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Playing with his toys on the op-ed page of The New York Times, today, David Brooks does his part in the rehabilitation of Mitt Romney by declaring that the Republican candidate in once again a center-right pragmatist, no matter what he may have said during the primaries, or when he selected Paul Ryan as his running mate, or in his unguarded moments about America's moocher class. His political opponents call it "hypocrisy," says Brooks, but the Romney who emerged in the debate is the real deal.
If that's true, then the Republican right wing voters who looked to every single other primary candidate, no matter how absurd, as a potential savior before finally bowing to the Romney machine, have been left with what they feared -- a conservative squish. Though, those voters seem to be over caring about that. Getting rid of Obama is just so important to them.
I'm skeptical that the real Mitt Romney stands for much more than wanting to be president. Is he a "severe conservative or a moderate?" Yes! No! It depends who's asking.
No doubt, Obama would rather debate a Romney that represents the beliefs of the Republican party. I think Brooks is right that Obama showed up prepped to battle "conservative" Romney. So, Brooks is taking delight in Romney's dodge.
It is true that Obama will have a tougher time in a "choice" election with moderate Romneybot. In "moderate" mode, the Romneybot deflects criticism by saying, "It's not going to be as bad as all that." Moderate Romneybot promises no tax cuts for the rich, but tax cuts for the rest of you and increased military spending and you just leave the details to him. Oh, and he'll save entitlements, too! He likes them, now! Meanwhile, Obama is genuinely moderate. And that's a problem. Because if Romney can convince people that he's just going to tweak Social Security and Medicare in some totally harmless and unobjectionable way and Obama's retort is "Simpson Bowles," then what's the difference?
It'd be nice if somebody in the press would read Brooks' column, which basically admits that the candidate faked his way through the primaries and is showing his true self now, and said, "Wait a minute? How do we know that this is his 'true self?' How many things has the Romneybot transformed into, over two attempts at the White House?"
But, I suspect that if Romney is going to try to dodge criticism by playing the "reasonable centrist," that the press will aide him in it. The press is just institutionally in favor of such a character. If a change in Romney is acknowledged, it will be presented, as Brooks did, in the best way possible, as the "real," man rising above the political environment.
Maybe Obama needs to start laying into Romney's sincerity, and not with cute "Etch a sketch," jokes that make all of his transformations seem like harmless fun. He needs to reveal Romney for what he is, an ambitious man for whom winning the White House is more important than advancing any agenda at all. He has to be revealed as a man who wants the White House so much that he will go to any lengths to get it.
Romney is Megatron.