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John-Manuel Andriote Headshot

Mitt Romney, Not Barack Obama, Is the Real 'Other'

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Republicans insist on pushing the outer limits of sanity in their relentless attempts to portray President Obama as someone other than a "true" American. They conveniently ignore the fact that their own candidate is so disconnected from America as most of us know it that he actually didn't know the name of that most American of desserts, the doughnut.

George W. Bush's efforts to pass himself off as a Texas cowboy -- despite his Ivy League education and patrician pedigree -- were as nothing compared to the absurdity of Mitt Romney pointing to a plate of "chocolate goodies."

Ardent right-wingers for four years have tried to portray President Obama as the dreaded, foreign, illegitimate "other." They have clung like pitbulls to their belief that Obama wasn't born in America, and is therefore not legally permitted to hold the office to which he was elected by a majority of Americans. They insist, despite his oft-referenced Christian faith, that he is what for them is that most frightening of bogeyman, a Muslim. He even has brown skin, like "them."

Nearly half of Republicans in 2011 still didn't believe President Obama was born in the U.S. Nearly half of all Republicans in 2010 believed Obama is a Muslim.

It's not only southern Republicans who insist the President of the United States isn't a "true" American, as they define the word. Recall the comments of former New Hampshire governor, Bush Senior chief of staff and Romney bulldog (there is even a physical resemblance) John Sununu, wishing President Obama would "learn how to be an American."

Clearly, rationality, or even sanity, has nothing to do with these ferociously defended delusions. Far be it from Mitt Romney, however, to correct, rather than exploit, the delusions and division fomented by his key supporters.

Proclaiming that he wants to "reclaim America for the people" might be plausible if Romney weren't a man whose ostentatiously wealthy friends show up in their Bentleys and Rolls Royces at his Hamptons fundraiser, proclaiming their self-importance as though on little tin trumpets. The New York Times quoted one impatient woman in a blue chiffon dress poking her head out of a black Range Rover, yelling to a Romney aide, "Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P."

It's hard to take seriously the jingoism of a man who talks tough about Iran yet avoided the chance he had as a teenager in the 1960s to prove his support of the Vietnam War by actually serving in it. Like so many other self-proclaimed 'patriots' in the Republican party, Romney chose a different way of proving his vaunted love of country than actually serving in the war he supported. Most Americans called it evading the draft. For Romney, evasion meant repeatedly extended stints as a Mormon missionary in France.

Today Mitt Romney speaks fluent French, with a flawless Parisian accent. But French fluency is the least of Romney's 'differentness' from ordinary Americans -- and the least of the ironies that abound in a campaign by a man of limited integrity and unlimited sense of entitlement.

Whereas most Americans have one, perhaps two, cars, Romney's wife Ann alone "drives a couple of Cadillacs," as he put it.

Romney's comment was part of an attempt to prove his "Buy American" credentials. Of course Cadillac's manufacturer, General Motors, is thriving today only because President Obama chose to help the struggling giant, while Romney proclaimed in a New York Times commentary that the country should "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

Speaking to a group of unemployed Floridians, Romney joked that he, too, was "unemployed." The man born to wealth who is now estimated to be be worth more than $250 million, said he knows what it's like "to worry about whether or not you are going to get fired" from a job.

As if he ever actually had to rely on the income from a job to pay his bills.

If the repeated insensitivities weren't proof enough that Romney lives in a different universe than the people he wants to govern, he said in the Las Vegas GOP primary debate -- right there in the state hardest-hit by the foreclosure crisis -- that the government shouldn't do anything to stop the foreclosures.

Romney's fellow Mormon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), hit back hard. "With the highest foreclosure rate in the nation," said Reid, "Nevadans can't afford someone in the White House whose response to this crisis is 'tough luck.'"

Romney's Mormon faith has been widely considered to be off-limits to those trying to understand the man whose 'core values' have been so extraordinarily malleable. Even without delving into Mormonism's unusual roots and practices, or Romney's own unusual family history including his own father's birth in a Mormon polygamy commune in Mexico, it's hard to believe any religion that claims to be Christian would countenance its most famous adherent preaching a gospel of greed that is so blatantly at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- unless, of course, his vast financial support were on the scale of Romney's to the Mormon church.

And even though it was Romney's own father -- of all people -- who established what has become the standard practice of presidential candidates to make their personal tax returns available for public scrutiny, Romney still refuses to release any more than two full years of his tax returns. He actually claims not to know how much he paid in taxes. Not surprisingly, questions grow louder about whether there were years, perhaps even a decade, when he managed not to pay any taxes at all.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous words about the rich, from his 1925 story Rich Boy bear repeating in their entirety because they fit Mitt Romney so very well.

"Let me tell you about the very rich," wrote Great Gatsby author Fitzgerald.  "They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.

"They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves.  Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."

Out of touch even with his own vast wealth -- hidden in Swiss bank accounts, faux companies and offshore tax shelters -- Romney represents all that most "real" Americans (not just those who claim the designation for themselves and those who look like them) find abhorrent.

In the end, and to the thinking citizen, Mitt Romney, not Barack Obama, is truly the "other."

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Current Senate 53 47
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