Tom Rinaldo's Journal
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It’s a tradition when Election Day looms, candidates for President fashion their closing argument to voters. Even when they have nothing new to offer they attempt to make a definitive case. On a deeper level they are asking for the confidence and trust of the American people in the final hours before the last votes are cast. Mitt Romney is no different than other presidential candidates in this regard, but he has no closing argument to make, though he no doubt has much to say.
A closing argument presupposes a prior dialogue; a closing argument concludes a social contract. A closing argument summarizes what had been an ongoing discussion in a final powerful appeal to reason that extends beyond emotions alone. Mitt Romney chose not to pursue an open and probing exchange with the American people during his campaign for President, so he can’t now present a closing argument for a conversation that never happened. What he concludes with now instead is a mere exhortation, and a naked appeal for loyalty that he refused to make the effort to legitimately earn.
We are proud of our Democracy and democracy for us means much more than a methodology for establishing a government. It is a reoccurring covenant between those who seek to lead us and the citizenry who seek those who best represent us. Democracy rests on our ability to make informed decisions about those who we literally must choose to govern us. Mitt Romney failed his part of the essential social contract. He consistently errs on the side of sharing what he wants us to hear as opposed to revealing what we have a valid need to know. Romney has done so in ways both small and large. He has done so by commission as well as by omission. He has done so by indifference, and he has done so by intent. In so doing he has failed a basic test of leadership.
It is not the only failing Mitt Romney has exhibited, but it is the central one. He systematically restricts our ability to know both how and where he would lead us if given that opportunity. For one thing Romney is a commiserate cherry picker of the past He embraces the personal success of his business career but evades responsibility for the dark side of Bain Capital, a company he created and charted the course for. It’s a company that Romney still massively profits from, yet when confronted by politically unpalatable business choices Bain made while he remained its C.E.O. he called his legal title then a technical formality only, and washed his hands of consequences. When now pressed about substantial ongoing investment income from companies that outsource to China he says his hands are clean because his holdings are in a blind trust. Yet in 1994 he said, “The blind trust is an age old ruse, if you will, which is to say you can always tell the blind trust what it can and cannot do.”
Mitt Romney brags about “saving the Olympics” but neglects to note that he did so in large part by successfully begging for a massive bail out from Congress. Yet he daily belittles the role of the public sector in keeping our nation great. Mitt Romney takes great pride in having served as Governor of Massachusetts, but he disavows the platform that won him his single term there. He boasts about “not raising taxes” as Governor but is silent about the hundreds of millions of dollars in new “fees” that he introduced instead. Romney selectively (depending on the audience) takes credit for his primary bipartisan achievement in Massachusetts, Romneycare; while continually pledging to destroy that same model on a national scale, while promising to later restore popular aspects of it, but refusing to say how.
Mitt Romney is the son of another Governor who once ran for President himself, a father who he expresses great love and admiration for. When George Romney ran for the Presidency he set the gold standard for transparency and self disclosure. When he released 12 years of personal tax returns George Romney remarked “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show,” Though Mitt Romney released 23 years of past full tax returns to the McCain campaign when he was vetted as a possible VP choice in 2008, he now says most of two years of actual returns and a summary report from prior years is all that voters need to know. This from a man who admittedly has secret Swiss bank accounts and off shore tax havens and an army of personal accountants skilled at exploiting arcane tax dodges that most Americans don’t even know exist.
Mitt Romney routinely passes off politically popular goals for America that sound suspiciously like a free all you can eat lunch buffet, as if they were real plans for actually achieving them. When pressed, once again, details are scant. The voters, Romney says, don’t need them before Election Day. Like Nixon and the Viet Nam war, we should content ourselves with knowing that he has a plan.
Republicans of course do have a detailed economic blueprint, albeit a politically unpopular one. It is called the Ryan budget, and Mitt Romney personally picked its author as his running mate, even though Paul Ryan had no prior foreign policy or executive experience to speak of. Paul Ryan’s rose to prominence because of that budget plan. Romney chooses to distance himself from the math that plan depends on, despite choosing to make Paul Ryan next in line for the presidency.
This list, unfortunately, could go on for pages but the pattern is abundantly clear. Like the punch line from a popular perfume ad from many years past, Romney will promise us anything, but he will give us… what?
For better or worse, Barack Obama is the incumbent in this election, and he has an actual record to run on that voters have access to weigh when they ponder who to reward with their trust. As the challenger Mitt Romney was tasked with presenting a credible alternative to voters, not just an opportunity to choose “other”. Mitt Romney never made his case to be President. Time is up, and his arguments remain hollow.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Nov 5, 2012, 03:08 PM (10 replies)
On October 4th 2012 we woke up to a chilling prospect. A man who hired for his advisors most of the foreign policy team that thrust America into a disastrous Iraq war; a man who pioneered the outsourcing of American jobs to China; a man who stashed away untold millions of his personal fortune in secret Swiss bank accounts; that man could actually become the next President of the United States. By steamrolling through the first Presidential debate and denying his own positions on key issues, Mitt Romney for several weeks was promoted as the likely next American President.
The media class in America, our political sportscasters, suddenly had that horse race they were always dying to cover, and they guarded it like a dog would a steak bone, lest someone try to take it away from them. In the process they redefined the political vocabulary. Momentum was no longer a vague and transitory phenomenon. Now it could be measured precisely. When it came to the 2012 Presidential race, momentum was determined by comparing the poll numbers for each respective candidate from mid September 2012, after Obama’s high water Democratic Convention bounce peaked; with whatever polling numbers were henceforth recorded daily.
No other poll fluctuations mattered. If Obama went up and Romney went down from one day to another it was immaterial to political reporting on Mitt Romney’s “continued momentum”, So long as Romney showed any continuing sign of retaining more support now then he dad back when pundits were calling his campaign a total train wreck, Romney was said to “have momentum”. Three subsequent nationally televised debates occurred after October 3rd; two more Presidential debates and a Vice Presidential debate. Polling pretty clearly established that the Democrats won all three of them, but no matter said the talking heads. The public was no longer effected by updated public perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama because, they assured us, though President Obama may or may not win “a small bounce”, Mitt Romney had momentum. And momentum trumped anything even “The Donald” could do to change the dynamics of the race.
There was plenty of data indicating that Mitt Romney maxed out his much reported on popularity surge long before the Atlantic Ocean stormed into people’s homes and lives during Hurricane Sandy. Coming into the last two weeks a presidential race that had been predicted to be tight for at least a year previously turned out to be, surprise surprise, tight. With all of the endless talk about “bounces” and “momentum” the pundits neglected the most blatant poll move of all. Call it “the dip”.
For a month or so there between the Republican National Convention and the first Presidential debate, the Mitt Romney campaign almost imploded. For that brief political period Barack Obama’s presidential prospects seemed, in hindsight, artificially strong. Obama’s unexpected strength coincided with that temporary Romney dip. That was the real story, just an aberration from the close race always expected . By fixing on that brief skewed period as the basis for all subsequent comparisons, an ongoing political narrative was born: the myth of Mitt Romney’s potentially unstoppable political momentum. Far more unstoppable than whatever momentum Romney came out of the first debate with however was that myth itself.
Inside the media bubble, “buzz” feeds back on itself until virtually nothing can be heard above the resulting screech: Not a sharp drop in the unemployment rate, not a sharp rise in Consumer Confidence, not an improving housing market, and certainly not a stubborn pattern of swing state polling that showed Barack Obama holding on fast to the leads he needed in enough of them to secure a second term. That “buzz” of course was Romney’s continually referenced momentum. We all have experienced that shrill feedback spike that happens after microphones go ballistic. That loop continues to amplify until someone or something intercedes and cuts off the volume. That something was Hurricane Sandy.
The incessant chorus of pundits amplifying a self reinforcing meme was finally drowned by a force more primal than their mono-tone drone. It was a force that many, including New York City’s Mayor, believe is a harbinger of global climate change, any real discussion of which was itself drowned out during this election by “white noise” emanating from the Tea Party. All of that has receded now, faster than the flood waters that changed the North East coast and the lives of millions of citizens
This week the fever broke and reality set in. America witnessed the legitimate purpose of government in a way mere words can never quite convey. And we watched President Obama once again take charge during a time of real crisis. That is how his first term began. That is how his first term is ending. And it reminds the electorate that we already have the leader we will need to face the next four years. The momentum now belongs to Obama.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Fri Nov 2, 2012, 07:48 PM (8 replies)
For those who worry about such things as potentially vote flipping electronic voting machines, I suspect that threat has receded now from whatever level it was at just one week ago. Hurricane Sandy saw to that.
There is no longer a plausible narrative that can be spun invoking an under appreciated late breaking surge for Romney that could be used to explain Romney at the last minute winning states that most observers and pollers expected him to lose. In truth whatever momentum Romney got from the first debate stalled weeks ago, but that wasn't enough to drive a stake through the heart of Romney's Momentum Myth. Sandy was though.
Sandy stopped the campaigns and shut down whatever election expectation programs had been running. Now America are turning to a fresh rebooted screen. On it we see government aiding its citizens and President Obama clearly in command, and just about everyone expects Obama to benefit from a positive "bounce" in voter support as a result. Romney can't change the new narrative between now and Tuesday. He is going to have to lose this election all on his own.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Thu Nov 1, 2012, 04:00 PM (10 replies)
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