MITT ROMNEY: THE BLAND, EVEN-TEMPERED GUY WHO HATES EVERYBODY
Today's New York Times story about the Perry/Romney feud doesn't add much new information -- this Austin American-Statesman story from August also tells us that Romney, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2006, ticked off Perry by hiring Alex Castellanos, then an adviser to a Perry gubernatorial opponent, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, and also notes that Perry criticized Romney in his book On My Honor for reportedly not allowing Boy Scouts to work as volunteers at the 2002 Winter Olympics, presumably because of concerns about the Scouts' stance on gay issues.
The anger in this case seems largely to be Perry's. And yet: we know Romney has had bad blood with John McCain, with Mike Huckabee, and with Jon Huntsman. He's supposed to be the relatively moderate guy, politically and temperamentally, and yet nobody seems to like him. What's up with that?
He's always struck me as someone with a Nixonian sense of resentment, despite having precisely the advantages that Nixon resented others for having. His jokes are awkward in a Nixonian way; maybe he just doesn't have a finely tuned sense of what rubs people the wrong way (a strange way to be if you're a politician, although our last Republican president was bitter and testy, even if he was better able to fool some people into thinking he wasn't).
Of course, Nixonian resentment is just what a lot of Republican voters want from their pols -- they may prefer it sunny and smiley, a la Reagan (or maybe Herman Cain), but they still want to feel that their leader has utter contempt for their enemies. Romney may not come off as a sincere conservative, but he does come off as a sincere hater, or at least a deep, bitter resenter. I think that's why Romney has managed to get as far as he's gotten despite all the flip-flops -- the policies may not seem sincere, but the bitterness does. When he attacks Obama, say, for having a Frenchified, European foreign policy, he really seems to put his all into it. That's not his conservatism showing -- it's his personality. But a certain percentage of the GOP electorate apparently can't tell the difference.