"I am not familiar, precisely, with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was." — Mitt Romney, May 2012.
Yesterday, Mitt Romney gave one of the most devastatingly self-revealing quotes of this presidential campaign, and many others. Certainly, not since John Kerry's "I voted for it, before I voted against it," has a candidate given the opposition such a sound bite.
In just a few words, Romney told us a truth about himself. He really doesn't believe a lot of the things he says. He sees them as simple expediencies to get elected. His record as an ideological contortionist is well known: abortion, health care, global warming and, in this case, some right-wing palliative about Jeremiah Wright.
It is clear that Romney thinks so little about these fundamental changes in position that he can't even remember what he said about them. But, of course, he stands by them, because he's learned, too, that he must.
This unfortunate, and I think, haunting quote came in hasty reaction to the revelation that a group of leading Republican consultants were plotting to launch a major ad campaign featuring Obama's relationship with the poisonous Wright, whom the president repudiated when running for office in 2008. (John McCain was offered the same opportunity four years ago and rejected it.) After huddling with his advisers, Romney, too, rejected the plan, but then was asked why he had raised Wright as a key shaper of Obama's character just a few months ago. This is when he gave his ".... I stand by what I said, whatever it was" quote, probably not the one discussed in the holding room.
But Romney's response to make Wright the new Willie Horton is not the only interesting highlight from yesterday. The consultants' plan itself is fascinating.
First, if you ever want to see the underbelly of the political consulting world, read the consultants' memo to their mark, Joe Ricketts, a wealthy donor who has a super PAC. It is a fawning PDF, designed to part a fool with his money. It shows how consultants shop their weapons in our post-modern, post Citizens' United political world — not unlike arms dealers looking to profit off rogue states.
Second, and Andrew Sullivan already beat me to the punch, the Reverend Wright proposed hit job came out on the day the Census revealed that whites now account for less than half of all births in the United States. Some irony in that, don't you think? But some of the old white guys seem uncomfortable passing into minority status.There are a few good wedge issues still to be played to fan the fires of resentment and prejudice. That is exactly what Romney did just a few months ago when he brought up Wright. That was when he thought it would help win the nomination — you know, and he said that thing he said that he can't remember, but stands by?