December 18, 2013
(PRNewsFoto/Netflix, Inc.)
(PRNewsFoto/Netflix, Inc.)

The trailer for the Netflix documentary “Mitt” on the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney looks rather interesting. Everyone seems to be tittering about the scene of the 2012 Republican nominee ironing the cuffs of his tuxedo shirt — while wearing the tuxedo. Can’t say that I see the big deal. Cuff creases are an abomination and ought to be steamed out before a public wearing. Should he have thought about that before putting on the shirt? Sure.

But that’s not what caught my attention. What was said in the very first scene of the trailer and the reactions therein are what caught my attention.

“I just can’t believe you’re going to lose,” intones one of the Romney sons. “Yeah, yep,” says Romney disappointedly as he looks up from his Blackberry. “So, what do you think you say in a concession speech,” Romney says as the camera shows a hotel room filled with dejection.

Throughout the two-minute clip, there are other expressions of exasperation. Tagg Romney says, “And if you don’t win, we’ll still love you. The country may think of you as a laughing stock and we’ll know the truth and that’s okay.”

“I would not want to do this again,” says Ann Romney. “It’s too much.” And Josh Romney says, “He’s getting beat up constantly. ‘Oh, he’s a flip-flopper. He’s this. He’s that.’ And I go, ‘Man, is it worth it?’”

If the Greg Whiteley film is going to be a two-hour whine I’ll be sure to find something better to do when it is released on Jan. 24, 2014. But the more I think about it the more I believe what a Democratic source on Capitol Hill said in an instant message. “He just looks more authentic in a 2 min clip than he ever did in 18 months of campaigning,” he wrote.

Looking authentic and being authentic are two different things. Al Gore never looked authentic on the stump. But to see him in other settings was to see a witty, humorous fella who wanted to be president. Romney had a different problem. The only time the “authentic” Mitt was revealed during the campaign was in the powerful biographical film shown at the Tampa convention. Unfortunately, America didn’t get to see it. Instead, they were treated to Clint Eastwood and his talking chair.

The problem for candidate Romney was not just an inability or unwillingness to show his authentic, fun-loving self to voters. It was his willingness to change positions on every important issue facing the country. This called into question whether he believed in anything, whether he had bedrock principles that would guide him in the Oval Office. The flip-flop issue is addressed in the Netflix trailer.

It’s like trying to convince people that Dan Quayle is smart. All right? You’re not going to convince them that Dan Quayle is smart. And maybe I’ve got to live with that.

‘Oh, you flip on everything.’ In which case I think I’m a flawed candidate.

Indeed, he was. And the American people thought so, too.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.