You'll see a new In-Depth Report to the right, Campaign 2012. With the help of honorary Front Page Editor Richard Silc, I'll compile the best stories of the substance — not the horse race — of the campaign.
It says much about a changing America to compare Willard Mitt Romney to his father. George Romney grew up amid financial hardships and did not graduate from college. During World War II, he worked to better worker conditions, including those of African-Americans, in Detroit; later, he turned around American Motors, was popular with unions and pursued development of small, innovative cars before their time. As governor of Michigan, George Romney was a moderate Republican, fought for civil rights and against Goldwater extremism — and came very close to being the GOP presidential nominee in 1968, before admitting he had been "brainwashed" by the Pentagon over Vietnam.
Willard Mitt Romney never knew anything but wealth. He holds an MBA and law degree from Harvard. He's never held what most Americans would consider a real job, having worked as a consultant and private equity player, most notably at Bain Capital. Although a moderate governor of Massachusetts, the son has readily embraced the extremism of the right in his quest for the White House.
The father was a leader of an America that made productive things and raised the standard of living of the majority of its citizens. Not only that, he had lived hard times and as an adult brought people together. The son is a leader of an America that makes financial deals, often leading to the looting of the productive wealth and destruction of good jobs it took a century to create. They don't use the words "buy, strip and flip" for nothing in private equity. The son is willing, eager really, to further drive people apart for his ambitions.
But Arizonans have seen this movie before. Janet Napolitano did little to reform Arizona or tell the truth to her constituents. She was well-liked, had the real-estate boom to her back and, critically, was seen as the Adult keeping the Kookocracy from taking over. When she left, the Kooks completed their ascendancy, repealed her programs, made the state a world symbol of hate and intolerance — all this, despite decades of evidence that right-wing policies had hurt Arizonans. This is what playing defense gets you. And if you believe the reinvented Obama-as-populist, I have some tract houses in Pinal County at a good deal, $300,000 each.
One thing is clear about this campaign: We can't trust most of the press. The public editor of the New York Times solicited reader reaction on whether the newspaper's political reporters should, well, report facts. When Romney asserts that Mr. Obama has gone around the world "apologizing" for America, for example. The president has done no such thing. The wildest lies stated by GOP candidates are dutifully taken down as dictation by serious news organizations and vomited back at readers as is. And the New York Times is unsure what to do? This is astounding. Yet this happens widely, likely in your hometown newspaper.
But couldn't Romney swing back to the center in the general election and govern as a centrist, as he did in Massachusetts? Not likely. Richard Nixon's famous dictum has gone the way of a sane Republican Party. Romney won't get the intensity of "the base" without espousing extreme right-wing talking points — and remember, this GOP only wants to win 50 percent plus 1 (or get within stealing distance). It will take the mandate from there. As for governing, whatever Romney might like to do, he will bring in train the entire right-wing/plutocratic cast of the GOP to every appointment. Who knows? He might even get a Republican Congress, which would further kick the legs out of any real moderation the man ever had. Remember, he ran to be governor of a "liberal" state. Ambition is his compass.
But, back to roots. Mitt Romney doesn't understand the average American life, much less what is driving it downward. As Mike Huckabee said, he "looks like the guy who fired you." We shall see if it as devastating to Mitt as Alice Roosevelt's putdown of Tom Dewey, as the man on top of the wedding cake. If only we had a Dewey today.