Politico is highlighting a lengthy, as well as classically craven, Mitt Romney quote from a Weekly Standard interview, in which the former governor attempts to elevate deliberate ambiguity and unsubtle shiftiness to the high artifice of principled politics. To summarize in the interest of space, Romney says he'll cut government, but refuses to say how. Interviewer Stephen Hayes observes in scattered emotional eruptions:
It’s a smart answer and a deeply conservative one....
Romney, ever cautious, is reluctant to get specific about the programs he would like to kill....
In a conversation with him, you can feel him thinking about his words....
Why have conservative interviewers become so touchy-feely? Really, this is getting out of hand, and it's been doing so since 2008, when National Review's Rich Lowry gushed:
I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, 'Hey, I think she just winked at me.' And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can’t be learned.
Then and there, I suspect, Rich was indeed feeling himself (while) thinking about her winks and words.
But, back to Mr. Hayes' feelings, as well as Mitt's words/winks -- the substantive quality of which we'd love to learn, but Mitt just won't permit it. It gets worse. Having refused to unveil the government programs he'd cut, Romney then turns and says to Hayes:
I describe what my positions are on issues and lay out my policy and people will either warm to it or not, depending upon how they connect with it.
But of course Romney does not "describe what [his] positions are." In fact he had pointedly told Hayes that he wouldn't describe them.
One must gather up pluck and soldier on to the Romney interview's very end, however, to really "feel him thinking" like the unctuous Zelig he is:
Romney’s critique of Obama is often focused on competence more than ideology. "He’s a nice guy, but he’s in over his head," Romney often says.
Why not say more about ideology? Romney says the two critiques are mutually reinforcing.
Obama, he says, has an "agenda which is contrary to the interests of the economy and the nation. And I think a lot of people who have that agenda are clueless."
Thus ends the interview on a note you probably noticed: on a final, "I'll put it however you want me to put it" Mitt Romney note -- a pol whose focus is often on "competence," but hey, Stephen, if you want "ideology," then by God Romney will give you that instead.
As Rich Lowry said with an epistemological certainty in which we must place our hope and trust: "This is a quality that can’t be learned."