Three is a Magic Number, Part II

Only after much prodding did I force myself to watch the 2014 Netflix documentary Mitt last week. The film was nowhere near as awful as I thought it would be–probably because, far from being a shameless glorification job, the film depicts Romney as arguably the weirdest figure in recent American political history.

It’s clear that Romney has a deep and abiding love for his wife and children, and is wholly committed to the idea that he can fix the country’s problems. However, the Romney seen in the film—and, let’s face it, on the 2012 campaign trail—is aloof, self-righteous, tone-deaf…strange.

It’s very interesting that Mitt acknowledges the infamous “47 percent” video and the damage those remarks inflicted upon Romney’s campaign, but doesn’t acknowledge the injury caused by Romney’s “climate joke” at that event. (Superstorm Sandy, a climate-related disaster that highlighted the profound stupidity of Romney’s joke, isn’t mentioned at all.) It’s also very interesting that Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan—the ultimate embodiment of the Kochization of the GOP and the larger conservative movement—doesn’t show up until about fifteen minutes before the film ends. It was as though the filmmakers didn’t really want to acknowledge Ryan at all.

Romney comes across as a man of deep faith and tremendous wealth who, in his own mind, wants to do what is best for this country. (He also comes across as a man with a severe inferiority complex with regard to his father, former Michigan Governor George Romney.) Of course, the problem is that Romney’s ideas about what is best for this country are as strange as he is.

Speaking of profoundly strange, count Dan Larison as one of many who thinks Romney’s “Third time’s the charm!” mentality is madness:

He has been running more or less continuously for president for the last decade, and he has been doing so by flatly rejecting what he did during his one brief stint in political office. Romney made himself a leading contender for the Republican nomination by repudiating almost all of the views he claimed to hold in order to win the only general election he has ever won, and he has then spent the last eight years doing little else except run for a higher office for which he is sorely under-qualified. Reagan was not only re-elected as governor, but went on to carry his home state twice as a nominee. Romney didn’t even dare stand for re-election, because he knew he would lose. In almost all respects, Romney is the opposite of what Reagan was: he has no great political skills, he doesn’t have any gift for communication and speaking, and he seems to have no guiding principles beyond the ongoing pursuit of power…

The funny thing about this is that Romney has tried so very hard to imagine himself as a second Reagan over the last several years. During his 2008 campaign, he fell over himself to identify himself as Reagan’s heir, and in the 2012 campaign he seemed to have convinced himself that he was reliving the 1980 campaign with Obama in the role of Carter. He certainly needed and wanted that to be true, and it wasn’t, but that was probably why he thought he kept believing that he would win when all other evidence suggested otherwise. He probably believed that he was just repeating what Reagan had done, and now he and his advisers are still pretending to believe this. It will not work out well for them.

As much as I’d like to think the prospect of a Romney general-election win in 2016 is a joke, it does seem that Romney has found a model to victory in Charlie Baker’s 2014 gubernatorial win in Massachusetts. All Romney has to do is pull off a better job of acting like a normal human being than he did last time around, let the Koch Brothers depict Hillary Clinton as the ultimate shrew, and he’ll have it in the bag. That’s how Baker beat Martha Coakley last year. Will history repeat itself?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.