rich reasoning

i love you, frank rich.

That’s one way to go. There’s also the flip-flopping Mr. Etch A Sketch. There’s Romney’s countless tone-deaf attempts to feel the pain of the 99 percent. (My favorite, delivered to a group of jobless workers, remains “I’m also unemployed.”) There’s his risible, if dogged, effort to deny that his Massachusetts health-care law was the precursor of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

It also remains a good idea to recycle attacks already made by those who know the candidate best: the critics in his own political party. In Romney’s case there are many, reflecting the anyone-but-Mitt hostilities of the primaries. But the most brutal Romney takedown will require a fear factor, and for that, there may be no better inspiration than the likes of Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld who is best known for his defense of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” and for his tireless efforts to portray Obama as soft on terrorism. In April, Thiessen wrote a little-noticed column for the Washington Post op-ed page headlined “Mitt’s Bent for Secrecy.” What had aroused his concern as a GOP loyalist was Romney’s stealth announcement, at 5 p.m. on a Friday, that he was delaying the filing of his 2011 tax returns. Thiessen worried that Romney’s continued ducking of questions about taxes was playing into the Democratic trope that Romney has something to hide. The serial evasiveness, he argued, could provide “a clever way for Obama to exploit some Americans’ discomfort” with Romney’s “secretive” Mormon faith “without ever raising the issue directly.” Mitt’s secrecy “could cost Republicans the election,” Thiessen wrote.

None of this is wrong, though Romney’s “secretive” faith looms larger than it should precisely because he keeps it secretive. He bristles when asked questions about the Church of Latter Day Saints’ controversial record on secular issues (like civil rights), and he refuses to let voters in on his own substantial career as a Mormon bishop and stake president. In a political culture where all candidates, and especially Republican candidates, advertise their own religious activities, Romney’s reticence is all the more conspicuous. But the overall scope of Mitt as Mystery Man is bigger than Thiessen indicated, or perhaps wanted to spell out. He did not mention, for instance, Romney’s strange departure from the Massachusetts governorship at the end of his term. Romney’s aides not only scrubbed all e-mails from a computer server in his office but also purchased and removed the hard drives from seventeen state-owned staff computers. This month, The Wall Street Journal uncovered a small cache of e-mails that had survived. They revealed that Romney was a gung ho defender of his health-care bill’s individual mandate, the single feature most vilified by foes of “Obamacare” now. What other ­secrets lurked on those hard drives?

The campaign’s strategy when asked about these matters is to refer questioners to its website, which is stuffed with weightless platitudes that are the verbal equivalent of Styrofoam pellets (a 59-point economic plan, for instance).


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