Nobody Called Mitt Romney Stupid

Mitt Romney is nobody’s fool
Three years ago in a speech on military matters, President Obama, reading from his ever-present teleprompter, several times mispronounced the word corpsman as corpse-man. (I don’t expect you to believe this, so here is a link to the video.)

This isn’t a large incident, and scarcely worth mentioning, except that it highlights three things. First, he had no idea what a navy corpsman was. Second, if you are like most people, you’ve never heard this gaffe. Third, this, and scores more blunders, like his estimate there were 59 United States (he boasted of visiting 57 and missing 2), fell into the memory pit or were dismissed as aberrations, momentary lapses caused by fatigue, or explained as tics of a man with the weight of the world, nay, the universe on his shoulders.

And this is true: they were aberrations; trivial ones, too. No man who rises to the rank of president can be as stupid as these flubs indicate. It just will not, cannot happen. Nobody stumbles or bumbles his way to this nation’s top post. It can be, and often is true that the president is ignorant about certain aspects of government, as Mr Obama was about the military and foreign policy.

But this is because of a mere lack of education and not a fundamental deficit of intelligence. As proof of this, Mr Obama used his three years to learn about the military, advancing so far as to educate Mr Romney at their third debate that our military had “ships that go under water.” We do, too. That he also told Mr Romney our fighting men no longer used bayonets was false, but nobody can be expected to bat 1.000.

The press, the Fourth Estate, with furnished rooms just out back the Democrat White House, called Ronald Reagan an amiable dunce and George Bush Junior an idiot (or worse) on the basis of gaffes like Mr Obama’s. Yet by repeating these claims ad nauseam as a ploy to persuade voters, many in the press came to believe their own propaganda. That’s the force of advertising for you. It can convince weak minds of propositions they know couldn’t possibly be true.

Anyway, Messrs Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II must needs have been labeled mentally deficient, while Messrs Clinton and Obama never were. We could put this down to standard manipulation by journalists who feel it is their duty, not to report, but to tout. There is truth in this, also evinced in that Mr Obama never had to pay a price for any of his missteps, including Benghazi, or his increasing the deficit more than any previous president, or his massive tax increase set to instantiate immediately after the election, etc., as they say, etc.

But did you notice? This year the press has not tried their trusted gambit with Mr Romney. Nobody out there is calling him a fool, nary a soul has attempted to argue that he is stupid. This should amaze you! It does me. It is a cliché to say so, but this signals a fundamental shift in the battle between right and left.

By not reflexively calling him stupid, the press has conceded Mr Romney’s intelligence. There are even indications that the media are anxious to assert Romney’s brilliance. Not in a Mensa, London Times crossword puzzle “finished by the cracking of the egg” way, but as an evil genius. Mr Romney is the Moriarty of politics. His nefarious plan is hinted to consist of unimaginably complex stratagems to dupe the American public with tax cuts and deregulation so that Mr Romney and his black-hearted associates can, as the phrase has it, clean up.

Now, to many “deregulation” is a synonym of “increasing freedom”, but to others it is a euphemism for “not caring.” And there is no worse sin in American politics today than “not caring.” We have reached the culmination of the second great phase shift, which began under President “I feel your pain” Clinton. Which is to say, the feminization of politics is complete.

The war is no longer between those too stupid to know what is best and those whose shining minds have glimpsed the promised land. It is now between those who without emotion assess the state of the land and those who can bring out the onion on command.

The Slate’s assistant editor Laura Anderson said about why she will not vote for Mr Romney, “I’m appalled by his apparent inability to empathize with people who are less advantaged than he is.”

You will argue in vain with Ms Anderson that empathy with the downtrodden is not equivalent to an ability to relieve their burden, and that displays of the former are often inversely correlated with the latter. What counts for her, and for many, is what is said, not what is done.


  1. Luis Dias

    Your paranoid tribalism blinds you from the more obvious truth: Romney isn’t being labeled as stupid because he clearly isn’t one, and Bush the second was labeled as one because he clearly was.

    Ahhh, Ockham, what would we be without your teachings!

    About Romney, the damnest thing I can say about him is that he’s clearly the sleaziest politician to ever come to the White House that I can recall. I say sleaziest because he simply shows that he doesn’t really care about anything besides being elected, he will say whatever it is that will put him in that position.

    So if beforehand, it put Romney in a good GOPian light to ask for Detroit carmakers bankruptcy, now it doesn’t so of course he denies ever doing so! He says that deficits are bad, very bad, but then promotes a plan of increased spending and hopes that republican voters are too dumb to realise the con trick. He badmouths “obamacare” as if he didn’t put it in place in his own state! All the econ gurus that hope Romney wins are banking on his own military keynesianism to throttle up the economy, which is irony to the seventh degree.

    So no, Romney isn’t a dumb person.

  2. Briggs


    What you’re suffering from, dear brother, is called “confirmation bias.” You mentioned Bush II but neglected the examples of Bush I and Reagan, all of whom were labeled stupid. And then the burden is on you to show a stupid person can become president.

    Romney called for a controlled bankruptcy of Detroit, and does not deny this. Interesting you think he does. This is the principled position that says the federal government has no business taking over businesses. The opposite is called socialism.

    His “Romney care” was not equivalent to Obamacare; not even close. For one, under Obamacare people are required, as administered by the IRS, to purchase insurance from crony-capitalism-chosen companies.

    Romney did say he would increase taxes, and he probably will, as you suggest, increase spending. But it takes somebody with a strong stomach, or used to writing advertising copy, to say that Romney would increase spending the size of government faster than Obama. Romney has also flip-flopped, but less so than Obama, and probably will not do so in the future as much as Obama.

    Also interesting that your “tribalism” does not allow discovering any flaws with Obama.

  3. Speed

    The apalled Laura Anderson edits Slate’s food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat’s recipe column, You’re Doing It Wrong. Recently she wrote …

    … please don’t get accustomed to the moral squishiness I’ve exhibited this week. Next week, it’s back to the usual: being “a rude, opinionated, self-righteous person who can’t accept that people like different things” and likes to “maul cultural treasures and flub simple comfort foods” while “being arrogant and insulting” (to quote commenters percysowner, Craig, and AF, respectively).

  4. Speed

    GM went bankrupt under Obama.
    GM filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in the Manhattan New York federal bankruptcy court on June 1, 2009 at approximately 8:00 am EST.


    Edward Niedermeyer: Romney’s Plan Would Also Have ‘Saved’ Detroit
    Team Obama’s version of the auto-industry rescue is a triumph of spin over facts.

    When the president forced GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy court, the White House’s auto task force used the process to execute a prearranged reorganization it had masterminded with political allies. By contrast, Mr. Romney called for a true bankruptcy, in which creditors and stakeholders negotiate reorganization together, with the government merely providing the minimum support needed to prevent disorderly liquidation. In retrospect, Mr. Romney’s approach not only would have produced outcomes superior to the president’s, it was actually the braver course of action.

  5. Joey H

    About Romney, the damnest thing I can say about him is that he’s clearly the sleaziest politician to ever come to the White House that I can recall.

    This is quite amusing/troubling when placed next to the example of Obama. Obama really just has better marketing, or a type of disingenuousness that you are more comfortable with.

    Please note that I am not really a fan of Romney and am aware of him evolving his opinions many times. I, however, do not believe that he deserves the label of sleaziest politician next to other examples, such as Obama.

  6. Yawrate

    Dias, I’ve been, in the past, interested in your comments. You have a keen intelligence, at least regarding statistics. But I must agree with Briggs here. There is no refuting his logic (on this topic). Hook, line and sinker, you’ve fallen for the legacy media images of our presidents.

  7. JH

    Mr. Briggs,

    We have reached the culmination of the second great phase shift, which began under President “I feel your pain” Clinton. Which is to say, the feminization of politics is complete.

    Feinization of politics? Is it a good or bad thing? I gather you meant it’s bad. Does it mean there are more Democrats than Republicans? Hmmmm…,somehow I have the impression that the percentages of solid Democrats and solid Republicans are roughly the same.

    You will argue in vain with Ms Anderson that empathy with the downtrodden is not equivalent to an ability to relieve their burden, and that displays of the former are often inversely correlated with the latter. What counts for her, and for many, is what is said, not what is done.

    I have no idea who Ms. Anderson is, but you should try to argue with her before you make any conclusions.

    What is “the downtrodden”? Is it supposed to be a derogatory term? Is it the same as “the less advantaged”?

    Would my mother-in-law, a devout republican, who once received unemployment benefit temporarily and now is a successful owner of a large day-care center, belong to the group?

    My view is that at our basic core, Democrats or not, people are very much alike. We simply have different priorities and diverse views on how to make things work. When you trivialize the entire Democrats based on the extreme views, you have let the wingers shape your views, well, maybe that’s the way you like it. One world, many faces, different perceptions.

  8. John R T

    Thank you, Briggs;

    I often enjoy Luis’ observations. Maybe I have missed other ‘tribal’ rants; reading this screed made me feel right at home, here in Central America. The state where I reside may never become one Nacion: each tribe reliably speaks of others in Luis’ tone.
    re George W: we have never had an executive with such a diverse and useful skill-set. Fighter pilot, businessman, governor, healthy and compassionate: the world was blessed by our 2000 and 2004 choices. A faith-full person, competent and experienced: W’s term will prove to be an era of transparent generosity, between two epigones: unregenerate, decadent, and mendacious.

  9. Ray

    If Bush the second was so stupid how did he become a fighter pilot and survive flying the F-102 fighter, a very unforgiving airplane. He must have been incredebly lucky. I was in the Navy and we joked that you can’t have stupid people in the Navy because they’ll kill themselves and if you’re in the vicinity, they’ll kill you too.

  10. rank sophist

    You don’t become president unless you’re pretty intelligent. My concern with George W. Bush wasn’t that he was stupid, but that he was a terrible president who in no way lived up to his father’s legacy. He destroyed our reputation abroad and our morale at home, disillusioned an entire generation of young people and turned a balanced budget into trillions of debt. Can’t forget starting Guantanamo Bay, creating a xenophobic cultural witchhunt against Middle Easterners, giving intelligence agencies 1984-like power, wrecking the school system with No Child Left Behind and attacking another country on invented grounds, either. He also destabilized the entire Middle East, which led to the uprisings there in the last few years, for better or worse. To top it off, his spend-and-don’t-tax approach was an influence (obviously far from the only influence) on the 2008 financial collapse, and he made sure that quite a few of his executive buddies got golden parachutes right before he left office.

    He was a horrible president and a despicable man. This isn’t even a matter of politics or opposing ideas, or of what the liberal media said or didn’t say, or of whether Obama was successful or unsuccessful. No one wants to see Bush or a Bush-like approach again. This is why Obama tries so desperately to tie Romney to Bush, and why Romney has repeatedly explained that he rejects Bush’s ideas. (I should note that I say all of this as an independent–I find both parties, as well as their joke alternatives like the Libertarian and Green parties, to be fairly broken and corrupt. The leftists who claim to support “women’s rights” are in fact advocating heinous crimes, for instance, but Republican extremists want to gut the support system for the poor, sick and elderly. The Church rejects both views.)

    In any case, good luck at the polls tomorrow to whomever hasn’t voted already. Right now, we need less polarizing political hype and more good-natured bipartisanship, particularly if the fiscal cliff is to be avoided.

  11. Anon

    “good-natured bipartisanship”—we still hope it’s possible.

  12. Josh

    I wonder if this is a sitting GOP president kind of thing. I don’t remember McCain or Dole being called stupid, although their respective running mates were run thoroughly through the mill.

    I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Romney wins and if he does if the media takes the track your have observed (which is more likely) or if they fall into old habits.

    My anecdotal experience of liberal sites that I read, the masses eat up the evil corporate story line. Just look at how despised the Koch’s are.

    (long time reader/first time poster)

  13. dearieme

    “Nobody out there is calling him a fool”: there speaks a man insufficiently familiar with the output of the BBC.

  14. Big Mike

    “Ships that go underwater”.

    Submariners refer to them as “boats”, btw, Mr. Confounder in Chief Bronco Bamma.

  15. Big Mike

    @Luis “So if beforehand, it put Romney in a good GOPian light to ask for Detroit carmakers bankruptcy, now it doesn’t so of course he denies ever doing so!”

    You, like so many others, fail to distinguish between bankruptcy and liquidation. The latter is not always a consequence of the former. As @Speed was kind enough to point out, the auto makers went bankrupt under Obama. It’s just that he circumvented the long-held tradition of bankruptcy courts so that he could subvert the claims of secured bondholders to reward unions.

    When bankruptcy proceeds according to the laws of the land, secured debt holders have priority over unsecured debt holders. That’s been so for hundreds of years, and is the foundation of the capital markets and indeed of our country itself: Many people refer to that principle as “property rights.”

    What Obama and the unions did in the auto bail-out was illegal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were lawsuits in the new year.

    It’s clear that Gov. Romney never advocated for the liquidation of the auto makers, as the Obama propagandists would have the weak-minded believe he had — it’s just not true.

  16. Phillip Williams

    Ms Anderson: “What counts for her, and for many, is what is said, not what is done.” Our top Australian political blogger, Andrew Bolt, calls this: “Seeming, rather than doing.”

  17. Bill

    His “Romney care” was not equivalent to Obamacare; not even close. For one, under Obamacare people are required, as administered by the IRS, to purchase insurance from crony-capitalism-chosen companies.

    Under Romneycare, they were required, as administered by the MA Dept of Revenue (state equivalent of the IRS), to purchase insurance from exchanges (presumably what you mean by “crony-capitalism-chosen” companies). What’s the diff?

  18. Tom M

    The biggest difference between Romneycare and Obamacare, and Mitt has said this himself, is one of federal and state institution. If the citizens of Massachusetts want to socialize health care, let them. Such a system is unlikely to be as successful on a national level.

  19. Sylvain Allard

    Mr Briggs,

    The US stop training for bayonets in 2010.

    The reality of combat is that regular soldiers barely ever get to see the enemy. Less than 1% of all the American deployed in combat in the last 10 years will actually have had a chance to kill in combat. Only the spec ops will have a higher ratio and even it will be at some distance.

    Very few soldiers ever got to kill with a bayonet or knife. Just read “On killing” by David Grossman.

  20. Speed

    Sylvain Allard wrote, “The US stop training for bayonets in 2010.”

    From 500 yards, every Marine is accurate with a rifle. Attach the OKC-3S Bayonet, and the weapon becomes just as effective in close combat situations. Also a Marine’s multi-purpose fighting knife, the OKC-3S is the weapon of choice when shots can’t be fired. Every Marine receives bayonet training in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) and on the Bayonet Assault Course in Recruit Training.

  21. revGDright

    Don’t forget our spec ops folks were riding horses in the ‘stan.

  22. Sylvain Allard

    Yes, the bayonet as a purpose and has been effective for more than 2 centuries. The thing is that it has very rarely been used in combat.

    And this is very well documented research in the military hence the reason they are not training for it anymore.

  23. Bill S

    Have to agree that Sylvain did not bother to click on your link. But so what.
    He and Luis Already know they are intellectually superior and need not read your words.
    What bothers me recently is why are the conservatives harping on what Obama did not do with respect to Benghazi. I want to know why the commander in chief of the united states of America was not prepared for a terrorist attack on american soil in a hostile country on 9/11/2012?

  24. Bill S

    After this election I promise to go back to monitoring your site to see if you can teach me (for free) how to teach a computer to tell the difference between outliers and corrupt data.

  25. Sylvain Allard

    Bill S

    Read “On killing” by David Grossman a military and war veteran and you will understand how rare and why bayonet have been so rarely used.

    In WW1, a war where bayonet should have been a weapon of choice, less than 1% of victims were killed or injured in close combat.

    The mass casualties occur at distance. WW1 artillery 70-75% and machine gun 20-25%, WW2 artillery and aviation about 80%.

  26. Jade

    Well I guess we all know who you’re voting for tomorrow….

  27. PaulM

    But have people misunderestimated Mitt Romney?

  28. Bill S

    Books looks interesting. Also long. And have to review Keegan’s WW1 book. Don’t hold your breathe waiting for me to continue the discussion.

  29. Luis Dias

    Well I disagree with most of you guys, but I agree I was out of my league in that comment of mine. It is quite off to accuse me of tribalism. If I am easily seen as an Obama “defender” here it is merely because Briggs’ own unreflexed tribalism puts me off quite a bit. As a Portuguese, I really do not have much of a valid opinion on the matter, other than to say that those who think that Obama has not increased a lot the international opinion of America are just wrong.

  30. Rob


    In the American civil war, most casualties were caused by disease, but that did not stop the bayonet being an extremely effective weapon. The number or even proportion of casualties is not any kind of proof of the value of a weapon to an individual soldier. Just by saying that only 1% of soldiers ever see their enemy does not mean that they don’t need to know how to fight in close quarters.

    The numbers you quote are meaningless in this debate since the issue is training to use a bayonet (which is apparently still issued to a pretty large proportion of service personnel). Commenting here on this site you should surely consider that headline numbers will be challenged as to their relevance in any kind of debate.

  31. Luis Dias

    Also, to point that the “horses and bayonets” was a witty remark that simply put the notion that the simplistic value of “the number of boats” the US has is not that relevant with regard to how we measure up the “strenght” of one’s Navy or Army and so on. Everyone (but the nitpickers who went straight to Google to confirm the Army still uses bayonets) understood it perfectly and it was a good comeback by the POTUS. Those who hang to the nitpicking as an example of how Obama “doesn’t get it” or something to that effect are just out of sync.

  32. MattL

    Of course, the number of ships matters a lot more than the number of bayonets or horses. Those who know about such things realized that regardless of horse and bayonet inventories and relevance to modern warfare, the President (once again) either misunderstood what he was talking about or was being disingenuous.

  33. G. Rodrigues

    @Luis Dias:

    say that those who think that Obama has not increased a lot the international opinion of America are just wrong.

    I neither care nor understand much of politics, but wasn’t Obama canonized by the Nobel Commitee for the Earthly Saints even before he performed a single miracle?

    My impression is that the hatred of Bush Jr. was so visceral, especially in Europe, that anyone after him would be hailed as a saint and the greatest benefactor of mankind.

  34. Doug M

    The President doesn’t need to be a genius, above average intelligence will do, along with decent judgement and leadership.

    My problem with Obama is not a lack of intelligence, but a lack of leadership. He blames the “party of no.” Leaders get people to put asside their differences to work together. He repeatedly attacks and demeans his opposition. And the reaction he gets from them is, “Screw You!”

  35. Nomen Nescio

    I have read both On Killing and On Combat by Lt Col. Grossman. I also have three sons who are or who were in the US Army. They all trained with the bayonet, early 2000’s, so before your 2010 date.
    I think the purpose of the bayonet is now days almost secondarily to kill one’s enemy. I think the stronger purposes are to steel the resolve of the army that fixes bayonet’s to their weapons, and especially to strike absolute fear into the hearts of any army facing them. Yes, most soldiers killed in combat are killed from a distance, and Amen for that. But, when it comes down to eye ball to eye ball combat, would not the sight of an enemy with bayonets fixed and leveled in your direction not induce the old combat dump in you? I believe it would me.
    Finally, generations of Marines and Soldiers from the nations of the earth have trained with and used the bayonet. It is a weapon that has won battles and thereby wars. It’s training and use is with those Marines and Soldiers for the rest of their lives. By turning it into a quip, the President has made a mockery of those Marines and Soldiers. If you’ve really read On Killing, you of all people should understand that.

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