Jack Shafer doesn't think we saw the real Romney on that hidden-camera video. Shafer thinks we've never seen the real Romney because Romney is as phony and malleable as Richard Nixon:
Pragmatists like Nixon and Romney, who have few core beliefs beyond the personal, require staff pollsters and strategists to tell them where they should be on issues.I think that's true and not true.
Liberal writers such as Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait would have you believe that the Mother Jones video reveals the true, inner Romney, somebody who regards the poor, the sick and the retired as grifters. If only that were true. He doesn't even have that conviction. As a pragmatist politician speaking to wealthy donors behind closed doors, Romney is content to say what they want to hear: That the 47 percent are parasites and the donors are exalted beings.
Romney has no ideological convictions, but -- as I've said many times -- he has a deep reserve of free-floating anger. In this he's like Nixon, except that Nixon resented certain fixed groups (economic elites, blacks, Jews), while Romney seems to despise ... well, anyone who gets in his way.
That resentment strikes me as absolutely genuine.
The targets of Romney's resentment include not just his primary and general-election opponents, but voters themselves. Recall what Ezra Klein wrote a couple of days ago:
Imagine you're Romney, the Republican presidential nominee: For the past year you've been unable to grab a clear lead in the polls against an incompetent who has been unable to get unemployment below 8 percent or reach a reasonable debt- reduction deal with Congress. Which would you prefer to believe? That you're not good enough, not smart enough and doggone it, people just don't like you? Or that the incumbent Democrat has effectively bought off half the country with food stamps and free health care?I'd say that Romney thinks the voters themselves are contemptible for being, as he sees it, so easily bought off.
Romney isn't a natural wingnut, but the wingnut idea that people who take government benefits are incorrigible moochers and Democratic voters as a result of that mooching really appeals to Romney's innate, deep-seated sense of grievance. He feels victimized whenever he doesn't get what he thinks is his due, and this argument provides him with an explanation of why he's not getting his due. He may not have believed this nonsense all his life, but once he absorbed it, it stuck.
It stuck because it gave him someone to hate, which is what he wants.