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Romney and the D’Souza Doctrine

Byron York documents the despair of Mitt Romney’s core supporters, who long that he be “bolder” and “more aggressive” in attacking Barack Obama. The headline of York’s Examiner piece suggests that the entire Republican Party is now in the process of “beg[ging]” Romney for a “tougher campaign.” During a rally in Toledo, Ohio on Tuesday, the candidate seemed willing to temporarily oblige:

“[The president has] a vision of government that is entirely foreign to anything this nation has ever known,” he announced. “That is not the America I know. That is not the America that built Ohio. That is not the America that we’re going to restore.” (Notice the subtle invocation of the infamous “Build That” trope.)

So, what are the features of this America which Romney apparently aspires to “restore”? Does he mean America as it existed under two terms of George W. Bush, wherein middle class incomes stagnated, wars of aggression were launched, backroom deals with megacorporations were routine, and conservative media offered nary a critical whimper? Or is Romney hoping to “restore” the America he knew as CEO of an elite private equity firm, wherein he oversaw billions of dollars sloshing around international markets via complex financial instruments? Is that the America not so “foreign” to ordinary citizens, the America for which he pines?

Perhaps it’s pointless by now to note that the policies pursued under Barack Obama’s centrist-to-liberal (and in some respects verifiably hawkish/right-wing) Administration are certainly not–by any reasonable assessment–indicative of a cataclysmic departure from U.S. governmental norms. Yet Romney simply asserts this as unmitigated truth, without offering much in the way of evidence–aside from the platitudes which have thus far emblematized his campaign. Then on Wednesday, in a fit of schizophrenia, Romney’s operation pivoted without explanation to a far softer critique of the president, releasing a television ad in which the candidate asserts: “President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families…”

So which is it? Either Obama is “foreign” and dangerous and has cynically gamed the system to keep 47 percent of Americans dependent on government so that they’ll vote for him–as Romney strongly implied in the video released last week of his closed-door remarks to wealthy donors–or Obama genuinely does “care” about the American people and is simply misguided. It would seem that these notions are incompatible with one another, yet Romney freely espouses them both near-simultaneously, without compunction.

Why is Romney finding it impossible to offer a consistent, sensible conservative critique of the Obama Administration (one surely exists)? Perhaps because he has marinated for so long in the GOP’s insulated and intellectually-stunted bizarro universe, where facts have fallen out of favor and white-hot demagogic rhetoric is all the rage. He cannot communicate normally with most Americans, who generally do not despise the president on a personal level.

But here’s the most offensive part of Romney’s floundering shtick: In propounding these inflammatory talking points, he echoes the sentiments of none other than Dinesh D’Souza, whose “2016: Obama’s America” propaganda “documentary” has become a smash hit at the box office. The central theme of D’Souza’s film is that deep-down, Obama harbors seething hatred for America, and thus his presidency has been designed to bring about its downfall by a host of surreptitious means. It’s a revolting hour-and-a-half of cinema, targeted at the most angst-ridden and pliable Americans looking for answers–Americans who in turn have certainly provided Mr. D’Souza with a sizable financial reward.

More importantly, however, the film perpetuates this bizarre conspiracy theory that Obama is some kind of radical “Manchurian Candidate” whose agenda–as Romney put it–is “foreign,” and who poses such an imminent danger to Americans’ way of life that he must be replaced at all costs in November. Lacking any coherent critique of the past four years, nor any positive platform of his own, Romney has now adopted this line of argument–a line which was once relegated to the ugly Internet fringes.

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