Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 2012/ 18 Tishrei, 5773
Message to Mitt: Kick Some Tushy
By Roger Simon
It is difficult to depend on a debate to make people change their minds about your character. It is difficult to depend on a debate to make people think you are a caring human being who understands their problems.
The best a good debate performance can do for Mitt Romney is convince people that he is a good debater.
The last big event for Romney was his nominating convention in Tampa. For all the good speeches — Ann Romney did particularly well — the takeaway memory was Clint Eastwood and that chair. (As David Letterman said last week: "Another blow to Romney: Earlier today, the empty chair endorsed Obama.")
But the convention turned out to be a prelude to disaster. A videotape of Romney at a private fundraiser surfaced. In it he said that 47 percent of Americans "believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
Forget everything except the mention of food.
Maybe it's just me, but I think everybody in America, no matter how young, how old, how sick, how mentally ill or physically disabled has a right to eat and not starve in the streets because he can't earn enough money to buy food.
Call me Karl Marx, but I think the greatest nation on earth, which is what we are, should be willing to feed its hungry when the need arises.
It doesn't trouble me that a presidential nominee should think otherwise. It troubles me that a caring human being should think otherwise.
Overlook the political angle for a second. Overlook the fact that the now infamous "47 percent" statement feeds Romney's greatest weakness: that he is an uncaring plutocrat, unable to understand or connect with ordinary people.
That doesn't matter so much. What matters to me is that Romney probably had delivered his 47 percent riff a dozen, a score, a hundred times before at private fundraisers where it was likely met with applause or, at the very least, nods of approval.
What does that say about us as a nation? That we want to live in a dog-eat-dog country where the biggest, strongest, most ferocious dogs always win?
It just so happens that Barack Obama's message is the opposite. His message is that we are all in this together and we all have to help each other.
Back to politics: Which is the winning message?
And how can debates remedy that for Romney?
The debates can show he has a command of the issues.
He has a command of the issues.
The debates can show that he is fast on his feet.
He is fast on his feet.
The debates can show he can deal with pressure.
He can deal with pressure.
The debates can show that he is a genuinely caring human being.
Uh ... debates actually are not so good at that.
Can the debates give us a genuine look into Obama's soul? No. But that doesn't matter politically. Obama is so far ahead in the states where it counts that in order to turn things around, Romney probably would have to show up at the debates with a security camera tape of Obama sticking up a 7-Eleven last Sunday.
And I'm not sure even that would work.
I have said it before and, knowing me, I will probably say it again: In modern times, the most likable presidential candidate almost always wins.
Mitt Romney is not a bad guy. He is not an uncaring guy. He is not a dumb guy.
But every morning when he shaves, he has to look in the mirror and say, "They don't like me. They really don't like me."
And his best debate strategy has the capacity to make people like him less.
There are three things that can happen at the debate for Romney, and two of them will get him in trouble with his party.
1. He can be too weak. He can take the high road. He can avoid attacking and remain dignified, presidential and above the fray. He did this a lot in his primary debates.
2. He can be too neutral. He can stick to the issues. He can use the debates as a forum to show off those big ideas his Republican critics keep yapping about. He can show his vision.
3. He can attack big-time. He can make this an onslaught. He can launch a major assault and try to knock Obama out of the race.
Republicans will love Romney if he shows himself to be the kind of campaigner who can chew nails and spit out tacks.
This strategy is almost certainly doomed to failure, however. Obama is prepared for it, and it will make Romney look even less likable to the general public. But at least it will allow Romney to show backbone to members of his party. And he knows how the press stories would begin the next day:
"A fiery Mitt Romney..."
"A feisty Mitt Romney..."
"A combative Mitt Romney..."
These will end up as just scraps in his memory book; they will change nothing. In fact, they will help assure his defeat.
But at least he will have shown that he can kick some butt. Even if it's just his own.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2009, Creators Syndicate