That Big Confidence Fairy in the Sky

We’re having some fun today with silly media coverage of limited news. Along the lines of Paul Waldman’s explanation that the “WaWa story” reveals something significant about Mitt Romney that MSM coverage largely missed, I have another example: a New York Times piece by Ashley Parker about Mitt Romney’s often clumsy efforts to conduct small talk on the campaign trail. Here’s some Romney chatter that Parker found amusing:

At Mr. Romney’s pancake breakfast stop, more than a thousand people braved the stormy weather, lining up hours in advance with their umbrellas and waterproof trash bags for protection. Thunder clapped periodically, but when Mr. Romney finally took the stage, the rain slowed to a light spit and the sun crested, prompting him to reflect on the improving weather.

“But it looks like the sun is coming out, and I think that’s a metaphor for the country,” he said. “The sun is coming out, guys! Three and a half years of dark clouds are about to part. It’s about to get a little warmer around this country, a little brighter.”

Whatever this passage indicates about Romney’s rhetorical powers, it really is a pretty accurate reflection of his economic message: relentlessly unspecific, focused on framing the election as an up-or-down referendum on how people feel about Life Under Obama, and implicitly offering himself as a non-ideological Mr. Fix-It whose reassuring presence will make the clouds part. Romney does, of course, have a specific economic agenda, much of it encompassed by his endorsement of the Ryan Budget and his various pledges to reflect his party’s hostility to regulation, progressive taxation, workers’ rights and fiscal or monetary stimulus. But what he seems determined to convey is that there’s a great big confidence fairy in the sky who will make the economy boom at the very sight of his rugged visage and fine posture. And while his weather forecast at the pancake breakfast may not truly be a “metaphor for the country,” it’s definitely the metaphor for his campaign message.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.