Poor David Brooks. Poor angry, frustrated, David Brooks. He argued in a New York Times column that the Mitt Romney on the infamous hidden videotape is not the real Mitt. Brooks opined that Romney's problems stem from his lack of authenticity, because he is "faking" an ideological campaign when in truth Mitt's a moderate, solutions-oriented fellow. I must say that I did not, at first, find this argument to be convincing. The secret videotape sounded to me like the real Mitt, enjoying a night out with his own social class, ingratiating himself with his homeys by sharing their barely disguised contempt for those who cannot afford a ticket to a 50,000 dollar a plate fund raiser.
That was before the 60 Minutes interview broadcast this past Sunday. Turns out, the most revealing thing Mitt Romney has said in his entire campaign was not captured in secret, spoken to a private audience in a moment of candor. It was captured during an interview for 60 Minutes! What would those who can't afford insurance do during a Romney presidency, he was asked? Why, Mitt answered, with a painfully strange smile, simply go to the emergency room!
At this point, Mitt morphed into a villain out of Charles Dickens. I thought to myself, is this man so completely lacking in self awareness that it doesn't occur to him to shut his pie hole before he goes all Ebenezer Scrooge on network television 45 days before an election?
I imagined that somewhere in Mitt-Land the consultants were passing around bottles of cheap red wine and, perhaps, prescription anti-depressants, trying to dull their pain. It was as if Scott Pelley had turned into one of the cheerful Christian fellows collecting for the poor in A Christmas Carol, and Mitt's response was "Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?"
A credulous Pelley reminded Mitt that he was advocating the single least efficient, most expensive way to deliver health care to anybody. Perhaps Mr. Pelley could have pointed out, simply by using the Google, that one of the major reasons to reform health care was the sheer idiocy of a system that demands sick people become extremely sick before they seek health care in the first place. Mitt was cheerily recommending the current system, whereby a case of flu, curable by $20 in medications, turns into pneumonia, requiring a week in intensive care.
Was Mitt speaking out of callous ignorance? My knee-jerk liberal reaction was that someone needs to take Richie Rich Romney into an emergency room in a big city hospital. Perhaps on a Saturday night. The lucky ones are those with open wounds or obvious heart attacks, because they stand a chance of being seen within the first three hours after arrival. If your two-year old just has whooping cough that's kept the entire family up all night for a week, you and your toddler are all in for a long wait.
But then, it occurred to me that David Brooks was right: Mitt is faking it! Mitt knew that Scott Pelley was right! And my evidence is the very well-crafted, effective, and extremely popular health care reform bill that Romney made his most important legislative priority as Governor of Massachusetts. Mitt agrees with Scott Pelley, in the part of his brain not held hostage by the Republican far-right wing, that it just makes common sense to have health care reformed exactly the way he proposed in Massachusetts! But he cannot possibly say that, without calling down the wrath of his Tea Party masters.
This made me re-think my earlier position on the 47 percent video. An evidenced-based thinker has to change her position when she finds new facts, right? When Mitt droned on and on in the video about the irresponsible class of the non taxpayers, he may not have been the real Mitt either. If David Brooks is correct, the clues about body language not matching the looks in his eyes, the tortured syntax, the robotic smiles, are all subconscious screams coming from the Real Romney. Sad, sad, sad.
Just as I was about to go all soft and liberal and Mommy about poor Mitt, I remembered why Mitt cannot be Mitt. He wanted to be the Republican nominee for president more than anything else in the world. Be careful what you wish for, Mitt. Read the fine print, before you sign your next bargain with Faust.