Tuesday, 11 September 2012

How Mutt Romney could swing it for the nice guy

WHAT kind of man sets off for a 12-hour drive with the family dog strapped to the car roof in a box?
The same kind of man, evidently, who as a schoolboy led a gang of bullies in forcibly cutting off the long hair of a pleading and weeping fellow student.
The same kind of man who, while his fellow citizens struggle through an economic recession, splashes out $12million on doing up his California beach-house, while claiming $77,000 in tax relief for one of his wife’s dressage horses.
Whose own tax avoidance means he salts away most of his $250m fortune in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands – not exactly what patriotic Americans expect.
Who likes to portray himself as a "job-creator" despite making that fortune as a master of "leveraged buyouts", which translates into real life in the form of closed factories and lost jobs.
The arcane tax schemes, and the planned "reforms" which would make him even more fabulously rich, may not carry huge weight with the average US voter – though they should.
Neither, perhaps, will the opposition to public health-care, the flip-flopping on the big-in-America issue of abortion, or the promise of a budget to make the poor "more self-reliant" – i.e. poorer.
They may not care all that much that a man apparently opposed to all forms of public spending (except military ones) once spent $1.5billion of taxpayers' money on staging the 2002 Winter Olympics – more than all seven previous Olympics in the US combined.
But it's hard to imagine an electorate that likes to think of its President as "a nice guy" forgiving Mitt Romney for that dog story.
Especially when you add the way the Romney children discovered where their pet was. By spotting the trail of diarrhoea down the car window.
It’s that detail that really brings home the full emotional impact of the best-known anecdote about the best-known living Mormon.
This is not a nice guy. Yet he is the man the Republican party wants to put in the White House.
It ought to be an impossible hope. The awful thing – the truly scary thing – is that it might not be.
Barack Obama has not lived up to the almost unfeasibly high hopes his 2008 election campaign built up.
Four years on, America’s national debt, plunged into record deficit by the war-mongering Bush administration, has not been fixed. In fact, it’s $5trillion worse.
Guantanamo Bay, that other chilling emblem of the Bush years, remains open. American fingers still get dirty in foreign pies – as they have under every president since 1941.
It is, in many ways, a sad record of disappointment. And it’s not all the fault of the most obstructive House of Representatives any president has had to battle against. Not quite.
It may be to Obama’s credit that the US – and the world – hasn’t been plunged yet into another Great Depression like that of the 1930s.
But the economy is still dire, which cannot be good news for a president seeking re-election.
In such circumstances, Mitt Romney’s dog would probably win the vote. Whether Romney himself can is an open question, with the candidates apparently running neck-and-neck in the opinion polls.
In the nice-guy stakes, it’s no contest.
American big business will be lining up its petro-dollars behind Romney. The rest of us should all pray the nice guy wins.


SARAH Storey, David Weir, Ellie Simmonds, Jonnie Peacock – who provided the most memorable moment of the Paralympics for you?
One contender was not a competitor at all, but the crowd who booed chancellor George Osborne.
It was perhaps a little impolite to the athletes whose medals he was there to present. But it was also a genuine and spontaneous expression of group feeling.
Just the kind of thing, in fact, which the great British public has been praised for all through this Olympic summer.
Just as Storey, Weir, Simmonds and the rest deserved our cheers, Osborne has earned the jeers.
Not just generally for his failed and brutal financial policies, but specifically for the government’s on-going assault on the very group of people the Paralympics celebrated.
The privatising of “fit for work” assessments is only the latest attack on the disability benefits many rely on.
And what of that much-trumpeted legacy of the Games?
The government promises £8million this year through Sport England to develop more grass-roots projects to help get disabled people into sport. Big deal.
Meanwhile, Osborne’s cuts have meant more than a third of councils in the UK have cut back their public sports facilities. In total, 375 leisure centres, gyms, swimming pools, football and tennis sites have either been closed completely or had their opening hours slashed.
If that’s not worth a hearty boo, I don’t know what is.

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