Friday, August 10, 2007

Will the real Mitt Romney stand up?

"In interviews, Romney talks easily about books by Fareed Zakaria and Rory Stewart, but in public his frame of cultural reference is mostly limited to songs like “Whistle While You Work.” (Why do the Democratic candidates pretend to be smarter than they really are, while the Republicans pretend to be dumber?)

He is also the world’s worst culture warrior. George H. W. Bush’s son could resent the coastal cultural elites, but George Romney’s son just can’t. He’s a 1950s consensus man — he asked his grandkids to call him Ike, after his hero — who is play-acting at being Pat Buchanan. He’s unable to do anger. I asked him recently who he hated, and he dodged the question.

Finally, Romney’s real passions seem sparked by issues he rarely gets to talk about. When I asked him why the G.O.P. is in such bad straits, he said it’s because the party had ceded issues like the environment, education and health care to the Democrats.

Somehow the Romney campaign seems less like an authentic conservative campaign than an outsider’s view of what a conservative campaign should be. It oversimplifies everything, and underexploits the G.O.P.’s vestigial longing for efficient administration. I suspect the Romney campaign would do even better if it let the real Mitt Romney out to play."

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