There’s no way you can win a game if you don’t keep your eye on the ball. But what the hell are you supposed to do when the ball is constantly, suddenly, inexplicably changing direction?
That, in a nutshell, is the problem that Barack Obama and American voters are facing when it comes to Mitt Romney.
Romney has been running the most breathtakingly schizophrenic political campaign I have ever seen in the many years that I have followed American politics. From the moment that Romney’s own campaign adviser publicly revealed their “Etch-A-Sketch” strategy, there should not have been any doubt in anyone’s mind that Mitt Romney was planning to lie, frequently and unapologetically. And in that regard, Romney has not only met, but exceeded, our expectations. The culmination of this dishonesty was certainly his first debate performance, during which his distortions, half-truths and flat out lies came thick and fast, in a barrage that left the president unable to adequately rebuff them. And this cavalcade of bullshit helped Romney in the polls. Take a moment and ruminate on this reality, folks. A man who is running for the highest office in America, a man who is supposed to be earning our trust, a man who wants us to believe that he has the character it takes to lead this great nation, was REWARDED by the media and the American people – FOR LYING.
We are so, SO screwed.
As abhorrent as Romney’s moral laxity has been to many of us, it is not entirely shocking. Human beings are animals – nothing more, and nothing less. We have the same instincts as so many of the less-evolved mammals do. One of those instincts is to tailor our behavior based on positive and negative reinforcement. A lab rat will learn to perform and repeat certain actions when those actions are rewarded with food. And those rats will also learn to avoid certain actions when those actions cause them discomfort. This concept was studied by psychologist B.F. Skinner, and his name for these types of learned behaviors was “operant conditioning”.
And it is this same operant conditioning that has shaped Mitt Romney’s entire political career. Like a lab rat, he has spent his political life trying a little of this and a little of that, dismissing the things that cause him problems and doubling down on the things that benefit him. When he was rewarded for the lies he told in last week’s debate – when the media handed him an unqualified “victory” and the polls reflected a subsequent bounce – that gave Romney the green light to kick that “Etch-A-Sketch” strategy up to 11.
Only a man who has been rewarded for lying could bring himself to appear on television and say, straightfaced and with no apparent sense of shame, that he was wrong to say what he did about the 47%…six weeks AFTER it was reported, and six weeks AFTER he stood behind that 47% remark in numerous interviews, saying at the time that it was only “inelegant”, but not inaccurate.
Only a man who has been rewarded for lying could purposely distort his own views, as he did yesterday, when he said that he would not pursue anti-abortion legislation should he be elected….AFTER he has stated publicly that, if he were to receive legislation from Congress that outlawed abortion, he would be “delighted” to sign it.
Only a man who has been rewarded for lying could declare, in a campaign address on foreign policy, “I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel”…AFTER he told a roomful of donors at a fundraiser that “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, ‘There’s just no way.’”
And these three examples of major policy shifts are just from the past week alone.
But the thing is, all of this stuff is simply smoke and mirrors. The words sound like he has pivoted, but the reality is not as he describes it. Romney’s mea culpa about the 47% comment being “wrong” does not change the fact that he said what he said, and defended it until it was no longer politically advantageous for him to do so. Nor does it change the fact that his budgetary policy proposals are reflective of that same bias against the struggling, where tax cuts would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans, and would be paid for by cuts in other areas which benefit those most in need. The claim that he would not pursue anti-abortion legislation is a red herring, because his hope is that the Supreme Court would revisit – and reverse – Roe v. Wade. He says as much on his own campaign website. And one would assume that, if elected, Romney would use any opportunity to appoint Supreme Court justices who are also amenable to that idea. As for Palestine and Israel, Romney has never been subtle about his personal relationship with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, nor has Romney shied away from displaying a less-than-enthusiastic perspective on the Palestinian people in his public comments. And a two-state solution was never something that Romney discussed or supported in any manner before his comments this past Monday.
At the end of the day, Romney hasn’t necessarily undergone a sea change in his fundamental beliefs or policy proposals. But his public persona has certainly been given an extreme makeover, and he has benefited enormously over the past week from these attempts to masquerade as a moderate. He has learned that distortions and falsities are a sure path to getting what he wants, and the media and many voters are reinforcing this lesson with their complicity. I’m at a loss to understand it. Yes, Democrats are disgusted, but shouldn’t Republicans feel the same way? Is a man who can blatantly shapeshift so frequently and so fluidly really an acceptable candidate in their eyes? Do they really, in their heart of hearts, believe that Mitt Romney is good enough to sit in the White House? How do they justify all of this? I mean it – HOW???
It terrifies me to realize that our next president could be someone who has shed more skins than a rattlesnake, who has tried to fundamentally reinvent himself right up until the dying moments of this race, who has been consistent only in his inconsistency over the course of this campaign. If he wins, it’s because there are enough people out there who are willing to simply suck up this ever-growing pile of shit and swallow it down willingly, no matter how often he changes his positions. No matter what that may mean for our country. No matter how it may affect the world. No matter WHAT.
We are so, SO screwed.
ThroughTheChaff: Romney Lies, Freedom Dies