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October 9, 2012

White Hope or White Knight

Roy Meachum

GOP candidate Mitt Romney clearly won the debate with Democratic President Barack Obama. The odds were in his favor. He acted like a shining white knight or the great white hope. In despair, Americans in 2008 voted the first African American into the White House.


With his super-hero’s look, Mr. Romney must have appeared the right answer last Wednesday evening, particularly compared to George W. Bush’s hangdog mien. In the last national election, John McCain may have been seen weary, his glory well in the past; his campaign managers selected as number two on the ticket Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, aside obviously from gender, his complete opposite: fresh, young and in a certain light, beautiful.


Mr. Romney had it together in Denver, hitting on all cylinders. The polls reacted in his favor: what had been marginally Democratic in the surveys became instantly Republican by the same narrow points. To some observers, it was an echo heard several times before: in 2004, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry’s first debate triumph did not lead to the Oval Office. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned his former party that it was too early.


Among other projects, Mr. Romney attacked the president’s green energy program that subsidizes companies that participate. “These businesses, many of them have gone out of business,” he said. “I think about half of them – of the ones that have been invested in have gone out of business.” The next morning fact-checkers seized on the statement; it turned out only three of the 26 recipients of 1705 loan guarantees filed for bankruptcy.


But, as the media and individuals pointed out, bravado had carried the evening.


A Labor Department report going into the weekend said unemployment has fallen to the lowest point since Mr. Obama was sworn in, forcing GOP apologists again to go on the offensive. Among Republicans, the report seemed too convenient for the administration; once again they accused the government of lying.


In the most scandalous incident, ex-General Electric chief executive Joe Welch twitted: “Unbelievable jobs numbers the Chicago (Mr. Obama’s home town) guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.”


Among his angry respondents was Barry Ritholtz, managing director of New York’s Fusion IQ, which manages about $300 million in assets: “This is the guy that’s telling me the books are cooked? That’s hilarious.”


Mr. Welch was pushed out of his former lofty job for using GE Finance to “cook books.” This came to light over the weekend. What made this item scandalous was Chris Matthews, who once worked for him, at NBC. Mr. Matthews took to the airwaves to denounce his ex-boss. The present G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt serves as an adviser to Mr. Obama.


Much was made by Mr. Romney during the first debate about his tenure as the governor of Mr. Kerry’s state, where the Democrats are in the same control as Maryland. He vetoed and excised budget line items 844 times, according to the nonpartisan Massachusetts’ legislators vaulted back by overriding many. In the second year, he raised heavy funds and pushed for his party’s candidates, hiring a nationally known strategist to shepherd. The effort collapsed in a spectacular fashion: Republicans lost, leaving them with their smallest legislative delegation since four years after the Civil War.


But a bigger rhubarb was the Republican nominee’s threat to pare Big Bird, whom Mr. Romney protested he liked. The next day Barack Obama travelled to Madison, Wisconsin, and made the point: "He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street."


At the very least, Mitt Romney considers himself both the great white hope and the shining knight conquering in the name of the Grand Old Party – and his own sense of destiny.


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