John Scalzi on the Romney Implosion

One more item on the embassy attack aftermath, this time from sci fi writer John Scalzi: You never go full McCain.

Here’s the thing about Mitt Romney: He’s a Republican candidate for president in the unenviable bind of not being able to run on any sort of record at all.

Scalzi goes on to describe the pernicious circumstances that prevent Romney from running on his record as a businessman, or as governor of Massachusetts, or on his economic plan. All true.

Constrained as he is, he’s got nothing he can actually use to make a case for himself but himself – Mitt Romney, with that genial smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes, that head of hair strategically left to gray at the temples, and that paternal aura of competence that says, hey, trust me, put me in the job and we’ll deal with all those silly fiddly details later. And you know what? With the economy still farting about and Obama still being as cuddly as a prickly pear, and Romney having a bunch of SuperPACs willing to shovel money until there’s not a swing state that’s not carpetbombed with ads, this had a reasonably good chance of working. But ultimately it only works if you actually trust Romney – or alternately, have no reason to distrust Romney – to make sane, responsible and intelligent decisions.

Which is why Romney blew up his chance to be president this week: He showed, manifestly, that he’s indeed capable of making horrible, awful, very bad, no good, terrible choices. First, by deciding that a foreign crisis, generally considered to be off-limits for bald, obvious politicking, would be an excellent time to engage in some bald, obvious politicking. Second, by making a statement slamming the president while the crisis was still in the process of developing and getting worse. Third, by blaming the president for an action he had no hand in (the press release from the under siege embassy) and which his administration had disavowed. Fourth, when after the facts of the events became clear, and it became clear that Romney’s statement had some serious factual holes in it, for doubling down at a press conference on assertions everyone knew by that time weren’t correct.

Scalzi goes on to talk about the tie-in to McCain’s goofy attempt to “suspend” the campaign in 2008 so he could duck the debates and return to Washington to solve the financial crisis. And for all that they’re completely different scenarios, the two events really do feel to me like they vibrate at the same frequency in terms of domestic politics.

Maybe I’m jumping too hard on the “this is the end for Romney” thing. We’ll see. And coming out of the conventions it was going badly for him already, so even if he does crash and burn from this point forward, it will be impossible to tie it to this incident alone. But sometimes something really does look so obvious that a collective, shared response emerges. And the collective, shared response I’m expecting to come from this is, “gah. This man has no business at all being President.”

25 Responses to “John Scalzi on the Romney Implosion”

  1. enkidu Says:

    Gadzooks! Will you please stop reading all the same blogs as I do!
    I come here for the witty … err… postings and repartee… yeah that’s it, I just read the articles! Oh wait was this on bb?

    whatever is on my bookmarks bar on on mac and pad, just like

  2. jbc Says:

    Having had Happy Birthday sung to me by Ms. Monroe, I may now retire from public life.

  3. shcb Says:

    You guys are really wishing too much. What Romney said was absolutely right, you can’t continually apologize to everyone on the planet and retain respect of your friends and have your enemies fear you. I think even Obama understands that now, but he just can’t help himself, it’s what he does. Now Romney’s statements may have been ill timed, was ill timed, but that doesn’t mean he is unqualified, and it doesn’t mean he will lose the election because of this one little blooper.

    First why it probably won’t hurt him. The really unfortunate part is by the time of the election a disturbing number or people won’t even remember 4 innocent Americans were killed by what I think will be determined were a few dozen well armed, well organized Islamic radicals, the rest of the crowd was just window dressing. The people that agree with what he said don’t care about his timing and would have voted for him anyway. The people that don’t agree with him and are obsessing about his timing weren’t gong to vote for him anyway.

    Now is he qualified, I don’t see why this makes him unqualified, in the last several presidents he is as qualified as any, Obama wasn’t qualified in any sense of the word but he got elected. He had a preacher for twenty years that is anti-Semitic, he was a long time friend of a domestic terrorist and yet he as elected, pretty small potatoes compared to a little bad timing.

  4. enkidu Says:

    What Romney said was absolutely right, you can’t continually apologize to everyone on the planet and retain respect of your friends and have your enemies fear you.

    Could you point out where Obama has ‘continually apologized to everyone on the planet?’ Maybe you are referring to Obama’s apology to Osama bin Laden? Or Obama’s apology to American citizen but Really Bad Guy™ Al-Awlaki? I’m sure if Obama is apologizing to everyone on the planet, he’ll need four more years to do so. And I’m sure that he’ll pursue apologizing to the radical militants who killed our Ambassador and the others. You’re right ricky, “it’s what he does”. It’s his job.

  5. shcb Says:

    I think you will enjoy this, it will make sense to you and you won’t see anything wrong wit it because it has your thought process written all over it. What passes for a fact checker, at least a liberal fact checker is they look for two words in a select number of speeches and say “nope, those two words aren’t there, the accusation is false”. In the first pace who are the fact checkers, it seems they hang the shingle out that says “fact checker” and there you go. I’m now a fact checker. It is pretty easy when you get to set the parameters. If Eskimos have many words for snow, how many ways are there to apologize?

    When the Romney camp said they weren’t going to be dictated by fact checkers, this is what they meant, they were not going to constantly answer allegations made by partisan hacks just because they call themselves fact checkers. One of the first rules of battle is you can’t let your enemy dictate your actions, when you do you are constantly on defense, you can never win on defense.

    These fact checkers remind me of the nonpartisan tag so many trot out there, I saw an add the other day where they said “the non partisan AARP…” AARP non partisan? Really?

  6. enkidu Says:

    Here, maybe these links will make it easier for you to point out the apologies.



    I read it while listening and noticed quite a few ad libs. Oh but we’re talking facts and Rs just don’t do facts. I’m sure you heard nothing but ‘socialism, hurf durf, blah blah blah, abortion, gay marriage, guns and bibles, blah blah blah, Ginger.’

    I’m sure Obama will get around to a drone strike, errr, ‘apology’ to the Al Queda types who RPGed our embassy on 9/11.

  7. knarlyknight Says:

    shcb asks how many ways there are to apologize. Hint for shcb: The number of words Eskimo’s have for snow has nothing to do with the number of ways there are to apologize.

    However, the Japanese apparently have 11 ways to apologize. But I don’t hear nay Japanese words from Obama here.

    Based on a Jewish concept of repentance, there really only one way to apologize, and it is a multi-step process which boils down to this, none of which applies to the Cairo Embassy statement or what Obama says

    each sincere apology should contain four elements – tell the other person that you regret what you did, confess and tell what you did wrong, and say that you will not do such a thing again.

    I’ve yet to see anyone apologize about the embassy statement conflagration, and if they haven’t isn’t it about time that decent Republicans, if there are any left, apologize on behalf of their party for Mitten’s transparent errors and stupidity?

    “Lorry!” That’d be appropriate.

  8. knarlyknight Says:

    Here are some more ways to apologize:

    Sorry shcb, but none of these apply to the embassy statement either: I wonder what it’s like to be wrong as much as you, it must be painful.

  9. shcb Says:

    Here’s a list of ten in the first four months of his presidency

  10. jbc Says:

    I think that just as you (shcb) have sometimes taken me to task for fuzzily calling something a “lie” that you defined as some shade of something not-quite-a-lie, you appear to be employing a similar fuzzy framework to define as “apology” anything that includes any acknowledgment that the US has ever been anything short of perfect. By that standard, though, I don’t think it’s possible to talk honestly about the US role in the world without “apologizing.” And Obama was making a point of talking more honestly with his audience than his predecessor had done. And I think he was right to do that.

    I read through the first several of the examples at your link. Every one of those statements I found to be thoughtful, honest, arguably true statements that made sense for Obama to say at the time to that audience. They were not “apologies” in the technical sense, but in the looser sense you want to apply, I see what you mean.

    There probably are actual differences about the facts of what Obama did and didn’t say in each of our minds, and if we both were willing to engage on the issue and go through the evidence with open minds (a big “if”), I bet that both of us would be forced to acknowledge having been wrong around the edges. But for the most part, I think we both have the same idea of the basic underlying facts, and are just choosing to define Obama’s actions as apologies or not based on how we’re defining “apology”. So it’s more a semantic distinction than an actual distinction.

    Maybe we could make progress if we move beyond arguing over whose definition of “apology” is more correct, and talk about what Obama actually said (however you want to characterize it). Let’s take the first item at your link. Obama said this:

    “So we must be honest with ourselves. In recent years we’ve allowed our Alliance to drift. I know that there have been honest disagreements over policy, but we also know that there’s something more that has crept into our relationship. In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.”

    What is it about that statement that you view as bad, or wrong? If you were President, what would you have done or said differently, and why?

  11. NorthernLite Says:

    “you can never win on defense.”

    If that’s true, shcb, then Mitt Romney is royally fucked.

    You can’t possibly want this jagoff to lead your country. He’s the most insincere, wishy-washy, flip-flopping politician I’ve ever seen in my life. On top of that he stashes the millions he made looting US companies and shipping the jobs to China in foreign tax havens.

    And he beats the war drum, isn’t willing to pay his taxes to fund the war and has five sons and not one of them enlisted to serve.

    Seriously? This is your guy?

  12. shcb Says:

    I agree JBC, but I had to give Enky something. I thought some of those examples were a little lame. I think the issue however is him saying one or 5 of those would have been fine, nothing wrong with a little humility. But he has kept up this rhetoric ever since. Now that’s not to say he hasn’t had some shining moments, bin laden, killing the captures of the ship captain etc. All those were hard decisions to make, keeping Gitmo open, all hard decisions. But you simply can’t bow to world leaders when you are at or above their grade level. Humility is one thing, admitting mistakes is one thing, but Obama has taken it to another level and maintained that level.

    My farther to the right than me Facebook buddies are grousing about Hillary hosting a party and Obama doing something with the Libyans that were in town just a week or so after our diplomats were killed? I haven’t kept up with it much but if my farther right friends are right, this is another, more recent example. Something like this happens, fine, you don’t shut the door on someone that is at least potentially a friend if not an ally, but you don’t have a hoedown either.

  13. shcb Says:


    If Romney is the worst you’ve ever seen you either haven’t lived long enough or haven’t been paying attention. He’s not a bad guy, he won’t be the best president we’ve ever had, he won’t be in the top ten, but honestly, I haven’t seen anyone else that is that much better, Obama isn’t. As you know I vote a straight ticket, that said even if I didn’t and I could vote for anyone R or D, I don’t know of anyone that is that much better. And then he/she has to be willing to run, and there certainly wasn’t anyone in that smaller group that was much better. Great leaders only come around about once a lifetime if you are lucky.

    “And he beats the war drum, isn’t willing to pay his taxes to fund the war and has five sons and not one of them enlisted to serve.”

    I think he pays all the taxes he is required to pay, like all of us he has little control of whether that money is used to fund wars, that is up to congress. I suppose he could fund his own private army but that is a little illegal and I bet you would use that against him, so what is he supposed to do? I believe his sons make the choice of enlisting in service. Again, you would probably be against him somehow forcing one of his sons to enlist so he would look better politically, so what do you want him to do?

  14. enkidu Says:

    jbc – Charlie Brown, you know how this is going to end right?

    shcb – In reading those 10 ‘apologies’ I have to agree with jbc: it is all a matter of perspective or definitions (interpretations). In reading them again today, I noticed that they helpfully extracted the offending bits for maximum outrage generation.

    1. Apology to France and Europe (“America Has Shown Arrogance”)
    In reading this one, it helps to recollect the actual context. Obama was speaking 3 months after coming into office, less than a hundred days after the worst President of our lifetime. bush America was contemptuous of Europe. Obama sought partners, allies, a team of rivals or coalition of the willing ;) Exhortations to be humble are standard religious fare.

    2. Apology to the Muslim World (“We Have Not Been Perfect”)
    Less than three weeks after replacing bush… We seek to restore a better relationship with the Muslim world. We are made from the same clay, imperfect, human, fallible, troubled. This is standard religious boilerplate, I fail to see why it would be considered an apology.

    3. Apology to the Summit of the Americas (“At Times We Sought to Dictate Our Terms”)
    A little over three months after the execrable bush disaster. Again, seeking to replace dictate with partnership, cooperation based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. Final sentence: bush=ooops

    4. Apology at the G-20 Summit of World Leaders (“Some Restoration of America’s Standing in the World”)
    Less than three months after his inauguration. bush screwed it up and we’re working to fix it, etc etc etc. To hold the position that the bush regime didn’t reduce our standing in the world is beyond nonsensical, it flies in the face of reality. Facts is facts.

    Pointing out reality isn’t apologizing in my book, it is simply acknowledging the true shape of reality.

    I was thinking about wwnj ‘thinking’ the other day as we cleaned my son’s fish tank. The sides are very green (it’s been a while) and the filter is clogged and noisy. The water looks as if you could stand a fork in it. But when you view it from the top instead of the sides, the water is clear, the green sides a simple film. The truth is the water is pretty clean. I wonder if some folks just never look at things from another perspective, it seems natural to me, but I think it must be impossible for some. I analogized that shcb may never be physically or mentally able to see the world without his 90˚ polarized / politicized filters on. Maybe my socialist/marxist/commie/pink/fag filters are simply distorting my view of ‘reality’.

  15. knarlyknight Says:

    Lorry shcb! The point NL was obviously making is that for such strong chickenhawk speak as Mittens spouts, one would expect that if his rhetoric was genuine then some of it would have been absorbed in the upbringing of his sons with the result that at least one of them going forward in serving their country. The proof is in the pudding so to speak; the Romney family pudding appears to be SELF SERVING.

    As for humility, you could make two lists: countries whose leaders have not shown humility and those that have shown some.

    Do show humility:
    China (only in recognizing free enterprise)
    USA under Obama

    Have not shown humility:
    North Korea
    Iraq under Saddam
    China (for the most part)
    USA under Bush

  16. knarlyknight Says:

    Conspicuous by its absence… no retort about Mitten’s unsuitability for president based on this item in his resume:

    at he stashes the millions he made looting US companies and shipping the jobs to China in foreign tax havens.

  17. enkidu Says:

    Just an example of shcb ‘thinking’

    I think he pays all the taxes he is required to pay.

    So you ‘think’ he pays all his taxes eh? How do you know this? We have only seen a single year’s worth (and an estimate of another year iirc?) Think isn’t the right word perhaps? mb ‘imagine’ since you have to use your imagination to fill in a dozen years of federal income tax disclosures? By November even Mitt’s Dad wouldn’t vote for him…

    I think he is a tax cheatin, law breakin, income hidin stuffed shirt who was born with a silver spoon up his @$$. Until we see his returns – say, 5 years worth? – we won’t know anything.

    Watch Jon Stewart’s take down of Romney’s ‘47% of Americans are just filthy welfare queen urine-stained moochers!’ comment. (btw, I’m sure my parents are loving that comment even as they are part of that 47%… sigh, eyeroll)

  18. enkidu Says:,29603/?ref=auto

  19. NorthernLite Says:

    And speaking of wealth redistribution…

    Isn’t most of the US wealth created in Democratic states — the Northeast and West Cost — and REDISTRIBUTED to the poorer Republican states?

    That’s true, right?

  20. enkidu Says:

    While the data is somewhat out of date (if anyone can find an updated chart I’d love to see it) but this may answer your question.

    Yes, it is true. And I imagine it is mostly true today as well.

    As the creator of the chart said: Erlbaum added, “I’ve listened to feedback about this chart for a few years now, and folks who don’t like the insinuation it makes will always come up with some explanation. Popular ones are that there are more military jobs, more retirees, more farmers, and fewer cities in red states. I don’t buy it. Whatever the excuse, the data is clear: These states receive more than they pay in. Everything else is just a rationalization based on someone deciding that one reason for spending money is good, and another is bad. This chart makes no such distinction. I say, ‘Deal with it!’ The facts are the facts.”

    Up is up.

    Also don’t forget that our tax code is tilted towards the redistribution of wealth towards the top (see, reality/actual recent history).

    Oh wait, it is fact-based, I keep forgetting that the Rs/tea party don’t DO facts.

    Or arithmetic.

  21. shcb Says:

    I’m not sure that answers NL’s question. He was asking about wealth creation. You also have to consider corporate structures, in bad years our company produces over 100 million in profit (wealth) in Colorado but it shows up as profit in New Jersey (New York since last year, we moved our offices 15 minutes from where they were) since that is where our North American operations are centered, we create absolutely no wealth in Upper Saddle River. It isn’t as easy as a blogger’s graph even though his graph is no doubt accurate for what it is worth.

  22. knarlyknight Says:

    No shcb, he was talking about re-distribution, not creation (you speak, so it must be wrong) but that error is not material.

    Funny how clearly your corporate structure argument has already been described by the chart creator Erlbaum: “I’ve listened to feedback about this chart for a few years now, and folks who don’t like the insinuation it makes will always come up with some explanation. … I don’t buy it. Whatever the excuse, the data is clear: These states receive more than they pay in.”

    Also, it is no accident that there are more corporate headquarters in blue states than red ones, the fact is that blue states are more attractive as home base for corporations. Smart CEO’s do not intentionally put a headquarters in a neanderthal red backwater without extenuating circumstances.

  23. shcb Says:

    NL used the word created, just because the blogger says he doesn’t buy it doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid argument.

  24. knarlyknight Says:

    My mistake, he did use both terms, I should have been more careful and will endeavor to do so in the future, sorry for any embarassment that might have caused to you.

    Separate issue, as to whether or not the blogger has a valid argument, I’d just point out that economic wealth follows resources and brains. I don’t think one can make the argument that the blue states have more resources, so I’ll let you figure out the rest.

    Back to MITTENS! Quick Quiz, Romney or Burns????

  25. __j__ Says:

    @jcb, here is the specific quote you mentioned [with subtext supplied by moi].

    So we must be honest with ourselves. [the EU and the USA must seek truth]
    In recent years we’ve allowed [Bush is at fault for everything bad I will mention]
    our Alliance to drift. I know that there [including a drifting western alliance]
    have been honest disagreements over [france opposes (non-UN) unilateral wars]
    policy, but we also know that there’s [we being the USA dems and the EU social-dems]
    something more that has crept into [that something more being repub prez Bush]
    our relationship. In America, there’s [because this is a marriage not a treaty]
    a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading [america has failed — ‘apology’ #1.]
    role in the world. Instead of celebrating [the EU has the(!) leading role in the world]
    your dynamic union and seeking to [the USA has failed to celebrate the eurozone #2]
    partner with you to meet common [we should treat you as our (senior) partner #3]
    challenges, there have been times [times during the repub Bush administration]
    where America has shown arrogance [america is sorry Bush was arrogant about the USA #4]
    and been dismissive, even derisive.[america is sorry Bush was dismissive of the EU #5]
    [america is sorry bush was derisive of the EU and their leading role in the world #6]

    Now, there is such as thing as admitting you were wrong, and apologizing sincerely, without going further and apologizing for existing. If he wanted to admit to a mistake, then Obama might have said something like this: it was a mistake to unilaterally invade Iraq, because instead we should have gone through a more inclusive process of consulting with France beforehand, being you are one of our staunchest military allies, with legitimate foreign policy interests concerning the Mediterranean in particular and the Arab world in general. But that is not what he said. He said that such honest disagreements over specific policies were *not* the issue — that the *real* issue was everything-America-does-is-wrong-boy-are-we-sorry.

    Maybe I’m just being overly harsh, but the accusations that Obama blames Bush for everything, and is always apologizing for America *being* what it is, have a kernel of truth. Therefore, making his first subtext (that honesty is the best policy) either a false premise, or just a reflection of his worldview. Actually, guess I better explain those two options — the false-premise option is that, here in this quote, Obama could theoretically be trying to be DIPLOMATIC towards our EU allies, telling them what they want to hear, buttering them up, mouthing polite nothings. Then, in such a case, his first line about honestly seeking the truth is just bullshit, and so is the rest of it. Now, I don’t want craven mouthing from a president… but I don’t think that’s what this is here. Obama isn’t mouthing platitudes, he’s being frank and serious.

    Thus, I think option two, that Obama really meant we ought to be honest and seek the truth, is in fact what he was trying to do. Therefore, the following few lines are the truth as he sees it: that the dynamic EU is the leading power in the world (not the USA hyperpower), and by logical extension, that the USA should try to be more like the EU (for instance in getting on board with the socialized medicine bandwagon that all the countries in the EU have but that until Hillarycare we in the USA did not have… and until Romneycare and Obamacare had been continually rejecting). Furthermore, that any country that would take some action on their own, without first seeking permission from the world-government body (in this case the UN) and checking with all their current allies about whether to stop or go, obviously such unilateral action by a sovereign nation is just wrong — that’s not what the EU does, so the USA should not do such things either, because we ought to emulate their behavior, given that they are the leading example of all that is shiny and good nowadays.

    Do you see the point I’m making here? Obama is not apologizing for a single mistake in a foreign policy setting, or even for a series of mistakes. He is apologizing for American being a sovereign nation, a hyperpower than can act without consulting the French or the EU or the UN. Moreover, he is saying quite explicitly that the way the EU does things is the right way to do things, and implying that the way we do things is wrong. I don’t think I’m reading too much into that when I go ahead and extend his explicit statement on foreign-policy to encompass an implicit statement about economic policy (Obamacare) and social policy (gay marriage et al). Obama is apologizing for America not being European enough, because he firmly believes that the Europeans are doing The Right Things, and by contrast, that the poor foolish folks over on this side of the pond usually are not (especially that naughty Bush2nd).

    It’s difficult not to read these paragraphs without getting caught up in the partisan specifics, of whether Bush ought to have invaded Iraq when/as/why/how he did, or whether Obama ought to have invaded Libya when/as/why/how he did. Try and ignore those things, since they are basically distinct issues (regional foreign policy issues) from the question of whether Obama is in favor of mom, apple pie, and the American way… or whether he thinks that the traditional American way is old-fashioned, and that the modern way is exemplified by the EU socialist-democracies, which America should do our best to catch up with in all ways. My assertion here is that Obama is apologizing for America being the top military power in the world explicitly, and implicitly apologizing for America being semi-capitalist & semi-religious, rather than semi-socialist & secular (like modern France). This is partly straight from the grammar of the text, but also from his actions later.

    p.s. As for the original article, some of the things it says are basically true. Mitt: running on his record as a businessman (Bain), or as governor of Massachusetts (Romneycare), or on his economic plan (which changes every day depending on who he thinks is listening… which means he has been super-careful to keep it vague for the last three months or so)… leaving Mitt with just himself as a personality (smile/hair/aura) plus superpac-advertising.

    Unfortunately for Obama, all those things are at least equally true of the dem ticket — since Obama cannot run on *his* record, either! His record as a businessman (never worked in the private sector his whole life), or as senator of Illinois (voted present most of the time… and for bailouts the rest of the time), or as President with a pliant congress (Obamacare nastily rammed through), or as President with a defiant congress (kill-lists and drone strikes), or on his economic plan (which is exactly the same as in 2008… sigh… )… leaving Obama with just himself as a personality (smile/skin/style) plus superpac-advertising (while Mitt has no shortage of moolah Obama’s got way more campaign-donors-expecting-payback-later on his side… and thus has absolutely drowned Mitt out by significant margins in every state that counts… Nielsen counted 230,000 Obama-ads versus 87,000 Mitt-ads in 9 swing-states… plus Obama spends more on campaign staff salaries by 10% … plus Obama had no primary contest whereas much of the Mitt adverts were fighting off Santorum/Gingrich/RonPaul whereas every Obama-dollar is purely for Obama-purposes).

    In other words, this election is awful. Neither candidate has a record. Both candidates plan to continue the policies of Bush2nd and Obama1st, with nothing but small tweaks. Arrrrgh. That final point, about actually trusting Romney… not to flip-flop, not to break promises, not to do foolish things… is the most telling. But just like the rest of the points above, we outright *know* that Obama flip-flops, breaks promises, and does foolish things. ARRGH. Coercively ramming through teleprompter-scripted changes at their conventions, ignoring the complaints of their delegates… no matter if we get 4 more of Obama (not constrained by worries about re-election anymore!) or 8 years of Mitt (with congress helping!), trouble.

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