The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves... (Julius Caesar, I, ii).
Do the press and the Republicans not realize that the president has seized the center of American politics and thus their complaints about the admittedly flawed Romney miss the bigger point?
The press loves partisans critiquing their own side. It reveals, so they think, the "truth" of the candidate's deficits. But, that same press forgets or ignores that, in critiquing Mitt, these same partisans may be self-delusional. By attributing the problems to the candidate's strategy or persona, they deflect any examination of the policies or philosophy that may just be so unpopular or absurd that they cannot sustain open discussion.
Let us admit that Romney is about as flawed a candidate as there could be. He is a complete phony, a total opportunist, knows absolutely nothing about foreign policy (and chose a running mate who matched his inexperience and cluelessness), and often says the wrong thing because he is trying to calculate in real-time what response he needs to be approved, rather than having any core beliefs or values, other than self-aggrandizement, to offer.
Imagine what arrogance, what hubris, it takes for someone to presume to be president of the United States when he has parked all his money overseas, and thinks there is nothing wrong with that!
So, yes, backseat drivers, Rick Santorum was correct when he said Romney was the absolute worst candidate they could put up to go toe-to-toe with President Obama on the issues. "ObamaCare"? Romney introduced it in Massachusetts. Unfair trade with China? Romney himself established a Chinese company whose mission was to take US manufacturing jobs. Debt? Most of Romney's wealth comes from loading companies with debt, using that debt to get bought out, and then watching the company go bankrupt from afar. Job Growth? Forty-seventh in the nation as Massachusetts governor, with people fleeing the state;and, Bain Capital's strategy of making huge profits that caused bankruptcies and job losses. Tax Reform? Look at the loopholes Romney himself exploits. Patriotism? With his own money in foreign accounts. Defense? The varmint hunter to the rescue! Neither he, nor any of his five sons, volunteered for the wars of their generation.
Yes, Romney is a terribly flawed candidate, and, as his disgusting remarks about the Libyan tragedy displayed, a very flawed human being to boot.
But, all that is chicken-feed compared to the bigger problem of selling Republican policies. They sound nice, and get thunderous applause at right-wing gatherings -- free enterprise without regulations, tax cuts (magically) pay for themselves, cut spending, pay off the debt, small government, being strong overseas -- but, when one has to get down to specifics (that Romney has astutely avoided), they just do not work and the sound-bites no longer carry the day.
Look, it would be awesome if cutting taxes time-and-time again for everyone yielded gushing revenues so we could do everything we need to do as a country without incurring any debt; if roads, bridges, tunnels, water systems, the electric grid upgraded and fixed themselves; if corporations were so concerned about workers that they paid them good wages so they could support their families and so worried about the safety of their products that they ensured no children were hurt by their toys, medications were safe and effective, food was pure and safe, the environment were preserved and rape triggered protective mechanisms that prevented women from becoming pregnant (or, that rape never happened at all). And, that all we had to do was announce our awesome greatness to other nations and peoples, and they would greet us with dancing and flowers.
For all their absurdities, campaigns have a way of dispelling some illusions, and so Republicans' bigger problems than Romney's flaws are their policies coming face-to-face with the world as it is:
1. Foreign policy -- there is no place "to the right" of President Obama that is not designed to get us into the next war. How can he campaign on that?
2. Taxes -- the American people want the wealthy to pay more. No one is buying that the wealthy are "job-creators", nor that they need more incentives to grow their businesses. So, what is the Republican argument? It is a scratchy 45rpm acetate in the era of iTunes. And, Romney, the loophole capitalist, is credible on the issue of reforming the tax code?
3. The Economy -- if you say defense cuts cost 1M jobs, how can you sustain an argument against government spending to create jobs?
4. Debt -- Romney's plan either a) balloons the debt; or b) forces the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. How can anyone sell that? He can lie about it, but that does not carry the day, it just makes people less negative.
5. Education, Housing, Basic Research, Transportation, Police -- no one buys the Republican playbook that private funds will step in when government steps aside. For one thing, where are these private funds, as Republicans have blocked government funding? So, when I lose my muffler in a pot-hole, what do I do? How did I feel last week when I took my kids to school and found they were in classes with 40 other students? Do I want the housing market to tumble further so that Romney's investors can snap up my home for a pittance?
6. Defense -- the American people want us to cut back our expenditures. If we spend more than anyone else by a huge factor, do we really need to increase it? For what? How is Romney going to answer that question with specifics and not tip his neoconista hand about the next war.
7. Veterans -- the American people believe we owe them everything we promised and more. Republicans want to cut that back, otherwise they are "too dependent". How does one promise veterans security by cutting back government?
8. Medicare -- the American people want to keep it as is. (Repealing "Obamacare" causes its bankruptcy in 2016). Can Republicans sustain the argument that they really love Medicare, cross-their-hearts-and-hope-to-die they do, when they have committed to making it go insolvent in 2016, embraced VoucherCare, and it is against their philosophy of government in the first place?
9. Social Security -- ditto with #8. Republicans want to privatize it, and the American people get that. Are the American people going to trust Republicans, whose VP candidate's proposal on privatizing was too right-wing even for George W, to preserve it?
10. Financial Regulation -- you really want to argue to leave the banks free to wreak havoc again on the middle class? Other than Wall Street itself, where is the constituency for that?
11. Women's rights -- women, and most men, think that women should be left alone to make their own decisions, thank you very much, and a government forcing them to take unneeded examinations or forcing them to ask their CEOs at work to provide contraceptive coverage in their health insurance is beyond the pale of decency.
Since most people (rightly) blame the disastrous Bush administration for our economic problems and debt, the general assumption that President Obama should be beatable because the unemployment rate is over 8% is just not right. Even before the conventions, and notwithstanding former President Clinton's magnificent speech, the president was running even, or slightly ahead, of Romney.
So, the Republican strategists need to lay off Romney. When the poor sot tried to temper his absurd critique of "Obamacare" by saying he would keep the pre-existing conditions and children on the parents' program, he was back to total nihilism quicker than stink on you-know-what. Not that his "Obamacare-lite" proposals would work anyhow (in true Republican fashion, there is no mechanism to pay for them), but c'mon boys-and-girls on the Right, at least he was trying to sell your claptrap.
And, therein, lay their dilemma. It is not Mitt Romney, flawed as he is.
It is in themselves.