I’m about to say something rarely said in today’s world of political punditry, something many will find shocking. Here it is:
I was wrong.
Trust me: I tried hard not to write those words. I fumbled around every possible defense, every conceivable justification. Cognitive dissonance, as we all know, is a bitch—evil and cunning, full of the kind of bile generally reserved for Macbeth’s witches or Glee’s Sue Sylvester. Still, I promised myself that I wouldn’t become just another incredibly minor public figure who uses his social-media-driven voice to bludgeon his readers. When faced with new input I must always be willing to reevaluate my conclusions. That’s what has happened, and so there you have it.
I was wrong.
What exactly was I wrong about, you ask? Fair question. Mea culpas are generally worthless unless described. So here goes: The whole 47% thing really was important. It wasn’t just another pin dropping, wasn’t just another straw-weight dropped on a camel’s back. What Mitt Romney said behind supposedly closed doors actually mattered.
What finally changed my mind wasn’t what you might think. It wasn’t, for example, the slow inexorable drip of negative comments that drowned my last post or my Facebook status. It wasn’t the calls to “Wake UP!” nor the less than kind emails suggesting I forever retire my pen. And it wasn’t my wife (even though she generally allows my tirades to roll off her shrugging shoulders, but this time had offered me a dangerously arched look).
It was Meghan McCain.
Meghan, daughter of the last cycle’s GOP candidate, wrote an amusing book, Dirty Sexy Politics, which I rather enjoyed. She’s also one of my prime examples of a consiberal voice—someone who stays at a Party that doesn’t always want her there. I keep an eye on her blog and am hoping she might pick up a copy of my book one of these days. (Fair is fair, after all; I bought hers.)
A couple of days ago Meghan popped up on Al Sharpton’s show, the one I never watch (because, frankly, I can't stand the guy). But a clip of Meghan’s appearance was mounted on her website, part of an entry titled “Mitt Romney’s Next Move.” So I watched it. On it she said (and not very articulately—sorry, Meghan) that “it hasn’t been the best weeks for Governor Romney’s campaign,” then argued that the pundits that were declaring the race over were being “unfair.” So far, so good. Nothing unusual there (even though that plural—“weeks”—was a bit frightening). But then she went on to say that “unfortunately with things like this, he also needs to remember that there is always a camera on him…”
And I woke up.
I’ve written critically of Romney in the past, but Ms. McCain’s remark sent me back to this post, in which I expressed concerns about Romney’s leadership qualities (and in which, coincidentally, I also referenced Meghan McCain). Written shortly after his return from a botched European trip, the post argued that
Romney’s gaffes have been like a wedge widening the gap between us and them, between haves and have-nots, making him look more and more arrogant with each revolution of the news cycle….That’s just not leadership. That’s not how you bring people together. That’s not how you act as a guide to show the way…
You see, it struck me that a true leader wouldn’t have to “remember that there is always a camera on him.” A true leader would welcome the cameras and know that, even with the occasional gaffe, the message he or she delivers is a consistently true and honest one, no matter whether it’s given at a town hall filled with voters, a fundraiser filled with wallets, or a beer-pong contest filled with frat boys. A true leader is, first and foremost, true.
So here I am and I’ll say it again: mea culpa. For those who challenged me, you were right. It matters.
Whew… glad that’s over…
Only now I have a real problem, one that makes my earlier cognitive dissonance seem like a walk in the park.
I have to now admit that I’m officially “undecided.”
Just to be clear: That doesn’t mean I’m not a Republican anymore. But, for me, the person asking for my vote is just as important as the party demanding it. And now I’m torn. The party is one I still (want to) believe in and fight for, but the person? Not so sure….
It’s going to be a rough few weeks from here on out, and not just for Mitt….