05/25/2007 02:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mitt Romney Owns It

"Mitt made the final decision last Christmas after discussing it with Ann, their five sons, and their five wives." - Newsmax 5/23/07. Ronald Kessler says more about the Romney family than he probably should.

Mitt Romney is raising more money than all the other Republican candidates. He's also leading in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. When the dust settles, and the candidates with anger management issues and/or cancer fall away, Mitt Romney will be the nominee, and I think I know why: Because Mitt Romney is the first candidate to take pandering so far beyond cynicism that it's not even cynicism anymore. It's Romantic Irony.

Romantic irony -- the most wistful irony of all -- occurs when a character draws attention to the fact that he's just a character, or a narrator interrupts a story to remind the audience that it's just a story. And Mitt Romney -- alone among presidential hopefuls -- understands that he's a character in a work of art and that his character's job is to say anything, to anyone, at any time, to get elected.

There aren't any contradictions, because life is all made up anyway. He only appears to be a compulsive liar. Actually, he's capturing what Friedrich Schlegel called the "clear consciousness of eternal agility, of an infinitely teeming chaos."

Yes, he seems like the oily trimmer in the mind of God. (Romney, not Schlegel.) But that's the whole point. He knows the mind of God is the only place where we exist. (Or, as Paul McCartney would put it, though we feel as if we're in a play, we are anyway.) Mitt Romney understands that in fiction, there's no such thing as "true" and "false." A character's only truth is internal consistency.

If you think it's inconsistent for him to change sides all the time, you're missing the point. When he had to be pro-choice to get elected, he was pro-choice. When he had to be pro-life, he was pro-life. When he had to support civil rights for gays and lesbians, he did. Now that he doesn't, he doesn't. Guns? Campaign finance reform? Immigration? Tax cuts? Abortion? He's been as dependable as an atomic clock: He's changed his mind on everything.

Mitt Romney is totally consistent as a character. He's a perfect, tidal-in-its-relentlessness, rockin' round the clock, 24/7, nonstop sleaze.


When you employ romantic irony in television, it's called "owning it." This happens when a situation is so sit-commy, the characters themselves have to notice. This occurs mostly in your cool, post-modern-type sit coms. It's a way for the writers to make themselves feel better, and suck up to the audience while serving them the same old crap.

Here's a bad, tired sit-com, the kind Entertainment Weekly hates:

"Oh my God! Not only do I have jury duty the day of the big game, but the foreman is Urkel!"

Here's a great, deconstructed, meta-sitcom, the kind Entertainment Weekly loves:

"Oh my God! Not only do I have jury duty the day of the big game, but the foreman is Urkel! I feel like I'm in a sit-com!"

See how easy it is, once you know how?


Daytime dramas have been employing romantic irony for decades, but only in dialogue, in the form of incredulous sarcasm. The characters have achieved a certain level of self-awareness, but it hasn't made them happy. It just makes their predicaments all the more galling. Of course Windsor is having an affair with Wedge -- that's what makes it sting. Scenes are an escalating series rhetorical questions, built out of sarcastic clichés.

So, that's your "brilliant plan?" I'm supposed to "stand aside" while you and Wedge "waltz away" to your little "love nest" like some "match made in heaven?"

"Grow up," Timber. Did you "honestly think" Wedge was your "knight in shining armor" when he "swept you away" and made you his "blushing bride?"

This rule, of course, does not apply to one true jewel of daytime, The Bold and the Beautiful. Which is perfect, except for Phoebe and Rick- why can't she see through him?


On primetime dramas -- sophisticated primetime dramas -- the characters use romantic irony by saying "this is the part" to each other.

(A woman. By the way, all attractive women on sophisticated hours have men's names.)
Hey, Doyle, can I talk to you about this assignment?

(Her editor. Men on sophisticated hours go by their last names, even if they're in high school.)
I don't have time for this, Gary. This is the part where you say you don't want to work with McGillicuddy and this is the part where I say you have to. And this is the part where you say is that an order and this is the part where I say yes.

See how not shitty that is?

The quality of a television show is in direct inverse proportion to the number of times a character says: "This is the part..."


I want Mitt Romney to start answering questions: "This is the part where I tell you what you want to hear." It's a long time until next November. It could happen.


Medved Second 5/25

Michael Medved's thought-provoking new column is called "Capturing the Language to Assure Liberal Dominance." The master linguist's last line is:

"If right-wingers allow themselves to be characterized in such forbidding, Jurassic terms then we, too, run the risk of permanent extinction."

Permanent extinction. Of all the extinctions, that's the worst kind.