By MAUREEN DOWD – The New York Times.
DES MOINES, Iowa
I saw Mitt Romney’s hair move.
No really, I did. We were standing amid the soybean and corn fields in rural Iowa and a breeze lifted some of his salt-and-pepper mane out of its Brylcreem perfection.
The tenuous and scarce Republican front-runner, who hopes to do “darn well” in Iowa, was poking at President Obama. “I sure as heck wouldn’t be on a bus tour if I were president of the United States,” he said.
I tried to focus on his patter-on-a-stick in this rare encounter with the press, but I kept thinking about another tall, dark and handsome avatar of perfection known for holding back: Cary Grant. Like Grant, Romney is a fastidious dresser with an athletic build. But the 64-year-old former governor of Massachusetts doesn’t make you swoon, maybe because he looks like a statue of himself.
Grant came to mind because the setting for Romney’s press conference, outside the Vermeer agricultural manufacturing plant in Pella, recalled the famous scene in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”: Mad Man Roger O. Thornhill has to run for his life through Midwest cornfields when the bad guys chase him in a crop-duster. It’s an apt image for the riven Republican Party: Some maniacal Tea Party meanies fly in out of nowhere to spew poison, chasing the establishment guys out of their more refined natural habitats.
One pollster here wryly noted that the Republican presidential prospects divide into “the sane and the insane.”
Since the sane ones are boring as spackle and the insane ones have crackle, Republicans must hope that the mildly insane premise in Dr. Nassir Ghaemi’s new book about leadership and mental illness is correct.
In “A First-Rate Madness,” Dr. Ghaemi, the director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, asserts, “In the storm of crisis, complete sanity can steer us astray, while some insanity brings us to port.” I hope that means harbor instead of alcohol, since two Mormons are running.
Not only did I see Romney’s hair move, I saw him sweat. This must have come as a great relief to his handlers; when he was campaigning in 2007, some advisers worried that he looked too perfect in an ad showing him jogging through the woods.
Knowing that perfect can read as false, his ad team would try to shoot him with a hand-held camera using videotape, as opposed to film, which can create prettier, slicker images.
On the state fair soapbox, Romney put a loafer up on a bale of hay and perspired from the heat as some in the audience chatted about how his first name is Willard. While Democrats are amused that Romney shares a name with a famous movie rat, it is also disturbing that Mitt and Willard morph into Millard, the name of one of America’s most mediocre presidents.
In the debate in Ames on Thursday, Romney replied to a question from Fox’s Bret Baier about the debt deal by saying, “Look, I’m not going to eat Barack Obama’s dog food, all right?”
He was trying to be tough, but unfortunately may have reminded people of the infamous time he put Seamus, his Irish setter, in a dog carrier strapped to the roof of the family station wagon for a 12-hour drive from Boston to Ontario.
At the fair, Romney — whose net worth is between $190 million and $250 million — once again went manly by flipping a pork chop on a grill and facing down hecklers worried about cuts in Social Security. When a man in the audience yelled that corporations should be taxed more, Romney replied, “Corporations are people, my friend.”
Give “The Stormin’ Mormon,” as Neil Cavuto approvingly called him on Fox News, credit: never has the traditional Republican doctrine been so succinctly explained.
Of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation. We the corporation. Corporations who need corporations are the luckiest corporations in the world. Power to the corporation!
Romney may not have realized that he was articulating the same fundamental concept of the American right that Justice Antonin Scalia propounded in the Citizens United case, when the Supreme Court opened the way to Super PACs and a flood of surreptitious new donations in politics. (A former official at Bain Capital, Romney’s old private equity firm, admitted recently that he was the one who anonymously gave $1 million to a pro-Mitt Super PAC.)
The association of individuals in a business corporation, Scalia wrote in his concurring opinion, “cannot be denied the right to speak on the simplistic ground that it is not ‘an individual American.’ ”
The back-door money infused by Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers and others elected a slew of radical Republicans. Thanks to that Congressional wrecking crew, America’s credit rating has been downgraded and its economy has been hurt.
At least Republicans are getting most of the blame for that, my friend.