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On Hardball with Chris Matthews tonight, Matthews ended his last commercial break before his Let me finish segment by promising to discuss, "Mitt Romney's spine and where did it go in 48 hours?" If you tuned into Hardball with Chris Matthews on Saturday, you might have had to turn it off because Matthews and his guests seemed uncritical of Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. However, if you had kept watching, you might have seen Melissa Harris-Perry's righteous rant about the way Romney and Ryan used the Declaration of Independence in their speeches on Saturday.

Melissa Harris-Perry: [T]he thing I really have against him [Paul Ryan], actually has to do with how both he and Governor Romney have misused the Declaration of Independence today. I am deeply irritated by their notion that pursuit of happiness means ...

Chris Matthews: Money?

Melissa Harris-Perry: ... means money for the richest, but that we extricate the capacity of ordinary people to pursue happiness. When they say that God and nature give us our rights, not government, that is a lovely thing to say as a wealthy white man. But when you sit in a body like mine, as an African-American woman, you know that God and nature may have, in fact, made us inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but we could not have them until there was a civil war that allowed a federal government to impose that those nature and God given rights would actually be respected by our government. And I think that they can not continue to go down this line on the Declaration of Independence.

Chris Matthews: You mean the American Revolution continues as we speak?

Melissa Harris-Perry: Ya think?

Perhaps Matthews let Harris-Perry's words sink in, while he spent the rest of the weekend thinking about what the Ryan pick really meant to this election. Perhaps watching the 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, made Matthews begin to wonder about where Mitt Romney's spine went in 48 hours. No matter where the inspiration came from, it seems that Matthews has once again found his own spine. Just like in June, when Matthews figured out that Romney would sell his soul to anyone and looked at winning the presidency as a trophy to be won, not a calling to help the majority of Americans; tonight Matthews figured out that Romney doesn't believe in anything, despite his campaign signs decrying, Believe in America.
Let me finish tonight with this new Republican ticket, Romney/Ryan. It sounds right, very alliterative, better than you know Good 'n [Plenty] Pawlenty; or waking from a long sleep, Romney/Portman. It doesn't have quite the color of Romney/Rubio, now that has some real cache. So it's Romney/Ryan. Somewhere in the middle between a Hail Mary and an over the middle flea flicker.
Okay, the name has a certain ring to it, but what does it mean to the election?
But here's the problem, and it's showing up already, Romney picked a conviction politician and that ladies and gentlemen, Romney is not. Ryan believes in things, he's a devotee of Ayn Rand, a believer in the individual out there on his own, or her own. A real individualist, and his budget shows it. Pulls back on spending on people in need. More incentives for people on the make. Corporate tax cuts on top of Bush tax cuts with a big squeeze, on the old, and the old and poor to pay for it.
A conviction politician? Well, isn't that a polite way to say it. Sounds like he's an extremist politician to me. You know, I'm an individualist. I do strongly believe in doing as much as I can for myself, and I do. I have never expected the government to support me. Now that my husband has retired and is receiving monthly social security benefits, and will start receiving Medicare in November, I appreciate that safety net. We've lived the last dozen years without medical insurance, but both continued to pay into the system so that he would have that safety net. I'm not there yet, but now that Obamacare is law, I'm looking forward to being able to finally being able to afford health insurance for myself, now that I can not be penalized for having pre-existing conditions.
But here's the problem ... belief is not something Romney is known for. Conviction is alien to him. Romney, his own people say, is a data miner. He doesn't start with the truth. He digs and digs, and tries to find what to do based on the data he can mine. Not exactly a leader. Not exactly a person of conviction. Not even close to being a Ryan or an Obama. Ryan believes government should stay out of our lives. Obama believes that it has a vital, corrective role in a society, that would otherwise be driven by the market, by profit seeking alone.
"Not exactly a leader." Wow! That pretty much nails it. Romney is not a leader, but he picked one as his running mate. Obama has already proven himself to be a leader. The stark difference between the philosophies of each campaign makes the choice in this election much clearer. I wonder how long it will be before what happened to McCain, happens to Romney? Will we see headlines saying Romney Minus Ryan Equals Smaller Crowds just like we saw McCain Minus Palin Equals Smaller Crowds. But Romney only believes in whatever his data mining determines he thinks the most people want him to believe? Wow! That's got to be a difficult tight-rope to walk.
What does Romney believe? Well, we thought for almost two days this weekend, he believed in Ryan and what he stands for. Now? As of last night on 60 Minutes we know he likes the sound of the ticket, Romney/Ryan, but not if means actually saying something, meaning something, believing something beyond the one sacred goal on which Mitt Romney has set his heart, to get himself elected president.
And now we've come full circle to the Let me finish segment that Matthews delivered on June 18.
The scariest thing about Mitt Romney is that he really is open for bids. He's sold his soul to every right-wing faction that's out there: the neo-cons on foreign policy, the religious right on social policy, Grover on the tax issue. Why have a brain if you don't have to think? With this crowd around, his only job is to do exactly what he's told. He's done just that. Listen closely. Tell me if you've ever, ever heard Mitt Romney say something that's not pluperfect right-wing talking points. The exact words that pressure groups are telling him to say. This guy isn't a candidate. He's a speaker system.
Once again, Romney has done what he has been told to do by selecting Paul Ryan to be his running mate. It's going to be interesting watching Romney's attempts to continue using his data mining to answer questions about what he believes, while reporters are using Ryan's out there on paper convictions to ask the questions.

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