“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.”
bout Mitt Romney and his recently uncovered attack on the poor, the elderly, and working folks, conservative columnist David Brooks—one of only a handful of conservatives left who understand Burkean conservatism—made many good points in his column in today’s New York Times.
However, this wasn’t one of those good points:
Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.
The first problem with that assessment of Romney is that it is difficult to conceive how a man can be “a kind, decent man” while “pretending to be something he is not” in order to obtain political power. Brooks is better than that, as a thinker.
But the real problem with that rather generous assertion is that it simply isn’t true. Romney is not pretending. That much is obvious to anyone paying attention to his campaign, even David Brooks, who earlier in his column wrote:
Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.
The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers.
I don’t know how Brooks can assert that Romney is only “pretending” to be a “government hater” and yet suggest Romney “has shifted over toward a much more “hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view,” a reactionary and radical view that now represents almost two-thirds of the Republican Party.
At one time, I also thought Romney was a pretender, attempting to trick conservatives into thinking he bought into all their extremist nonsense. But unlike some folks in the mainstream press, who keep on insisting that Romney will soon abandon his extremist rhetoric and “move toward the center,” I am convinced by the evidence that Romney is who he has been telling us he is.
No one opportunistically becomes and remains “hyperindividualistic and atomistic” unless it resonates in his soul, and finds a welcome home in his thoughts.
The problem for Romney is that he perfectly embodies, and enthusiastically embraces, what it is that ails the Republican Party. Anyone watching that video clip of Romney speaking before wealthy donors—at a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser—immediately notices how fluidly he writes off half the American people, not struggling to find the words to express himself, like he did, say, at that press conference called to defend his disgraceful response to the murder of Americans in Libya.
Romney is at home with those wealthy folks, and at home with people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Erick Erickson, who tweeted yesterday:
And Romney is at home with one of the most angry, repulsive right-wing commentators working today, Michelle Malkin, who chimed in this morning:
“NEVER be defensive or apologetic,” she shouts at Romney, because extremists like her don’t quite trust him, can’t quite go all-in on his candidacy because they are not yet convinced he is as hard-bitten as they are.
And while conservatives may not completely trust Romney, he most definitely trusts them. He trusts that the hard-ass philosophy they champion is a winning philosophy, and he sticks with it, even as he slips in the polls, because he fundamentally believes it. He really is one of them, despite the fact that he has had a hard time winning them over.
This headline from NBC News tells us what we need to know:
No, he doesn’t back down. He doesn’t back down when it is obvious he should, when it is obvious he got his facts wrong, when it is obvious he has offended so many, including so many Republicans who fall into that “47%” he casually, oh-so-casually, wrote off.
At his press conference hastily called to explain his remarks, Romney—who has refused to release relevant tax returns—defended his remarks by repeating the tax lie constantly broadcast by conservatives on Fox and elsewhere:
It’s a message which I’m gonna carry and continue to carry that says, “Look, the President’s approach is attractive to people who are not paying taxes…”
He keeps telling the lies. He isn’t backing down. And it is not just because he doesn’t want to offend Michelle Malkin or Erick Erickson, or not just because Rush Limbaugh will call him Elmer Fudd again on the radio. He doesn’t back down because he doesn’t want to back down. He really does believe what he told those rich donors. He really does hold utter contempt for people he perceives as “dependent upon government,” who, he claims, refuse to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Many of us have characterized Romney as “soulless,” a man who would say or do anything to become president. And it has been the case that he would say or do anything, including changing his positions on a daily basis, to achieve that high office and the power that goes with it. But now, curiously on this issue, he has finally drawn a clear line.
With that line he has split the American people into the “makers” and the “takers,” and he has made a decision to defend that divisiveness, to defend that view of the people.
And in the process he has, at last, shown us he does have a soul, one with a very dark and cynical vision of America.