Gail Collins wrote in the New York Times the other day about how Mitt Romney has tried to reinvent himself for a new Tea Party America. It is essential that he do so, given his announcement that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee. No Republican wants to appear today as being less than ideologically pure – even when this means re-writing your past.
Collins focuses her attention on Romney’s book “No Apology” which was originally subtitled “The Case for American Greatness” but which for the sake of Tea Party votes has been re-titled, “Believe in America.”
What is interesting is that PolitiFact observed back in 2010 when the book was originally released (with its original subtitle), that while “Republican Mitt Romney hasn’t declared his candidacy for president in 2012…he has taken what has increasingly become a key resume requirement for those who plan to run: He’s written a book.”
And boy did that not take.
It is faint praise that Tea Party zealotry has evolved so much in the bare span of a year that Romney has already seen fit to revise a book that was just published in order to keep up with the rhetoric. The already reinvented Romney (see below), let’s call him Romney 2.0, was obsolete almost as soon as he was activated, and now has been upgraded to Romney 3.0. I’m certain we’ll see 4.0 by the end of the year and be at 5.0 or higher by Election Day.
It’s not just the title of his elect-me-book that has changed, however. Collins writes that when the new paperback edition came out in February, “early readers noted that not only had Romney added a new subtitle but also a new preface, ranting about the founders-hating big spenders who are now running the country.”
But Romney did more than that. He also rewrote, as Collins observes, “some critical chunks” of the book.
- Romney now says a Massachusetts health insurance law he championed as a moderate Republican governor is flawed (for which he blames Democrats in the State Legislature)
- He has discovered the stimulus “was way, way, worse than he originally thought,” in Collins words.
Now keep in mind that the Massachusetts health care reform legislation did something no Tea Partier can approve of: It provided near-universal health insurance access via subsidies and state-level mandates. Talk about an embarrassment!
Of course, this is not the first time Mitt has tried to reinvent himself. As Collins says, “We all know that Mitt has a habit of, um, mutating to the political winds.” He made some RomneyRevisions™ back in 2008 in order to get himself elected president:
- Increased alignment with traditional conservatives on social issues ;
- A new-found admiration for the National Rifle Association;
- A Palinesque ineptitude was displayed while attempting to portray himself as a lifelong hunter;
- What Massachusetts health care law?;
- Signing an anti-tax pledge; and
- The man who got a Mormon draft deferral for Vietnam turned into a hawk: I didn’t fight! But your kids should!
There are some truly laughable statements made in the book, but what Tea Party Republican today isn’t guilty of at least a few unintentional bon mots “Despite my affiliation with the Republican Party, I don’t think of myself as highly partisan,” Really?
I suppose it’s possible that statement is true, if it means that Romney doesn’t actually believe any of the things he says, but is just catering to the lowest common denominator. I’m not sure how that equals a recommendation for the nation’s highest office, however.
And if he is faking it, he’s gone to great lengths to be believed. As Collins observes, “This comes after 300 pages of unrelenting attacks on Barack Obama and every member of his party since Andrew Jackson.”
Even Andy-By-God-Jackson, by God!
And of course, no Tea Party Friendly Memoir would be complete without a few outright lies, for example claiming that during Clinton’s administration “birth to teenage mothers rose to their highest level in decades.” Even though, as Collins points out, “teenage birth rates actually fell spectacularly during that exact period.”
Clinton, of course, a Democrat, was not the problem. Bush, the Republican, was. As the New York Times observed in 2007,
The birth rate among teenagers 15 to 19 in the United States rose 3 percent in 2006, according to a report issued Wednesday, the first such increase since 1991. The finding surprised scholars and fueled a debate about whether the Bush administration’s abstinence-only sexual education efforts are working.
In fact, according to the list of Clinton’s key accomplishments:
In his 1995 State of the Union Address, President Clinton challenged Americans to join together in a national campaign against teen pregnancy. The birth rate for teens aged 15-19 declined every year of the Clinton Presidency, from 60.7 per 1,000 teens in 1992 to a record low of 49.6 in 1999.
Another lie found in the book is the oft-repeated Tea Party mantra (what Collins calls “an article of Tea Party faith”) that President Obama went all around the world apologizing for America, asking forgiveness for our manifest faults. But PolitiFact has shown this to be as much nonsense as that other Tea Party article of faith recently resurrected by the also reinvented Donald Trump: that Obama was not born in the United States.
“Never before in American history,” Romney writes,
has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined,” Romney writes. “It is his way of signaling to foreign countries and foreign leaders that their dislike for America is something he understands and that is, at least in part, understandable. There are anti-American fires burning all across the globe; President Obama’s words are like kindling to them.”
“But what makes his speeches jump out at his audience are the steady stream of criticisms, put-downs, and jabs directed at the nation he was elected to represent and defend.”
Romney, the Heritage Foundation (Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies), and others, make this claim repeatedly, but Obama has never used the word “sorry” in any of his scrutinized speeches. And an apology without “sorry” is not an apology. As PolitiFact ruled,
Yes, there is criticism in some of his speeches, but it’s typically leavened by praise for the United States and its ideals, and often he mentions other countries and how they have erred as well. There’s not a full-throated, sincere apology in the bunch. And so we rate Romney’s statement False.
Of course, Tea Party American Exceptionalism cannot allow even for criticism.
As Collins writes, “Anybody can make a mistake, but it’s a bad sign when one of your errors is your title.”
So true. We have watched a slew of Republicans reinvent themselves since 2008, including once moderate John McCain. As these political chameleons move to the extreme right, everybody in the middle becomes a leftist extremist. This is a subjective shift, of course, but in Tea Party eyes no less accurate because it is completely inaccurate. Romney has somehow convinced himself that by moving to the extreme lunatic (Tea Party) fringe of the Republican Party that he is still a moderate (i.e. not highly partisan).
All this is akin to saying, as you drive westward from Washington, D.C. to Chicago along I-70 that you are not moving further away from Washington, D.C. but that Washington, D.C. is moving further away from you.
If that’s the kind of reality you prefer, say as compared to actual reality where you are doing the moving then the Tea Party is for you. I prefer reality, i.e. the “really real,” to a drug-induced-like Romney in Wonderland haze where things are as you say they are rather than as they really are.
Vote for reality in 2012.
PolitiFact has a brief fact check of Romney’s book here.