Maybe Mitt Romney doesn’t go by his real first name — Willard — because, like the entire Republican Party, he’s trying to hide a “W.”
Indeed, as Republicans seek to gain some momentum from the national convention last week in Tampa, they are doing everything possible to hide the legacy of George W. Bush.
W. himself was not seen in Tampa — aside from asaccharine and bizarre video tributes to him and his father. (Note to RNC: whenever possible, take out fond references to Vladimir Putin).
Meanwhile, when it comes to W.’s administration, convention-goers were adopting a simple coping technique: hear no failure, see no failure, speak no failure.
But even despite his absence in Tampa, W. is omnipresent in W. Mitt Romney’s campaign for president. He’s just too big of an elephant to hide.
You can see W. out on the campaign trail, where W. Mitt Romney is using the same old tricks in Karl Rove’s playbook. (Rove himself is running one of W. Mitt Romney’s main Super PACs).
Instead of the 2000 whisper campaign that John McCain “fathered an illegitimate black child,” W. Mitt Romney is winking and nodding to the birther’s delusions that Barack Obama — and implicitly all the people that he represents — can’t possibly be American.
Instead of “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” this time around there is the similarly Orwellian “Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund” attack on President Obama for — wait for it — ordering the strike that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Then there’s W. Mitt Romney’s Rovian misrepresentations of Obama’s record: falsely claiming that the president is ending the welfare-to-work requirement, or raiding Medicare (even though Paul Ryan proposes the same savings), or destroying health care (even though Obamacare is modeled on Romneycare).
Paul Ryan — in an acceptance speech written by former W. speechwriters – even faulted President Obama for America’s credit-downgrade when Ryan and his House GOP colleagues, in fact, caused the downgrade by holding America’s credit-rating hostage to their ideological agenda.
Of course, it’s no wonder that W. Mitt Romney is resorting to these tired tactics. His platform doubles down on W.’s failed policies — only it strips them of even the veneer of W.’s “compassionate” conservatism.
Most of W. Mitt Romney’s policies come straight from George W. Bush: tax breaks for oil and gas companies while ignoring climate change (check), an over-reliance on military power as a first option in America’s foreign policy (check), restrictions on women’s choices combined with cheap moralizing (check).
Only this time, W. Mitt Romney doesn’t intend to repeat W.’s “mistakes.”
After all, Republicans, argue that W. failed not because of his unnecessary war in Iraq, or his costly tax cuts for the top 1%, or his “divider not uniter” governing style.
No, W. failed because he wasn’t conservative enough. He wasn’t “fiscally disciplined” (that part is true enough). And to add insult to injury, W. occasionally tried to compromise with Democrats — and with reality (W.’s sensible push for immigration reform being the most hated example).
Make no mistake, this time W. Mitt Romney doesn’t intend to compromise with reality.
But does W. Mitt Romney really think that he can repeat W’s failed policies and have the outcome be any different?
I suspect W. Mitt Romney doesn’t actually care about the answer to that question. He’s trying to W.-wash something far deeper — his own legacy.
Indeed, I think W. Mitt Romney sees something of himself in the former president — even if it’s his mirror refection.
Despite the obvious difference (W. was a slacker, while W. Mitt Romney has been ruthlessly successful; W. was a natural campaigner, while W. Mitt Romney can’t seem to connect with anyone outside of his family) — they share the same political core.
Deep down, both of their political careers are built on vindicating the failures of men whom they can ultimately never measure up to — their fathers.
George H.W. Bush and the ironically-named George W. Romney both had strong commitments to principle. George W. Romney even walked out of the 1964 Republican Convention to protest racism.
But both fathers experienced an ultimate political tragedy caused in no small part by the far right: not winning reelection in the case of George H.W. Bush (partial credit to his “read my lips, no new taxes” apostasy) and not securing the presidency at all in the case of George W. Romney (see principled stand above).
The lesson that each son took: you have to take a hard right turn to get ahead in Republican politics — even if in the case of W. Mitt Romney that means contradicting his own record to the point of absurdity.
Of course, this phenomenon is nothing new. While I’m not remotely Marxist, no one may have described it better than Karl when he wrote: “All great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
We’ve seen this play before. It doesn’t turn out (W.)ell.
This post originally appeared on the Truman National Security Project's Truman Doctrine blog.