Back in 1968, when George Romney was running for president, a gifted political reporter named Jack Germond used to joke that every reporter who covered that campaign had a typewriter (I did say 1968) one key of which, when struck, would print "Romney later explained." If any of those typewriters are still around, we ought to give them to the men and women who are covering his son Mitt this year. Some stuff just runs in the family, I guess.
There was Mitt on Meet the Press Sunday trying to explain what he meant when he said, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." In plain English, of course, it means you can't be free unless you're religious. But Mitt explained earnestly to Tim Russert several times that that wasn't what he meant at all. Didn't that mean that an atheist wouldn't be qualified for a high position in his administration? Why, of course not, not at all.
And so it went on issue after issue. Russert is good at this, and he always had matched quotes--three years ago you said this, now you say that. And Romney would bob and weave. Of course he was for gun control, well, at least for background checks because they're so much quicker now than they used to be; but of course he was for the right to keep and bear arms, of course he was. And so on and so on, issue after issue. Only on abortion did he acknowledge that his view has changed. He used to think it was a woman's right to make that decision, now he's against abortion, except, of course, that the country isn't with him yet so maybe for now we could just strike down Roe v. Wade and leave abortion up to the states again, though he was against it of course.
Is this presidential? I don't think so. Presidential is sounding like the guy in charge: Harry Truman--"The buck stops here." Or "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." This wasn't that.
Still, it's a funny year. There was Mike Huckabee, the newest favorite, asking a New York Times magazine reporter in "an innocent voice, 'Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?'" No, governor, they don't. You could google them and learn that in about thirty seconds. But why bother? You may be ahead in Iowa.
I kind of miss the old days when you just said the other candidate was soft on Communism. It didn't mean much of anything, but it showed you were combative and you could get on to the other stuff. This sorting out gods and devils is a whole lot trickier.