Columnist: Post-election criticisms have turned Mitt Romney into something he's not

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013 1:00 p.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers his concession speech at his election night rally in Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.

Associated Press

It's time for the open season on Mitt Romney to end, according to writer Jay Nordlinger.

In a National Review piece published Wednesday, Nordlinger argued that Romney was one of the "brightest, most capable, most admirable men" to run for president, and post-election criticisms have turned him into something he's not.

The criticisms Nordlinger cites come not from Romney's political opponents, but rather from Nordlinger's "fellow conservatives."

"Instant revision and reviling is natural after a loss, I suppose," Nordlinger said. "But the number done on Romney has been galling, to me."

Romney came under fire after the election from many of the same people who had supported him throughout the race, including some who were talking about positioning themselves for a Romney Cabinet, former Romney adviser Dan Senor said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"I won't mention their names, but they're talking about Romney like he's Reagan," Senor said. "You know, 'The debate performances were the best debate performances of any Republican nominee in presidential history. This guy — he's iconic.' … They know who they are. They were on television. I mean, it was unbelievable. It was five, six days later, (they were) absolutely eviscerating him."

During a post-election phone call with donors, Romney said that President Barack Obama won largely because his campaign gave "a lot of stuff" to groups that they hoped would vote for them in order to motivate them to go to the polls. The comments were lambasted by people like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Lindsey Graham and columnist George Will.

"I absolutely reject what he said," Jindal said. "We as a Republican Party have to campaign for every single vote. If we want people to like us, we have to like them first, and you don't start to like people by insulting them and saying their votes were bought."

"It's been well said that you have a political problem when the voters don't like you, but you've got a real problem when the voters think you don't like them," Will said. "Quit despising the American people."

Politico's Mike Allen quoted unnamed Republicans as saying Romney sounded bitter and backward-looking, and that Romney "just doesn't get it."

In December, Gingrich told the Huffington Post that he or Texas Gov. Rick Perry would have been better candidates, and that Romney was "isolated from human behavior" for his suggestion that some undocumented immigrants might self-deport.

A Talking Points Memo story from Nov. 18 suggested that, "if Mitt Romney has any friends left in the Republican Party, they're hiding."

In his National Review post, Nordlinger addressed these and other criticisms, saying that although Romney has been called "out of touch," "plutocratic," and uncaring about the middle class, he is instead democratic, and "classically, almost stereotypically, American."

"His proposals were designed to help millions of others enjoy some of the success that he and his family have enjoyed," Nordlinger wrote. "What did Romney offer the 'middle class'? I'll tell you what: He offered to avert financial collapse. To do something about the debt and deficit. To reform entitlements. To reform the tax code. To foster the conditions in which economic growth occurs. To help put people back to work. … That's not program enough for the 'middle class'? What does he have to do, enter each of their homes and bake them muffins?"

Nordlinger praised Romney's philanthropic efforts, comparing the Romneys' donating 29 percent of their income to charity in 2011 — around $4 million — to Vice President Joe Biden's 2011 charitable donations of $5,540.

Nordlinger went on to say that although Romney had many faults — "and I have spilled my share of ink on those faults" — conservatives and Republicans should remember that politics and vote-getting is hard, and that in democracies, people don't always buy what you're selling, and they always get what they deserve.

"Hang on, Nordlinger, are you saying that Romney was better than the country?" the article said. "Yeah, I guess I am. Not being a politician, I have the luxury of not having to flatter The People. He was also better than most of us who sit, scribble and crab."

Truth about campaigns can go out the window after the fact, and sometimes almost instantly, Nordlinger concluded.

"It's only January," he wrote. "I remember Mitt Romney as a very good nominee, on balance — and a sterling man who would have made an excellent president, possibly a great one. Already, however, he has been turned into a plutocratic, out-of-touch stumblebum who never really had a chance and never should have been nominated."

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