Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Platitudinous Mitt Romney

Back in April I picked up a copy of No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, a new book by Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Flipping it over so that I could read the description on the back of the jacket, I found that the publishers had printed the following excerpt from the text:

It is time for America to pursue the difficult course ahead, to confront the looming problems, to strengthen the foundations of our prosperity, and to secure the sources of our liberty and safety. The sacrifice and hard work will not sap our national energy; they will restore it. I'm one of those who believe that America is destined to remain as it has been since the birth of the republic - the brightest hope of the world. And for that belief, I do not apologize.

Listen, I am not naive. I understand that the writing of politicians - regardless of party, ideological faction, gender, race, creed, or country - tends to suck. As a rule of thumb, one can expect the literature churned out by humanity's would-be leaders to be shackled by slavish adherence to social convention, asphyxiated in anemic and turgid prose, and hopelessly contaminated with platitudes and lesser cliches (after all, anything more stimulating might scare off potential voters). I understand this and, to the greatest extent that I can, have made my peace with it.

That doesn't mean I won't ridicule the hell out of it.

What kind of person does Romney think would actually be inspired by this rhetoric? More disturbingly, to what set of opinions do supporters of the erstwhile governor believe he is acting as a foil? Does anyone really believe that Romney is rebutting the back of some other hypothetical book jacket?

It is time for America to retreat from the difficult course ahead, to ignore the looming problems, to weaken the foundations of our prosperity, and to needlessly imperil our liberty and safety. National energy be damned, we should settle into a culture of self-absorption and laziness. I'm one of those who believe America is doomed to never recapture its early glory - and am convinced that the rest of the world will mock us, and possibly post sticky notes on our backs when we aren't looking. But you shouldn't listen to me anyway, because I don't really have confidence in my own convictions.

Mitt Romney is the kind of man who proves that we need the likes of Mark Twain, H. L. Mencken, and Jon Stewart to mock our public servants. There can be little doubt that if our national brain subsisted on nothing but the flaccid words of politicians, it would shrivel up and die.

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