“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.

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