As a kid my favorite pet was a friendly little chameleon that I named "Knucklehead". The main feature of this wonderful little lizard was his ability to instantly change color from green to pink to blue to red to orange to turquoise to yellow and back again to green in order to match his environment and keep himself "safe" from danger.
I hadn't thought about "Knucklehead" and his remarkable natural ability for well over half a century until the last few months as I have been trying to follow the increasingly Jello-like policy utterings of GOP Presidential candidate Willard M. Romney and more recently his Vice Presidential running mate Paul Ryan.
Nothing has demonstrated this aspect of his political fluctuations more to me than Wednesday's "debate" in Denver which Mr. Romney was seen by the chattering classes and some others as having "won" simply because he was able to so completely dissemble with great passion, conviction, skill, and a straight face. However the candidate that he appeared to be for those ninety minutes did not in any way resemble the one who has been running for President under his name for the last five years as virtually nothing he said comported with any of the policies he espoused to get the GOP nomination.
As British commentator, essayist, and novelist George Orwell observed in his insightful 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language" of the technique that Mr. Romney employed with such aplomb on Wednesday: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
Just two blatant examples of this were when Mr. Romney said: "Number one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my health care plan" and later "No economist can say Mitt Romney's tax plan will add $5 trillion if I say 'I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.'" Both of these claims are absolutely and demonstrably false.
Mr. Romney's political obfuscations in Denver on Wednesday were indeed "masterful" and "convincing", but in the end that is still all that they were -- pure Orwellian political obfuscations.
This was followed up on Thursday with another chameleonesque verbal backflip when Mr. Romney appeared on FOX News with Sean Hannity who asked him how he would have responded had President Obama brought up the comment the GOP candidate made at a fundraiser last spring saying that he was unconcerned about the 47% of Americans who he claimed see themselves as victims entitled to government support.
“Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right,” Mr. Romney said. “In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.”
Well I'm sorry, Mr. Romney, but when it takes you four-and-a-half months (the remark was made in mid May) -- and almost a full month after being exposed -- to suddenly claim that you were "completely wrong" (as opposed to having "not elegantly stated" your views which was your previous explanation) about your "47%" remark that is just not believable. Remember this was not a casual remark, but a detailed and impassionedly delivered one that consisted of some 117 words. For those who may have forgotten exactly what Mr. Romney did say, it was:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. Alright, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it -- that that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.
And they will vote for this president no matter what. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
With respect, that really doesn't sound like something Mr. Romney didn't believe or mean to say, especially when taken in the context of everything else he said over the other 50 minutes of his presentation to those $50,000-a-plate donors in Boca Raton which are revealed in the unedited video of your remarks.
So please, Mr. Romney, don't insult the intelligence and common sense of those you want to make you our President -- the voters of America -- and just admit that this is exactly what you believe and apparently have always believed. And in the next two "debates" it would be nice if you didn't dissemble again in those either.
Remember this is not a game here, but the future of our country and in many ways the world too.
We will be watching and listening carefully -- an so will Mr. Orwell.