But really, who knew he could be so incredibly gaffe-tastic? Not just when talking to the media (dissing England, sounding silly on Russia, jumping in too early on Muslim ) but put him behind closed doors and what the insults to half the US population fly.
There's so much commentary on how stupid his comments make him sound, it's hard to pick a favourite. David Brooks in the NYT with "Thurston Howell Romney" was pretty good. His concluding paragraphs are generous:
Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category. But, as a description of America today, Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy. It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.
Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?And I guess this is consistent with a piece in Bloomberg yesterday. The problem might not be Romney per se, but the way his Party has become entrenched in simplistic ideology to the extent they have stopped making sense and don't care about things like (as Bill Clinton said) arithmetic or (as I say) other evidence on something like climate change:
Most of Romney's troubles stem from his inability to shed a broad range of toxic Republican dogmas. The rhetorical and policy workarounds required for him to be both a loyal Republican and a viable candidate for the presidency have stretched him thin and pretzelly.
Why is Romney unable to discuss health care policy -- his most significant government success -- with any coherence or conviction? Because Republicans told their base that Obamacare was the devil's spawn and Romney (who originated the role of the devil in this theater of the absurd) must maintain the fiction.
Why is the most salient aspect of Romney's budget the gaping hole at its center? Because contemporary Republicans like to play fantasy league politics, in which vast swaths of government are magically excised by a legion of Randian Harry Potters. Voters, however, lack a similar imagination. If they saw real numbers signifying real cuts, they would punish Romney. So the numbers stay hidden and Romney's rhetoric and budget documents appear untrustworthy.
Why must Romney, a multimillionaire, push for highly unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy in an era of guilded inequality? Because his base demands it. If such cuts are bad economics (see the Bush administration, 2001-2009), bad fiscal policy (ditto) and unpopular with the broad electorate, so what? The Republican nominee must support tax cuts for the wealthiest -- no matter how much it costs him in credibility or votes.
The list goes on and on. Indeed, Romney's ill-fated foreign policy attack this week may be derived from the same impulse to appease the fantasies that have taken root in the Republican base, which clings to its belief that Obama is anti-American and vaguely in cahoots with terrorists (though presumably not the ones he has had assassinated).But then again, maybe it is Romney after all.
Romney was a fairly successful governor who made a valuable breakthrough in an extremely complex policy arena: health care. His particular brand of business success would probably not be an unmitigated political boon under any circumstances. But any positive political effects have been buried amid Republican protests that the very wealthiest require additional tax breaks and the poorest need more "skin in the game."