Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mitt won’t work miracles for Michigan

Bad news, kiddies.

I know Uncle Mitt - who you haven’t seen since Cher and bell bottoms were mod - missed you very much and came bearing gifts last week.

He was so sorry he’d abandoned the auto industry his dad championed to make millions in international markets (though you know he’s too proud to admit it).

And he felt real bad about missing your birthday, tiger.

Brandishing that can-do smile and the sincerity of a 1970s game show host, our man Mitt promised the return of fab ‘50s-style manufacturing jobs, $20 billion in federal aid and a pony for everybody in the Mitten State.

Groovy. Only it ain’t gonna happen.

Meanwhile, mean old John McCain - who spent a chunk of the Me Decade tortured by the North Vietnamese (bummer) - told us some of those jobs aren’t coming back. Instead, we need to harness Michigan’s world-class college system and invest in emerging technologies like green energy.

Reality, man. It’s a bummer, too.

So the majority of voters in Tuesday’s GOP primary decided to deny the realities of the new economy. The Mittster was their man.

As a Harvard MBA, Romney, of course, knows McCain and virtually every economist in Michigan is correct. But selling “optimism” and the now-ubiquitous commodity of “change” makes for better sound bites.

McCain employed the dicey strategy of holding town hall meetings across the state in which he openly invites people to spar with him, unlike any other presidential hopeful.

Oh, how they did Sunday in the right-wing hotbed of Howell – on stripping citizenship from American-born kids of illegal immigrants, President Bush’s tax cuts, campaign finance reform and more.

But the thousand-strong crowd respected him and erupted in a frenzy. Honesty can inspire.

If his advisors had let McCain be McCain and do more of those events in Michigan over the last year – instead of endless fundraisers, party establishment schmoozing and confabs with anti-tax zealots working to unravel his candidacy – I think the primary would have gone quite differently.

Contrast McCain with Romney, who ginned up emotion Saturday at a kitchen table chat with an unemployed Marshall worker. The catch? It was a set-up with a staffer’s mom, something Marvelous Mitt forgot to tell the media (oops!)

Evidently, integrity is an overvalued asset in this CEO’s campaign.

Romney also got a pass on his Michigan roots (though he tastelessly reminded us on the stump his parents are buried here). In reality, the heavily hair-sprayed tycoon is the poster child for the brain drain we’re all supposed to revile.

As the former baron of Bain Capital, Romney perhaps instinctively knew staying in his home state was a bad risk as the auto industry nosedived, so he headed off, curiously enough, to the place all good Republicans jeer as Taxachusetts.

Now running as an outsider (the most hackneyed theme in politics), Romney says he’ll shake up Washington and stand up for Michigan. This, of course, underscores the fact that Bush doesn’t give a damn about the Big Three – he refused to meet with them for years.

But the most pro-Bush voters and the fiscal delusionists ganged up to vote Romney, according to exit polls. Go figure.

They’re about as consistent as their candidate, who’s amusingly stalked by a dude dressed as a dolphin named “Flip Romney” to highlight his pliable positions on abortion, immigration, stem-cell research, gay marriage and government health care.

Malleable Mitt has a new campaign theme for every state, as well as a shiny, new multi-million-dollar attack ad buy. In Michigan, he outspent McCain at least 3 to 1.

Romney is who you want him to be. Someone get the schizophrenic candidate a psychiatrist, stat.

But there’s one thing Romney is remarkably consistent on: military service. It wasn’t for him (God bless missionary and student deferments).

A hawk on the Vietnam War (and now Iraq), he was no principled conscientious objector. To fervently support a war without feeling any call to sacrifice is the worst form of hypocrisy and cowardice.

Service isn’t for any of his five strapping sons, either. But fighting terrorists isn’t the only way to fortify America.

As Mitt merrily explained last summer, “One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president.”

Mitt comes first. Only then can we get to that pesky maxim of “duty, honor, country” Gen. Douglas MacArthur noted builds courage, character and hope in a man.

So, boys and girls, what exactly do you think President Romney’s commitment will be to the state he skeddadled from five decades ago?

My advice: Don’t cash that check yet, Michigan. Somehow, I doubt your native son’s good for it.

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