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    « Can the GOP Overcome its Electile Dysfunction? | Main | Is Mother Jones Treating Romney Fairly? »

    Meghan McCain, Mitt Romney and the Difficult Realization


    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….




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    Reader Comments (18)

    I sympathize with your wish to still want to support the GOP as a party but you would do better to support some entity that embodies the principles (note, I didn't say values) you want to uphold.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClark Stillman

    I find myself in a similar position. I was raised a Democrat, but the more I observe politics these days, the more I see that the two parties are fighting over masks ("he wants everyone to be dependent on government" or "they want to give everything to the wealthiest") instead of actual policy. This was first obvious to me with the republicans, but I've come to realize that it has deeply infected the democrats, as well. Case in point: Are Romney and Obama out there pushing competing budget platforms, specific policy ideas, or ? No, they're fighting about who is worse for the middle class. Hell, they're fighting about who hates "Americans" and "American values" more. Absurdly irrelevant. The election cycle has become one massive indignant hallucination.

    So I find myself unsure whom I will vote for come November. And if this nonsense keeps up, there won't be any substantive debate to help me decide. Sigh.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarkus

    I've found myself rather involved in the political forum on another site, and you are far from the only Republican who has determined that Mitt does not speak for you. Right now, the only people Mitt can count on are a) the people he is speaking for, and b) the people who would vote for a candelabra if it had the word 'Republican' attached to it. It's that latter group that I'm concerned about. If Mitt pulls a win out of thin air, those are the people who are going to be the most disappointed with the new term, as he will have convinced them to vote against their own interests merely by putting the right letter after his name.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMCD

    I couldn't possibly love this post more, not because it takes Romney to task, but because of the tone it sets. I hope more on both sides follow your lead. I, for one, hope you don't retire your pen, because I want to read more. The whole day looks better to me now.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarly

    The narcissism of this post takes me aback. 90% bandwidth sucking personal soap opera / 10% pertinent information.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdonpollari

    Obama and Romney are not offering competing ideas on how to solve the budget or any other dilemma, because Romney isn't entering the "contest." He hasn't shared very many specifics with the electorate. "I'll let you know once I'm in the White House," seems to be his riff. Perhaps he'd like to off-shore the US Treasury to the Caymans or the Isle of Man or some other tax haven that has been so favorable for the Romney fortune, or perhaps outsource US govt jobs to call centers in India or somewhere in the Far East. Meanwhile, I kind of liked him when he was a Massachusetts moderate but I can't stand him now that he's prostituted himself (and the whole Republican Party) to the Tea Party wingnuts -- right-wing-nuts, that is.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConecticutClaire

    I have to say, what you describe is exactly what has kept me away from the Republican party for the past twenty-four years, since I was first able to decide who to vote for. That arrogance, the sense of entitlement ... usually Republican politicians have enough personality to mask it a little, but it's still pretty evident. There is a nasty sense of entitlement, like somewhere in the depths of their hearts they all still believe in Manifest Destiny, that as wealthy white men it is their God-given right to be in charge. It's been most evident and ugly in the two major Democratic administrations I've witnessed, where Republican politicians have reacted as spoiled toddlers told they have to let someone else take a turn on the swingset.

    Twenty-four years ago, an idealistic first-time voter, I was determined to look past partisan labels and vote for the best person for the job. Decades later, and trying my hardest to look past ideological bias I will readily acknowledge, I've been forced to conclude that the beset person for the job just never seems to be the Republican.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosh McD.

    Your column actually zeroes in on what I consider to be the major problem with politics today. There is so much demagoguery that neither side is willing to listen to opposing concepts and allow this new input to alter their position. You're either for me, or agin' me. It's time for people to actually THINK about what is going on in this country, and make an informed decision for themselves. This can only occur when you have ALL the information, and not just the one-sided opinion of those attempting to direct your behavior.
    It may be overly optimistic, but I sincerely hope that voters will actually think about their choices as opposed to robotically checking the box based solely on the party designation. There are goofballs on both sides of the aisle, and there are those who are at least making an effort to be statesmen instead of just politicians. Here's to a thinking electorate - may the force be with them!

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLou Willie

    There's always Gary Johnson. :)

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradagiogray

    Now that the pundits are writing Romney's campaign obituary, can we have a real contest, between Jill Stein and Gary Johnson?

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTroy Benjegerdes

    Gary Johnson 2012 - spread the word!

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterwade

    I believe we cannot move forward as a country while senseless devisivness rules Congress. When the Republican leadership, on inauguration day, stated their principal aim was to make Obama a one-term president; they conceded their maturity for petty political brinksmanship. We have been facing the worst economic calamity in most of our lifetimes and these bozos just don't get it. The Republican attacks on women, the 15th amendment (voting rights) and outright obstructionism make it impossible to support their party. The attacks, especially voting rights, under the thinly-disguised mask of preventing (never shown) voter fraud, have made it virtually impossible to support any Republican anywhere for any office. I consider myself an Independent but I will not vote for a party that I feel has committed treason.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

    One data point to ponder... What policies took us from a budget surplus and projected zeroing of the debt in the year 2000 to record deficits and exploding debt? And is either party trying to correct or reverse these mistakes?

    This isn't really about just the Presidential contest. Romney is right about one thing, this election will be fundamentally critical in determining our future course, and a stalemated Congress won't be helpful in making the necessary changes to policy. If you believe in Republican/Conservative policies, go all in and work for Romney and whoever you need to to hold the House and take the Senate; but if you recognize that the several Bush-era tax cuts and unfunded wars were the biggest contributors to our fiscal reversals since 2000, then I would urge you to consider the anti-tax pledges taken by nearly every Republican politician. How are we to rationally address our problems if those in power refuse to acknowledge the objective reality of how we got here, and are leaving a major fiscal tool in the toolbox.

    Good luck. To us all.

    p.s. Some add'l reading that seems relevant to your search...
    Confessions of an Ex-Republican
    Eisenhower 'Every Gun That Is Made...' Quote
    Ike on balanced government
    (Bloomberg News) Swan: GOP ‘Cranks and Crazies’ Threaten Growth
    (Reuters) "Cranks and crazies" taken over US Republicans - Australian treasurer

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterplooger

    A good post. We all have made mistakes; being a blogger means you get to do so quite publicly. Ironically, if Mitt had given his mea culpa right away, he'd probably have advanced his cause.

    I am sure Rmoney is a reasonably good man; that is no dig at him, we are all sinners. But the worst thing about his gaffe is that it may well have revealed his honest belief.

    It's the 21st century. Public persons need to remember they are always on camera and always on the record. And they need to recall Bill Clinton's lesson: it's not the mistake that gets you, it's the cover up.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersean samis

    Yes, the recognition that Romney's message is tailored to audience is an important one - and frankly, with all the flip-flopping accusations, one that probably should have already occurred.

    But here we are. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on Sorkin's The Newsroom and the concept that the GOP has been co-opted out of reason and true American values by an increasingly extreme branch of the party - something we definitely witnessed a bit during the primary season, where each candidate seemed more eager than the last to prove how extreme they were.

    For my part, I've also changed my tune on Romney of late. I no longer believe he'll lose in Nov because of his comments on Libya, but rather, on society and the 47%. Foreign relations fumbles are easy to forgive, but insulting large swaths of the population is not so easily dismissed.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTony M

    Thank you for this post. Not because your original position was one I disagreed with, but mostly because as you noted, it is rare for anyone in public life and especially politics to even stop to reconsider their positions, much less to publicly announce that they were wrong in unequivocal terms. I think we all need to do more to set an example in this regard. We are all wrong from time to time, but we've created a political climate where reconsidering something is 'flip flopping,' and people who apologize appear weak. The reality is that in this climate, your statement is an act of courage.

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

    I grew up in a Republican household, the Stockton side of the family has been in America since the 1600's and my grandmother was DAR. I argued strongly for Nixon in 1960 during a high school election debate. My political outlook changed dramatically once I began nursing at Bellevue Hospital, NYC and I have been a Democrat ever since. I think being "true" to yourself means sticking to your principles regardless of what potential havoc it may create with your base. I think Romney is basically a "good" man. I am sure he donates a lot to charity, a number of people substantiate this on an individual basis but I do not think that he is a "good" nor "sincere" politician. I personally think he is so far removed socially from the average American that he has no conception of what our lives are like. I liken it to Marie Antoniette's oblivious response "let them eat cake". When someone changes their policies (first in favor of, then against) and appears to consistently pander to whichever audience he is addressing at the time, it becomes glaring evident that his goal is the Presidency. If he is so willing to sell out his principles to get elected what will he do once he is elected?

    September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarsha Doran

    Don't beat yourself up Michael -- be proud of yourself! Sun Tzu warned that one can only learn from losing. Native Americans say that true wisdom only comes from pain. In the Dojo we always teach our students, it's OK to lose; just don't lose the lesson. So actually you have two reasons to celebrate; you showed humility in admitting that you were wrong, a true rarity in today's society, and in doing so, you are smarter for it. Kudos to you, Sir!

    On another note, the quote from Ms. McCain that I find most alarming is, “That’s not how you bring people together”. This I believe belies the harshest of all of the problems (Lord knows there are many) in this election cycle -- the fact that neither candidate is seeking common ground. There is no one saying, “I’m a uniter, not a divider” or “I want to reach across the aisle and work with my opponents”. Instead, one says that 47% of the country will never get it while the other says you can’t do it without us. It's class warfare run amuck. A truly said state of affairs indeed.

    September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan Aronson

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