Desperation in the Media’s “Wimp” Narrative About Romney
It never fails to amuse me at the kind of things the media will say about Mitt Romney to try to bring him down. The typical narratives the media tries to spin about a given Republican candidate usually come down to picking two out of the following three: dumb, evil, and a wimp (with warmonger being a subset of the “evil” schtick). With George W. Bush it was dumb (he’s a cowboy) and evil (warmonger, liar, hates black people, kitchen sink, etc.), and it was much the same with John McCain. He was old and supposedly senile (dumb) and an angry warmonger (seriously, remember these magazine covers?). I could go further on how this can be applied to all of the post-Eisenhower GOP nominees, but I think this is sufficient for this post.*
With Mitt Romney, there is some trouble, though. Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to understand how they could spin him into the “evil” narrative. After all, he is a millionaire and former CEO (of a “vulture capital” firm, no less!)–two things that are verboten to the class warfare Left, unless you donate to them, of course (see: John Kerry, George Soros, etc.). However, beyond that–and they really aren’t doing too good a job at dissuading the voters from supporting him with that narrative–their attempts break down. Since it’s difficult to call someone with dual graduate degrees from Harvard “dumb”, they have to try their hand at the “wimp” narrative. Newsweek writer Michael Tomasky serves up his latest attempt at making now-digital fish wrapping by pushing this narrative–or trying, at least. Behold:
Romney was raised in that same [upper class] code [as George H. W. Bush]—his father was the epitome of the civic-minded millionaire (except, of course, the Romneys were not WASPs). But as Mitt was making his fortune, those old values were being ground to dust by new Gordon Gekko values. The clash between those competing value systems exists inside him. There’s some of the old—he gives away plenty of money and so on. But the new values surface often enough—his fondness for firing people, the way he made fun of NASCAR fans’ ponchos, his reminders to us that his friends are the people who own the teams, and now his putdown of an entire nation, which happens to be our closest ally—to suggest that they won the argument.
A good-looking guy doesn’t have to walk around saying, “Hey, look at me!” He knows everyone’s looking. And a rich guy doesn’t have to remind us he’s rich. When he does, something’s off. It looks insecure.
Romney is the genuine article: a true wimp. Oh, there are some ways in which he’s not—a wimp lets himself get kicked around, and Romney doesn’t exactly do that. He sure didn’t during the primaries, when he strafed Rick Perry and carpet-bombed Rick Santorum (but note that they were both weaker than he).
For Michael Tomasky, the sad thing is that he can’t seem to keep his narrative straight. None of this sounds particularly wimpy to me. After all, a “wimp” wouldn’t go around suggesting that he enjoys firing people–a gaffe that sounds more “evil” to me. A “wimp” doesn’t go around saying he’s disconcerted about the London Olympic plans, not when he’s run an Olympics himself and is thus qualified to speak about such matters. It was impolitic, certainly, but even Piers Morgan admits Romney was right.
The piece continues:
In some respects, he’s more weenie than wimp—socially inept; at times awkwardy ingratiating, at other times mocking those “below” him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way. The evidence resonates across too many years to deny. What kind of teenager beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors—the incident from Romney’s youth that The Washington Post famously reported (and Romney famously didn’t really deny) back in May? The behavior extends, through more sedate means, into adulthood. The Salt Lake Olympics remains his greatest triumph, for which he wins deserved praise. But to many of those in the know, Romney placed a heavy asterisk next to his name by attacking the men he replaced on the Olympic Committee, smearing them in his book, even after a court threw out all the corruption charges against them.
And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world’s most-wanted villain of appeasement? That’s what they call overcompensation, and it’s a dead giveaway; it’s the “tell.” This guy is nervous—terrified—about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still.
Now, wait a second, earlier this year, Lefty pundits were trying to spin the bullying thing as a sign that he was an evil, ruthless jerk. MoveOn.org Political Action’s Executive Director Justin Ruben says, for example:
Here’s the simple picture that’s emerging: If you’re less fortunate or less powerful, Mitt Romney won’t think twice about walking over you if you’re in his way.
Mitt was born into a stratum of society that most Americans know only from movies and magazines. And maybe because of that, he often appears not to understand or care about people weaker than him — even when they’re harmed by his actions. If you’re a member of the jet set, or if you’re useful to him financially or politically, he’s got your back. But if you’re not as powerful you may be as good as invisible, or worse — like his classmate John Lauber — someone he’ll tear down in order to lift himself up.
Now we’re seeing parallels as Romney lays out his policy agenda for the country. The man who rallied his chums to bully a vulnerable kid has produced a set of prescriptions that are striking in the degree to which they advantage his NASCAR-owning buddies over everyone else.
Wow, this Mitt character sure is an evil guy, isn’t he?
Ruben’s not the only one saying this sort of stuff, though. Paul Begala writes something similar. He says
But what if childhood conduct helps shed a light on adult behavior? Romney’s teenage bullying hurts him because it is consonant with his adult record. Voters may well conclude: once a bully, always a bully; once a privileged abuser of power, always a privileged abuser of power.
One can draw a straight line from the young man who pinned down a terrified teenager and walked a blind man into a closed door, to the adult who put the family dog in a kennel and strapped it to the roof of the car, to the businessman who laid off hundreds of people, cancelled their health benefits, and paid himself millions while their company went bankrupt. And the line continues: the governor who slashed education and raised fees on the middle class, and the possible president who would use his power to cut taxes on his fellow millionaires while pushing for the gradual demise of traditional Medicare.
Then there is the aura of someone who acts as if the rules don’t apply to him.
Begala’s description doesn’t sound all that wimpy, either, does it?
Now, as we all should know, the allegations that Romney is a bully haven’t stuck. Furthermore, there are problems with the media’s story on the matter. I’m not here to rehash the topic. What’s important is that the media is bending the story to fit whatever particular narrative they are trying to spin about Romney, no matter how spurious the facts.
Fortunately, Romney’s response to the “wimp” allegations is particularly telling. He’s shrugging it off. When asked about it on Face the Nation Sunday morning, he shrugged it off:
JAN CRAWFORD: Some of those views have sounded pretty hawkish, the way you’ve been talking in terms of– of Israel and your approach in the Middle East. But I wanted so I just got a copy of the Newsweek cover that’s going to be hitting the newsstands tomorrow that calls you a wimp. Have you seen this?
MITT ROMNEY: No. They tried–
JAN CRAWFORD: Does that concern you? Is that fair?
MITT ROMNEY: They tried that in George Herbert Walker Bush. He was a pretty– pretty great President and anything but.
JAN CRAWFORD: But it– it did hurt him to some extent, that– that narrative did. Are you worried about what the media is saying here in this– this kind of storyline that gets out there, and how do you counter that?
MITT ROMNEY: If I– if I worried about what the media said I– I wouldn’t get much sleep and I’m able to sleep pretty well.
JAN CRAWFORD: Has anyone ever called you a wimp before?
MITT ROMNEY: I don’t recall that. No.
(Video here at the Media Research Center)