I see little point in adding to the critique of Mitt Romney’s incredible fundraiser remarks on the “victimhood” and “dependency” of Obama voters, at least as to the words that were actually spoken. David Brooks has already done a credible job of that on the right (although no one on the right actually reads David Brooks). Jonathan Chait, on the other hand, has done a remarkable of distilling Romney’s plutocratic character.
I will say, however, that I have never seen a politician implode on such a scale before. Clinton’s admission of the Lewinsky tryst on national television comes close, but you never got the sense that he was about to give up. I wasn’t around to see it (or at least not conscious enough as a human being), but I imagine Nixon’s resignation may have been as equally magnificent as Clinton’s moment. But in those cases were different from Romney. Clinton and Nixon were tragic figures, brilliant and cunning politicians who were felled by dumb mistakes brought on by their own hubris. Perhaps Clinton thought himself too powerful for anyone to notice his lust; Nixon was simply driven insane by his own paranoia.
On a strictly political level, one has to wonder who the hell is running the Romney campaign. I realize Politico just ran a damning expose of the campaign. But still, what kind of campaign manager lets the candidate dismiss 47% of the people who might actually vote for him so callously and arrogantly? Even more, don’t these people realize that people have video cameras in their phones? Are they so old, crotchety, and technophobic that they have they never heard of that new-fangled “youtuber” machine? Maybe the Koch brothers can pitch in to buy them a pack of floppy disks. It’s as if the campaign never thought that A) what Romney said would be politically damning, and B) that no one would ever find out what he said because it was a “private” event — this in a day and age when even the next Queen of England is destined to have a sex tape sooner or later.
Of course, Mitt Romney is the one who is running his campaign and who must ultimately take responsibility for it. And all you have to do is look at him to see how that’s going for him. At his hastily called press conference last night (September 17) at 10:00pm (!), Romney took only three questions (which he answered mainly with pre-scripted platitudes from his stump speeches) and then abruptly left the stage with a stupid plastic grin on his face. Worse, his hair, which is usually shellacked on with great care, seemed to be frayed and disheveled. As if he had spent the past few hours crying into his whiskey and clutching his scalp before trying to pull himself back together for the cameras.
As awful as his words were, I suspect that it’s that image of Romney’s implosion that will stick. This wasn’t a political bombshell or a burst of catharsis. The Death Star did not explode in space, and Oedipus did not gouge out his eyes. The magnificence of the event lies in its utter lack of magnificence: Romney’s no tragic hero. He’s a pathetic has-been.