The Complacency Question

by Jay Nordlinger

Somewhere in Impromptus today, I take up a charge you frequently hear about Mitt Romney: that he’s “complacent,” or has been so. I just don’t see it. Seems to me, he’s worked his behind off, round the clock, pressing the case for his candidacy. Has been doing so for many months.

When people say “complacent,” I interpret them to mean, “He doesn’t jump up and down, he doesn’t beat his breast, he doesn’t cry. He’s polite. He is even-tempered. He doesn’t make his campaign a personal melodrama.”

That’s not complacency, but rather who he is (I gather).

Anyway, I say all this in my column, so why am I regurgitating it here? After I finished writing, I thought of something from the 2010 campaign. I did a piece on Carly Fiorina, who was running for the U.S. Senate in California against Barbara Boxer, who went to the upper chamber in 1949, I believe. A lot of the Republican smarties were saying, “Carly’s running too conservative a campaign. She didn’t pivot to the center after the primary. She’s still talking against abortion, talking up enterprise, talking up guns. Supporting the immigration law in Arizona. Speaking at tea parties. She’s blowing it.”

I remember a defense that a Fiorina aide made to me: “They say that we [i.e., Team Fiorina] are running a conservative campaign. The truth is, we’re running a conservative candidate.”

In my view, candidates should be whoever they are, straightforwardly. And then the voters decide (damn them).

P.S. Got this very interesting letter from a reader, which has some relevance to the above:


Dear Jay,

Every time I start to get comfortable with a candidate, they somehow suddenly disappoint. Just as I was swearing allegiance to Perry, he called me a heartless nativist. Just as I was warming to Gingrich, he declared PE investors to be predatory leeches. Now I’d like to give Romney another chance, but he’s proving to be wholly disconnected from the Republican zeitgeist.

Gingrich won in S.C. because people reacted to his passion, and Romney has responded with equal passion — in attacking Gingrich. He just doesn’t get me.

What I want is someone to supply a vigorous boot to the posteriors of my enemies. If Romney would just make some choices, pick some conservative ideas, and use them to relentlessly pummel Obama, I’d be receptive. But a leopard can’t change his spots, and I resignedly await the next insult.

Be yourself, y’all, and let the chips fall where they may. A hard thing to do in politics (and in life, you could say).