Romney Revealed on a Tiny Screen
Maybe the limitations of the camera used to — surreptitiously — film Romney revealed more about Romney than all the fanciest in-studio cameras ever have. Or maybe it’s just Richard Brody’s genius that he gets it.
… So it is with politicians, too, who—especially now, in the age of instant video and constant reporting—often appear even more leached of their humanity, even more insistently on-message and therefore false to their actual impulses, than in the age of the handshake. It’s the difference between theatre and cinema: politics used to be a stage, in which candidates performed with a rhetorical fervor and their conspicuous artifice was a source of ridicule. Now, it’s an open-ended movie, in which the camera threatens constantly to reveal actual character, and this drives candidates to an even more impeccable and impressive yet alienating technical perfection (as it does to many movie actors).
David Brooks interestingly suggests, in the Times, that Romney’s remarks are a result of that temperamental centrist doing a bad job of acting like a hard-core rightist. I’m reminded of a line from Plato’s “Republic,” in which Socrates warns the performer to take care “lest, from the imitation, you draw off some of the being.” Romney’s problem is that he has become an exceptionally skilled actor—has fused his identity with his role and, in the process, revealed himself all the more clearly as what he always was, not ideologically, but morally. He has shown not his doctrine but his character. …Richard Brody, New Yorker
Amy Davidson has been writing consistently good pieces about Mitt Romney, as Romney’s character gradually reveals itself. She does it again today. It’s hard to choose a single passage from her article.
Romney has been running on resentment, she writes. He has no idea what a difference federal government support for people and communities makes for those communities and for the whole nation.
Romney doesn’t seem to recognize that people may like certain programs because of where they have brought them, and are allowing them and their children to go—not where they have kept them.
This is the corollary to the worry in conservative circles that, as John Cassidy noted, a growth in government will make people like government—that they will get hooked on a dependency drug. But appreciating the chances these programs afford, and liking what many of them can do for one’s community, is not the same thing as being grasping and greedy.
Any gratitude toward the country we’ve all built, Romney seems to be saying, is misplaced. Instead, the feelings Romney regards as proper ones for the rest of us to assume are a cheerful appreciation of the wealthy and an eager resolve to be just like Mitt—and also a little nicer to him. Romney has reduced the great issues of fairness and a just society to the rather boring question of whether people are being fair to him and his friends, and whether they admire his fine qualities. Among other things, this cannot help him electorally: What is less attractive than a manifestly lucky man sulking about how everyone is jealous of him? …Amy Davidson, New Yorker
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