To: Byron York, The Washington Examiner
re: Cuffs and Collar Don’t Match
The headline is straightforward: “Romney 2016 is for real”.
The content, however, suffers something of a lack:
Is Mitt Romney, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination and lost in 2008, ran again and won the nomination but lost the general election in 2012, really thinking about running yet again for president in 2016? Many Republicans have simply assumed not. Romney has seemed to discourage such talk in media appearances, and there has been a general belief that after losing as the party’s nominee, the 67 year-old Romney would return to private life for good.
That belief is wrong. Romney is talking with advisers, consulting with his family, keeping a close eye on the emerging ’16 Republican field, and carefully weighing the pluses and minuses of another run. That doesn’t mean he will decide to do it, but it does mean that Mitt 2016 is a real possibility.
So, no. Bottom line: Romney 2016 is not yet for real.
It is easy enough to observe that York’s opinion is, in fact, an opinion. That, of course, earns enough wiggle room to assert a sense of truth about the clickbait headline: Romney 2016 is for real because Byron York wants you to believe it is real. Most have experienced this sense of something being real before. And it is so common an anticipated reality that those who know it are also intimately familiar with the oft-accompaniment disappointment that arrives with the realization that no, it wasn’t really real.
That’s not to say Mitt Romney, the guy who loves tube steak more than the family dog cannot be so arrogantly deluded as to think the third time will be his lucky charm. Indeed, there are plenty of Democratic supporters and liberals who would welcome another campaign from Captain Forty-Seven.
But come on, really. Romney 2016 is as “real” as the idea that Mitt Romney is smart enough to not run is “real”.
It’s not the idea of being a cheerleader that is problematic; York’s article is clearly labeled an opinion piece. But what we see at the top does not match the stuff down below insofar as the headline makes a promise the column can’t deliver; it is, at best, a clumsy sales pitch trying to stir enthusiasm among the Republican base.
To the one, you know, whatever. To the other, though … (chortle!) … that was pretty pathetic.
Seriously, though. Check the headline: “Romney 2016 is for real”. And then explain this:
A significant number of Romney’s top financial supporters from 2012 have decided not to commit to any other 2016 candidate until they hear a definitive word from Romney. They believe they are doing it with the tacit approval of Romney himself. “Spencer Zwick has never said specifically to everyone to keep your powder dry,” says the plugged-in supporter, referring to Romney’s former finance chairman who remains very close to Romney. “But the body language, the intonation, and the nuance are absolutely there.”
So far, Romney’s most dedicated supporters do not believe that his disavowals have been anywhere near definitive. They were particularly encouraged in late August, when Romney, in the middle of explaining to radio host Hugh Hewitt why he decided not to run in 2016, seemed—at Hewitt’s prodding—to open the door just a bit by adding that “circumstances can change” . . . .
And it goes on, hemming and hawing; there’s also the bit from September about how Romney said his “time has come—come and gone”. But then again, Romney is keeping a public profile, something “a candidate might do at this stage in the race”. Holy halfterm, Mr. York, does that mean Palin 2016 is also real? That is to say, his supporters are hopeful because they don’t believe the words coming out of his mouth? Because he keeps a public profile, like appearing in support of Republican candidates? Because his supporters really, really, really want him to run?
It is not so much that Romney 2016 is impossible. Rather, it just seems that in declaring it “real”, Mr. York is voicing his own wishful thinking more than any real consideration of the issue. That is to say, there is a tremendous difference between, “Romney 2016 is real” and, “perhaps Romney is no longer quite as sure that it’s really over”. The latter is a reasonably simplistic talking point that pretty much anyone actually paying attention to politics is already aware of.
Or perhaps that last is part of the point. That is, there is merit in pitching one’s hopes to readers who aren’t paying attention. For journalists, it’s part of how they make themselves part of the story when proper, honest reporting is unsatisfactory.
The truth of the matter is that every potential Republican frontrunner for the Big Show in 2016 has flamed out. Wunderkind Rubio never reached the hoped-for heights. Rand Paul is … well, he’s Rand Paul, and while the plagiarism scandal is probably the least substantial of his troubles—it’s a bad day when Rick Santorum can find traction while trolling—it is also emblematic of the Kentucky junior. What’s that? Chris Christie? Er … ah … yeah. Right.
Yet while the Republicans posture themselves for an inevitable Hillary Clinton run, the idea of a Romney campaign suggests not everyone expects the former Secretary of State will run. Governor Binders will face the same problem as Indiana Governor Mike Pence, whose name arises in swirling, whispered dark-horse rumors; Romney would be at least as arrhythmic against Hillary Clinton as he was against Barack Obama. The question for Republicans always seems to come back to packaging: Can Romney recover female voters simply by smoothing out his delivery, or is the pitch itself still untenable? That is, will it matter if Romney does not flip-flop on health care issues affecting women if he’s still pitching against women?
The success of a Romney presidential bid, once the clown car crashes and burns so that he can win the nomination, might well depend on Hillary Clinton not running; he is much more suited to a campaign against Delaware Gov. Martin O’Malley, or former Sen. Jim Webb.
Furthermore, Mitt Romney’s very integrity is stretched near to the breaking point. Whether it’s the Etch A Sketch† bit or the so-called Lie of the Year about Chrysler moving Jeep production to China, Romney’s willingness to say whatever he thinks will close the deal, as well as his refusal to acknowledge the truth when he is appropriately called out, brought such a spectacle to the 2012 campaign that pundits and political reporters will likely focus on his inability to be truthful.
Reasonable analysis attending observable facts would caution against a Romney campaign save under the direst of circumstances for the Republican Party, such as a lack of any other competent candidate. But the functional question here might well be Mr. Romney’s opinion of himself, regardless of whether his self-assessment has any relationship to reality; this is what makes a Romney 2016 campaign possible.
Mr. York, for his part, plays the fanboy role perfectly, offering in lieu of any rational analysis a litany of hope depending entirely on one basic principle, that Mitt Romney cannot be trusted.
Cuffs and collar, sure. But how is a bad bleach job any sort of asset?
† Rachel Maddow, 21 March 2012:
“But how can someone with this reputation win the general election? Because in the general election, it’s not just a question of whether you are making yourself seem marginally more or less conservative than you might really be in order to please the voters of each particular state one at time, one after the other.
“In the general election, it is different. In the general election, you don’t have to be any one ideological thing in order to win over the country. But you have to not be a liar.
“Here’s how else Mitt Romney is like an Etch a Sketch. It is not just speaking French, it is not just outsourcing jobs to China, it is not just fudging his conservatism, it’s fudging everything, all the time. And this is hard to talk about in the day-to-day news context, because there are such low expectations for politicians to be truthful, and because the word “lie” is underused and overused to the on the where everybody’s a little bit touchy about it.
But the degree to which Mr. Romney lies all the time about all sorts of stuff and doesn’t care when he gets caught is maybe the single most notable thing about his campaign.”
York, Byron. “Romney 2016 is for real”. The Washington Examiner. 24 September 2014.
Layne, Ken. “Proving He’s a True Republican, Mitt Expresses Love of ‘Tube Steaks'”. Wonkette. 4 September 2007.
Hunt, Albert R. “Populist Could Derail Clinton Train”. The New York Times. 7 September 2014.
Catanese, David. “Would O’Malley Really Run Against Clinton?”. U.S. News & World Report. 3 September 2014.
Maddow, Rachel. “Romney routine lying illustrated in Etch A Sketch”. The Rachel Maddow Show. 21 March 2012.
Drobnic Holan, Angie. “Lie of the Year: the Romney campaign’s ad on Jeeps made in China”. PolitiFact. 12 December 2012.