Behind Romney's sweet-sounding words is an ugly, ugly threat: elect me or we'll paralyze the government and shatter the economy. "You know that if the president is reelected," Romney said, "he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress." He forgot to mention why.
Mitt Romney's campaign promoted the speech he gave today as his "closing argument." Underneath the fluff, that argument boils down to this: Give me the presidency or your economy gets it.
The PuffBot 3000
Romney's speech was so weighted down with pre-programmed platitudes it could've been written by a computer: Just feed in the clichés and let 'er rip.
"If you believe we can do better, if you believe America should be on a better course, if you are tired of being tired, then I ask you to vote for real change."
You mean, "change we can believe in"?
"... our campaign has gathered the strength of a movement. It's not just the size of the crowds, it's the depth of our shared conviction ... the readiness for new possibilities ... the sense that the challenges are clear and our work will soon begin."
The 2008 campaign just called. It wants its Democratic candidate back.
"This is not just about Paul and me -- it is about America."
This particular cliché usually doesn't include the word "just." I can almost picture Romney saying to his speechwriter (or "speechbot"), "Whaddya mean, not about me? Not even a little?"
"... strive even more to be worthy of the office ... to campaign as I would govern ... to speak for the aspirations of all Americans... bring people together ... big things ... common good ... 'best of America'..."
I kept waiting to see a screen pop up before my eyes: "AWAITING NEXT USER COMMAND."
Remember when Sarah Palin mocked Obama voters by asking, "How's that hopey-changey thing workin' out for ya?" Romney's "hopey-changey" message is more of the same right-wing extremism that crashed our economy once before.
I. Am. From. Your. Future.
If there was one pedal on the rhetorical organ Romney overused today it was the word "future," which left his lips nine times in today's speech. (He even used the phrase "campaign for America's future," which should disturb my colleagues to no end.) "Words are cheap," Romney also said. "A record is real."
Romney's record apparently missed today's rally.
"I built a business," said Romney, "and turned around another." But he "built" that business as a paid employee of its parent, Bain and Co., and "turned around" several others by laying off thousands of American workers -- and, at times, by choosing executives and designing payment incentives that led to rampant medical billing fraud. (See "Sick Money.")
Who was that Mitt Romney, if not the candidate on today's podium? A clone?
"I helped turn my state from deficit to surplus," said Romney, "from job losses to job growth, and from higher taxes to higher take-home pay."
There's a "Gov. Romney" in the public record, but that Romney raised fees and taxes on the middle class, left the state a billion-dollar deficit, and lagged so far behind a booming economy's job growth that Massachusetts fell from 36th to 47th place. So who was that guy?
Another clone, apparently.
"I will be a voice of the children and their parents," Romney said today. But the Romney campaign's own white paper on education promises a field day for for-profit education companies, not children and parents. He'd bring rapacious banks back into the student loan process and funnel public money to for-profit schools.
Pell Grants for college education offer a badly-needed gateway to a better life for young people not born with Romney's wealth and privilege. But the Romney paper sneers at them. Pell grant funding reflects our "expanding entitlement mentality," the author sniffs.
No wonder Romney used the word "future" so much. He must be from there. Who else could have so many clones running around, doing things that are against his own principles?
Attack and Destroy
Romney asked his audience to "look beyond the speeches and the attacks and the ads." That was odd, since he was giving a speech -- and was only seconds away from launching into his usual litany of attacks. And as for "ads," one of the latest from Romney is a Miami-area attack ad in Spanish which links Obama to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro. Apparently red-baiting never goes out of style.
(The Chavez ad has a clip of the Venezuelan leader saying "If Obama was from Barlovento he'd vote for Chavez." Most Americans are less familiar with the region than Romney's target audience, who know that Barlovento's population is primarily of African descent. The ad also appeals to racism.)
Romney's campaign must've known the ads were dirty, since they broke with their typical practice and didn't distribute them to the press.
Here is Romney's real "closing argument": By cutting taxes even more for guys like me, you all will do a little better, too. But that approach failed for 10 years, so the argument makes no economic sense.
Romney may be hoping that it makes emotional sense. When I was a kid there was a TV preacher named Reverend Ike. The Reverend told audiences that if they sent him money -- a "love offering," I think he called it -- they would soon prosper themselves. He called that magical payback an "Increase of God."
His economic "plan" is even called "Believe in America." That sounds right, since it's essentially economic faith-healing. There's no "plan" behind the verbiage, just the desire to keep siphoning off the nation's wealth to the already wealthy. Don't call it "inequity," call it a "love offering."
Mitt Romney is the Reverend Ike of American politics.
Dog Day Afternoon
The ugliest part of the speech excoriated Obama for being too "partisan" and not working with the GOP Congress. Obama tried so hard to work with those Republicans, in fact, that he waited too long to tell the American people about the GOP's obstructionist battle plan, which Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnelldescribed clearly when asked why Republicans wanted control of the House and Senate:
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Behind Romney's sweet-sounding words is an ugly, ugly threat: elect me or we'll paralyze the government and shatter the economy. "You know that if the president is reelected," Romney said, "he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress."
He forgot to mention why.
Romney continued: "The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy."
Translation: "Nice little economy ya got here. I'd hate to see something ... happen to it."
"You can choose your future," Romney said. But if there's one thing American people are less able to do with each passing year, it's "choose their own future." Social mobility is its lowest in modern history, and wealth inequity is at its highest. Romney's plans will make things much, much worse.
"You can choose real change," said Romney. But all he's really promising is more of the same oligarchical greed we've seen for decades -- and on steroids this time.
"I'm not just going to take office on January 20th," Romney said, "I'm going to take responsibility." That would presumably distinguish him from the 47 percent of Americans who, according to what he told rich backers, will never "take responsibility for their own lives."
But it's Romney, not the people, who hasn't taken responsibility. He won't take responsibility for his business record. He won't take responsibility for his record as Governor. He won't take responsibility for the actions of his own campaign, or for his own words. And he won't take responsibility for the opportunities this country has given him by paying his fair share of taxes.
Mitt Romney is apparently hoping that the citizens of this country won't take their voting responsibility seriously, either -- at least, not seriously enough to look up his record. Next Tuesday we'll find out whether he's right.
Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future