Sake, a pug, is carried in a backpack by his owner Tate Hausman of Brooklyn during a protest aimed at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in New York, Tuesday Feb. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Ginger Tidwell)
So far Mitt Romney has come off as weak, weird and willing to say anything to be elected. But lately, a new meme has been taking hold. “Mitt is Mean!” read the protest signs outside the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York this week. The “Dogs Against Romney” are howling that Romney once drove his family from Boston to Canada with their Irish setter, Seamus, in a carrier strapped to the roof of the car. (“Dad, gross!” one of his sons cried, as he saw diarrhea sliding down the back window. The mild-mannered Mitt has always insisted, though, that the pooch “enjoyed” the twelve-hour, breezy ride.)
Now a Santorum ad running in Michigan says that Mitt is even meaner to human right-wingers. “Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering $20 million brutally attacking fellow Republicans,” says a voiceover as a Mitt lookalike (“Rombo”) fires an automatic weapon loaded with mud at a Santorum cardboard cutout. Mitt keeps missing his target, and the mud eventually backfires onto his crisp white shirt.
Mitt does have a mean streak, but it hasn’t always been obvious, if only because he packs it behind a frozen smile and an Auto-Tune laugh. Bland on the outside, roiling on the inside, he’s almost the definition of passive-aggressive: expressing “negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way.” Mitt regularly attacks, lies or infuriates people, all the while professing to be blissfully unaware of any negativity. “I know the Speaker’s angry. I don’t know why,” Romney said patiently as pro-Romney ads carpet-bombed Newt Gingrich in Iowa. The former Massachusetts governor won’t even own up to the normal aggression expected of politicians. On why he didn’t run for a second term, he gets all Eddie Haskell-y, saying, “But that would be about me.”
When asked about Santorum’s humorous ad, Romney laughed, a lot, and said, “My campaign hasn’t run any negative ads against Rick Santorum.” Maybe not. But the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future has been hitting Santorum with a barrage of attack ads that paint him as a big-spending Washington insider. In fact, third-party, Super PAC destruction machines like Restore Our Future—run by the creator of the Willie Horton ad, Larry McCarthy—are perfectly engineered for passive-aggressive pols: they, like Colbert or Romney, can displace the source of aggression from themselves onto someone else and thus can technically deny all responsibility. Why, if he coordinated in any way with Restore Our Future, Mitt says, they’d send him to the “big house” (and not the one he’s enlarging in La Jolla).