Saturday, December 22, 2007


So what's up with this story about Mitt Romney's father and Martin Luther King? The latest seems to be that two people claim they actually saw George Romney and Dr. King marching together.

I don't know what the truth is. (UPDATE SUNDAY: The Boston Phoenix still says the women are wrong and Romney and King never marched together.) But what I keep thinking is that if Mitt were a different kind of Republican, he'd barely have to respond to questions about this.

His problem is that he's not Ronald Reagan -- you know, the guy who told several prominent people he had photographed Nazi death camps, even though it couldn't possibly be true (he never left the country during the war). This was just par for the course for Ronnie -- he told a lot of stretchers, and mostly shrugged off the questions that were asked about them, and his adoring fan base never cared.

Romney's problem is that, for all his (recent) chest-thumping paeans to right-wing ideological purity, his market niche is hypercompetent brainiac. What he isn't is a holy-fool warrior: a guy who may not know much, but he knows who the enemy is and how important it is to smite that enemy. That's the niche occupied by Reagan and (still, at least among the party faithful) George W. Bush.

Arguably, Mike Huckabee is the successor to W and Reagan -- he certainly has a lot of people thinking that he knows who the real enemy is (a red guy with tails and a horn and a fondness for fire). I bet Huckabee could just shrug off a situation like the one Romney is in -- I'm guessing his supporters wouldn't care whether or not he was telling the literal truth.

But Huckabee may not be the immediate successor to Reagan and Dubya in the holy-fool category. I'd say, for a few months anyway, their heir apparent was Giuliani. Yes, he was a tightly wound Eastern urbanite rather than a gee-whiz-aw-shucks Westerner in cowboy boots, but (as I've said many times here) his fans thought he'd walked through the Valley of Death and hated all the right enemies (liberals, terrorists, petty criminals) with a pure, somber, self-righteous fury.

News stories about Bernie Kerik and the "shag fund" that paid for security for Wife-to-Be #3 reminded voters of his ugly breakup with Wife #2 and his estrangement from his kids -- and that's brought him down to earth in their eyes. Now he seems like a mere mortal. But for a long time he didn't, and even today, no one in the GOP seems to care about his habit of misstating facts -- he wants to smite the right people, so who cares if he left New York City with a surplus or a deficit?

Romney may yet win the nomination, but (by GOP standards at least) he's too cool and cerebral to be the holy-fool warrior the party wants. Therefore, he's actually going to have to tell the truth much more often than Ronnie ever did -- and much more often, I'm guessing than Huckabee ever will, or even (if he comes out of his tailspin) Giuliani.

No comments: