By Robert Becker
I take it back, conceding Karl Rove (a.k.a. Turd Blossom) must be smart. Perhaps W.’s nickname is telling, as in laying “an egg.” Didn’t this PR con artist mastermind the re-election of our most illiterate, incurious, wastrel president — whose habitual “deer faces reality” gaze let slip his opacity? Notwithstanding that this twice-elected regime unleashed our most virulent, Constitution-bashing V.P. — still haunting us, the undead from a bad horror movie.
Yes, the old man’s Supreme Court iced the flunky’s first appointment, but that’s nothing compared to ripping John Kerry with this abysmal “compassionate conservative” turned botched “war president.” All the more impressive considering Bush-Cheney’s serial albatrosses: caught defenseless by triple sneak attacks, storm-trooping us into non-9/11 wars, the Plame-Libby scandals, and incessant class warfare — altogether a walking-talking gaffe of a presidency.
But today Rove appears over the hill and losing his golden touch. Item: his cross-eyed Crossroads America’s “personality ad war” to boost Romney against Obama. As if Rove now cares for truth (well, Obama is the world’s greatest celebrity), here’s the old sleazy fringe ploy: undermine your opponent’s greatest strength. High risk, as Obama’s personal story and likeability remain his two splashy virtues. By what logic does Rove’s Romney, the privileged offspring of a rich auto executive turned governor, enriched further by unapologetic corporate raiding, stand against Obama’s remarkable, self-made ascent? Is Romney not opposite this ex-food stamp, poor minority kid with a single mother, whose student loan debt followed him for decades — all without a sugar daddy?
Rove must figure if he can’t win on policy or sound bites, drag out the failed ’08 McCain ploy: Obama the ambitious “celebrity.” As if that’s a bad thing in a culture obsessed with celebrity, equating fame with moral virtue, however facts defy this linkage. What was Rove thinking, since in any personality sweepstakes Romney measures a -20 (on a scale of 10)? “The least interesting person in the world,” quips Bill Maher, so boring he’s what “Ambien takes when it can’t sleep.” If ambushing Obama’s celebrity is the best shot from today’s rightwing smear machine, think 2016.
A Boring Vulture Capitalist?
Not only does Romney crow about triumphant exploits as “vulture capitalist” (thanks, Rick Perry), neither his vast treasure trove, nor advisers can uplift his lackluster image. He escaped his primary siege as the scaliest, phoniest, most fabricated non-entity in memory. Thus, his incredibly low 34% national approval rating, with only 62% GOP favorability. Unlike the entertaining Gingrich or Santorum, Romney’s congenital, off-key mendacity doesn’t make him engaging, a double loss for lying exacts a price. How incredible all the king’s men can’t transmute this Humpty Dumpty into a more plausible phony. Romney is the Tin Man without a heart yet whose insides are stuffed with only cardboard flip-flops. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but better politicians leave none.
Say what you will about W.’s pathetic bottom-feeding, the primitive selling “the only thing to fear IS fear itself,” yet he had an identifiable, if coarse personality. Think prodigal ferret on the way home, crashing the family car, forever ambushed by believing his own B.S. Though both fronted for a dreadfully cynical regime, Rove sustained W.’s image as just plain folks, making him, like moronic Joe the Plummer, a guy Tea Party morons fancy.
So, is not Rove’s PR implication that Romney’s impossible-to-read, whiter and “weirder-than-thou” personality can outshine Obama’s popularity? Even Republicans don’t buy that his ever-compliant, poll-driven robot mask shows leadership or character, only prefer him to the WH devil. Further, aside from losing badly to both Ted Kennedy and that fraudulent maverick John McCain, what makes this thinly-resuméd, one-term governor anything more than a “celebrity Republican” cartoon? Unemployed since 2007, excepting failed presidential runs, Romney boasts no federal or Washington experience, making him less qualified than the inaugurated Obama. Obama’s resume, after all, boasted years as a political mediocrity.
What further strikes me is how Rove here makes Obama hipper than in real life, when he stumbles over words or dumps more fudged reversals. Hardly “cool” to the left, yet Rove magically portrays this evasive compromiser as stylish man about town worth having a beer with (as pictured). If “mere politician” is the crowning career put-down, then elevation to the world’s greatest celebrity is stirring endorsement. Maybe secretly Rove wants Romney blasted, prepping 2016 for the next Bush. Okay, he’s not dumb.
Romney’s V.P. Problem
Because Romney the 90 lb. political weakling lacks charisma, experience, and ideas, his V.P. pick is especially daunting: finding someone respectable who’s strong enough to help, yet who won’t make Mitt look even duller, richer, more out of touch, or less savvy. What decent V.P.’s resume wouldn’t shrink Mitt’s veneered bio? We’re talking Herman Cain, though with less personality as circus hawker. Forget the other GOP primary numbskulls: all show more experience and/or are far more ideologically consistent. That leaves guys with no more magnetism than Mitch Daniels, Rob Portman, or Paul Ryan. Scratch vile Joe the Plummer or any top female — too lively.
So I don’t get it, setting Mr. Presidential Smiley Face against Mr. Rich-Remote Capitalist whose scary emptiness would double down W.’s reign, a hollowed-out hustler pitted against the world’s most famous, celebrated hustler (pace Bill Clinton, now BO ally). Clearly, Romney’s forte is unscrupulous business know-how, amplified by peerless flip-floppery that surpasses Obama’s own “pragmatism.” We begin to appreciate Rove’s quandary.
All in all, Romney works as political vampire, the bloodless fiend who gets vitality by predating the life force from less affluent victims. List one identifiable idea he didn’t steal, or posit a core that would sustain a big idea? Right, his own embarrassing state health reform? Just as vulture capitalism feeds off hemorrhaging companies, Romney campaigns like a spider, ready to pounce, anesthetize, then suck the life out of foes. So why would Rove promote this sound-bite bloodsucker against a youthful and energetic street fighter whose decent footwork drives his effective rope-a-dope, so far.
Is Romney Anybody?
The “anybody but Romney” zinger now expands to a more damaging puzzle, “is Romney anybody”? Is anyone truly at home, zipped or not? A personality void only magnifies his other flaws: narrow experience, none in Washington, and now cynical alignment with the most reactionary New Rethugs. But Romney faces a campaigner expert at knocking off famous, well-funded rivals. Yes, the country wouldn’t mind changing horses, but not from a popular high-stepper to a mulish, out of touch tycoon with both a dog and an anger problem. Really, elect a guy whose smug advice to impoverished college students is “borrow money from your parents”? That locks up the youth and parent vote, for sure.
Finally, there remains the nagging question, exactly how weird is Romney, as with articles entitled, “Why is Mitt Romney so Incredibly Weird?” What if, as one physicist depicted the mysterious universe, Romney is not only stranger than we now imagine but stranger than we can imagine. Someone off-the-wall nutty, say, a much wealthier, deluded oddball like Tricky Dick Nixon. Of course, the best thing about Romney is that his incessant gaffes guarantee he can’t hide his dim light under a bushel. What, and who he is, especially if he stays desperate underdog, will soon enough emerge into the light. Rove better up his game or he’s kaput as political genius.