Nothing robotic about RomneyThis Week, Politically Aware Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Commentary: Politically Aware
The word automaton has been with us since the 17th century, but you rarely hear it save at a robotics exhibit. Until, that is, it glommed on to Mitt Romney in his failed 2008 presidential campaign and his current repeat performance. Yet as derogatory as “soulless automaton” sounds, it is far too nice a thing to say about the former governor.
For comparison, let’s look at America’s best known, if fictional, soulless automaton: Star Trek’s Lt. Cmdr. Data. There are surely superficial similarities. Neither can tell a joke nor relate to people. Both are tiresome in their own way, Data with his Pinocchio-like desire to be a “real boy” and Mitt with his inability to hide – I mean justify – I mean humanize – his wealth. They have similarly immobile hair.
Sadly, the similarities end at the surface. Data was driven only by underlying programming to protect human life and his oath to the Federation. Nuanced positions on the prime directive were difficult; flip-flops were unthinkable, except in the surprisingly frequent circumstance that his programming was malfunctioning. Through seven seasons and four movies, Data was comforting in his predictability, as an automaton should be.
Romney, on the other hand, seems to update his core programming more often that Windows. Romney 2002 said, “All citizens deserve equal rights regardless of their sexual preference.” Romney 2008 rejected same-sex marriage, a change maintained in the 2012 model. For the record, that does not make him a stronger advocate for LGBT rights than Sen. Ted Kennedy, as Romney 2002 once claimed. That Romney was also for an individual mandate in Massachusetts healthcare, which would be a model for the nation, until it was inconvenient in the Republican primary.
If Data said, “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard,” you could pretty much take it to the bank. Or wherever you have a deposit box in a futuristic moneyless society. But Romney 2008 recanted that promise of Romney 2002, and the pro-life stance part of Romney 2012’s “severe conservatism.” Is he no longer devoted to his word? Dedicated? Both? What words would assure Americans that this was a core stance that wouldn’t change.
Actually, Mittens is more like Data’s evil twin brother, Lore, an android whose emotions chip made him more human. So human, in fact, that his ambition ran away with him, leading him to do anything to accumulate power, including harming those he loved. Romney 2012 will clearly say anything it takes to get the Republican nomination. What would he do to win the general? Selling us out to a Crystalline Entity seems a real possibility.
Mitt’s father, Gov. George Romney, rued saying that he had been “brainwashed” about the Vietnam War. For Mitt, admitting to brainwashing, or at least a reboot, might be the best way to explain the various Romney models. It would play better than his alleged stem cell conversion, and be more believable than some of his other historical fiction.
As a gay man, I’d feel a whole lot better if Mitt Romney were an automaton, so at least I’d know if I were a targeted constituency or targeted as a scapegoat. Naturally, I’d prefer one of the older versions, say Romney 1994 or 2002. If I can’t get that programming, perhaps he could be just a touch more like Data. When new situations forced him to disobey orders, Data usually tried to lock himself in the brig. I’d be happy if Mitt could just lock in one position. I’m just not sure how he’ll convince me when he does.
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