I guess I'm supposed to be happy because this is on the cover of Newsweek:
To start with, it doesn't make me think Romney's inevitably going down to defeat, derided as pathetic by a mocking nation -- after all, this a very conscious echo of a Newsweek cover story from 1987 about George H.W. Bush, and Bush went on to win. If anything, this could make the right's endless complaints about the bias of the "liberal media" seem plausible to swing voters -- yes, a magazine where Niall Ferguson has a regular column might now seem like part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to force Obama on America for a second term.
More to the point, the cover story by Michael Tomasky validates arguments that helped turn most of the Democratic presidential candidates of the past forty years into losers, particularly the notion that awkwardness is a presidential disqualifier (which killed Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry). It also endorses the notion that, yes, recent Republican presidents really were manly men, and thus deserving of the presidency:
In hindsight, Poppy [Bush] looks like Dirty Harry Callahan compared with Romney, who spent his war (Vietnam) in -- ready? -- Paris. Where he learned ... French. Up to his eyeballs in deferments. Where Reagan saddled up a horse with the masculine name of El Alamein, Mitt saddles up something called Rafalca -- except that he doesn't even really do that, his wife does (dressage). And speaking of Ann -- did you notice that she was the one driving the Jet Ski on their recent vacation, while Mitt rode on the back, hanging on, as Paul Begala put it to me last week, "like a helpless papoose"?Did I say the story endorses the notion that recent GOP presidents were manly? Check this out:
... In some respects, [Romney]'s more weenie than wimp -- socially inept; at times awkwardy ingratiating, at other times mocking those "below" him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way.
If you can't read that caption, it describes W annd Bush as "The Presidential Studs." I don't care how happy I'm supposed to be at turnaround-as-fair-play -- it's bad for America that we pick our presidents based on this kind of superficial faux-machismo. And I'm sorry, but Romney's failings don't make W and Reagan look better by comparison.
But a bigger problem is that Tomasky isn't particularly convincing when he says Romney's a wimp. Even he doesn't seem fully convinced:
Romney is the genuine article: a true wimp. Oh, there are some ways in which he's not -- a wimp lets himself get kicked around, and Romney doesn't exactly do that. He sure didn't during the primaries, when he strafed Rick Perry and carpet-bombed Rick Santorum....Romney may be, in some ways, weak and whiny, but he overcompensates for that with an ego-driven determination to crush opponents and avenge slights. If that makes him a wimp, then Nixon was a wimp, too. That's not really how I'd describe Tricky Dick.
Romney is dangerous. He has tenacity, and he has an army of zillionaires and vote-suppressors backing him up. That's why I never call him "Mittens" or "Willard" -- I don't see him as weak and pathetic. I see him as capable of getting himself elected and executing the mad plans of the Kochs and Murdoch, of Norquist and Rove (and please note that the last two guys I mentioned would seem pretty wimpy if you didn't know how much power they wield).
Yeah, Romney is awkward. Yes, he's spineless. But he's angry and bitter and egocentric. There's a core of unhealthy power beneath that simpering exterior.