To Know Him Is To Mistrust Him

It will have zero effect on a certain Romney landslide in Utah, but the particular wording and reasoning of the Salt Lake Tribune‘s editorial endorsing Barack Obama will resonate far and wide. The “Trib” chose to write its repudiation of semi-favorite-son Mitt with the tone of someone familiar with a pol who’s sold his birthright for a mess of pottage:

Nowhere has Mitt Romney’s pursuit of the presidency been more warmly welcomed or closely followed than here in Utah. The Republican nominee’s political and religious pedigrees, his adeptly bipartisan governorship of a Democratic state, and his head for business and the bottom line all inspire admiration and hope in our largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state.

But it was Romney’s singular role in rescuing Utah’s organization of the 2002 Olympics from a cesspool of scandal, and his oversight of the most successful Winter Games on record, that make him the Beehive State’s favorite adopted son. After all, Romney managed to save the state from ignominy, turning the extravaganza into a showcase for the matchless landscapes, volunteerism and efficiency that told the world what is best and most beautiful about Utah and its people.

Sounds like the buildup to an endorsement, eh? Not hardly.

In short, this is the Mitt Romney we knew, or thought we knew, as one of us.

Sadly, it is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party’s shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”

The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

The editorial eventually gets around to some measured positive comments about Barack Obama, but it’s clear from the headline–“Too Many Mitts”–that its main thrust is aimed at showing not everybody in Utah is buying this particular snowstorm.

The president is entertaining audiences today by referring to his opponent with his vast number of serpentine manuevers as someone suffering from “Romnesia.” The Salt Lake Tribune begs to differ: Mitt hasn’t forgotten a thing; he’s just doing whatever the political markets call for, and hoping voters suffer from Romnesia.

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.