The Corner

More Matters Mitt

There’s a lot of chatter on NRO today about Mitt Romney, most of which boils down to the same depressing fact: nobody much loves the former Massachusetts (one-term) governor, but everybody’s getting resigned to the fact that he may be inevitable. I find this profoundly depressing.

As I’ve written elsewhere, there’s more than a whiff of a nervous used-car salesman about Say Anything Mitt. The man wants to make the sale so desperately it’s almost comical; he’s like a character from a Barry Levinson movie or a play by David Mamet, minus the Anglo-Saxonisms. (Just try to imagine Mitt doing to the classic Alec Baldwin scene from Glengarry Glen Ross.)

Thus far, he’s largely skated on what should be a career-ending issue, Romneycare, more thanks to the ineptitude of his opponents than any persuasive defense of it. If and when he makes it to the general election, the Democrats will unleash their full stable of ridiculers on him — Bill Maher’s staff is probably writing the jokes right now. Meanwhile, the GOP will be forced to defend the idea of universal health care, thus handing Obama a completely undeserved philosophical victory.

Romney gets away with it in part thanks to an evasive, annoying debate trick, which goes something like this: Asked a question about X, he’ll respond, “I don’t know much about that, but what I do know is . . .” and then give one of his little speeches about Y or Z, delivered as unconvincingly as possible.

In 1994 he got clobbered by Ted Kennedy’s vicious, mendacious, and absolutely predictable hatchet job on him during the Senate campaign, and although he won the governorship in 2002 (Massachusetts has something of a tradition of electing liberal Republican governors to ever so slightly rein in the legion of Democratic crooks who infest the State House on Beacon Hill), he never struck me as much more than a better-looking William Weld. For all his improvement as a candidate, he’s still the same old Mitt.

Heading into an election with an extraordinarily weak incumbent, whose only real constituencies now are the poor and the media, is Romney really the best we can do?

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.