“I am not familiar, precisely, with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.”— Mitt Romney, May 2012.
This quote from Mitt Romney speaks volumes about this man who is asking our support to elect him to the most powerful position in the world. He is asking us to place him in a position of leadership, not only domestically, but internationally. He is asking us to believe that his word is rock solid and his commitments to us and the world are worthy of our trust. Incidentally, this is how Romney responded to a reporter’s question about his statement regarding the use of ads attacking President Obama’s relationship with the Reverend Wright.
Yet this statement has much broader implications than just being viewed as the mutterings of an inarticulate candidate. It speaks to his understanding of and belief in the words that he utters. It brings into question whether the words he spouts are his or are they those of a campaign aid that have been handed to him. We know that he gets into trouble every time he goes off script. We always thought that the phrase “off script” was just a manner of speaking. That he was off message and plowing into areas he was not prepared for. But in fact, it appears that “script” is the operative word here. This is a man who says what he is told to say, whether he understands it or believes it. Whose words are they? Who is controlling the values and ideology reflected by the candidate?
I am well aware that every candidate has speech writers, focus groups and internal polling. I am well aware that speeches are written to try to reflect the attitudes of that constituency being courted. But this is more than that. I have always understood that candidates have required that the words they utter, while not always their own, at least reflect their beliefs. When this concern is combined with the accusation of serial flip-flopping, it raises serious concerns regarding who this candidate really is and what he stands for.
It has been said by many that Romney lacks core values. This is why those to whom values count, however I may disagree with them, the right wing social conservatives, have never warmed up to Romney. Yet, he has taken on some of the values dear to social conservatives, simply to court their vote. He has also tried to walk those very issues to the center to attract fiscal conservatives. Is he in fact, an empty suit? Will his presidency be controlled not by his vision, but by the visions of those who take control of him by virtue of their financial support?
If ever there was a time to be concerned about the role money plays in campaigns this is it. We see before us a candidate for the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, who it appears will say what he is told to say and do what he is told to do to get elected. This reminds me of the last line in the movie The Candidate, in which after successfully being elected to the Senate, Robert Redford asks, “Now what am I supposed to do?” I think we all know what we have to do.