Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another kind of Romneying: "Accidentally being a little too open about how the political game is played."


So you know how there's "Romneying," one of the key neologisms of the political season? Dave Weigel coined it, and it means: "Accidentally bragging about your place high up in the economic stratosphere." Romney does it all the time.

Well, there's another kind of Romneying. Jon Chait has written about it, without calling it Romneying, and, if I may add to what Chait wrote yesterday, it means: "Accidentally being a little too open about how the political game is played." Romney and his campaign do it a bit too much for their own good. A good recent example is the Etch A Sketch line, an embarrassing gaffe that exaggerated how the game is played while confirming that Romney is indeed a shameless, unprincipled panderer who is not to be trusted, particularly by conservatives.

I can't think of one at the moment, but we need another word for this second kind of Romneying. Any suggestions?

I'm also thinking that the word "accidentally" should be taken out of the two definitions. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, after yet another Romney gaffe: "The thing is, if you keep doing it, it is really accidental? Or is it just who you are? Which is to say, a privileged rich douchebag. Which is to say, Mitt Romney."

Anyway, how was Romneying in the Chait sense? Well, in an interview with The Weekly Standard, he said this:

"One of the things I found in a short campaign against Ted Kennedy was that when I said, for instance, that I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, that was used to suggest I don't care about education," Romney recalled. "So I think it's important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we'll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I'm not going to give you a list right now.

Short version, as Chait put it: "One of the things I have found in previous elections is that announcing my plans makes people want to vote against me!" Because, basically, voters overwhelmingly oppose spending cuts to most federal programs (and, of course, eliminating whole departments):

So the thing to do is advocate reduced spending in general but decline to furnish details until after the election. This is a tried-and-true conservative strategy, embraced by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Paul Ryan (who specifies severe cuts to programs for the very poor, but otherwise relies on unspecified cuts to omnibus categories, thus allowing Republicans to deny plans to cut any specific component of them).

Republicans using this tried-and-true strategy generally steer clear of coming out and saying they won't specify their cuts because of the election. That's the part you're not supposed to admit.

Has there ever been a major national politician -- here there ever been a presidential candidate for one of the two major parties -- who's been so embarrassingly and self-destructively gaffe-prone? 

I can't think of one, but one thing's for sure: Mitt Romney is all about the Romneying.

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