Mitt Romney's campaign is essentially plastic and dishonest, an insuperable problem Wednesday's debate in Mesa, Arizona, underscored yet again for disenchanted primary voters. Romney bested a rattled Rick Santorum in it, but this victory, like his others, looked hollow and dispiriting.
One suspects that Romney's low surrogates paid punks to enter the debate hall and loudly boo his opponents. Not that Santorum didn't deserve a few. He blew it, exposing himself to repeated strikes from a Ron Paul-Mitt Romney pincer movement. Seated to Santorum's right and left, Paul and Romney took turns needling him. If, as the saying goes, a candidate "who is explaining is losing," then Santorum lost very badly. He kept getting entangled in the weeds of boring disputes from the past in which he had betrayed this or that conservative principle.
Romney, at his most hypocritical, labored hard to present himself as more socially conservative than Santorum, noting that Rick had voted for Planned Parenthood funding. Astonishingly, Santorum missed his chance at a return upper cut. Why didn't he mention that Romney once gave money to Planned Parenthood from his own pocket? Why didn't he mention that Romneycare dollars go to Planned Parenthood?
Romney's sudden social conservatism invites an obvious question: How stupid does he think primary voters are? Romney's con job here depends upon the amnesia of his audience. Here's a politician who pled fealty to Roe v. Wade, voted for Democrat Paul Tsongas, and competed with Ted Kennedy as a champion of "gay rights." By the way, Romney's social conservatism didn't even last for the whole debate. In the second hour of it, he indicated his support for women in combat.
Meanwhile, an unmolested Newt Gingrich, freed from the pressures of "frontrunner status," resumed his role as the commanding, Olympian overseer at GOP debates. He told CNN's John King off again, demanding to know why he was peppering Republican candidates with gotcha questions about "birth control" when he and his pals in the press had never asked Barack Obama about his support for the killing of infants as a state senator in Illinois. After that scolding, a rebuffed King didn't even bother to recapitulate the dumb question that he had initially teed up to the candidates.
Newt's tack here is exactly right. Why let a media of secularist bigots and the ghoulish party of Planned Parenthood dictate the terms of this race? Go on offense in the culture war, GOP. Remind Americans that the Democrats are the party of killing the unborn, some infants, the annoyingly disabled, and the inconvenient elderly. Remind Americans that Obama wanted elementary school students subjected to the sick sex ed propaganda of Planned Parenthood. Remind Americans that Obama is not at war with radical Islam but with orthodox Christianity.
Isn't it telling that the only time the Maureen Dowds speak of "mullahs" pejoratively is when they affix that label to Christians like Santorum? They speak darkly of conscientious Christians as "dangerous fanatics." Never mind that most of the violence in America is coming from the abortion mills liberals champion and finance. Feminists on their second or third abortion are a lot scarier to me than homeschooling Christians.
But let's get back to the debate. Even as Romney took his mittens off and suckerpunched Santorum for earmarks Mitt himself supported -- Romney remains the smarmy apple polisher who likes to narc on his misbehaving classmates -- one could almost see strings attached to the reinvented Republican's back. Romney is the semi-reformed RINO dummy of high-priced ventriloquists -- a dummy whose words and robotic jerks come from the pushing and pulling of scummy strategists and pollsters who crawl along a corrupt corridor from Boston to D.C. His "Fortune 500" campaign makes me sick. Is the GOP really going to nominate this fraud?
The cheapness and inauthenticity of his campaign is too depressing for words. One small example of this dismal charade came early in the debate when Romney made an utterly random reference to "George Costanza." Apparently, one of Romney's oh-so-clever strategists told him to dispel his image as a nerd trapped in the 1950s by spicing up his answers with "hip" references. So what does Romney do? He cites, for no apparent reason, a character from a sitcom that went off NBC's schedule over a decade ago.