Jewish World Review July 11, 2012/ 21 Tamuz, 5772
Why Don't We Love Mitt Romney?
By Roger Simon
They are the Others, those who insinuate themselves into American life, but who are not "real" Americans at all.
For years, his opponents have tried to portray Barack Obama as an Other.
Rabid racists on the right, joined by just plain cuckoos — hey, Donald Trump, money not only can't buy love, it can't buy brains, either — believe or pretend to believe that Obama was not born in America.
But as the birthers have fizzled, they have been replaced by more mainstream and more socially acceptable attacks on Obama's "otherness" — Mitt Romney's claim that Obama is a European-style socialist, for instance.
"He takes his inspiration from Europe and the European socialists in Europe," Romney says of Obama. "I believe in America."
By implication, Obama does not believe in America. Which is why Romney says we are now engaged in a battle for "the soul of America" in which voters must choose between "a European-style welfare state" or "a free land."
But the Democrats have reacted cleverly. Hold on, they say, the real Other in the race is Mitt Romney. He is the guy, they say, who does not act like a real American.
Because how many real Americans keeps millions of dollars in foreign banks?
"Hey, how many of you all have a Swiss bank account?" Joe Biden asked voters gathered in Exeter, N.H., in April.
No hands went up in the crowd.
Swiss banks accounts? Who has Swiss banks accounts? Others, that's who.
Biden described Romney using classic terms of "otherness." Romney, Biden said, was "out of touch" and "out of step" with basic American values.
The attack is now part of Biden's stump speech.
"Did you ever think you'd be choosing between two people running for president, one of whom has a Swiss bank account?" Biden asks crowds.
Nobody is saying (as of yet) that Romney did anything illegal by keeping millions of dollars in Swiss and other foreign banks. It just seems ... odd.
Democratic officeholders, in what is obviously a coordinated attack, have picked up the theme. Martin O'Malley, the Democratic governor of Maryland, who may be eyeing his own presidential run someday, said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that Romney is betting "against America."
"He bet against America when he put his money in Swiss bank accounts and tax havens and shelters and also set up a secret company, the shell company in Bermuda," O'Malley said. "What went the way of Europe were the — the Swiss bank accounts and the American dollars that Mitt Romney stuffed in that offshore Swiss bank account, jobs that he facilitated companies in moving offshore, out of places like Ohio, out of Pennsylvania and Maryland."
Which is the other prong of the attack: Romney's record as a businessman is his main qualification for the presidency. But is that record marked by creating jobs in the United States or by shipping jobs overseas?
"Give Mitt Romney credit: He is a job creator," Joe Biden says. "In Singapore and China and India."
And the Obama campaign now refers to Romney the "outsourcer-in-chief."
The Romney campaign appears to have been caught somewhat flat-footed by all this, and Romney's supporters are not helping.
My simple — and admittedly simplistic — theory of who wins the presidency is that most voters almost always vote for the more likable presidential candidate.
How likable is Mitt Romney?
Just ask House Speaker and fellow Republican John Boehner.
"Can you make me love Mitt Romney?" Boehner said recently. "The American people probably aren't going to fall in love with Mitt Romney."
But why not? Is it his foreign bank accounts? Creating jobs overseas? Imprisoning his dog on the roof of the family car? Attacking a gay student in high school with a pair of scissors? Or those four car elevators he wants for his California beach house?
Boehner did not say. But it is not Romney's wealth that keeps him from being loved. Americans loved John Kennedy, after all.
It is something else. It is some quality Romney has or some quality Romney lacks that, as Boehner says, makes him unlovable, makes him seem not like a president, but like an Other.
In any case, Boehner says it will not matter.
"I'll tell you this: 95 percent of the people that show up to vote in November are going to show up in that voting booth, and they are going to vote for or against Barack Obama," Boehner says.
This is the Republicans' great hope, their great strategy: Forget about Romney. Romney is a cipher, a placeholder. He has but one real quality: He is not Barack Obama.
Romney is the Other guy. And if that is enough, he will also be president.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate