I used to think that Mitt Romney was a very smart man. “Used” is the operative word, here. Now, I no longer think that he is that smart and I feel, vaguely, sorry for him. As a fellow – but almost infinitely poorer – businessman, that bothers me. If he is not very smart, how did he make so much money? I know that he started with money, but, but, unlike George W. Bush who started with money from his father’s connections and ended up with less, Romney parlayed his wealthy start into making even more money. According to our national mythology, he has to be smart.
When you are the richest guy in the room, it must be hard not to think that you are also the the smartest guy in the room. After all, Romney is rich, he did make lots of money, and to many people – perhaps most – that is what “being successful” means. He is much richer than Obama so he must be smarter. Paul Ryan said it well when he said, “When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself.” By inference, somebody who does think of themself as stuck in some low station in life – just because they were born black, or grew-up in poverty – is either not very smart or does not have the proper American character (it may not be their fault, but it is not Paul Ryan’s fault, either).
And this is where I feel sorry for Romney. I imagine that Romney thought that once he had a chance to go mano-a-mano with Obama, he – Romney – would have no problem beating him. After all, Obama’s base’s enthusiasm is down, the economy is in the tank and not getting better; how could Romney not beat him? And yet, Romney is slowly losing ground.
Somehow, Obama has a way of making forced errors. It happened to Bill Clinton in South Carolina, it happened to John McCain over the economy meltdown, and now it is starting to happen to Mitt Romney. He should be able to win on the economy but he keeps wandering off to other topics. He is not going to win by making Obama look friendly to radical Muslims! he is not going to win on birth control, and, yet, somehow he ends up there trying to double down on a stupid statement. It must be infuriating to a guy like Romney who is, after all, the smartest guy in the room.