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RAND American Life Panel, annotations by greg dworkin

(click other tabs in that RAND survey)

Maureen Dowd was a woman who wrote alone. For six days now she had been columnless, but she had a typewriter, and paper. Perhaps if she put these together she might capture the essence, the odor, of the Romney campaign. An odor not unlike that of a fish that had been taken from the sea many days before. Many days. One which has never seen the inside of a refrigerator. One which the locals might call El Stinko Grande.

Sometimes in the course of human events, we must ask, as Hemingway did in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” what is that leopard doing at this altitude?

As a candidate, Mitt Romney is awkward, off-putting and hollow, so bad that if he were a Bain company, he would shut himself down. ...

Aside from Mitt’s penchant for being a piñata, the campaign is a moveable feast of missteps: spending money at the wrong time; putting on biographical ads too late; letting the Obama camp define Romney before he defined himself; staging a disastrous foreign trip; fumbling the convention; and somehow neglecting to tell the candidate that there is no longer any such thing as off the record, if there ever was.

Andres Oppenheimer stood in the Florida heat and watched the crowd file away from the Univision studio. He had the feeling he had just seen something. Or rather, not seen it. He wanted to ask for whom the Romney campaign offers something swell, since it seemed that something swell was not for Latino voters.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had his best opportunity to reach out to Hispanics and increase his paltry 30 percent support among Latino voters last week when he appeared before a nationally broadcast Univision/Facebook forum in Miami. He blew it.

Granted, Romney came across as much more confident and seemingly gentler to Hispanics than during the primaries, when — in his effort to outflank his conservative anti-immigration rivals from the right — he often sounded as a Latino basher. If you had not been following the immigration debate closely, you may have thought that Romney was offering Latinos a big carrot Wednesday when he called for a “permanent solution” on immigration. ...

Time and again, Romney responded with a promise to find a “permanent solution” to the immigration problem.

Problem is, he didn’t offer specifics, which amounts to offering a non-solution.

Colby King dropped his well-used keyboard onto the water-stained surface of his desk and pounded the keys. He struck the letters hard, without sympathy. He slammed together his words, angered at the way in which Mitt Romney spoke without sincerity, without truth. He struck the keys again, without any desire at all to be made part of some Sunday morning mock-Hemingway idiocy. But what is a man to do?
The back-slapping, fast-talking, never-stop-smiling style of Mitt Romney calls to mind the silky-smooth used-car salesman who will say or do anything to con you into buying what he’s hawking. ...

Acknowledging that he was speaking to a group whose members overwhelmingly vote Democratic, Romney declared: “We don’t count anybody out. . . . Support is asked for and earned, and that’s why I’m here today.”

So he spoke to the NAACP.

But a few weeks earlier, Romney had gone before the now-famous private gathering of rich donors at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., and spoke out of the other side of his mouth.

Romney told his rich pals that people who are “with” Obama “are dependent upon government,” “believe that they are victims,” “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them,” “believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement.”

Dana Milbank sat on the edge of the beltway and looked out the window. Out there Mitt Romney was running for president. Or perhaps, Romney did not run but only strolled. But if he strolled, surely it was a confident, easy stroll, one not quite a swagger. The kind of stroll enjoyed by a man slowly coming to the place where he will refresh himself by firing many people. But no matter where Milbank looked, he did not see Romney. Very few saw Romney. Romney was invisble. His positions unknowable.
The best political minds at Romney headquarters have come up with an antidote to the candidate’s floundering presidential bid: “More Mitt” — putting more of him in front of more voters more often.

This is supposed to be a good thing? ...

Voters don’t need More Mitt. They need Core Mitt: a sense of what exactly he proposes to do as president. At this late stage, just six weeks before the election, even his most ardent supporters don’t know.

Jacob Weisenberg leaned back in the chair, his eyes aching from hours of studying numbers on tax forms. They were mighty numbers. Numbers that spoke of many victories in the valleys of private equity management, and still more battles fought and won along the slopes of how the hell do you get $101 million into your 401k. Numbers that said loudly "WTF?"
Overpaying his taxes clearly does violate a clear commitment [Romney] made in an ABC interview among other places. As he told ABC’s David Muir:

“I don't pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president. I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires.”

By his own standard, then, he is not qualified to become president. But as much as it reveals the absurdities of Mitt Romney, his voluntary overpayment underscores the absurdities of the current tax system. Romney owes so little because of the tax code’s favoritism toward the rich. Whereas the top rate on salary, wages, and tips is 35 percent, the top rate on interest, dividends, and long-term capital gains is only 15 percent. This is economically inefficient, because it encourages businesses and individuals to structure their affairs to take advantage of the differential. It is also instinctively unfair, because it privileges a hedge-fund manager’s carried interest over a factory worker’s wages.

Yes, those who make breakthroughs, those who vanquish disease, harvest the wealth of the seas, describe the intricate math by which the implacable universe runs, these may gain some scrap of respect. Still, it's not manly respect. Not like getting out there and having your balls stomped on by a rampaging bull. A bull on fire. An armed flaming bull, by god, with a baboon and... OK, anyway. None of that is worth the spit off the polish rag used for The Annual Ig Nobel Prizes.
PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Anita Eerland and Rolf Zwaan [THE NETHERLANDS] and Tulio Guadalupe [PERU, RUSSIA, and THE NETHERLANDS] for their study "Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller"

ANATOMY PRIZE: Frans de Waal [The Netherlands and USA] and Jennifer Pokorny [USA] for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

In that season, the young couple, who met over only their shared love for pictures of ape asses, triumphed. Yet there was even more important research to be done.
NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford [USA], for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere — even in a dead salmon.
A dead fish may produce brain waves, but have they tested the Romney campaign?

Just remember, dying is only bad when it hurts so much that it humiliates you. On the other hand, writing can be bad at any time. So can reading. Particularly on a Sunday morning when your punditry compressor decides to declare an impromptu theme week. What do I want? Everything. I want everything. But I'll take a few comments.

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sat Sep 22, 2012 at 09:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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