The Plastic Fantastic Man Becomes Velveeta


“Plastic Fantastic” is a fond nickname for the Chevrolet Corvette, America’s most successful sports car. It earned the name because of its fiberglass body. I also applied the name to Mitt Romney because of his plasticity, defined by constant waffling, backpedaling, and attempts to pretend he’s consistent while offering no real convictions or honest viewpoints.

But after last night’s debates, I’m ready to call old Mitt by a new name: Velveeta. He’s thoroughly processed, soft and smooth, has absolutely no substance or nutritional value, and doesn’t stand for anything but saying what he thinks people want to hear. Velveeta is safe and strives to be inoffensive. That’s why Kraft has successfully been able to define it as “cheese” for many generations, despite the fact that it’s only a processed cheese spread.

Romney pretends that he never instituted health care reform while governor of Massachusetts. He amended the paperback version of his book “No Apology” to say that. When challenged by Rick Perry about that during the debate, Romney’s eyes got all deer-in-the-headlight. He started spouting from his mouth a whole bunch of sentences at a speed of One Million MPH, saying nothing. He also denied praising Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s “Race to the Top” initiative. Then he managed to smooth it all over. Velveeta.

John Podhoretz of the New York Post, a man whose politics I often abhor, said it best: “The speed with which he (Romney) spoke recalled the flim-flam salesman Harold Hill, clouding the minds of innocent Iowans as he raced through the song ‘Trouble in River City’ in ‘The Music Man.'” Podhoretz added, “he comes across as false, somehow.”

Mitt will act the part of the political moderate when the conditions and audience warrant. Last night he didn’t. When a gay soldier was booed by the audience for asking the GOP candidates about their views on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Velveeta didn’t scold the audience for their intolerance. And he said his preference would be to keep “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until we’re in peacetime! When will that be?

Why do I get the feeling Mitt will tell Log Cabin Republicans in San Francisco or Boston that he thinks the repeal was a good idea? You really have absolutely no idea what this guy’s about.

Is Obama – someone also correctly accused of only telling people what they want to hear – really getting tough with the GOP Congress? Is he finally ready to measure up to the job he campaigned so well for?

I don’t know. What’s becoming apparent is that for independent voters — fed up with Obama and scared by Rich Perry’s swaggering, close-minded certainty — Velveeta is the safe, smooth option.

Do They Ever Learn? The Cover-Up is Always Worse Than The (perhaps/alleged) Crime

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Nearly 40 years ago, a third-rate burglary known as Watergate took down Richard Nixon, a popular sitting President who considered the White House above the law and didn’t think he had to explain what happened to the American people.

Watergate pervades the cynicism and snark now imbedded in American media and politics, yet too many people in public life still think the rules don’t apply to them. Take New York City Mayor and finance technology billionaire Michael Bloomberg. For a smart guy, Bloomberg continually seems to let rich-guy arrogance blind him to the overriding lesson of Watergate: the coverup is worse than the crime. Or in this case, a perhaps/alleged crime.

On August 4, New York City Deputy Mayor of Operations Stephen Goldsmith resigned immediately to pursue “private-sector opportunities in infrastructure finance.” There were no further explanations, and Goldsmith had only been on the job for 14 turbulent months. It had been that Goldsmith’s poor job performance – mainly due to foul-ups related to last winter’s blizzard cleanup – led to his dismissal. The Bloomberg administration did nothing to dispel that notion. A new Deputy Mayor with widely-respected bonafides was appointed, NYC handled Hurricane Irene well, and Goldsmith’s short tenure was becoming forgotten.

Yesterday though, The New York Post broke the story that for 48 hours prior to his resignation, Goldsmith had been sitting in a Washington DC jail following his arrest on what has been called, “a late-night domestic disturbance involving his wife.” Goldsmith didn’t want the humiliating incident to bring attention to his job, so he resigned immediately and Bloomberg accepted. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly was informed of the incident, as were other key City officials. Mrs. Goldsmith declined to press charges and called the incident a misunderstanding that has blown out of proportion.

Perhaps on this basis, no one in the Bloomberg Administration released the information over the next month. Since the Post story broke, though, all of the New York City media is in an uproar. Domestic violence counselors, many of whom have excellent relationships with NYC and the Mayor, are puzzled and hurt.

For all of yesterday and so far today the Bloomberg Administration had no official comment and Bloomberg made no public appearances. Bloomberg quite literally put himself into radio silence. He usually calls in to John Gambling’s WOR-AM radio show on Friday mornings to discuss NYC issues, answer questions from listeners, and those of his media and political critics. This morning, September 2, he canceled.

Now, John Gambling is an old-school, third-generation morning radio host who has a professional and friendly on-air relationship with Mayor Bloomberg. He recognizes that antagonism endangers access and never crosses that line. But this morning, he took Bloomberg to task and said, essentially, you can run but you can’t hide from this:

The press can be salacious and invasive, particularly when it comes to the private lives of public officials. None of us are qualified to comment what is happening between Stephen and Margaret Goldsmith. But by not disclosing the incident, Mayor Bloomberg has not taken his responsibilities as a holder of an important public office seriously. It is not the first time he has created the perception that the rules — which he often sets — don’t apply when he decides they don’t.

As a result, what could have been a private family matter is blowing up into a major issue about the Bloomberg Administration’s lack of transparency, and perhaps outright lying.

How many days can the famously stubborn Michael Bloomberg avoid the media he both needs and often hates? I don’t know. But he should remember two things: the Watergate lesson as it applies here – the cover-up is always worse than the (perhaps/alleged) crime; and John Gambling’s friendly warning that you can run, but you can’t hide forever.