Romney On Trial

Hermetically sealed Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has briefly emerged for a round of media appearances, as part of his official campaign launch, before returning to the vault like one of those classic Disney movies.Romney says that to avoid over-exposure, he will be in “quiet” campaign mode until after Labor Day. Over-exposure is not something most candidates view as a bad thing. It’s especially unconvincing coming from someone who has big-money fundraisers planned for almost every day this month; I had assumed that was to blanket the airwaves with “over-exposure,” but perhaps he’s actually planning to use the dough to build his own fortress of solitude.One downside to this hidden-candidate strategy is that when Romney does give an interview, he gets hit with three years’ worth of tough pent-up questions reporters have been dying to ask him – whereas his opponents are typically receiving softball lobs like “Who are you?” and “No really, why are you running?”Sometimes he does better than others, and I thought the Piers Morgan interview last night was brutal. At every turn you can tell he’s got a carefully rehearsed answer intended to sound strong and decisive without actually being strong and decisive. Typical is when Morgan presses him on his claim to be for gay rights, when he’s against same-sex marriage. Turns out that’s the homosexuals’ fault: “The gay community changed their perspective as to what they wanted,” Romney said, rambling on about how he is against discrimination when it comes to some things, like hiring – which you can tell, apparently, because some people he appointed turned out to be gay and he didn’t even know it – and for discrimination when it comes to things the gay community wasn’t asking for earlier, and besides they did ask about it when he was running for governor and he said he was against it, so…..And check out this “Web extra” clip covering the auto and bank bailouts. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought Romney looked like a defendant on the witness stand, knowing he has to stick with the falsehood he’s created, even as the prosecutor makes him seem more and more obviously full of it.In this case, it's his insistence that he got it right on the auto industry, when clearly he got it wrong; followed by his insistence that bank bailouts were wrong when he clearly knows they were necessary; followed by his refusal to answer the question of whether people in the financial industry (his friends and financial backers) should go to prison (as populists, including those in his party, desire).

But really, isn’t this his big conundrum – that he’s forced to campaign on a bunch of rehearsed nonsense in hopes that he can fool the jury (of voters) just long enough?

He can’t admit he was wrong about anything to do with the economy (especially the auto industry) because that would shatter his claim to be the economy candidate; he can’t admit that he’s changed any positions, because that would feed into his flip-flopper reputation; he can’t take any reasonable positions, because that would lose Republican primary votes; he can’t take wildly irresponsible positions, because that would lose the moderate votes (and backing) he needs. So, he works out his alibi for everything that he might get asked about, and sticks to it regardless of how skeptical the inquisitor becomes.

You can see why he wants to avoid public exposure. There’s a reason why most defendants don’t testify at their own trial.

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