Romney is the genuine article: a true wimp. Oh, there are some ways in which he’s not--a wimp lets himself get kicked around, and Romney doesn’t exactly do that. He sure didn’t during the primaries, when he strafed Rick Perry and carpet-bombed Rick Santorum (but note that they were both weaker than he).You can read Tomasky’s whole piece here.
In some respects, he’s more weenie than wimp--socially inept; at times awkwardly ingratiating, at other times mocking those “below” him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way. The evidence resonates across too many years to deny. What kind of teenager beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors--the incident from Romney’s youth that The Washington Post famously reported (and Romney famously didn’t really deny) back in May? The behavior extends, through more sedate means, into adulthood. The Salt Lake Olympics remains his greatest triumph, for which he wins deserved praise. But to many of those in the know, Romney placed a heavy asterisk next to his name by attacking the men he replaced on the Olympic Committee, smearing them in his book, even after a court threw out all the corruption charges against them.
And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world’s most-wanted villain of appeasement? That’s what they call overcompensation, and it’s a dead giveaway; it’s the “tell.” This guy is nervous--terrified--about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still. ...
There’s another conservative yardstick on which Romney comes up short: he’s too smart, as in clever or book-smart, to be a real Republican candidate. All those stories about how intensely data-driven he was at Bain [Capital], or as governor? Weird. Liberals, men of caution and contemplation, are obsessed with data. Conservative men are supposed to be men of action--they have hunches and play them. In this one sense Romney is just like a Massachusetts liberal. When it’s said that conservatives still don’t trust the guy, it’s not just his past moderate record they distrust, but also this sense of Romney as approaching issues intellectually instead of instinctively, producing the lurking unease that if he got into that Oval Office, Romney might one day look at the evidence and decide that, by Jiminy Cricket, global warming does exist!
Which ties directly to his biggest wimp problem. He still, after five years and two presidential campaigns, has yet to take one real stand on any issue; has yet to adopt one position that troubles his party’s hard right. At least [President] Obama praised Ronald Reagan. And he meant it. Romney has tried to praise Bill Clinton, but it was so obviously by way of denouncing Obama that it came off sounding hollow and too clever by half.
The catalog of Romney flip-flops is lengthy and by now famous: abortion rights; support for Planned Parenthood, to which he and his wife once wrote checks, now in his gun sights; Grover Norquist’s “no tax increases” pledge, which he admirably refused to sign as a gubernatorial candidate but since 2007 has taken up with gusto; on immigration, where he once supported a path to citizenship; on guns (he supported the Brady Bill in the 1990s); on “don’t ask, don’t tell”; and, most famously of all, on health care.
These are conventionally explained by the obvious political dichotomy: the moderate positions were adopted when he was seeking votes in Massachusetts, the conservative ones when he went national. That’s true as far as it goes.
But there’s more going on in this case. All politicians undergo a tuck here and a trim there. Comparatively few turn outright somersaults on big issues, let alone half a dozen or more of them. What gives? Most pols in Romney’s position would think: OK, I’ve got to change some stances, but I’d better keep one or two, just to show I stand for something, and accept the consequences. But not Romney.
I don’t know devastating Newsweek’s report will be to Romney’s chances of winning the U.S. presidency. Tomasky points out correctly that, in 1987, the magazine also labeled George H.W. Bush a wimp on its cover--and yet the elder Bush went on to win the ’88 presidential race against Democratic former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.
But Barack Obama is a far smarter, stronger, and savvier candidate than Dukakis ever was. And such prominent criticism of Romney, who’s already “historically unpopular,” is likely to have some affect among moderate and independent voters who haven’t yet made up their minds about how to cast their votes this coming November ... and who might not be comfortable backing a candidate with a growing reputation for being weak-spined. Fire-breathing, macho-posturing right-wingers could also be made uneasy by the magazine’s portrayal of Romney as a “weenie Republican” who’ll say pretty much anything to get elected.
We’ll just have to watch and see whether being dubbed a “wimp” in 2012 is more damaging to a presidential contender than it was a quarter of a century ago.
LEARN MORE: “A Different Kind of ‘Fear Factor,’” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “Newsweek Puts Romney on Latest and Possibly Last ‘Wimp Factor’ Cover,” by Jonathan Chait (New York); “Video: ‘Is Romney Ready to be Commander-in-Chief?’ In a Word, No” (The Political Carnival).