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Mitt's Kampaign Klown Kar

Thursday, 19 July 2012 09:09 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
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Mitt Romney, clown(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

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I do not like clowns. Never have. To be blunt, they frighten me.

It all goes back to my childhood, when I would visit my grandfather in Alabama. The guest room I stayed in when visiting Grandad's home was perfectly comfortable, nicely air conditioned, with a soft bed and plenty of pillows...but above the bed hung a portrait of a young boy whose face was lathered in clown paint. The boy's mouth was half-open, as if he was preparing to scream, and his eyes were focused off in the distance...towards the foot of the bed, where, I assumed at the time, more clowns lurked, waiting to pounce.

Sounds crazy? You didn't see this painting. Sleep and Alabama were not boon companions in my youth.

The circus was another un-fun scene for me as a kid. The lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) were entertaining enough, but when the clown car rolled in and vomited out a mob of gibbering, multicolored horrors, it was time to make for the door. The intervening years have leavened the atavistic dread I feel for all things clown-related thanks to that gruesome little painting above the Alabama bed of my youth, to the point that I am now able to watch the Romney campaign without covering my eyes.

Man o man o man o man...did anyone see this coming? I certainly did not. Months and months ago, when arguing the finer points of the GOP primary field with my conservative friends, I would constantly make the point that Romney was the GOP's best possible option. He's a non-doctrinaire Republican with the kind of business experience that independent voters can cleave to, I said back then, and he's got all the money in the world. Given the batpoop-craziness infesting the rest of the Republican field at the time, I felt pretty confident in my pronouncements.

Whoops.

"Non-doctrinaire" has translated into abject flip-floppery on a scale that beggars comparison. He was for his own health care plan before he was against it, and believed the mandate he created was a tax before he didn't; he was for stem cell research before he was against it; he was for a woman's right to choose before he was against it; he believed humans bear responsibility for climate change before he didn't; he was for giving undocumented workers a path to citizenship before he wasn't; he wasn't the biggest NRA fan before he was, and said he owned a gun before saying he didn't; he was for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" until he was asked again, at which point he decided he was against it; and he was against Grover Norquist's no-taxes pledge until - you guessed it - he signed the pledge after declaring his intention to seek the presidency.

"Business experience"...where to begin? This has been the lynchpin of Romney's 293-month presidential campaign, until the Obama re-election crew went ju-jitsu on him, and in a matter of minutes turned his seemingly greatest strength into a water-kneed weakness that has sent his entire operation into a tailspin of nonsense that makes the McCain '08 campaign look like a collection of steely-eyed ninjas by comparison.

To wit:

Mitt Romney tried to deflect continued demands that he release more tax returns onto a peculiar target Monday: Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Sen. John Kerry.

On Sunday, senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie claimed that Romney need only release two years of tax returns, in line with the precedent set by former presidential nominees John McCain and John Kerry. "It's the standard that Sen. John Kerry as the Democratic nominee said was the standard," Gillespie said on CNN's "State of the Union." But Kerry actually released 20 years of returns when he challenged President George W. Bush in 2004.

"John Kerry ran for president," Mitt Romney said Monday morning on 'Fox & Friends.' "You know, his wife, who has hundreds of millions of dollars, she never released her tax returns. Somehow, this wasn't an issue."

So...let me get this straight: John Kerry's wife, who never ran for president, didn't release her tax returns, which is relevant to Mitt Romney's offshore accounts and tenure with Bain Capital because...wha?

Even if you leave all that aside, Vanity Fair's expose on Romney's vast offshore financial holdings revealed that a sizeable chunk of his fortune is in his wife's name, safely sequestered in several accounts spread across the globe. Ergo, by asking for - or even questioning - tax returns from the wife of a failed presidential candidate from eight years ago, doesn't that make the tax returns from the wife of the current GOP candidate for president fair game?

Hm.

As far as the release of more Romney tax records go? From the same article:

"The Obama people keep on wanting more and more and more," Romney said Monday, noting that he had already released more than is required by law. "More things to pick through, more things for their opposition research to try to make a mountain out of, and to distort, and to be dishonest about."

I live in Massachusetts, and endured Romney's failed run for Ted Kennedy's seat in 1994. I witnessed his successful 2002 bid to be governor of Massachusetts. I enjoyed his 2008 presidential campaign, and have been keeping an eagle-eye on this current effort...and have learned one basic, immutable truth: the less time Mitt spends in front of cameras, the better his campaign fares. Period, end of file.

When run through the Universal Republican Bullshit Translation Device I built in my basement, that plaintive cry becomes, "McCain vetted me for the VP slot in 2008, saw my financials, and went with Palin instead...my tax records would be lethal to my campaign, and I am terrified of releasing them...Obama is being mean to me...O God, I hope my ill-advised blurt about Teresa Heinz Kerry's tax returns doesn't inspire anyone to ask about my wife Ann's returns...c'mon, America, I'm the white guy in the race, this was supposed to be easier..."

Etc.

If this were a prize fight, the referee would have stepped in to stop the bludgeoning. This ain't boxing, however: this is politics, so wear a helmet, light a candle in whatever house of worship you attend in the hope that the beatings will cease once morale improves, and do the best you can.

That's what you say to buck someone up...but I don't have the faintest idea how anyone can recover from something like this.

From Talking Points Memo: "Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended Mitt Romney from Democratic speculation that he passed on him as a 2008 running mate after reviewing his tax returns, saying Sarah Palin was simply the better choice at the time. McCain called the tax claims 'outrageous' and 'disgraceful' in an interview with Politico Tuesday. He said he chose Palin 'because we thought that Sarah Palin was the better candidate.'"

So, yeah, that happened. In an attempt to deflect speculation that McCain passed on Romney as his VP pick because of Romney's murky financials, McCain set the bar so low that a flatworm would have difficulty wriggling under the gap. To wit: we did not go with Romney because Palin was the better candidate.

An aging political warrior's last gasp at a defense of his disastrous 2008 presidential run? A moment of hilariously unvarnished truth? Both?

Regardless of anything else, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign now has a new rotting bird swinging pendulously from its neck. The last GOP presidential nominee just announced to the world that the present GOP nominee is not as good a candidate as Sarah Palin.

I am still afraid of clowns. Especially when they stand a chance of holding the highest office in the land.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is Truthout's senior editor and lead columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know," "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence" and "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in New Hampshire.

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