The liberal pundit/journo-blogs have been piling on Mitt Romney for his strange performance in the GOP debate: Full of gaffes but so smooth that no one (in the room) noticed. Josh Marshall:
Romney seems so transparently phoney, so willing to say anything that I find him genuinely frightening. And this is something I don't feel about any of the other credible Republican presidential candidates, though I obviously have criticisms of each. Romney seems almost like a caricature of the political phoney.
Romney either doesn't know what happened in the Iraq War, or he is lying about it. Either way, it's inexcusable for a serious presidential candidate to be this misinformed on the preeminent issue of the day. Romney is unfit for the presidency, and the apparent lack of concern among Republicans in the aftermath of these statements show how utterly hollow their professed commitment to the Iraq War is.
Romney isn't unique on that last point: Is any GOP nominee not going to lie and lie about the Iraq War? Are any of their flacks not going to banter and belch with the same pride and decibel level as the Romneydroid whom Klein interviewed? Au contraire. If we're talking about McCain or Giuliani, we are reasonably certain that they'd be worse. As I noticed while dithering with this post, Matt Yglesias said as much.
Given that he's a Republican, that he has a business background, and that corporate America holds many levers of political power—in practice he'd probably still do lots of bad stuff. But I doubt he'd go the extra mile of badness or force the issue the way Giuliani or McCain almost certainly will.
This is really amusing to watch unfold. Republicans are making, basically, the same choice they made in 2000. There were longstanding doubts about George W. Bush's commitment to conservatism and what his actual priorities would be if he got into office. But he had a decent resume (governor is a good resume item, at least) and a good name and lots of money so they rolled the die. Romney has an even shorter political resume than Bush, but that isn't necessarily evidence that he'd be a harmless president. Insofar as we know anything about it's that 1)he wants to "confront" our enemies and change the Middle East "away from extremism" and that 2)he likes to compromise with Democrats. Those are two things that a Republican president can get far doing, which makes Romney worrisome.
More worrisome than the other candidates, even? Probably. Think of how they'll deal with Congress. Giuliani is power-hungry, but he's a micro-manager who succeeds at economic policy and doesn't really care about moral/social policy. McCain is too obstinate to get much done in any congressional confrontations, and Thompson is too sleepy to do much of anything.
Incidentally, remember that Bill Richardson ad that showed the avuncular gov interviewing for a job with a prick-ish HR guy? Thompson could do his own version.
INTERVIEWER: So, what makes you qualified to be president?
THOMPSON: [in a manly, subterranean rumble] Well, ah talk lahk thees.
INTERVIEWER: Holy crap: You're hired!
Thompson has a better chance of becoming president than Richardson.