June 19th, 2007

Epitome of a Politician


photo credit: fotocraz

At the May 3, 2007, GOP Debate held in California, former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked the following question:

What do you dislike most about America?

His answer reeks of political whitewashing:

Gosh. I love America. I’m afraid I’m going to be at a loss for words because America for me is not just our rolling mountains and hills and streams and great cities. It’s the American people.

And the American people are the greatest people in the world. What makes America the greatest nation in the world is the heart of the American people: hardworking, innovative, risk-taking, God- loving, family-oriented American people.
It’s that optimism we thank Ronald Reagan for. Thank you, Mrs. Reagan, for opening up this place in his memory for us. It is that optimism about this great people that makes this the greatest nation on earth.

Please show me, if you can, where in that statement he addressed the question.

This style of rhetoric is classic Romney. He was captured using it in a 1994 debate for a Senate position (skip to 3:35 to see the relevant part), and also recently pulled the same maneuver when asked about his beliefs regarding Christ’s second coming.

Straight questions deserve straight answers. I’m reminded of the following summary of politicians:

A professional politician is a professionally dishonourable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker. (Henry Louis Mencken)

Once again we see a stark contrast between a politician and a statesman.

14 Responses to “Epitome of a Politician”

  1. Brandon
    June 19, 2007 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Connor,

    I agree with you that Romney is as slick as they come. However, I am not convince that he is a bad guy, or even very dishonest. I just think he is so caught up in the attempt to become president that he is willing to do what all of the other politicians do, evade questions. I can also see the wisdom in not answering that question directly. The question was a set up. It presupposes that the responder does in fact dislike something about the nation, and it does so with a negative connotation. Any wise politician will know that anything they say to respond to this question would be used against them and would likely be quoted out of context. A better question would be “What issue, challenge or problem is most important in this country”? Or “Can you name something about this nation that you would work to change if elected president”? My questions may not be perfect, but you get the point.

    With all that said, I agree with you that politicians, including Mitt, need to start being open and honest when talking with the people. We can all see right through the fluffy answers like, “Golly Gee, I can’t think of anything that needs improvement here. The land is great, the people are great. Everything’s great.” I think this is exactly why Ron Paul seems to be grabbing people’s attention. I wasn’t a Ron Paul supporter before the debates, but once I heard him talk I was sold. Everyone I have asked to listen to him has told me the same thing, “This guy is telling the truth. He might be wrong, but he is being completely honest about what he believes”.

  2. Blake Snow
    June 19, 2007 at 5:21 pm #

    Amen!

  3. Josh Williams
    June 20, 2007 at 12:07 am #

    What’s the matter, Governor? Are you afraid you might actually say something that’s “real”?

    White-washing. Diplomatic double talk. Non-answer-answers; most of us do it from time to time. Politicians just more than usual. Though it’s a lamentable tendency, it’s an understandable one. In todays world of pundits, blogs, sound bites, and Youtube; it’s easy to see why public figures have a paranoid fear of gaffe and scandal. The trouble is, of course, that you cant please everybody, and if you try, you’ll probably end up pleasing nobody. “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time…”

    Does this make Romney a malicious liar, or merely an average politician?

    It’s easy to recognize such a “nicey-nice” strategy as disingenuous, and I think it leaves him open to the tactic of “sell, sell, sell….”, “always stay on message”, and “attack, attack, attack….”

    What’s worse, is that it’s not so much that politicians have to fear from John Q. Everyman. Hopefully, most people with common sense are willing to forgive an off color quip or two; as long as their representatives have the Integrity and work ethic to get their job done. It’s Other politicians they are afraid of, wolves in sheep’s clothing who are interested in blowing up every little fault, exploiting every weakness, without reason or decency.

    But, Connor, are you responding to to the obvious insincerity of Gov. Romney’s response, or to his lack of conversation skills in general?

    Seems like most politicians nowadays have totally abandoned the fine art of real conversation and debate, in favor of the school of soulless business advertising. Skills of Interaction, communication, listening, thoughtful question and inquiry, and free flow of ideas are not nearly as important as building up and selling an image or brand.

    As to Gov. Romney in particular, such a response doesn’t reflect well on his listening skills. He seems to have missed or ignored the implied question:”If there is something you dislike about America, what do you think you can do to improve it?”

    And what’s all this business about Ronald Reagan? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, how much I detest it when politicians start talking about history (or at least, comparing themselves to historical figures….)

    I guess have to ask, what’s more important; mere words, or understanding what the motivation is, and where the incentives lie?

  4. Chris Sandberg
    June 20, 2007 at 7:36 am #

    It’s true that it is fairly obvious that he dodged the question, but I think it was still a pretty smart response. If he would have answered the question directly and said something like “I don’t like X”, he would have just alienated people who do like X or don’t mind X so much. I think there is a reason so many politicians use the same tactics, because they are effective. It may be laudable to always answer questions directly and completely, but it won’t get you elected. Other politicians could easily twist your words and use it against you. Many people in the media are looking for just that in order to cause controversy and create news, and politicians don’t want to be on the losing end of that controversy.

  5. Kelly Winterton
    June 20, 2007 at 8:07 am #

    All politicians are creations of the media. They become the puppets of the corporations and combinations that control their strings. We thus see that Romney is also one of these media creations run by his puppeteers.

  6. Connor
    June 20, 2007 at 9:10 am #

    Brandon,

    I agree that in the quest for the presidential office, Romney and others evade questions so as not to alienate and offend voters. It’s a sad day when potential leaders of your nation cannot have the intellectual honesty and moral clarity to offer direct answers and state their beliefs with boldness and conviction. Instead they squirm, mislead, and doublespeak.

    I also agree that the question could have been better worded so as not to “set up” Romney (or anybody else), yet there are a plethora of answers that are suitable for such a question. Rep. Paul had no problem answering the question, and his bold stance on describing what needs to be fixed in this nation attracted people to his cause and campaign, since America is starving for an honest individual who knows what problems we’re up against and who is willing to own up to them.

    In the New Hampshire debate, for example, Romney repeatedly said that we need to “look to the future”:

    We are a party of the future, and we have to stop worrying about the problems and thinking we can’t deal with those. We have to focus on the future and our opportunity to make America a great place for our kids and grandkids.

    What Romney doesn’t understand is a crucial tidbit that Steven Covey discusses:

    If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. (Steven R. Covey, via Quoty)

    The future is doomed to be a repeat of the past, if we don’t fix the problems and learn from our mistakes. Romney has shown himself either incapable or unwilling to do that.

    Josh,

    But, Connor, are you responding to to the obvious insincerity of Gov. Romney’s response, or to his lack of conversation skills in general?

    I’m not sure that there’s a difference. Not knowing Romney personally, I can’t say whether such whitewashed rhetoric fills his everyday conversation, or if he actually does answer questions and state his opinions when asked in person. I’m liable to believe that if he thinks something will reach the public, he’ll censor his opinions and dumb down the language so as to appeal to the masses.

    Chris,

    If he would have answered the question directly and said something like “I don’t like X”, he would have just alienated people who do like X or don’t mind X so much.

    I disagree with this. Ron Paul, for example, had no problem answering the question. His popularity surged yet again, for as I replied to Brandon, America is starving for some honesty. Paul is known as a man who sticks to his beliefs and has 100% consistency, and whether or not you side with him 100%, 50%, or 80%, such a consistent stance attracts supporters. Paul refuses to secure subsidies for farmers and others in his home district, yet they still vote for him. Why? Because they know him to be an honest individual.

    Why does taking a stance have to alienate people? Have we become a nation of cop-outs and talking point pundits? Have we lost the desire, the nerve, and the courage to take a stand and clearly state our opinions? In the quest for political correctness, have we self-censored to the point of intellectual oblivion?

    It may be laudable to always answer questions directly and completely, but it won’t get you elected.

    Here is where you hit the nail on the head, Chris. Most of those running for office are seeking after power and praise of men. They don’t want to help this country—that is just the guise under which they operate in their path to power.

    Is that the kind of President do we want? Do we want a politician (one who conducts focus groups to see what he should say to attract the most people in an attempt to win an election) or a statesman (one who has studied the issues and takes a bold stand, declaring his/her beliefs with conviction and consistency)? Which would you rather have at the helm of this nation? A follower or a leader? A vapid power seeker, or an honest public servant?

    Kelly,

    All politicians are creations of the media.

    Not only the media, but they’re often creations of their coaches, public opinion polls, focus groups, and other such aids. The majority do not write their own speeches, and when forced to debate an issue, rehearse their answers to questions they know they’ll get. I take heart in knowing that Ron Paul writes all of his own speeches and answers questions posed to him with honesty, directness, and spontaneity.

  7. Michael L. McKee
    June 20, 2007 at 9:52 am #

    Mitt Romney, like most other political aspirants tends to not realize just how savy the electorate really are now that we are part of the actual debate via the internet and our new-found ability to have real influence on the important matters pertaining to our daily lives. In recent times he has sought to make a case for being in favor of opposing the current immigration legislation while at the same time he utilizes a link on his web site En Espanol. If that is not political pandering and disingenuineness, I do not know what is. I must admit to having once been quite enamored with the possibility of a Priesthood holder in the “Oval Office,” but am now convinced that Mitt, in spite of his being a “fellow traveler” in the Church, does not understand what the Constitution is really all about, and does not attain to the highest level of true American patriotism necessary for me to support him. He is also much to comfortable with terms such as “Globalism” which causes me great consternation given the fact that I am unable to support anyone who says anything even remotely similar to the term “New World Order.”

  8. Mark N.
    June 20, 2007 at 2:21 pm #

    He forgot to mention at the end of his statement that he really does believe in “world peace”, too.

  9. doug
    June 21, 2007 at 9:31 am #

    …at the same time he utilizes a link on his web site En Espanol. If that is not political pandering and disingenuineness, I do not know what is.

    Uhhh…it’s called reaching the widest audience possible. Last time I checked, a lot of folks who vote prefer Spanish language media. This doesn’t mean they don’t speak English. Or that they won’t vote once (hopefully) ballots are only available in English.

  10. Michael L. McKee
    June 21, 2007 at 1:24 pm #

    Doug

    I generally do not respond to those who begin their commentary with grunts such as Uhhh or duh as if they believe they are speaking to someone who is mentally deficient, but I’ll make an exception this time.

    I speak German, but I did not notice a link to Deutsch.

    I should think he would only be trying to reach the “widest audience possible” consisting of legal United States citizens residing within the contguous 48 states, Alaska and Hawii.

    If your heart is not in America even when you are traveling in another country, you are not an American.

    During the last time you checked, what exactly was the criteria utilized in conducting your poll of English speaking folks who voted and prefer Spanish language media?

    Did you mean (hopefully) they will vote or (hopefully) they will only vote once? Did you discern as to whether or not their identification was leagal giving them the Constitutional right to cast a vote?

    Otherwise, thank you for the astute commentary.

  11. James
    June 29, 2007 at 4:21 pm #

    Connor, I bought a Mitt Romney bumper sticker…but it came in a 3-pack. I’ll give you one of my extra’s when you’re back! :)

  12. Samuel Hennis
    July 1, 2007 at 3:51 pm #

    I don’t trust Mitt. I don’t want another smooth talking politician in the White House. I want someone who will defend liberty and constitutional principles. Ron Paul is that man!!!

  13. Doug Bayless
    July 19, 2007 at 10:28 am #

    I actually like Mitt Romney a lot, but I won’t vote for him. He seems to be a genuinely nice, family-oriented, religous man. I think it’s cool his five sons have a blog supporting him. I don’t even blast him for his ‘political’ answers, and I actually think he’s doing a laudable job representing the Church in general. But when he hired the same neo-cons that advise George Bush and then not only bought their foreign policy but made it the center plank of his candiadacy, he lost a lot of my trust. When I researched it further and compared it with what happened to his Dad’s presidential campaign I became genuinely concerned about Mitt’s ambitions versus his thoughtfulness and sincerity. I blogged about it here: http://tinyurl.com/3a65d3

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