When I went to confession yesterday my priest told me to say 3 Hail Marys and watch the Republican debates as my penance, so I saw most of last night’s shitshow. I think that priest know what he was doing, because I’ve resolved to keep the boozing and sodomy down to a minimum so I just have to say an Act of Contrition next time. That said, I have a couple of observations.
Brian Williams was careful to phrase his 47 questions about the ark of the horse race covenant, “electability”, in a way that kept him from getting smacked down by Newt. Instead of asking direct questions about each candidate’s weak spot, he repeated one candidate’s attack ads to the another. He also stayed away from Newt’s 3 marriages and counting. This led to an awesome half hour of Romney and Gingrich pounding on each other, with no real clear winner, though it’s probably good news for Romney that he finally landed a couple of solid shots, including channeling Steve Benen by pointing out that Newt resigned in “disgrace”.
The man-on-man action was pretty entertaining, but what struck me is the exchange I embedded above, where Romney unveils the centerpiece of his immigration strategy, “self-deportation”. In other words, he expects undocumented immigrants to leave voluntarily because his administration will make their lives miserable. The questioner, Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, asked the obvious follow-up question, “Isn’t that what we have now?” and Mitt replied with some earnest word salad about “e-verification”, which assumes that some magic card will reverse a 50 year national habit of hiring undocumented workers.
What struck me about that exchange is that it shows how much Mitt and his advisors think that careful corporate-style “message discipline” will paper over the awful parts of Mitt’s policies and resume. Here’s another example from Mitt’s tax return release:
Romney advisers stressed that the holdings in the Caymans — along with those in a Swiss bank account that was closed in 2010 after an investment adviser decided it could be politically embarrassing to Romney — were reported on tax returns and were not vehicles to avoid taxes.
I realize that the job of Romney’s advisors is to put lipstick on many pigs, but the apparent seriousness and earnestness that accompanies communication from Romney’s world makes me think they believe their bullshit will fly. I have to believe that’s because “enhanced messaging” works in business settings, where employees just have to nod and grit their teeth when corporate comes up with some new, stupid euphemism. But Mitt isn’t the CEO of the Republican primaries, and “self-deportation” and “we didn’t avoid taxes with our Cayman and Swiss bank accounts” just don’t cut it in the real world.