Maureen Dowd: Romney as a statue of himself

By Maureen Dowd

The New York TimesAugust 2, 2012 

Remember when Janice Soprano shot her fiancé to death after he punched her? Then she calls her brother Tony to come over and help her. He mops up the blood and has his thugs chop up the body.

"All in all, though," Tony tells her sincerely, as he drops her at the bus station, "it was a pretty good visit."

By "Sopranos" standards, all in all, Mitt Romney had a pretty good visit overseas. But by political standards, it was more like Munch's "The Scream." When President Barack Obama went abroad in July 2008, searching for some foreign policy cred, European leaders smothered him with love and respect.

Poor Mitt Romney had no such magic carpet ride. He insulted the British and infuriated the Palestinians while pandering to the Israelis and American Jewish voters.

Egged on by some of the same neocon advisers who brought us the Iraq pre-emptive invasion, Romney offered "Go ahead, make my day" diplomacy, promising to back a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

In an inadvertently hilarious grand finale in Warsaw, his spokesman insulted the traveling press clamoring for a rare dollop of attention from the Republican contender.

Obama gave four press conferences and plenty of individual interviews when he went abroad as a candidate. But when reporters traveling with Romney mutinied as Mitt left a wreath-laying at a war memorial in Pilsudski Square, pressing to know why he was shutting them out, campaign spokesman Rick Gorka shot back crudely that the press should kiss a part of his anatomy, noting incongruously: "This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect." Indeed.

The true measure of how inglorious the trip was? The top Romney strategist, Stuart Stevens, took the cascade of chuckleheaded moments andtried to plant the crazy idea in our brainsthat Romney's chuckleheaded moments were a mark of his steadfast character.

Mitt's foray showed some new colors, as he intended, but they were not flattering ones. We now know how little he knows about the world, how really slow on his feet he is, what meager social and political agility he has.

Wherever he went, whatever situation he was in, he remained frozen in himself. It was reminiscent of the stinging review of an Oscar Wilde lecture by Ambrose Bierce, who wrote that Wilde was a "gawky gowk" who "wanders about posing as a statue of himself."

The odd odyssey underscored Mitt's off-putting mix of opacity and insularity. Romney was in the forefront of a revolution in American finance, he was the governor of an important state and he was an elder in the Mormon Church. But that's all the stuff he doesn't want to talk about, so we're left with a narrow spokesmodel, banally handsome with an empty look; not like Obama and Bill Clinton, where you always see the brain whirring behind the eyes.

Stuart Stevens is right when he says it's easy to imagine Romney in the White House. I can visualize him right now, lapidary and frozen, in the Rose Garden. A statue of himself.

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