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Romney Derangement Syndrome

The feckless and serially insipid Mitt Romney has always managed to make everybody crazy; but even his supporters are affected by Romney Derangement.
January 12, 2012, 9:00pm

Back in 2003, Charles Krauthammer, the only person to transition from a successful career as a Leatherface impersonator to a successful career lying about stuff and wanting to bomb everything, invented a condition called "Bush Derangement Syndrome." It perfectly combined his superciliousness with his inability to argue in anything other than bad faith. Simply put, the definition of BDS is that any objections people had to anything about George W. Bush stemmed from their own insanity.

Somehow, the feckless and serially insipid Mitt Romney has managed to make everybody crazy; only Romney Derangement affects even his supporters. His campaign sends people screaming for narrative meaning. Establishment GOP types spin the "wise long game." Tea Partiers and evangelicals search for the Anyone But Romney true conservative. Democrats survey the GOP field like a salad bar serving various intestinal infections, waiting for the most virulent disease to emerge and let them know which warning labels to print up. And Romney fans want to talk inevitability. Every take is still ripe with potential.


There's a case for inevitability. Romney is the only Republican in the modern primary era to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Three separate polls have him in the lead in South Carolina—ahead by 3, 7 or 18 points, depending. He wasn't supposed to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, and South Carolina was sure to be a hard test. So his numbers would seem to prove the doubters wrong. He's maintained solid support for months while all his opponents have either bounced around in the polls, never broken through, or always been doomed. Gingrich, Perry and Santorum have all been darlings—sometimes for as little as a day—while Huntsman lingers above indifference, and Paul has no national viability.

Romney critics can point to the above and laugh. Perry, Bachmann, and Santorum all split the fundamentalist vote in Iowa, while the clever-talking Gingrich lost his only advantage when the GOP debates stopped weeks in advance of the caucus. At the same time, Romney's Super PAC—whose ads he was somehow "unaware of," in precise detail—pummeled Gingrich. New Hampshire presents just as many problems. The state lets everyone who isn’t a registered Democrat vote, and it went for Pat Buchanan in 1996 and John McCain in 2000, which is basically as close to intraparty political schizophrenia as you can imagine. Plus, Romney not only keeps a summer house there but was the governor of neighboring Massachusetts, whose politicians always get a hometown bump. In 1992, Paul Tsongas walked away from New Hampshire with 33 percent of the vote, despite selling out the whole "economic justice" concept of the Democratic Party before it was cool.


South Carolina might as well be a wash, too. Mitt's numbers could fade as fast as Gingrich's did, and, having opened the floodgates on Super PAC actions, he now faces retribution from everybody. Paul will hammer at his ludicrous doubling down on costly American arms, as if America somehow doesn't already have a peerless military. Perry's website was sharing a ringtone of Romney saying, "I like being able to fire people." And Gingrich's called him a "looter," while his Super PAC created a 28-minute anti-Romney ad that might as well be a documentary.

There's a reason people doubted Romney in South Carolina: He has centrist Massachusetts baggage that won't play in the cradle of the Tea Party, and his Mormonism is still a dealbreaker with some fundamentalists. And in a state with three years of 9 percent unemployment, Gingrich can hammer him as the worst kind of heartless capitalist.

Romney's claim that his experience at Bain Capital somehow qualified him to run a country's economy has always been a joke. Romney can't make money off America via the Bain model unless he runs for the leader of another country, buys America, fires a large percentage of the American workforce, reneges on American pensions and health plans, then somehow flips America to some dipshit country while he and every other vampire he works with stands around trying to count on their swollen, diabetic white-guy fingers the number of lives they've just destroyed.

Everyone on the left is gleefully high-fiving as they watch Perry and Gingrich attack Romney's economic parasitism with more balls than a cowardly swine like Harry Reid could muster if a twink gangbang broke out at the Spalding factory. It's one thing for the left to attack Romney's monied background, but it's quite another to have video of a GOP ideologue and a good ol' Texan doing it.

The Democrats should settle down. They're already forgetting the fundamental tenet of GOP politics: They're reality-optional. This is the party that sells "Obama is a Marxist," when his tax rates are lower than Reagan's. They sold opposition to the Dodd-Frank bill by claiming it would create the financial crises it would actually prevent—a financial crisis in which, according to Republicans, home loans to minorities somehow broke the country, instead of Wall Street firms being leveraged at 40:1. There is no object permanence anymore. In the FOX News echo chamber, what Gingrich says today can mean nothing by tomorrow. Romney's August might as well be another century, and today’s backbiting will be completely forgotten by the time the convention rolls around.


Previously – Nobody Likes You, Jon Huntsman