I was fairly certain that I had written my last blog about Mitt Romney, but seeing him last week wade back into the public arena so soon after the November election to make such bitter comments ... I was wrong.
Let's set aside the ideological dogma behind whatever you thought of the election result - you were probably either thrilled, or disgusted - and accept that losing would be a harrowing experience. One of the election night stories that stuck with me was about how Romney arrived at the party at his headquarters that evening with a full secret service detail and a whole squadron ready to step up if he became president-elect at the end of the evening. When he lost, his son drove him home alone. That would be a level of weird only a very select few people could appreciate.
In a sense, I get it. When you apply for a job and go through a series of interviews for a cool position that you really, really want and someone else is chosen over you, it stings. You insulate yourself from the disappointment by telling yourself that they made the wrong decision and it's their loss and you would have been much a better option.
So when Romney went on Fox News last week and said that it "kills" him to not be president, I could identify with the sentiment.
But Romney probably should've still shut his mouth. His disappointment goes without saying. I could've forgiven him if he'd left it at a few awkward comments about regret. Sadly, he went well past that.
"It is very frustrating. The hardest thing about losing is watching the golden moment, this critical moment, slip away with politics," Romney said. Obama, as he saw it, was squandering a once in a lifetime opportunity to solve America's fiscal problems and was doing a horrible job at negotiating with Republicans.
"What we've seen is the president out campaigning to the American people doing rallies around the country, flying around the country, and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing. That causes the Republicans to retrench and then put up a wall and to fight back. It is a very natural emotion."
He then, quite pathetically, talked about his experience as a Republican governor in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts as some kind of evidence he would have done it better. "It was not lost on me to get anything done I couldn't be attacking them. I had to find ways to reach out to them. The president has the opportunity to lead the nation and to bring Republicans and Democrats together. It is a job he's got to do. And it is a job only the president can do."
This isn't going to end well for Romney. He shouldn't have said anything more than, "the American public have made their decision and I respect that and wish President Obama all the best for his second term in office."
No one suspects that Romney would have become a closet Obama fan with a couple of months of hindsight on the election. But that he thinks his dissent has weight is sad. It's a cynical ploy for headlines made by a man obviously struggling to let go. Someone raised the possibility to me that Romney was responding to the division in Republican leadership and providing a unified critique of Obama that is lacking. But at best, he's still the guy hanging around well past his moment and well past relevancy.
Romney was also the first losing candidate since 1989 to not attend the inauguration of the incoming president.
Al Gore won more votes than George Bush and could've yelled at the top of his voice about suspicious electoral activity in the 2000 election, but he still went away for a very long time after he'd lost. John Kerry waited a couple of months before appearing on Meet the Press in early 2005 and in the interview he stuck by his policy stances but stopped short of overtly criticising Bush. McCain went on Leno and gave a puffball interview about being proud of his campaign.
It is important to be a good loser. It says a lot about the mettle of a man. Romney's outbursts have confirmed my worst fears about him. I was never convinced that if he won it would be the end of the world. He seemed to me to be a pragmatist pretending to be an ideologue. But what left me cold in these comments was a sense that he felt as though he deserved to be president and that he was entitled to it. I could never shake that.
With these comments, Romney once again comes out sounding like the rich guy surprised he didn't get his own way.
On a much more positive note, I was lucky yesterday to chance my way into the groundbreaking for the US embassy's new Digital Engagement Studio. It was a pretty fun hour. Hearing from ambassador David Huebner about the embassy's blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest and its desire to reach out to people through new media channels, reminds me that there are are much bigger fish than me promoting US-NZ understanding through much more official channels than this.
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