Mitt Romney: The GOP’s Uncle Rico

Ewan Watt Freelance Writer
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As Tennessee state senator Brian Kelsey provided conservatives some comic relief late Friday, Twitter feeds quickly brought news to help dampen the mood:  Mitt Romney would be continuing his mini-comeback with an appearance on Meet the Press on Sunday.

Romney and his supporters have taken advantage of the ongoing website debacle to heckle President Barack Obama and lecture the American people from the bleachers without offering up a succinct reason why, a year later, the former governor of Massachusetts was fit to be president of the United States. Despite the vapid analysis from the governor on Meet the Press, his backers remind us that he still would have made a great president. His experience and expertise didn’t just represent a missed opportunity for the country, but symbolized America’s panacea. His solutions? That’s irrelevant.

In semi-retirement, Romney has taken on a persona akin to Uncle Rico from the movie Napoleon Dynamite, a character who constantly laments that if he could only go back in time he’d “take state,” a suggestion that his fledgling football career fell victim to poor management or simple bad luck. But as the movie progresses we’re told that if only his coach “woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.”

Rico, still not over his failure to make the grade, blames someone else. According to him, he had what it took. But the harsh – often heartbreaking reality – is that really he was never any good. His team was losing with minutes to go and yet his coach knew that making a change would be far more catastrophic than the status quo. For Republicans this is eerily familiar.

Mitt Romney is the Uncle Rico of the Republican Party.

Before his appearance Sunday, Romney took to Facebook reminding his followers that if only President Obama “actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep, millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket, and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment.” If only.

This is quite remarkable.  Not only was Romney unable to provide a credible defense of Commonwealth Care throughout the election, but a year after Obama defeated him his account of history is still incredibly selective. The facts, unfortunately, are a stinging indictment. Romney called for a national mandate, the most critical aspect of the Affordable Care Act, as recently as 2009. People in Massachusetts, like millions of Americans today, did have their insurance plans canceledCosts did increase.

Furthermore in his book No Apology, Romney states that comparisons of Commonwealth Care to Obamacare are wide of the mark, because he didn’t propose a public option. After the book’s release, neither did President Obama. But for all the criticism, we’re still seeing the very same Romney from the campaign, spinning his record in office, offering up very little in terms of policy as to what he would have done differently from the president. A man who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – offer up his own alternative to Obamacare when the country was screaming out for one may still deserve airtime, but he is not to be taken seriously.

His supporters welcome his continued presence on the national stage, conveying how the guy was some kind of political Nostradamus. It goes without saying he didn’t get a fair shake in the media, but neither did Ronald Reagan or any other Republican who has run for office. He was certainly correct to warn about Mali, and his assertion that Russia was America’s number one “geopolitical foe” was correct, but hardly revelatory. The grandstanding by Romney alums over Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy is also patently absurd, especially when the governor spent much of the presidential election distancing his candidacy from that headline.

Romney’s decision to continue providing pro bono advice is all the more troubling because he represented a candidacy struggling to come to terms with the central tenets of conservatism, namely, compassion. Republicans need someone who can credibly spread the gospel of earned success and place the blame primarily on the pushers, not the victims, of the welfare state. Many of those who fought for the governor still fail to reconcile themselves with this concept, but continue to reminisce about the man as if he’s still fixing all the country’s problems in an alternate universe. It’s still overlooked why he was never elected in America.

Since his defeat, Romney has blamed both the pernicious creations of man and Mother Nature. Little has been said of his own missteps. The Republicans have a tradition of embracing elder statesmen, with even President Richard Nixon making a mini-revival towards the end of his life. Romney, however, is no more useful to the Republicans as a critic than he was as a candidate. No matter how bad things were in 2012, he still lost before an open goal. As the GOP nominee, he just wasn’t that good. It’s time for Romney to understand why coach, or the American people, decided not to put him in.

Ewan Watt lives and works in Virginia. You can follow his crotchety views on politics, Scottishness, history, and sporting disappointment.