Charles Pierce in Esquire, On Mitt Romney's dull-and-possibly-robotic repetitions of the old conservative "Obama was a community organizer!" talking point:
Let us consider, then, the community in which the president once organized. This is what I found out about it when I went and looked at it in 2008:
Obama also worked in the Altgeld Gardens, a housing development built in 1945 atop an ecological hellspout where two thousand families lived on an old landfill and hard by fifty-three different sites that had been designated as "toxic" by one study of the area.
Altgeld Gardens was built on the bones of old steel mills and factories, and atop the waste dumps and landfills that serviced them. And, when they built the projects there, they filled them full of asbestos. That poisoned neighborhood was a perfect product of the "freedom" that Romney talks about when he talks about an unregulated economy. Barack Obama went there to organize the people who were living on that deadly ground because The Market couldn't have cared less about them, and the various governments allowed The Market not to care and, so, did not care either. The kids with the asthma, they weren't free. The kids who developed the renal disease, they weren't free. The people in all the cancer clusters, they weren't free. If I were as much of a demagogue as Willard Romney is, I would point out that, in the 1980's, when the president was working for peanuts trying to get some sort of justice for the people that The Market had chosen to poison, Willard Romney was making millions with Bain Capital. But I'm not, so I won't.
Today's Etch-A-Sketch mockeries took off because they perfectly fit what people already believe about Mitt Romney: that he is, at heart, substanceless, merely a blank slate on which the usual Republican powerbrokers can write whatever the hell the latest talking points are, and have them repeat those talking points verbatim. Not well, maybe, but at least verbatim. I do think it a bit unfair, though. Clearly, Romney does have core beliefs, but I wonder if they are not foreign enough to Most Normal People that they are unrecognizable. Mitt Romney is, primarily, a corporation. If he is a person, it is only via the transitive property foisted upon us by the Supreme Court. His functions appear to be seeking profit, building firewalls around profit, and verbally defending profit—it is all the rest of the stuff that renders him tongue-tied.
Like the near-entirety of the Republican Party, the thing most earnestly pursued are vague plans about how allowing the wealthy and the corporate to further shirk their financial obligations to their country will, in some unspecified fashion, lead to an economic golden age. Whether or not children get asthma from inhaling fully unregulated profits is not a concern. What the rest of the budget looks like is not a concern (see: Paul Ryan and his ridiculous, comical, and utterly execrable plan proposing to cut the entire federal budget to a number below what his surrounding Republicans demand we spend on defense alone.) What the religious nuts that Rick Santorum courts want is most definitely not a concern, and Mitt can't even make a decent stab at pretending such a thing. Will the War on Women help the magical and wondrous free market? Eh, fine, then he's for it. Or against it. Whatever the thing is that means less regulation on companies, and who gives a damn about the rest.
Today Mitt Romney praised George W. Bush for avoiding a Great Depression and instead causing a mere catastrophic recession. (The phrase "I shit you not" is used a lot, these days, but ...) I don't think that line was just lip service. I think Mitt really is, in some ways, the continuation of what the Republican powerbrokers sought in George W. Bush. They wanted someone who would be as pliant as possible on regulation and oversight; they got it. They want someone who would either overturn anti-corporate law outright or at least prevent government from aggressively acting on it; they got that, too. They wanted the tax cuts, the massively deficit-causing tax cuts whose primary goal was to accrue just a tiny bit more money at the very top of the income spectrum; they got it. Deficits? They "didn't matter." Social issues? Well, George W. Bush was a mighty prick, on social issues, but he didn't go nearly as far as even the supposedly "moderate" Republicans lurched just a few years later. No, Dubya Bush was the perfect blank slate, the Iraq with which conservatives could experiment with all their little pipe dreams, not worrying about the pitiful moron having any deep thoughts of his own on the subject. It was paradise, for them, until each and every one of those pipe dreams started going to hell in a handbasket. Oops!
In conservative savior candidates, the Republicans have been looking for the same thing. Christie, Rubio and the others are lusted after because of their pro-business predilictions, not because of their social conservative stances. Paul Ryan is the closest thing George W. Bush has to a younger, dumber clone, but he's looked at as the Republican's economic messiah. (Apparently, not being able to do basic math is the conservative equivalent of turning water into wine.) Rick Perry? Good Lord, Rick Perry was George W. Bush on acid. He had all of the good qualities of Bush, but since his name wasn't Bush he still had a shred of credibility to his name. Then he opened his own mouth, and all was lost.
No, I think Mitt Romney is exactly what the Republicans are after this election cycle. The social conservatives might not like it, and the base may put up a mighty fight, but the true money is behind the pliable, generic-sounding guy with a dollar sign where his heart should be. The Republican Party is, more than anything else, pissed off at the damn kids with asthma and the damn seniors demanding medical care and the damn government demanding the same damn taxes that everyone used to pay a mere twenty or thirty years ago, all of whom are pitted against the true Masters of the Universe, i.e. the people with all the money and most of the power, and they are out for blood. And they don't care how many stones they have to squeeze for that blood, either. Etch-A-Sketch Mitt would be so, so much preferable over someone who once was caught giving a damn about the poor.