The Corner

Where’s Mitt?

This Politico story is almost too depressing to contemplate:

Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s top strategist, knew his candidate’s convention speech needed a memorable mix of loft and grace if he was going to bound out of Tampa with an authentic chance to win the presidency. So Stevens, bypassing the speechwriting staff at the campaign’s Boston headquarters, assigned the sensitive task of drafting it to Peter Wehner, a veteran of the last three Republican White Houses and one of the party’s smarter wordsmiths.

Not a word Wehner wrote was ever spoken.

Stevens junked the entire thing, setting off a chaotic, eight-day scramble that would produce an hour of prime-time problems for Romney, including Clint Eastwood’s meandering monologue to an empty chair.

Romney’s convention stumbles have provoked weeks of public griping and internal sniping about not only Romney but also his mercurial campaign muse, Stevens. Viewed warily by conservatives, known for his impulsiveness and described by a colleague as a “tortured artist,” Stevens has become the leading staff scapegoat for a campaign that suddenly is behind in a race that had been expected to stay neck and neck through Nov. 6. . . .

In what many in the campaign now consider a fundamental design flaw, Stevens is doing three major jobs: chief strategist, chief ad maker and chief speechwriter. It would be as if George W. Bush had run for president in 2000 with one person playing the roles of Karl Rove, Mark McKinnon and Michael Gerson. Or if on the Obama campaign of 2008, David Axelrod had not been backed up by Jim Margolis, Robert Gibbs and Jon Favreau.

It gets worse, so be sure to read the whole thing to make sure you ruin your week off right.

Meanwhile, it’s a good thing for Romney that absolutely nothing of any interest has been going on in the world this past week, and steady-as-he-goes Mitt can keep reminding the American public, when he bothers to emerge from the foxhole into which the media has driven him, that President Obama’s a nice guy, but by golly he’s in over his head, and gee whiz I saved the Olympics and, dadgummit, a CFO is just what this country needs right now. (Although even that’s not working any more.)

Has anyone — well, since John McCain — ever made a more dispassionate case for himself or his candidacy? Here the anti-Obama commercials practically write themselves, and we’ve all seen the photographs of an American citizen taken into custody by the Thought Police, and yet Romney’s not even a hologram of a candidate at this point. But don’t take it from me — take it from the Wall Street Journal

Mitt Romney, who has proposed new cuts to individual and corporate taxes, has lost his recent lead over President Barack Obama on the question of which presidential candidate would best handle taxation, a reversal that turns up in several polls and presents a worrisome trend for the GOP nominee.

Republicans who favor tax cuts as a way to boost the economy, and who believe the issue should be a political winner for the GOP, are wondering why Mr. Romney hasn’t gained traction with his tax-cut plan. Some say he simply isn’t promoting it well or arguing forcefully that it would bring economic benefits.

This should be the most winnable election since Reagan crushed Mondale, but it won’t be, and not for any of the reasons Karl Rove and his krack kadre of GOP kampaign konsultants (who, like baseball managers with losing records, continue to be re-hired) think. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Boston, this election is not going to be decided strictly on jobs, tax policy, 59-point plans, economic issues, or managerial competence (Romney’s sounding more like Mike Dukakis every day). Unfortunately, it’s clear that Romney thinks it is, and that he’ll have the upper hand in that argument.#more# 

It’s not. Instead, it’s about one thing and one thing only: What kind of “America” is this country going to be? The constitutional republic of sovereign states founded by patriots in the 18th century, or the 20th century’s European-imported “progressive” dream of a federal leviathan? A nation of self-reliant yeomen or a country of beggars, supplicants, and bums? The Enlightenment’s dream or the Frankfurt School’s Communist nightmare?

If the “strategists” would pull their heads away from Rove’s chalkboard for a moment, they might see the larger picture, turn the tables on President Hopenchange, and reveal what his “change” was really about all along — the fundamental transformation of the United States of America, with the results we now see all around us. Indeed, that should be the salient issue of the campaign. But Romney doesn’t appear to be the guy who can explain that. 

Romney was a well-financed weak candidate in a field of weak candidates, an ’08 retread who successfully exploited his rivals’ vulnerabilities during the primaries, but has since done almost nothing to convince the broader electorate that he ought to be president. It’s as if, having won the nomination, he’s essentially vanished. He’s (so far) squandered the Ryan veep pick and retreated in the face of hostile, partisan media criticism over his Libya statement. Some pushback, properly applied, might have done wonders for his image as a leader, instead of a bloodless McKinsey & Co. efficiency expert, the kind of clipboard-wielding, grinning chap who fired you in an effort to make your company leaner and meaner, just before it went out of business. 

Mitt Romney would make a very competent, Coolidge-like president, and one who would be blissfully absent from America’s airwaves for much of his term as he went about dismantling the odious rules of engagement that currently hamstring America both militarily and economically. He’s clearly a good man and a nice guy — but nice guys finish last

UPDATE: The Left apparently thinks this hidden-camera video of Romney speaking candidly is going to hurt him, but more blunt talk like this would only help. 

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.


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