Matt Bai says Bill Clinton’s advice to frame Mitt Romney as an extreme conservative rather than the nihlist voters believe him to be was a mistake (here in the New York Times).
Crux of the piece:
“The bottom line here is that one can over-think this whole notion of framing your opponent. Ninety-nine times out of 100, the line of attack that works best is the one that really rings true. In the case of Mr. Romney, whatever his stated positions may be, the idea that he’s a far-right ideologue, a kind of Rush Limbaugh with better suits and frosty hair, just doesn’t feel especially persuasive.
On the other hand, the notion that Mr. Romney isn’t centered in any philosophical impulse — that he will say or do whatever it takes to win — seems more plausible, given his contortions on a range of policies, and given his excessive caution as a candidate.”
Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan said that Romney’s singular skill at reversing positions whenever it seems expedient (or, to be generous, right) could be understood in the context of his mid-century Mormonism. Mormons believe in continuing revelation, Sully says, pointing out that Africans and African Americans were classified as cursed in the LDS until 1978. He quoted Mormon leader Bruce McConkie’s statement that year: “It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978.” (Sully also points out that for close to 40 years, Mitt Romney remained active in a racist church, and that no one is raising that issue the way Obama’s connection to Jeremiah Wright was held up for all to see).
Sullivan claims that it’s okay to use Mormonism, “the only consistent intellectual thread in Romney’s life,” as a kind of decoder. Readers accused Sullivan of not understanding what Mormons believe about the efficacy of continuing revelation.
Is it possible that Romney’s left-to-center-to-right-to-center-to-right-to-center dash of the last 18 months is simply the candidate’s inner life lived out in public? Maybe.
And then there’s the belief, which Bai basically says most voters hold, that Romney is a manipulative nihilist. The Lebowski Problem come home to roost. Unfortunately for Barack Obama, Bill Clinton was otherwise engaged when Walter Sobchak instilled in us a deep distrust for that particular non-ethos.