From Here to Anonymity (Eve of Derision edition)

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It has long been apparent that neither Mitt Romney nor his handlers have any idea what they’re doing, and since nothing says “helpful and fellow-feeling” like the Republican Party, a stampede of GOP deep thinkers has charged into the breach. The unsolicited advice began before the first balloon hit the floor at the end of the convention in Tampa, and has only increased in sound and fury since.

The clearest sign of the mess Mitt Romney finds himself in is that even perpetually ardent hyper-partisan Peggy Noonan is beginning to sound delirious with frustration. Her September 18 Wall Street Journal column – entitled “Time for an Intervention”! – excoriated Romney’s hamfisted attempt to exploit tensions in the Middle East:

… he seemed like a political opportunist, not big and wise but small and tinny.

Noonan was even more dismissive of Romney’s notorious Boca Raton fundraiser remarks:

This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. They’re usually young enough and dumb enough that nobody holds it against them, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know much about America.

Jeepers! Noonan hasn’t sounded this fretful since George W. Bush was nearly assassinated by a pretzel. She’s so pessimistic she believes the entire Republican Party is going to have to step in and save the candidate from himself. While her prescriptions for a campaign turnaround are comical, she depicts the urgency of Romney’s need for one rather eloquently:

It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment… An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.”

As to the comical part, well, the Republican Party Noonan believes in ceased to exist decades ago, if indeed it ever existed at all:

… Luckily, Romney has access to some of the best writers and thinkers in the business. I say it that way because to write is to think, and Romney needs fresh writing and fresh thinking…

Time for the party to step up. Romney should go out there every day surrounded with the most persuasive, interesting and articulate members of his party, the old ones, and I say this with pain as they’re my age, like Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush, and the young ones, like Susana Martinez and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio—and even Paul Ryan… he should be surrounded by a posse of them every day. Their presence will say, “This isn’t about one man, this is about a whole world of meaning, this is about a conservative political philosophy that can turn things around and make our country better.”

… Party elders, to the extent you exist this is why you exist:

Right this ship.

Whee! On September 28, Noonan sounded no less frantic, although she’d managed to weave some silver linings out of whole cloth over the space of ten days:

… there are some institutional and personal elements surrounding the Wednesday debate that may well work in Mr. Romney’s favor.

From a canny journalist with a counterintuitive head: “The media will be rooting for Romney.” Two reasons. First, they don’t want the story to end. They’re in show biz: A boring end means lower ratings. Careers are involved! Second, the mainstream media is suddenly realizing that more than half the country (and some of their colleagues) think they are at least operationally in the tank for the president, or the Democrats in general. It is hurting the media’s standing. A midcourse correction is in order, and Wednesday will offer an opportunity: I think it’s fair to say Gov. Romney more than held his own this evening, and a consensus seems to be forming that the president underperformed.

Which, if Noonan were capable of being honest about it, is exactly the sort of bullshit narrative that America’s vigilant free press is ready to deploy, even if Romney kicks off the evening by accusing Jim Lehrer of not having written a decent song since “The Vatican Rag,” tries to bet the audience $10,000 that he’ll win the debate, throws up on himself, and finally collapses in an aspic of tears and flop sweat as Ann Romney comes running out from the wings, screaming, “Look what you people have done to him! I told you people I was worried about his mental well-being!”

Noonan goes on to paint a lovingly detailed picture of a Barack Obama who exists only in the fever swamps of the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation. At this point, I don’t think she’s trying to convince her readers as much as she’s trying to convince herself that Romney can win the debate and win the White House, and I don’t think she’s making any headway. In Noonan’s lush imaginings, the President is vulnerable because, A, everyone is too easy on him, B, he’s boring and pedantic, C, he doesn’t like to be questioned, D, he makes stuff up, and E, he acts like the biggest celebrity in the world, just as the McCain campaign alleged. Putting aside the fact that if her portrait of Barack Obama had any validity he wouldn’t now be the incumbent, it’s touching that Noonan retains enough vestigial faith in Romney to believe he could capitalize on these weaknesses even if they were real.

Others, in both the Republican squawkoscenti and among the hoi polloi, aren’t so sure. The recent Values Voter Summit featured a gratifying number of long faces, and no small amount of backseat driving:

“He needs to be more visible,” said Dawn Hawkins, who works for the anti-pornography group Morality In Media…

Tammy Baker, a military spouse originally from Texas, said she thinks Romney should sit down for “fireside chats” with the American people so they can get to know him better…

The “get to know him better” theme is a recurrent one when Republicans are asked to talk about their nominee, despite clear indications that the better people feel they know Romney, the less they like him.

Bryan Fischer, an official with the American Family Association… [accused] Romney’s campaign of putting “a bag over Paul Ryan’s head…”

“If the Republican Party loses this election, conservatives will have had it,” Fischer said. “They will be done, finished.”

Well, we can hope, Bryan. Meanwhile, some Republicans are busy coming up with new crappy ideas for Romney, I suppose on the assumption that the candidate’s own crappy ideas are lacking some essential element of crappiness.

Republican defense hawks are urging Mitt Romney to separate himself from President Obama on Afghanistan and back an extended presence for U.S. troops in the country…

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill on Wednesday the Romney camp needed to distance itself from the Obama administration’s goal of pulling all American forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

Graham might not know that support for the misadventure in Afghanistan was measured in May at 27%, down from 37% a year before and 46% a year before that. Maybe Graham is confusing Afghanistan with golf. Others eschew policy specifics, but are no less eager to wrest the wheel from the candidate’s sweaty hands:

Sarah Palin became the latest conservative to lend her two cents to the Republican ticket… urging Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to give the country a “come to Jesus moment.”

“With so much at stake in this election, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should ‘go rogue’ and not hold back from telling the American people the true state of our economy and national security…”

The Weekly Standard, which published Palin’s remarks, didn’t ask her just what she meant by “going rogue,” marking approximately the 203th week that the Fourth Estate has avoided asking Palin that question.

Surrounded by this cacophony, with his Electoral College prospects nearly in the ditch, Romney’s first debate with the President is a mere 24 hours away, and even his campaign doesn’t seem to understand what’s at stake:

“This is really about introducing him to the country,” a Romney adviser says. “It’s the largest audience he has ever had. Everybody’s watching.”

If that sounds eerily familiar, it’s because we heard the same thing before Romney’s Bland Tour of the UK, Israel and Poland, and again before the convention. I expect that the Romney campaign will still be trying to introduce the candidate to the country even as the early returns start coming in on November 6, indicating that the country can’t wait to kick him to the curb. Maybe the hapless CiC wannabe should just shoot the moon and take the considered counsel of his boorish buddy Donald Trump, who recently suggested:

In debate, @mittromney should ask Obama why autobiography states “born in Kenya, raised in Indonesia.”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2012