All of the Obama camp’s actions in the 2012 campaign may not have been pure as the driven snow; rarely would there be such an animal. But that being said, it’s hardly a stretch to characterize the campaign of 2012 as having been a juxtaposition of good and evil. Had Mitt Romney triumphed, it would have seriously raised questions among those still wedded to the belief that hewing to principle and the high road invariably beats any predisposition to sleaze.
There was a memorable image from John McCain’s run as GOP contender four years ago, in which a woman at a campaign event, obviously buying wholesale the crap served up by Republican operatives aimed at disparaging Obama, talked about his being a Muslim. McCain, demonstrating the civility at his core, immediately interrupted the woman to tell her she was wrong, that then Senator Obama was a Christian and a decent man who simply embraced a political philosophy different from his own. McCain was a lousy candidate and conspicuously a misfit, given the colossal economic mess that was then the overriding national priority. But McCain showed in his response to that supporter what we discovered in 2012 to be a key character distinction separating him from Romney. Everything about the Romney campaign of 2012 suggests he would not have had a McCain type response in a similar circumstance.
Romney wanted a majority of this country’s electorate to believe that as a guy with a business background he was more capable than President Obama of addressing the lingering economic woes. Closer examination of the record he was touting revealed it wasn’t all it had been cracked up to be, that the Bain Capital success he wore as a badge of honor in fact included episodes in which employees wound up getting hung out to dry. He had compiled a record, as well, in outsourcing jobs to cheap-labor havens abroad.
But obfuscation and duplicitous behavior came to be seen as central to the Romney persona. For one thing, there was this curiosity about his battle for the nomination with a slew of GOP contenders, in which his gubernatorial stint in Massachusetts seemed never to have existed. All because he had championed health care reform while serving as governor and couldn’t abide a backlash from the bunch of (anti-Obamacare) conservatives competing against him. In a shameless display, he would in fact try to convince primary voters that he was “severely conservative.” And if we hadn’t before, we certainly began questioning then whether there was any real kernel to the Romney soul.
Of course the best, meaning the worst, was reserved for after he secured the nomination. Of a president who had authored a bailout of a U.S. auto industry near collapse, who had insisted on reforms in the financial sector to prevent a repeat of the free fall of 2008, who had taken the measures that staved off a slide into a Depression, of this president Romney took to using a dismissive, condescending line: “He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” He was dismissive of the American people too, in effect telling them, when asked to release tax returns for recent years, that it was none of their business. He’s a fellow for whom that kind of temerity comes rather easily.
Terrible as was all of that, there was more to the Romney taint that would have made him an altogether toxic choice for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And it has to do, again, with what are evidently major character flaws. Deeply spiritual, pillar of his Mormon church, devoted family man…have been variously offered descriptions of Romney. But we have problems squaring that trend line with some of the absolutely horrendous stuff Romney resorted to in the course of his campaign. Romney tried to explain away his infamous “47 percent” remark – in which he tarred that much of the population as cheats, handout seekers and all the rest – as merely a careless utterance made in the heat of a campaign. For one who subscribes to the high-minded ethic we are asked to believe about Romney, that explanation falls way short. And this was only compounded by the several untruths Romney came up with in making his case; and persisted with them even after independent sources declared them to be unfounded – lies about bailed out Chrysler outsourcing jobs to China, lies about the president’s plan to gut $716 billion from Medicare…Came the first debate with the president and Romney’s tactic was to become someone else entirely, offering positions that either contradicted or deliberately befogged what he had said previously.
But perhaps most unseemly about Romney’s conduct was the readiness he displayed to be every bit as vile as the most reprehensible purveyors of the worst of the Republican/Tea Party brand. As for example, even tapping into Donald Trump’s “birther” rubbish, when he remarked that no one had ever asked to see his birth certificate!
No doubt about it, we did have good and evil engaged in battle in 2012. If by some quirk Romney had gotten himself elected, it surely would signal disaster writ large in America. In the metropolis we might speak of a divine hand having guided Barack Obama to the second term he has earned. In the colloquial comfort zone of the Islands it would be expressed most succinctly: “God doh like ugly.”