Contrary to popular perception, I am no more in the bag for Mitt Romney than I am for Newt Gingrich. In fact, I was concerned about Romney long before I learned to be concerned about Gingrich. I’ve also come to appreciate the strengths of both — and will support either should he become the GOP nominee. Until then, though, I’ll continue to write about weaknesses as I see them.
As Mark Steyn pointed out yesterday and other (liberal) analysts quickly picked up on, one of Romney’s most superficial flaws is his tendency to repeat his talking points verbatim from debate to debate and stump speech to stump speech. All the candidates do this to a certain extent, but the rest of them have mastered the art of at least seeming to be speaking off the cuff. The first time I heard Romney say Barack Obama wants to turn this nation into an entitlement nation while he wants to preserve it as an opportunity nation, I nodded approvingly. The 19th or so time I heard him say it, my eyes glazed over. Repetition is a vital part of messaging and not all viewers watch all the debates and read stump speech transcripts, but Romney could easily find new words for the same concepts if he cared to.
Similarly, when I first learned the slogan of his campaign was “Believe in America,” I liked it. But, when I read this quote plucked from a stump speech by Steyn, I shared Steyn’s frustration with Romney’s ineffectual emotional pandering backed by no real emotion.
“I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”
I still halfway hope the quote isn’t an actual quote at all, but just a Steyn parody of a Romney quote. Surely?
As Buzzfeed wryly observes, this is the sort of thing Stephen Colbert would say in a Colbert Report monologue. Then again, Colbert wouldn’t be very funny if his viewers didn’t already know deep down that all politicians are just a step away from this degree of ridiculousness.
Update (Allahpundit): When I read that Romney “quote” last night in Steyn’s post, I thought it was satire, not an actual quotation. I still think so, but I admit that it’s ambiguous — enough so that, per a quick googling, a lot of people seem to have taken it at face value. (Unless I missed something in the search results, that sentence never appeared online before Steyn’s Corner item yesterday.) The fact that we’re even debating whether it’s genuine only proves his point, though. That “quote” sits right on the line between giggly Alice-in-Wonderland nonsense and the sort of vacuous poll-tested buzzwords about America that Romney uses to mask his ideological problems with the base. How can anyone doubt his conservatism when he clearly really, really, really loves America? If Gingrich upsets him in Florida, in a week or two Mitt will be wearing an American-flag lapel pin the size of his head. In its own way, it’s as cynical a pander as Newt throwing roundhouses at John King to make grassroots righties swoon and then complimenting him after the debate on what a great job he did as moderator. The difference is, Gingrich can at least speak with conviction about conservatism. Romney can only give you some of the window dressing and hope that’s enough.