If Mitt Romney loses the election, he should consider embarking on a new career – in Hollywood. He gave a boffo acting performance last night. Barack Obama was obviously acting, too. And, as usual, he showed a lot of star quality. But Mitt does characters better.
In the first debate, he was Moderate Mitt, denying all the extremist things he ever said or did, and doing it in the most earnest way imaginable. In the second, he was Raging Bull Romney, pacing about the stage breathing fire and brimstone, bullying the moderator and shadow boxing with the president.
Last night he was Wily Willard, the laid back sage who is wise in the ways of the world, a man who could surely be trusted with the red telephone and the Doomsday button. No way would such a benign fellow bomb Iran or put American boots on the ground in Syria. This is a seasoned veteran who knows the ropes. Never mind the fact that he thinks Syria is Iran’s “path to the sea” and plans to build battleships to fight the guerilla wars of the future.
Never mind all that stuff he has said in the past.
That was Wild Willard, his evil twin talking.
I must admit Mitt had me fooled. I expected Wild Willard or the Raging Bull character to show up for the debate. But Wily Willard showed up instead.
Once again, President Obama was ambushed.
He had obviously rehearsed Belligerent Barack in anticipation of another battle with the Raging Bull. But he couldn’t pick a fight no matter how hard he tried. All Belligerent Barack got from Wiley Willard was a plaintive protest against being “attacked.” Never has a more agreeable debater appeared on a stage.
Fortunately, the president has some knowledge of Iran and Afghanistan and all those foreign places, so he was able to sound intelligent, even though he looked as if he was sitting on a sand spur.
It’s ironic that Mitt Romney complains about American education. Here’s a guy with not one but two Harvard degrees, and he doesn’t know that Iran has its own coastline and is separated from Syria by Iraq (see map above). And he is no better at Arithmetic than he is at Geography. You try and get his budget figures to add up.
Romney and his gang have shown a cynical contempt for the intelligence of voters. In the Republican primaries, Romney was a bellicose jingoist, a xenophobic bigot, a Calvinistic crusader ready to trample out the vineyard where the grapes of wrath are stored. He was everything he had to be to win the approval of the right-wing crazies who have taken over the once-Grand Old Party.
Now, with a nod-nod-wink-wink to that dangerous faction, he has pivoted to the center, echoing many of the president’s positions and spinning visions of sugar plums for all. I have to assume that the real Romney is the extremist crusader, After all, he picked Paul Ryan, a true believer if ever there was one, for his running mate. And he has surrounded himself with the fire-breathing neocons who persuaded George W. Bush to invade Iraq. He has even praised Dick Cheney, declaring him the kind of vice president he would love to have.
The absurd debates were hyped by the media and reviewed like stage plays. To me, this kind of approach encourages buffoonery. I wouldn’t be surprised to see candidates wear costumes and makeup for debate performances in future election campaigns.
These presidential debates have been the kind of farces we Jamaicans call “poppy-shows.”
All they have managed to do is diminish the dignity of the presidency. If there ever was any credibility left in American election campaigns, it’s now gone.