How strange is it that Mitt Romney suddenly announced at the end of last week that he's out of a third presidential run he'd only recently spun up? No stranger than getting back into the fray in the first place.
Romney had made no formal announcement of candidacy, of course, but he was certainly "exploring" very aggressively. Before his short-lived comeback, the Republican presidential race had a musical chairs cast of changing frontrunners. With Romney out again, the frontrunner seems to be Jeb Bush. But in first-in-the-nation Iowa, it's Scott Walker and Rand Paul.
These names begin to get at the reason why Romney made his comeback. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul...
Is a country still struggling with the wreckage caused by the last Bush presidency really going to choose a third one this soon?
Is the governor of a middling Midwestern state best known as a union-buster, with no military or foreign policy expertise, the choice for a country struggling with complex geopolitical challenges?
And is the the country really going to to elect a freshman senator who is a libertarian ideologue?
None of these things sound very realistic, do they? Especially when the likeliest Democratic nominee is the flawed yet formidable Hillary Clinton, a battle-tested figure who is very much a known quantity to the American people, and whose oddly lovable husband is always just off stage.
So Romney must have thought, hey, I'm a bigger figure that these other yo-yos, plus I almost beat a sitting president.
Except he didn't almost beat Barack Obama. It was only close in deeply flawed scenarios and polls by the likes of delusional sorts like billionaire-conning Karl Rove and the alternate reality Fox News crowd. And Romney was only competitive with Obama to the extent he was because the president inexplicably slept-walked through a debate.
That's not how Romney saw it, naturally.
You could sense him bucking himself up last year when he declared that his much criticized 2012 identification of Russia as America's key enemy had been vindicated by Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea.
Well, when the US backs regime change in a Russia-friendly government of a country just a few hundred miles from Moscow -- and that was neoconservative Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland in Kiev publicly cheering on the overthrow of the democratically elected Ukrainian president -- just as Putin's cherished Sochi Winter Olympics reach their climax, it makes an enemy. Putin personally warned Obama about this in 2009, as I wrote at the time. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-bradley/obama-does-moscow-and-vic_b_228246.html
Not that Romney ever really knew what he was talking about on that stuff. Discussing why we had to get into the Syrian civil war, and threaten Iran with war, Romney explained in 2012 that Syria provides Iran with its access to the sea.
There are only two problems with that. Iran is not next to Syria. And Iran has more coastline than California.
Which gets at the fundamental problem with Willard "Mitt" Romney. Pleasant though he is to meet, he gives fatuous politicians a bad name.
Romney doesn't really have deep knowledge about anything except his own leveraged buyout business. You could see that when he came to California in 2010 to try to help launch his old business protege Meg Whitman on a trajectory to the governorship of the nation's largest state, as I wrote at the time.
Despite Whitman spending an astounding $180 million, the most of any non-presidential campaign in American history, the billionaire ex-eBay CEO was trounced by Jerry Brown.
Nor does Romney have deep political values. Again, beyond the profit motive which makes him intone airhead statements like "Corporations are people, my friend."
It's easy in this ADD media culture to forget that Romney was the main right-wing candidate in the 2008 Republican primaries running against the candidate of climate change control and immigration reform, John McCain. Yes, John McCain, running on issues rejected across the board by Republicans in the 2012 race.
In 2008, it was Romney who was the candidate of the right-wing radio yakkers, El Rushbo, Hannity, and all the rest.
In 2012, not so much. Then he was the would-be moderate statesman. In a party, that is, wildly tilted to the right, dominated by anti-Enlightenment, anti-science interests.
So, for now at least, we have Jeb Bush. The smart one of the Bush boys, as the saying goes. Haven't met him, but certainly met his brother the president. And liked him. He was definitely smart enough. Just not very curious, too prone to emotionalism. And too ready to listen to a vice president who might as well have been a character in a Stephen King novel.
Now if only I could remember what Jeb did in all those years as governor of Florida, I'd be all set for this race ...
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