Opening Act: Wimp

Michael Tomasky’s Romney profile is bound to be discussed for the cover (“The Wimp Factor”) and not the content. The content’s fun, at least.

Harvey Mansfield, the Harvard political philosopher, is a godhead to conservatives. He wrote a book while Bush was president called Manliness. It was a self-parodic volume, but conservatives loved it. In 2006 an interviewer asked Mansfield his definition of manliness, and he said: “confidence in a situation of risk.”

By this definition, the conservative definition, Romney is a total bust. He’s the most risk-averse major politician to come along in ages. He accepted the job at Bain Capital only after wringing out of Bill Bain a promise that, if the venture failed, Mitt would be welcomed back to Bain & Co.—at his old levels of compensation and seniority—and that the press and public would be fed some happy talk about how it had all gone as intended. And why didn’t he leave Bain in 1999 to go run the Olympics, as he always said he had, but instead take his now-famous “leave of absence”? To have the option of coming back; to minimize the risk.

Do we need another Paul Ryan profile? Ryan Lizza’s long take is critical, which is actually a bit rare for the Ryanocospy genre.

When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town’s recovery, he didn’t disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. “Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature,” he said. “As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It’s a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy.” He added, “Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports.”

If there wasn’t some kind of Wilentz-Kazin feud before, there is now.

Several of the leftists whom Kazin praises as cultural celebrities supported Nader, and some of them recycled false Republican attacks on Gore as, in Ehrenreich’s words, an “inveterate bribe-seeker.”2 Kazin himself lamented at the time that Nader had not managed to build a stronger third-party challenge to what he called the Democrats’ disgusting “poll-driven moderation.” He conceded that Nader’s candidacy was helping Bush, but what truly disturbed him was Nader’s failure to stir mass enthusiasm and break through the latest ridiculous competition “between two men in dark suits and red ties who keep their fingers in the air and their brains on automatic pilot.”3 Thus Al Gore, one of the most experienced and creative liberal policy leaders of his generation, was seen as the moral and political equivalent of George W. Bush.

Olympia Snow keeps grudges, even if the reason for the grudge is miniscule, like a failure to endorse her before her opposition emerged in a primary. (The primary never happened. She decided to retire.)