Most people still regard Mitt Romney as a comically out-of-touch billionaire who's also an awkward, embarrassing 1960s sitcom dad. But Romney -- who's always seemed bitter and angry to me, even if no one else noticed -- has really become a seething, resentful, Cheneyesque troll, and an even less dignified troll than Cheney himself. Consider this report from The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa about a presentation at Romney's weekend confab in Park City, Utah:
Dusting off a page from his management consulting playbook, the former Republican nominee delivered a speech by PowerPoint to more than 200 corporate CEOs and other attendees of his annual ideas festival about what he deemed (and titled his slides): “The Most Consequential Obama Foreign Policy Mistakes.”
Slide by slide, Romney ticked through 20 mistakes, from Obama’s “Middle East apology tour” to the president’s lack of support for Iran’s green revolution to the administration’s infamous “reset” with Russia.
“With all that bad news, is it not true that arguably President Obama is the worst foreign policy president in history?” Romney asked. “I think he is.”
This is constructive in what way exactly?
But Romney isn't just embittered -- he's infantile:
Next came the slides about Obama’s first-term secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner. First, Romney showed a map of the globe, colored in for all the countries she visited.
Then he mocked her.
“Secretary of Schlep,” the next slide read.
... After critiquing Obama, Romney laid out a plan for getting the United States on what he called “the right course.”
“Strengthen, organize and strategize,” Romney said. “By the way, that’s S.O.S., and we do need help.”
Cheney at least spares us bad jokes like this.
Rucker and Costa tell us that this might be Romney's effort to get back in the game -- not as a possible 2016 nominee after a brokered convention, as The Hill's Brent Budowsky has suggested, but as a Cabinet member:
After Romney finished his speech to respectful applause, loyalists whispered that he could be positioning to be secretary of state in the next Republican administration.
That's a scary thought, but it's plausible, though I'm thinking more along the lines of secretary of defense. Previous failures in that job also had business careers -- Robert McNamara, Donald Rumsfeld. (Cheney, too, though he was much worse as a VP than he was as secretary of defense.) This, from Romney, has somewhat of a Rumsfeld quality to it:
The presentation hinted at the kind of president Romney would have been -- technocratic and hawkish. At one point, he showed how he would have reorganized the State Department bureaucracy by dividing the map into color-coded regions to exert soft power, much the way military commanders do at the Pentagon.
Oooh! Color-coding! That would change everything!
Rucker and Costa conclude their report as follows:
But the atmosphere shifted quickly -- and in a most undiplomatic way. The projection screens moved from Romney’s PowerPoint presentation to video clips of Romney, shirtless and sweating, in his charity boxing match with heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
Are Rucker and Costa saying that this was an awkward shift of tone? I don't think it was. When I look at this photo, I see a Romney who's undignified, embarrassingly aggressive, and desperate for attention -- and I feel the same way when I read about Romney's PowerPoint.
UPDATE, MONDAY: Yes, he really said this.
And yes, just to be clear, Mitt Romney is accusing someone else of flip-flopping, insincerity, and saying stuff just to mollify base voters in a political party.
(crossposted to No More Mister Nice Blog)