I try to reassure myself that Romney is at least a competent and rational, data-driven guy, I really do. I remain convinced that he is the only Republican candidate who wouldn't necessarily destroy this country if elected. I was even mildly reassured -- grasping at straws though I was -- by the technocratic stance vis-a-vis taxation he struck in a Wall Street Journal interview published this week: "I'm not running for office trying to find a way to lower the tax burden paid for by the very high, very highest income individuals. What I'm solving for is growth." I could even, in this relatively (if faux) wonkish context, stomach the thrust of his economic attack on Obama as advocating "a European social Democratic model." False though the alleged choice between such a model and a "merit-based opportunity society -- an American-style society--where people earn their rewards" may be, it is at least true that Obama is closer to a European social Democrat than Romney. And that's about as much truth as you're going to get out of a GOP candidate this election season.
But in compensation for his relative economic moderation, Romney felt compelled to double down on a cartoon narrative about Obama and America in respect to the world at large:
As for Iran's nuclear program, Mr. Romney sounds a note of moral certitude reminiscent of, well, George W. Bush and the axis of evil. "I see Iran's leadership as evil. When the president stands up and says that we have shared interests with all the people in the world, I disagree. There are people who are evil. There are people who have as their intent the subjugation and repression of other people; they are evil. America is good.
I mean if we go back to Truman," he adds, he "was able to draw a line between Communism and freedom, and having drawn that line, America was able to define a foreign policy that has guided us well until this president. I applaud Ronald Reagan's brilliance in identifying the Soviet Union as an evil empire. I see Iran as intent on building, once again, an evil empire based upon the resources of the Middle East."This is false on so many fronts, it's a reminder of why voters across the political spectrum can't stomach Romney. Of course it's a complete mischaracterization of Obama's approach to adversaries, which is encapsulated in his oft-repeated declaration: "if you unclench your fist we will extend our hand." Then too, that formula pretty much sums up Reagan's actual dealings with the Soviet Union: once Gorbachev had taken concrete steps to open up Soviet society and loosen the grip on Eastern Europe, Reagan engaged in sweeping arms control negotiation. Obama, conversely, has deemed Iran a bad-faith actor and has upped both the economic and covert military pressure.
Most notably, though, the passage bespeaks a pathetic Cold War nostalgia. The attempt to build up Iran into a USSR-level adversary-- and one with which, unlike the Soviet Union, it is fruitless to negotiate -- is such a transparent effort to fill out the cast in a made-for-campaign play that even the most bellicose neocon would have to be pretty credulous to fall for it. Those who think the U.S.needs to attack Iran are unlikely to believe that Romney believes the same.
To differentiate himself from Obama, Romney essentially goes on to promise another war:
So what would he do about it? "I do not have a top secret security clearance at this stage to be able to define precisely what kinds of actions we could take." But he adds that "the range includes something of a blockade nature, to something of a surgical strike nature, to something of a decapitate the regime nature, to eliminate the military threat of Iran altogether."That leaves even WSJ editorial board ideologues Joseph Rago and Paul Gigot noting drily, albeit from a purely instrumental point of view, "Which brings us back to the campaign and why he hasn't broken 25%." In his fervor to re-conjure the Cold War, Romney has forgotten that it wasn't a hot war.
In response to the editors' skepticism, Romney casts his warmongering as a deeply principled but unpopular stance -- never mind that only Huntsman and Paul are less bellicose. I suspect rather that everyone in the country knows that Romney is full of shit . What remains to be seen is how much we collectively care.