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        "People wonder what the Governor really is, ‘deep down.’ But the truth is that down deep, he isn’t anything. He doesn’t have a ‘down deep,’ and his inauthenticity is his most authentic characteristic—you simply can’t fake being that fake. He has no core beliefs beyond his overriding faith in the importance of getting elected, and would not only eat human flesh if he thought he needed the cannibal vote, he’d do it with a big smile on his face. He’d enjoy it, because to him it would simply taste like the presidency."

    Mitt Romney is a good man. It’s true that to be effective in his capacity at Bain Capital he had as his signal strengths many of the traits that lead doctors to diagnose a sociopath, but it’s also true that being ‘a good man’ does not necessarily mean one is empathetic, or compassionate, or possessed of a conscience, nor does the absence of these qualities necessarily disprove the premise that he is ‘good.’ Let’s try this another way: Mitt Romney is by all accounts a good family man—depending, granted, on whether people believe dogs to be members of the family. OK, OK; how’s this: I do not believe Mitt Romney would kill anyone with his bare hands--unless a great deal of money was at stake, or if he believed that person stood between him and the presidency.

     I probably shouldn’t have started this piece with such a controversial statement! Forgive me. For purposes of consensus, let’s acknowledge that we are all flawed and let me state for the record that I have not personally seen any view of Gov. Romney’s head that would suggest he has horns.

     As the political correspondent for Cat Fancy magazine, I was mindful of these perceptions about Gov. Romney, and I wanted to soften his ‘Stiff Willard’ image and humanize the candidate, to dismiss the idea he’s just a pretty cabinet full of outdated circuitry, to show that he’s more than a runaway animatronic from an fully-mechanized ‘Meet Ronald Reagan’ stage show, and to dismiss, once and for all, the perception that he’s just a ruthless terminator cyborg sent from the future and programmed for one purpose: to become President of the United States. It’s not my easiest assignment; even with his dial set to the ‘woo voters’ function, he moves among crowds with the ease and  comfort of a warden, surrounded by lifers with nothing to lose, in an unguarded area of the prison yard. Gov. Romney, to be perfectly frank, doesn’t just have an impossibly unconvincing time relating to the 99%, he has a difficult time establishing rapport with 99% of the 1%. To his credit, with the top 1% of the top 1%, he achieves the sort of superficial collegiality shared by distant co-workers.

     And so it was with sincere goodwill and the best intentions that I reached over and squeezed out 5 drops from a little plastic container marked ‘peppermint drops’ over his steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat when it arrived from the kitchen. The flavor of peppermint was, admittedly, very weak, but this was owing to the fact that instead of peppermint what the container actually held was a solution with a high concentration of LSD-25, which was, admittedly, very strong. And after 20 or 30 minutes of achingly awkward encounters going booth-to-booth greeting politely underwhelmed diner patrons, Governor Romney settled in for our interview.

     “Governor, a large part of your appeal to voters is the idea that your business experience gives you a unique understanding of how to turn the economy around. Now, putting aside the fact that ‘turning around’ an economy in recovery amounts to taking it back in the wrong direction, and the fact that Herbert Hoover was also a very successful republican businessman whose wealth of experience just happens to have led us into the Great Depression, what specific lessons from your experience at Bain Capital will inform your actions addressing the economy?”
     “Wow, you Cat Fancy guys don’t mess around, huh?”
     “These are the questions cat lovers want to know the answers to, Governor.”
     “Well, I’ll tell you, Bachem…bachembachembachem…Bachem, I’ve got to say, I really love saying your name.”
     “Thank you, Governor.”
The governor’s pupils looked like two black parachutes desperately straining to slow a funny-car nearing the end of a drag strip.
            “Anyway, Bachem--Bachem—Bachem, what I learned at Bain was how to make the hard decisions, to look at entities and figure out how to make them more cost-effective, and to get them to turn a profit, for myself and my investors. And that’s how we’ve got to look at the states.”
            “States should turn a profit?”
            “Of course! Look at New Jersey. For every dollar they pay in federal taxes, they get back 61 cents in federal government services. 39 cents on every dollar—that’s a pretty good return on investment! We need more New Jerseys!”
            “That’s not an argument one often hears.”
            “Well, one should! I’d like to see New Jerseys stretching out from coast to coast!”
            “What about states that receive more federal money than they pay in?”
            “Bachem, I just don’t think we can subsidize them anymore. Like any business interest Bain took control of, they’ve got to either become profitable, or…”
He looked at his hand in slack-jawed wonder.
            “Or we fire them all…” he said softly.
            “Fire…the states?”
            “Well, ship operations overseas. I guarantee you Indonesians can make Mississippi profitable, and not dependent on government handouts. Indonesians can be Mississippians much more cheaply than domestic Mississippians. What’s Mississippi’s main export, anyway. Rickets?  You’re—you’re not from Mississippi, are you, Bachem?”
            “No, sir.”
            “Because I love Mississippi. I love rickets.”
            “That’s not necessary, Governor.”
            “But I do! Bowleggedness reminds me of cowboys! And I love cowboys. They’re great.”
            “You know, Governor, most of these states that take more than they pay in are ‘red’ states.”
            “They are ‘red’ states. It’s out-and-out socialism, is what it is.”
            “I meant—OK, so you would…offshore…the states that aren’t paying as many federal dollars in as they’re taking out?”
            “Yes, I’d definitely start with them.”
            “Well, if we can offshore Mississippi to Indonesia profitably, imagine the increased profitability New Jersey could achieve in Bangladesh!”
            “These are certainly innovative notions, Governor.”
            “It just makes fiscal sense, Bachem. It’s a business decision. That’s what I’m being elected to do—the same things I did at Bain. These are the skills I bring to the office. I’m going to do for America what I did for the companies we engineered hostile takeovers on: lay off the workforce, sell off the assets, and ship operations overseas. It’s morning in America, Bachem.”
            “Clearly, your critics who say your private sector experience wouldn’t translate to the Presidency have underestimated you. Let me ask: how depressed does good news about the American economy make you?”
            “I appreciate your candor, Governor.”
            “It’s just that I don’t think this is the best time for good economic news. It sends a bad signal; it signals that the President’s policies aren’t failing. And I disagree with those policies. As far as I’m concerned, what this economy really needs to help get it on the right track is a major setback. Isn’t that weird?”
            “It’s a perverse view to take, yes.”
            “I want what’s best for Americans, and that is for them to suffer enough that they will welcome an alternative to Barack Obama--who I think it should be said would make a poor cowboy.”
            “Bachem, do you realize that we now live, under President Obama, in a downgraded universe?”
            “How so?”
            “We had nine planets. That’s the America we grew up in. We didn’t know everything, but we knew that much. We relied on it. But now, under Obama’s watch, we only have eight. Just eight planets left—and how many will be left if he gets a second term?”
            “First of all, you’re apparently confusing our solar system with the universe…”
            “Well if our solar system loses a planet, then—“
            “Secondly, to be fair, I think Pluto was reclassified under President Bush.”
            “So the Administration just wants to blame President Bush, three-and-a-half years into Obama? What has the President done to get Pluto back? At what point does the President take responsibility for the universe, Bachem?”
            “The solar system, sir.”
            “I would admit that the Administration has been silent on that point, Governor.”
            “Shockingly, I’d say. Or not, with all the solar flare activity they’ve done nothing about. I’ll tell you, when we get down to zero planets in our solar system, and we’re heading in that direction, look out.”
            “That would present some challenging circumstances.”
            “You bet.”
            “Do you think these are the issues that will define the race, Governor?”
            “The human race!”
            “Are you OK, sir?”
            “Never better. Do you happen to have a cat with you right now?”
            “I don’t.”
            “That’s a shame.”
            “Governor, it’s been said that the Citizens United decision was great news for folks who think hugely wealthy, powerful interests just didn’t have quite enough clout in the American political process.”
            “You’re right.”
            “Right how?”
            “That it was great news.”
            “That wasn’t my point.”
            “It’s not polite to point.”
            “I was making a figurative point.”
            “Well, that’s figuratively impolite.”
            “OK, I apologize.”
            “I’m prepared to put it behind me if you are. I mean, you put it behind you and I’ll put it behind me. That way we won’t have it in front of us anymore. It’ll be back there somewhere.”
            “I think I grasp your meaning.”
            “Good. I feel like I can really talk to you, Bachem.”
            “You can, Governor.”
            “Isn’t it amazing that water can be solid or liquid or gas?”
            “Governor, what do you say to people who think you don’t really care about the poor?”
            “They’re right,” he said absently, looking at the tabletop with a fascinated interest.
           “I’m sorry?”
           “What was the question?”
           “What… do you say to people who think you don’t really care about the poor?”
           “I’ll tell you, Bachem, it surprises me. Why, just the other night, Ann and I were getting ready to go to sleep; I was picking out a tie to wear with my pajamas, and I heard Ann sobbing. I asked, ‘what is it honey?’ And do you know what she said to me?”
           “I do not.”
           “She said ‘Mitt, what about the poor? What about the people who don’t have what we have? The people who have to struggle to pay the cost of filling the tank on their Escalade?’ And I said ‘Ann, the problem is even worse than that. Some of these Americans struggling out there can’t even afford an Escalade like ours.’ And she looked at me and she just started crying. She said ‘honey, I don’t want to live in an America with people who can’t afford what we have. It seems wrong.’ So, you know, naturally, I instructed her to stop this emotional outburst at once, and I told her that Americans sometimes have to make some pretty difficult choices with their limited resources, but they make them. If they can’t afford the Platinum Edition Escalade ESV package fully-loaded new, why then they just bite the bullet and buy it used, though they lose some of the tax deductibility advantages. And I said if they’re really taking a hit on their portfolios, and they can’t afford it either way, well--and she gasped ‘what?’--And I told her ‘There’s always the Lexis.’ ‘Mitt, don’t say that!’ she cried. She was pretty upset.”
          “What happened then?”
          “Well, I had to send her to another room, because she had defied my clear instructions about her emotional demonstrations. But she’d gotten a hard shot of reality.”
          “It must be difficult to process the fact that other people sometimes have to make distasteful compromises on their luxury SUV purchases.”
“Well, she can’t stay sheltered from the world any more than I can.”
“No, she probably couldn’t. Do you think you worry too much about the poor?”
           “Maybe. Probably. But that’s a charge I’m willing to face.”
           “I don’t think the Obama campaign will be leveling that charge against your policies.”
           “I should hope not. You can never just say you care about the poor too often. I just happen to think the best way to help the poor is to lower taxes on the wealthy.”
           “What else do you think needs to be done about the tax code?”
           “Well, we need to cut business taxes. We have some of the highest business taxes in the world.”
           “It’s true we have the second-highest statutory business tax rate, but we also have the second-lowest effective tax rate—after Iceland. We have loopholes that it would be accurate to say you can steer an oil tanker through.”
           “I don’t know what the specific difference might be…”
           “With all due respect, Governor, as a man who reaped billions in the business world, I can’t help suspecting you do.”
           “What’s that sound?”
           “That—it’s an electric guitar.”
           “Wow. That sound is amazing.”
           “Do you listen to a lot of music?”
           “I do. It might surprise you; I can cut loose and listen to The Four Lads. You know, when you think about it, an empty table is actually a buffet for people who are fasting.”
          “That’s…very true.”
          “It is? What were we saying. Oh, yes. Rock and roll.”
          “The Four Lads.”
          “Exactly. Don’t forget, I was young once too. Ann and I went to a wild party back in the day. We were all having a good time, and then, you know, someone ‘sparked one up.’”
         “No, a stick of incense.”
         “Obviously, I grabbed Ann and got right out of there; we didn’t socialize with those people after that, but I think it gave me a pretty clear perspective on the ‘war on drugs.’ I’ve seen some things.”
         “Stay tuned. Do you think your problems with Evangelicals are mostly resolved?”
         “I do. I think that Fundamentalists are good, patriotic Americans, and I hope to have their support.”
        “I think they actually do believe they have the market cornered on patriotism and love of country, but it seems like another example of things they tell themselves to feel better than other people. When the truth is fundamentalists would rather vote for an incompetent Christian than a supremely competent Agnostic; I don’t think that demonstrates much actual love-of-country.”
           “You know, cottage cheese is not quite solid and not quite liquid. That messes with my head. It messes with my head! Do you think cottage cheese is messing with my head, Bachem?”
          “I don’t know, governor.”
          “Well it better not. Don’t you mess with my head, mister. You know what? Take this away. This cottage cheese is being inappropriate. How do you like that?”—the last part was delivered directly to the cottage cheese with a mocking tone.

         He then laughed for a full 10 minutes, intermittently catching his breath, drying his face, and then launching into another hysterical fit of unrestrained laughter. I waited patiently for him to finish. He really comes off as human when he’s laughing.
        “You know, I really like you, Bachem. I really enjoy being with you.”
        “I’m glad, Governor.”
        “I haven’t laughed that much in my whole life. I mean cumulatively.”
        “It did look a little awkward at first, but you got the hang of it.”
        “Maybe you could be my running mate?”
        “I’m honored, but I think you should probably give it some more thought at a later time, sir.”
       “This is the most fun I’ve had on the campaign trail. Campaigning is hard! It’s strange to work so hard to get people who make me uncomfortable to like me. But I learn a lot. Just the other day, I was at a campaign stop and someone put down a hamburger in front of me. I looked at it and said, ‘OK, I’m game! Somebody give me a knife and fork so I can eat this thing!” It’s good to get a chance to try ethnic foods.”
        “Hamburgers are ethnic food?”
        “See how much we agree on? That does it, I’m going to announce you as my running mate right now.” He stood up on his chair, despite my best halfhearted effort to stop him.
       “Everyone, I have a big announcement to make. This man here is going to be my running mate. On the ballot, at least; I don’t know if he runs. If he does, we’ll do that too. I love running. And another thing: outside is the biggest place there is. You can look it up! And down! There’s no inside as big as outside! And bread--it’s the brave new world!” he proclaimed, holding a small roll up for the room to witness like a covenant.

        “How does he make his voice sound like that?” said Governor Romney during our first policy meeting, held in the Ford Focus Cat Fancy had rented for me. With Governor Romney sitting in the passenger seat beside me, listening to a CD of Frampton Comes Alive like it was revealing celestial truths to him with every note—and who among us can doubt that it was--I struggled to put together my impressions of the man, aided by some vaguely-peppermint-tasting drops I’d administered to myself as we posed for photographers an hour earlier--when the Governor engaged befuddled news correspondents with his new understanding of ultimate reality: that in an infinitely recurring universe, we will all take turns being Alan Thicke, and if we could look deeply enough within ourselves we would realize that we have always been Alan Thicke (this vision was inspired by a rerun of Growing Pains playing on the diner’s television set, which was taken by the Governor as too meaningful to be confused as a coincidence, or indeed anything short of divine revelation). He went on to tearfully explain that in some of his less-proud moments, his conscience had been a golden dolphin that swam too far from the shore for him to keep sight of. He then chanted “My bad!” over and over for nearly twenty minutes, trying to get stunned news crews to join in. Some did.

        People wonder what the Governor really is, ‘deep down.’ But the truth is that down deep, he isn’t anything. He doesn’t have a ‘down deep,’ and his inauthenticity is his most authentic characteristic—you simply can’t fake being that fake. He has no core beliefs beyond his overriding faith in the importance of getting elected, and would not only eat human flesh if he thought he needed the cannibal vote, he’d do it with a big smile on his face. He’d enjoy it, because to him it would simply taste like the presidency.

        But 28% of Americans believe the population of the United States exceeds one billion. About the same number believe the President was born overseas. And if you constructed a Ven diagram of these two groups you would probably have overlapping circles. He is their candidate.

        Millions of Americans talk about how they want small government but demand a government big enough to interfere with the most personal decisions in anyone’s life: who they may marry and whether they should be forced to become parents. He is their candidate.

        Millions have become convinced that the spectacular cratering of the American economy wasn’t caused by the untrammeled greed of a financial sector that gave itself over to degenerate gambling; it was caused entirely by one Barney Frank, and the only way to make sure it doesn’t happen again is to deregulate the industry further. He is their candidate.

        Millions of Americans love their country so much that they’ve come to dislike most of what they see in it, and will never tire of telling you there’s nothing they wouldn’t do for America--except pay a nickel more in taxes--and hold that any media voice that doesn’t assiduously confirm their biases is hostile partisan extremism set to destroy the ‘reality’ the conservative media chews up and spits in their mouths. He is their candidate.

        Millions of Americans will hold marathon contests to see whose mind can descend to saying the ugliest things about the President of the United States, but when some documented account critical of Gov. Romney surfaces they squeal like little girls under machine gun fire. Because he is their candidate.

        Millions of Americans think that unmarried pregnancies are destroying American society, and they want to combat it by making contraceptives harder to come by and making abortion illegal. And he is their candidate.

        Millions of Americans view any elected representative of their own party who somehow gets the bizarre idea that he’s supposed to serve the Constitution and not the rigid ideologies of the party’s unelected commanders as a traitor that has to be driven from office by a more fanatically intractable candidate, one who will know better than to make the same mistake—and he is their candidate. Mitt Romney amassed hundreds of millions of dollars for himself by betting against American workers every time it looked profitable to do so, and in the process wiped out American companies, American jobs, American lives, American communities and American futures, and for a surprising number of people living in the devastated wake of his riches-to-way-more-riches success story, he is their candidate. The republican party forbid his opponents from using the term ‘vulture capitalism’ against him, which was itself a flattering distortion of the terrorist capitalism his business strategy really was, because the party feels that attacks on the amoral pursuit of profit is apostasy--and he is their candidate. They want to reward a man who put thousands upon thousands of Americans out of work for personal gain with the highest office in the land, a man the rank-and-file of the party found so abhorently distasteful that he could only defeat a mental deficient like Senator Santorum and a moral deformity like Newt Gingrich by outspending each of them 10- or 15-to-1 on negative advertising in primary races. And now, he is their candidate.

           And their candidate was currently seated next to me, his hair blown back by cosmic wind, as the Messianic implications of Frampton coming alive roiled his brain like an electrical storm.
            “I--I’m a 12-dimensional changeling man,” he confided.
            “At least….” I assented. This was good peppermint.
            “Bachem!” he asked me searchingly, “Do you—YOU—feel like I do?”
      I looked into his eyes; eyes that always tried to project confidence but never quite hid the ‘Am I doing this right?’ of a man always acutely aware of acting a part. His pupils were as wide as the night sky.
            “Bob Mayo on the keyboards, Governor,” I told him reassuringly. “Bob Mayo on the keyboards.”

Re-posted with my own permission from:

Originally posted to Bachem Macuno on Wed May 16, 2012 at 05:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA.

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