He has been running for president of the United States for almost six years, and there are still so many doubts about his backbone and his political footing that opposing party partisans are not the only ones questioning his ability to be leader of the free world. But if he doesn't belong in the Oval Office, where does Mitt Romney belong?
His bona fides may suggest Secretary of Commerce, or a modest financial adviser to the chief executive or the Treasury secretary, but the Republican party has pushed him to the fore, out of a bevy of imbeciles and a cattle call of kowtowers, to be their alternative to President Obama - a well liked, popular incumbent with exceptional social skills, and a record of modest improvement from the situation the nation was burdened with when he took office, almost four years ago.
The president comes across as being committed to the country's success. Mitt Romney comes across as being committed to his own. The president has excellent political skills. Mitt Romney doesn't. The president comes across as warm. Mitt Romney doesn't. The president has the honor and respect of his party. Mitt Romney doesn't.
What Mitt Romney has is mutability. Call it his "Etch-a-sketch-ness," a way to fit his foot into any size shoe (or his mouth) and behave to all the world like it's a perfect fit, and always has been. That ability to be manipulated, albeit by stumbling clumsily through policy changes and fumbling foreign faux pas and flip-flops, may piss off the public voices of the Republican party at the Weekly Standard and on Fox News, but there are those in the Grand Old Party who want a lemishkeh like Mitt in charge of our country.
"We are not auditioning for fearless leader," Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, famously told a group of conservatives, earlier this year. "We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go... Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States... His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared."
It was a book by Dan Senor, a neoconservative who is one of Romney's key foreign policy advisers on the Middle East, that the GOP nominee alluded to at a fundraiser in Israel, two months ago, when he implied that Israelis were more successful than the Palestinians because they have a "cultural" determination that is lacking in the occupied Arab populace of the West Bank.
Aaron David Miller, a foreign policy expert who has advised secretaries of state from both parties, told the New York Times, after Romney's Israel trip, that Senor is a "pragmatic hawk," and, "clearly a filter through which... should he get to be president, Romney [will see] the whole panoply of issues in the Middle East."
That is what Mitt is good for - following the direction of the neocon foreign policy experts, the big money defense industry, and the small government conservatives. It's impossible to know if he ever had an original thought, because he jettisons his claim on his own ideas when they stop working in his favor. Sometimes, he changes his meaning within hours after he makes a statement, as he did on Meet the Press, Sunday, when discussing the parts of the Affordable Care Act he would like to enact, like coverage for preexisting conditions. Clearly, in issuing a "clarification," hours later, the campaign did not want to appear to be endorsing any part of Obamacare, since that would make the base of the party, the ones who want to undo anything Obama, very unhappy. (Hell, they hate Obama so much, they'd salvage bin Laden's body, stand it up against the Washington Monument, and shoot it again, if they could, just to discredit this president.)
Even Rupert Murdoch, the conservative media mogul, acknowledges that Romney is wasting time and resources on trying to make everyone accept him. "Stop fearing far right which has nowhere else to go," he advised the former Massachusetts governor, in his Twitter feed, Tuesday.
But fear is what runs the 2012 Romney-Ryan campaign, and it's not the fear of losing, though they certainly want to win. It's the fear of being lost. They find themselves running through a twisted labyrinth of their own making, cut through the forest during their desperate escape from something they don't even want to remember. (George W. Bush?) Romney is certain that the only way out is to rush headlong to every idea that seems to light a pathway through, but it burns out before they get there. They are a campaign in disarray, a party that, bodies bruised and khakis shredded, will finally stumble out of the woods, just before dawn on November 7, watching the sun come up over Boston Harbor, when Mitt will turn to Paul, and say, "Well, at least we were consistent."