Thursday, March 01, 2007

You won't catch Mitt wearing a beret atop that perfect hair

Mon dieu! I was mesmerized to see how Mitt Romney’s campaign aides have sized up their own candidate. The material, contained in a 77-slide Power Point presentation, was leaked the other day to the Boston Globe. I would link it here, but apparently this server has had a bug for more than 24 hours, and won't permit links. Anyway, predictably, Mitt’s minions are fretting about his flip-flop history and his perfect hair (both of which make him seen inauthentic), while charting ways to demolish their GOP rivals (such as John McCain, who is dismissed as “uncertain, erratic, unreliable").

But the best part is where Team Mitt suggests that the candidate run against a few well-chosen “bogeymen” – in other words, invent some enemies and bash them, as a way of attracting conservative primary voters to the Romney banner. And the bogeyman of choice is…

France. Naturellement!

Better yet, the idea (which may never get past the musing phase) is to trash France as a second-rate country, then tie Hillary to France, then trash them in tandem. As the Globe reported: “Enmity toward France, where Romney did his Mormon mission during college, is a recurring theme of the document. The European Union, it says at one point, wants to ‘drag America down to Europe's standards,’ adding: ‘That's where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.’ The plan even envisions ‘First, not France’ bumper stickers.”

Hillary = France….Here we go again, with the Freedom Fries and the French wines being emptied into the patriotic sinks. Maybe the Romney team will leak a blind quote to the New York Times, hinting that Hillary “looks French” (as the Bush team did to John Kerry). And I don’t doubt that there is still a constituency for French-bashing. I’ll acknowledge that, at least by all-American standards, there is something a tad eccentric about a country that worships Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke, and cares not a whit when 70-year-old men hose down their sailboats while buck naked (a sight that fascinated my kids when they were little, during a visit to Provence).

But is France a sufficient bogeyman this time around? To me, the idea seems so four years ago. The guy who came up with the Freedom Fries label, congressman Bob Ney, has just been dispatched to jail for 30 months, courtesy of the Jack Abramoff scandal. And besides, let’s face it, the French were right about Iraq (they scoffed at the WMD pseudo-evidence, and warned that the consequences of invasion would be dire and unpredictable), while the U.S. president whom Romney declines to criticize was flat wrong.

And what’s all this stuff from Team Mitt about France and the European Union wanting to drag us down to their standards? Granted, our economy is more productive (and bigger) than theirs. But, in terms of France’s other standards, we should be so lucky. A few years back, the World Health Organization, assessing the health care in 190 countries, ranked the French health system as…number one. The United States showed up at number 37, sandwiched between Costa Rica and Slovenia. And in recent years France has outpaced America in science literary, math literacy, reading literacy, life expectancy, and healthy life expectancy.

But since these caveats might be trumped by the visceral appeal of “Hillary = France,” the Romney attack team can probably find all kinds of juicy ammo (even though Hillary's ancestors appear to have been English, not French):

For instance, her husband used to love gobbling junk food at McDonalds; there must be photos still around from 1992, showing him hoisting a French fry. And how about the fact that Hillary represents the state where the Statue of Liberty is situated, and has even said some nice things about it? Is she unaware that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from…France? Or how about the fact that she wants U.S. troops out of Iraq next year – isn’t that the same as the French surrender to the Nazis in 1940? And what about that state dinner that Bill and Hillary hosted for French president Jacques Chirac in 1996, complete with lemon-thyme lobster and roasted eggplant soup? It’s right there in her 2003 memoir, on page 338. And speaking of that memoir, why did she have it translated into French by a French publisher, and renamed Mon Histoire? And isn’t it troubling that, when she appeared on French TV in 2003, the host told her that the French people have “great admiration” for her? The same people who refused to invade Iraq?

The possibilities are endless, assuming that Romney is around long enough to dip into this baguette of tricks.