Monday, February 06, 2012

Dana Milbank on Willard Romney's Dana Milbank problem

Dana Milbank is one of our leading Pod Pundits. So it was interesting to see back that he was developing a pundit "script" for Willard Romney that we'll probably see more. He has an authenticity problem! Just like Al Gore!

Milbank explains in Mitt Romney’s Al Gore problem Washington Post 01/13/2012:

Romney, the conservative writer Jonah Goldberg argued this week, has an "authentic inauthenticity problem."

And that is precisely why his struggle is so familiar. He is the political reincarnation of Al Gore, whose campaign I covered with an equal amount of cringing a dozen years ago.

To see Romney, in his Gap jeans, laughing awkwardly at his own jokes and making patently disingenuous claims, brings back all those bad memories of 2000: "Love Story." Inventing the Internet. Earth tones. Three-button suits. The alpha male in cowboy boots. The iced-tea defense. The Buddhist temple. The sighing during the debate.
Good grief! It seems that, like old soldiers and Herbert Hoover economics, zombie press scripts never die. Willard makes Dana Milbank think of the fun times making up nonsense about Al Gore week after happy week.

We won't see Willard get the kind of savaging from the mainstream press that Al Gore or Bill and Hillary Clinton did.

But it does seem that Milbank likes the "authenticity problem" meme for Willard. "Authenticity" is one of the dumb obsession of the Beltway Village press corps. It's the sort of high school popularity contest element that fits so well with their emotional and intellectual level of processing politics. It's also vague enough that you can stick all sorts of nonsense into it.

And focusing on some theatrical quality like "authenticity" saves the Village press the painful effort of digging for relevant facts about their history that might indicate something meaningful about what kind of President they would be. Trying to analyze their consistencies or inconsistencies or trying to understand their leadership and management approaches at more than a superficial level would be soooo boring compared to seeing which pundit can cite some variation of the conventional wisdom of the moment.

Willard's retail marketing problem in the election is not that he risks sounding theatrically sincere when he talks about his concern for working families and struggling homeowners. It's that he will be too "authentic" in displaying what he is: a wealthy vulture capitalist who identifies heart and soul with the narrow obsessions of the billionaires and who made big bucks by buying companies, loading them up with crippling debt and walking away with a lot of money as a result.

He actually looks very true to his own history when he gives us that smile that looks for all the world like a lord of the manner enjoying watching a servant being flogged.

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