and medications, and called it “secondary mania” to distinguish it from mania that manifests directly without being caused by another underlying condition.Report

      • Christopher Carr in reply to Chris says:

        Granted, I was exaggerating his accomplishments. The point was not to be taken literally, but you’re right that I should have put in Krauthammer’s actual contributions to the field, which are easily Googlable.


      • Franz Gruber in reply to Chris says:

        And the next thing you’re going to tell me is that George W didn’t invent the round wheel. Hey, we need our Santa Clauses. Do Atheists believe in Santa Claus? I mean, ever? Or does the misery of Atheism trickle down and rob children of even the slightest beliefs in fantasy of any kind?Report

  5. I’ve referenced this before, but I still think Stephen Fry’s take on Romney is the best:

    With a great flurry of handshakes and smiles, Mitt is suddenly in the house, marching straight to the space in front of the fireplace where a mike on a stand awaits him, as for a stand-up comedian. He is wearing a smart suit, the purpose of which, it seems, is to allow him to whip off the jacket in a moment of wild unscripted anarchy, so as to demonstrate his informality and desire to get right down to business and to hell with the outrage and horror this will cause in his minders. British MPs and candidates of all stripes now do the same thing. The world over, male politicians have trousers that wear out three times more quickly than their coats. And who would vote for a man who kept his jacket on? Why, it is tantamount to broadcasting your contempt for the masses. Politicians who wear jackets might as well eat the common people’s children and have done with it.

    Romney is impressive in a rather ghastly kind of way, which is not really his fault. He has already gone over so many of his arguments and rehearsed so many of his cunningly wrought lines that, try as he might, the techniques he employs to inject a little life and freshness into them are identical to those used by game show hosts, the class of person Governor Romney most resembles; lots of little chuckled-in phrases like ‘am I right?’ and ‘gosh, I don’t know but it seems to me that’, ‘heck, maybe it’s time’ and so on. In fact he is so like an American version of Bob Monkhouse in his verbal and physical mannerisms that I become quite distracted. Rod and Patricia beam so hard and so shiningly they begin to look like the swollen pumpkins that surround them.

    ‘Hey, you know, I don’t live or die just for Republicans or just for whacking down Democrats, I wanna get America right,” says Mitt when invited to blame the opposition.

    A minder makes an almost indiscernible gesture from the back, which Mitt picks up on right away. Time to leave.

    ‘Holy cow, I have just loved talking to you folks,’ he says, pausing on his way out to be photographed. ‘this is what democracy means.’

    ‘I told you he was awesome,’ says Deirdra.

    In the afternoon we move on to Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the most famous, exclusive and prestigious private schools in the land, the “Eton of America’ that educated Daniel Webster, Gore Vidal, John Irving, and numerous other Americans all the way up to Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook as well as half the lineup of indie rockers Arcade Fire. The school has an endowment of one billion dollars.

    In this heady atmosphere of privilege, wealth, tradition and youthful glamour Mitt is given a harder time. The students question the honesty of his newly acquired anti-gay, anti-abortion ‘values’. It seems he was a liberal as Governor of Massachusetts and has now had to add a little red meat and iron to his politics in order to placate the more right-wing members of his party. The girls and boys of the school (whose Democratic Club is more than twice the size of its Republican, I am told) are unconvinced by the Governor’s wriggling and squirming on this issue and he only manages, in the opinion of this observer at least, to get away with not being jeered. I could quite understand his shouting out, ‘What the hell you rich kids think you know about families beats the crap out of me’, but he did not, which is good for his campaign but a pity for those of us who like a little theatre in our politics.

    By the time he appeared on the steps outside the school hall to answer some press questions I was tired, even if he was not. The scene could not have been more delightful, a late-afternoon sun setting the bright autumnal leaves on fire; smooth, noble, and well-maintained collegiate architecture and lawns and American politics alive and in fine health. I came away admiring Governor Romney’s stamina, calm and good humour. If every candidate has to go through such slog and grind day after day after day, merely to win the right finally to move forward and really campaign, then one can at least guarantee that the Leader of the Free World, whoever he or she may be, has energy, an even temper and great stores of endurance. I noticed that the Governor’s jacket had somehow magically been placed in the back of his SUV. Ready to be put on in order to be taken off again next time.Report

  6. JG New says:

    I see your point, but I differ on what is the nature of the problem that Romney is trying to solve. Your contention is that his problem-solving is directed at trying to solve the problem of whats wrong with America. I suspect the problem that he is actually trying to solve is that of how to get elected President. I suspect that at this point he has no idea whatever (per your article) what he would do once he got there (Heaven forfend)Report