"When I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney," President Obama said in his Denver speech the morning after the first presidential debate. "But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney."
DNA tests would show that the person on stage was Mitt Romney, but clearly he was posing as someone else. The key question is this: Who was Romney pretending to be? Whose identity did he steal?
If we look at what he said at the debate, most of which was 180° from what Romney has been saying for the past two years, the answer becomes clear.
Mitt Romney has contempt for the 47 percent of the American people who don't make enough money to pay federal income taxes and he identifies entirely with the hyper-rich who, he has said consistently, are overburdened with taxes. The guy he pretended to be loves the middle class and is "not going to reduce the share of taxes paid by high-income people."
Mitt Romney has unceasingly railed against government regulation. The guy he was playing on stage at the debate is a firm believer in government regulation. "Regulation is essential," his stage character declared. "You can't have a free market work if you don't have regulation. . . . You have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation. . . . Look, we have to have regulation on Wall Street."
The person Romney was playing loves Medicare and Social Security; far be it from him even to think of doing the slightest harm to an elderly or poor person; he will protect people with pre-existing conditions; he is "all in favor of green energy"; he wants tens of thousands of new teachers; he is "not going to cut education funding"; he's against those greedy New York banks. "And there are some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world."
So who was it that Mitt Romney was pretending to be on Wednesday night?
Romney understands that he can't win if he runs as a regressive Republican. He realizes that the policies and values of the President and Democrats are far more popular than the Paul Ryan/Tea Party line he had been preaching. So the infinitely adaptable Mitt Romney has decided to run as Barack Obama.
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