New York Times Magazine

The Buzzkill

‘Tis the season, but the season ain’t enough. A quick list of links to depress the hell out of you:

“I have a place I would like to take you where I hung your grandpa.”

Is this really how we do it in America?

• SOTU: Did you catch the part where President Obama made history? No, really, this is important, and comes on the heels of Eric Holder’s historic memorandum in December.

‘Oh, rascal children of Gaza’, by Sami Kishawi

• What does the phrase, “the eleven American nations”, mean?

• Something about “unequivocal support for law enforcement” goes here. And here. With an update here.

Yeah, sorry ’bout that. But do try to have a good day, anyway.

More Mitt, But Why?

"In the two years since Romney was caught on tape, he just cannot come up with a clear explanation of an easy-to-understand short series of sentences that were responsive to the question presented. But there is one possible explanation he hasn't yet put forward: He said what he believed." (David Corn)

“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.”

Rachel Maddow

While the old axiom that there is no such thing as bad news no longer seems so axiomatic, perhaps the best reason to speculate whether or not Romney will run for president is that he generates a lot of press attention. Over at msnbc, Chris Matthews today raised the spectre of the GOP’s low-yield crop of contenders in the wake of Mark Leibovich’s swooning vignette, while David Corn of Mother Jones drives home the takeaway:

Leibovich is right; this seems to be the first time Romney has tried to place responsibility for his comment on the person who asked him the question. That supporter was not rambling. Here’s what he asked: “For the last three years, all everybody’s been told is, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.’ How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?” That was a straightforward query, succinctly put, not rambling at all. It was Romney who took the point to the next level and proclaimed that a specific number of Americans were lazy freeloaders who could not and would not fend for themselves.

To recap: Romney has gone from side-stepping the remark, to owning the thrust of this comment (though noting it was not well articulated), to saying he was wrong, to denying he said what he said (and contending his words were distorted), to claiming he was only mirroring the rambling remarks of a big-money backer. This last explanation is certainly not fair to the 1-percenter who merely expressed his very 1-percentish opinion. Does this mean that Romney was thrown off his game by a simple question—or that he was trying to suck up to a donor?

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Why Mitt Will Run for President … Or Not … NYT Magazine Edition

Mark Leibovich, dreaming of Willard.

With a war on, one might expect the news media to give this kind of attention to whip counts, but apparently that’s something wonky that needs to be reserved for more politically specialized discussions of current events. After all, what proportion of voters actually know what a whip count is?

Of much greater fascination, perhaps because it is something journalists can pretend is simple and human and episodic like reality television, is pressing Mitt Romney to run for president. Leibovich tries his spin for the New York Times Magazine, opening with a picturesque description of the Romneys at home—nine paragraphs about tchtchke, geese pooping on the lawn, and the troubles of being rich and having more stuff than anyone actually needs.

Then comes four paragraphs on the troubles of being rich and losing a presidential election, and while it’s true that everyone has their troubles, and privilege doesn’t mean a person is without worry, and, sure, there must be a “human story” in Mitt Romney, somewhere, they are really bad paragraphs setting up the inevitable:

Romney, for his part, is noticeably playing along. He recently told a radio host that he was not planning on running for president but allowed that “circumstances can change.” A recent column by the conservative pundit Byron York noted that Romney had kept in close contact with many of his advisers and aides. As we spoke, Romney compared the barrage of 2016-related questions to a scene in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” After Jim Carrey’s character is flatly rejected by Lauren Holly, she tells him that there’s a one-in-a-million chance she would change her mind. “So,” Romney told me, embodying the character, “Jim Carrey says, ‘You’re telling me there’s a chance.’ “

This was the obvious opening for me to ask if there was a chance. Romney’s response was decidedly meta—”I have nothing to add to the story”—but he then fell into the practiced political parlance of nondenial. “We’ve got a lot of people looking at the race,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

As deftly as Romney plays the self-deprecating bridesmaid, he is open about his dread of becoming irrelevant. After his father, George Romney, a three-term Michigan governor, lost the state’s primary in 1968, he struggled to get meetings. “I remember my dad becoming quite frustrated,” Romney said. “He used to say that Washington is the fastest place to go from ‘Who’s Who’ to ‘Who’s That?’ ” In the saturated media landscape of today, the son has been luckier. “I have been able to get on TV, get key interviews, get op-eds published,” Romney said. When I showed up in Wolfeboro, as Romney led me to the living room, he made sure we were on the record. “You have a tape recorder? Notebook?” he asked me as he was describing the potential mold problems of New Hampshire storage. He wanted to make sure I got this.

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