Despite all the recent polls that show Romney lagging behind Obama, there is one competition in which Romney can already claim victory: The battle of the Romney campaign vs. the replacement referees. It's a match-up where contenders pretend to be something they're not and the title goes to the most incompetent team.
In the past few weeks, we've seen widespread confusion, the inability to reach a decision, failure to communicate clearly, bad calls, and the outcome of an important contest jeopardized by poor performance.
And the replacement refs were almost as bad.
Romney racked up points each and every time he was exposed as being someone very different from the person he publicly holds himself out to be. Like the video that surfaced of him characterizing nearly half of Americans as moochers looking for a hand-out. Or the time he was hanging out at the Daytona 500 trying to pretend he was an Average Joe, but then flubbed it when a reporter asked him if he follows NASCAR. Romney responded, "Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners."
Average Joes don't have friends who own NASCAR teams. And they never use the word "ardent." Romney is no Average Joe. He's more of a Highbrow Herbert or a Wealthy Walter.
But the real area where Romney bested the replacement refs was in making contradictory calls on the same set of facts. In the now infamous game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, two different replacement referees made opposing calls on the same play -- and that led to confusion and ultimately cost Green Bay the game. That's mere entry level inconsistency. Executive level inconsistency requires the conflicting calls to be made by the same guy. And Mitt Romney is a master at executive level inconsistency.
Back when Romney was pitching his health care reform plan in Massachusetts, he blew the whistle on people who don't have health insurance and depend on emergency room visits for medical care. Because the tab for these visits is ultimately absorbed by everyone else, Romney ruled that such behavior was personally irresponsible and labeled the entire practice a form of socialism.
Last week, however, he changed his mind and declared it fair game, concluding that the existence of emergency rooms means everyone has access to health care and reform is therefore unnecessary. No word yet on which ER doctor the Romneys will now claim as their primary care physician.
Then there was Romney's very public opposition to the auto industry bailout in an opinion article he wrote for the New York Times, the headline for which was "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Once the results were in and it was clear that the bailout was a success and millions of voters' jobs were saved, Romney publicly stated that he "take[s] a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back."
Taking what you didn't earn. There's a term Romney uses for that. Oh, yeah -- it's socialism. But in this case, I'd just call it stealing. And the irony is that Romney didn't even need to steal any credit for helping to turn around the American auto industry. He actually has good reason to claim he did more than his fair share. After all, his wife drives not just one but "a couple of Cadillacs."
There's something really funny about watching people while they try to do things for which they are not qualified. (Remember the show Jack Ass?) And it's even more entertaining when people don't realize they're in over their heads. That's why even non "ardent" football fans were tuning into NFL games over the last few weeks. And it's also why everyone is looking forward to the presidential debates. (Prepare for disappointment, though. Nothing can compare to the level of comedy we were treated to in the Republican Primary debates.)
As entertaining as it can be, when it comes to incompetency there's definitely a limit to how long the comedy stays fresh. The replacement referee show is officially (pun!) over now that the NFL and the referees' union have reached an agreement. As far as comedic timing goes, that ending was just about perfect.
But with the presidential election over a month away, we still have several gaffe-filled weeks of Romney comedy (Romnedy?) to go. As long as the polls continue to show that Obama has a comfortable lead we can all relax and enjoy the spectacle.
But if it starts to look like we might get stuck with several years of lowbrow humor, comedy quickly turns to tragedy. The George W. Bush administration is a good example of this phenomenon. That farce lasted eight long years after its comedic "sell by" date. By the time his second term was over virtually everyone had soured on it.
In the end, it's up to us voters to make the right call. If we reelect Obama, we can end Romney's routine in November while it's still funny. But if we elect Romney, we're in for a four straight years of incompetence and insincerity -- and that's a far cry from funny. That's just plain foul.