In my post right after the election [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], I observed:
Apparently last night somebody did an emergency character transplant into the profoundly mendacious and opportunistic Romney, because he didn't go down the Bush road. I'd like to say good for him, but I flat don't believe this was for any moral or patriotic sensibility. Not given Romney's extremely well documented track record. Someone was cutting their losses.
I believe I have more insight into Romney's character than you do, and I think you're wrong about his motivation. I think he conceded gracefully because that's what a presidential candidate is supposed to do when beaten. Even Richard Nixon knew that.
As I said at the time:
I am certain you do, actually, without argument. My insight into Romney's character comes entirely from the conduct of his campaign. Which did not encourage me to think well of him in the slightest, given everything from his 47% remarks to the profoundly and knowingly mendacious Jeep-to-China ads. The person who said those things and approved those ads is not a person anyone could reasonably assume to be of solid character.
That campaign legacy is Romney's public character, regardless of who he might be as a private person.
Again regardless of his private character, Romney's statements since the election have done nothing except confirm my abysmal assessment of his public character. The gracefulness Eric attributed to Romney the day after the election has been completely absent from the combination of entitled peevishness and sheer ignorant malice emitting from Romney since. At this point, even conservatives ought to be awakening to how close we came to electing Mr. 47%, and the degree of his fundamental disdain for ordinary working Americans of all political persuasions.
"What the president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked."
"It's a proven political strategy, which is give a bunch of money to a group and, guess what, they'll vote for you. ... Immigration we can solve, but the giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with."
I won't bother reiterating the analysis made over and over again by commentators on the left and right about the so-called "extraordinary financial gifts". Romney's clear assumption is that tax cuts for the wealthy and items like the carried interest deduction are not "extraordinary financial gifts", but rather that they're prudent fiscal policy, while doing things like working to provide universal healthcare to all citizens regardless of economic class or political affiliation represent a giveaway the government can ill afford. That's a very typical conservative viewpoint, to believe that government benefits to their preferred interest groups are critical Federal programs, while government benefits to their disfavored interest groups are wasteful public spending. That's why student loan interest rate abatement is "mooching" but farm price supports are not. Students tend to vote Democratic, farmers tend to vote Republican.
Except government doesn't work that way. It's not about punishing people you disagree with or who vote the wrong way. It's about enabling both individuals and society as a whole to progress and prosper.
This ignorant disdain of the social contract and the role of government in the lives of its citizens is completely consistent with Romney's 47% remarks, and very far off the moderate tone he pretended to adopt during the late stages of his campaign while desperately trolling for votes from the political center. I won't even go into the "stupid-or-evil" dynamic inherent in his fact-free and untruthful reference to the Limbaugh-FOX talking point about "free contraceptives." Either Romney knows he's lying, as he has countless times before; or he doesn't know he's lying because he's dangerously embedded in conservative epistemic closure — which would you prefer for president, profoundly dishonest, or proudly ignorant of reality?
Romney's post-election remarks are not a continuation of graceful concession. These are not the words of a statesmanlike politician contemplating the reasons for his election loss. This isn't even consistent with the good character we might expect from a junior varsity sports team that lost their playoffs.
This surliness is sheer, old fashioned frustrated entitlement. This is the stereotypical shallow lack of self-awareness of the extremely wealthy being played out on the national stage to the deepening embarrassment of Romney's own party. This is Mitt Romney's wretched character being imprinted as his shameful public legacy as surely as Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are John McCain's shameful public legacy. Oddly, much of the GOP is coming to agree with me on this.
If Mitt had simply gone quiet after his surprising concession speech, I might have reluctantly come to agree with Eric's assessment. But he chose to speak up, to rationalize and justify and condemn; and once again perform one of his endless pivots. At least his Republican primary opponents, who had the political qualities and intellectual depth of the Seven Dwarves without their personal charm, possessed the courage of their convictions. The only conviction Mitt Romney is demonstrating now is his conviction that he deserves more than the rest of America, simply for the magnificence of his existence.
But then, we knew that all along. That's why he lost, remember?