17 Oct

America Has Now Met the Many Romneys, and America Knows They Can Get Their Asses Kicked: At the Debate

By Charles  P. Pierce at 1:15AM
Charles P. Pierce
Charlie has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four  books, most recently Idiot  America. He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three  children.

Submitted by Michael – “I think Pierce nails it!”

Photographs via Getty Images

(Clockwise from top left) Snippy Willard,  Drivetime Radio Mitt, Lofty Willard, Trade-War Willard, Zany Improv Willard, the  Real Willard, Ass-Kicked Willard, and Dickhead Willard, the ones we know and  love.

HEMPSTEAD, New York — Those of us who lived under the barely  distinguishable leadership of Willard Romney in the Commonwealth of  Massachusetts (God save it!) know very well that the emotional membrane  separating Lofty Willard from Snippy Willard is thin indeed, and that the  membrane separating Snippy Willard from Dickhead Willard is well-nigh  translucent. Both of those membranes were tested fully here on Tuesday night by  the president, by Candy Crowley — who has clearly had enough of your bullshit,  thank you very much — and by the simple fact that certain members of The Help  tested the challenger’s ideas and found them wanting and, my dear young man,  that simply is not done. And both of those membranes failed like  rotting levees in a storm.

Before I arrived to Hofstra on Tuesday, I thought  that, given the  roll he’s been on, Romney would be able to keep both Snippy Willard and  Dickhead Willard in check. I had no doubt that, because the nature of the event  required that he mingle with actual carbon-based life forms, we undoubtedly  would see English-as-a-Second-Language Willard. And we did. (“Binders full of  women”?) And, because at least some of the questions were likely to be wild  cards, there was a better than even chance that Zany Improv Willard would put in  an appearance, as he did on the very first question of the night, when he told a  young man named Jeremy that, “I want to make sure we keep our Pell Grant program  going,” when, in fact, one of the under-appreciated consequences of the overall  zombie-eyed granny-starving onto which he signed when he picked his running mate  is the fact that his running mate’s “budget” would utterly devastate… wait for  it… Pell Grants!

(I have to admit it: When the president let that fat, hanging curveball go  by, I thought he was in for another long evening.)

But not even I expected Romney to let his entitled, Lord-of-the-Manor freak  flag fly as proudly as he did on Tuesday night. He got in the president’s face.  He got in Crowley’s face. That moment when he was hectoring the president about the  president’s pension made him look like someone to whom the valet has brought the  wrong Mercedes.

“You’ll get  your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.”

Wow. To me, this was a revelatory, epochal moment. It was a look at the real  Willard Romney, the Bain cutthroat who could get rich ruining lives and not lose  a moment’s sleep. But those people are merely the anonymous Help. The guy he was  speaking to on Tuesday night is a man of considerable international influence.  Outside of street protestors, and that Iraqi guy who threw a shoe at George W.  Bush, I have never seen a more lucid example of manifest public disrespect for a  sitting president than the hair-curling contempt with which Romney invested  those words. (I’ve certainly never seen one from another candidate.) He’s lucky  Barack Obama prizes cool over everything else. LBJ would have taken out his  heart with a pair of salad tongs and Harry Truman would have bitten off his  nose.

And Romney bitched endlessly — endlessly — about the rules, and  why this uppity fellow on the other stool was allowed to speak before he was  spoken to, and why he didn’t get to speak at length on whatever he wanted to  speak on because, after all, he is the CEO of the stage. Jesus Christ, I’d hate  to play golf with the man. He’s the guy who counts to make sure you don’t have  too many wedges in your bag. He knows every cheap subsection of every cheap  ground rule, and he’ll call you on every one of them. You couldn’t get a free  drop out of him with thumbscrews, and forget about conceding any putt outside  two inches. And then, on the 18th hole, with all the money on the line, he kicks  his ball out of the rough and denies up and down to the rules committee that he  did it. Then he goes into the clubhouse bar and nobody sits with him.

At this point, it is probably futile to mention that, had the  president treated the  first debate the way he did the second debate, we’d all be able to take the  next couple of weeks off. The president was sharp on Tuesday night. (How sharp?  When Romney got a chin-music question about how he differed from George W. Bush,  the president put an even more wicked spin on it by congratulating Bush for his  relatively progressive positions on Planned Parenthood and immigration reform  and highlighting how far to the “extreme place” to which Romney has had to move  on both those issues to keep his unhinged base from roasting him on a spit. That  was high-wire politics and, and the president pulled it off without a bobble.)  And the president was certainly engaged, and he was all the things he  wasn’t remotely close to being in Denver. The whole Libya “acts of terror” byplay, with Crowley herself fact-checking Romney on the fly  and getting such a look in reply is going to get most of the run but,  to me, the real sharp end of that exchange came when Romney got a bit snarky  about the president’s attending “a political fundraiser in Las Vegas” the day  after the attacks, and got this back in the chops in return:

“The day  after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American  people and the world that we are going to to find out exactly what happened.  That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down  those who committed this crime. And then a few days later, I was there greeting  the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with their families.  And the suggestion that anyone on my team would play politics or mislead when  we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do.  That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as  commander-in-chief.”

Leave aside the stupid quibbling about whether calling something an “act of  terror” is the same thing as calling it a “terrorist act,” as if what we call  something makes a damn bit of difference to the dead. That was a moment of  authentic anger, the kind of thing we never have seen from this president  before. It was just inches away from “Have you at long last no shame,  governor?”

“That’s him when he gets mad,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who  knows the president as well as anyone outside the immediate circle of the White  House, told me here in the spin room after the debate. “That was real. Those  were his people.”

Not only did Romney look like a presumptuous, malinformed jackass, but the  president looked like he filled out his entire office for the first time in a  couple of weeks.

Because, when you come right down to it, asses were kicked on Tuesday night,  but not decisively. The president did a good job forcing Romney to think on his  feet — look out below! — especially when they were both talking about gun  control and Romney got asked about the Massachusetts assault weapon ban he’d  signed when he was governor, and he went off on a ramble about bipartisanship  and “hunting opportunities,” and the president reminded him that Romney had said  quite honestly that he’d abandoned that considerable achievement in order to  curry favor with the NRA. But the real conclusion as regards the actual election  that may have happened is that the rising Romney momentum was blunted. The one  thing nobody can ever say now is that they didn’t know the exact character of  Willard Romney, and exactly how he feels about The Help, including that member  of The Help who currently holds the job that Romney believes should have been  his by virtue of his god-kissed, golden life.

“You’ll get  your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.”

Put all those Romneys together and that’s what they sound like, even when  they’re talking to the president of the United States. It’s the voice of the  bloodless job-killer, the outsourcing Moloch of the industrial midwest, and the  guy who poses with his Wall Street cronies with dollar bills in his mouth.  People who claim to be interested in “character” should remember that.

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