(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
In a couple of days, when a majority of Americans get in line to vote for the next President, it would behove them well to remember 15 September, 2008, the day when Lehman brothers filed for bankruptcy and bought the global financial system to the brink of collapse, while the Bush Administration did nothing; or maybe 29 August, 2005 when Hurricane Katrina flooded the town of New Orleans causing extraordinary damage to both life and property while the Bush Administration did nothing; or maybe 1 May 2003, when President Bush gave a staged speech on a navy vessel declaring the end of the Iraq war with a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner in the background; or maybe even back to 6 August, 2001 when during his daily ‘presidential brief’, Bush was presented with a classified document titled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.’, a warning that subsequent events revealed wasn’t heeded.
Earlier this year, during the Republican National Convention, as Mitt Romney accepted the nomination for President, the crowd applauded tepidly. The convention didn’t look like a meeting of happy party members enthusiastically nominating a Presidential candidate. It appeared to be more like a Klan meeting. An auditorium filled with resentful people who were angry at the world for moving on and leaving them behind. A whole swathe of people with low I.Q’s yearning for a past which only exists in their head. A political party whose members had resigned from reality and were more than happy to live in the bubble where they felt safe and happy. Just like their guns, you’d have to take their bigotry, ignorance and fear from their cold, dead hands.
In the movie Game Change, Ed Harris’s John McCain warns Julian Moore’s Sarah Palin of letting the extreme wing of the Republican party co-opt her. Holy Foreshadowing, Batman! Because that’s exactly what happened. Not only did she become the uncrowned leader of the extreme wing of her party, she became its mascot. Yes, the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower is now the party of a reality teevee star who denies climate change, hates gay people, has nothing but contempt for anyone who has read any other book besides the bible and thinks Barack Obama is an Islamist Atheist Communist Terrorist-hugger. (They can’t even reconcile to the fact that a single person cannot be all these things at the same time.)
In the Republican bubble, the guy who ordered the kill on Bin Laden and drops bombs on terrorists using his killer flying robots everyday is soft on terrorism. In the Republican bubble, the guy who saved the American auto-industry from receding into oblivion and saved the global economy from collapse is hurting economic growth. In the Republican bubble, not constantly wanting to bomb every country in the world in alphabetical order is ‘going on an apology tour.’ In the Republican bubble, a person whose life has been investigated, examined and analyzed to such an extent that even his letters to his college girlfriend have been made public still remains ‘unvetted.’ In the Republican bubble, passing a healthcare law that has eluded five previous Presidents and is based on a successful law enacted by a Republican Governor is the sort of tyranny last seen during the Third Reich. (Oh, and by the way, the healthcare law was the only achievement of a one-term Governor known as Mitt Romney. Wonder what happened to that guy!)
When Mitt Romney first started running for office back in 1994, he pretended to be more liberal than his opponent, Edward Kennedy. He pretended to be a pro-choice, gay rights advocating, independent minded, moderate Republican. Even though he lost, he used the same shtick to become Governor in 2002. However, by the time he had started running for President in 2005 moderate Republicans were an endangered species. By 2011, when he announced his second run, moderate Republicans had become an urban myth, like unicorns or a person from Bangalore who doesn’t constantly talk about the weather. So post-2011 Mitt Romney became a ‘severely’ conservative candidate who wants to ban abortion & gay marriage, repeal the healthcare law and cut taxes for the mega-rich. Now he was for deporting undocumented immigrants, building a large fence on the border with Mexico, constantly hugging Israel and denying the existence of global warming. However, since we live in the era of YouTube, for every position taken by conservative Mitt Romney, there is a video of moderate Mitt Romney advocating for the opposing side. Even chameleons escaping a garden full of predators change colour less often.
Romney’s stated foreign policy goals are too unrealistic even for a Tom Clancy novel. He wants to start a trade-war with China and has been constantly talking about bombing Iran to prevent them from making a nuclear weapon. However, during the foreign policy debate with Obama he jettisoned all the previous positions he held and basically took the stance that he’d have the same foreign policy as Obama except he’d be more racist.
Not that Obama is a President who metaphorically walks on water. He’s made more than his share of mistakes and hasn’t been able to deliver on some of his campaign promises. He hasn’t been able to close Guantanamo Bay, his stance on drug use is purely political and he has expanded the Imperial Presidency. Yet, with him you know where he stands on most of the issues. And he doesn’t falter from doing the right thing just because it comes with a political cost. Mitt Romney is a shape-shifter who tries to fit into whatever mould he imagines you want him to.
The world is still recovering from the after-shocks of the last Republican presidency.
Let’s hope America doesn’t saddle us with another.