Lots of people have talked about how Mitt Romney comes off like a robot. Some, like Chris Matthews, home in on Mitt’s odd way with words (“The trees are the right height”), suggesting that Mitt has yet to master an Earth-based language. Others focus on finding the right metaphor: Is Mitt a “wimp” and a “weenie,” as Mike Tomasky writes in Newsweek, or is he instead a “weasel,” as Chris Weigant maintains in Huff Post?
There’s some truth to each of these approaches to the mystery that is Mitt. But I think Dan Aykroyd got closest to the essence of it when he suggested that we follow the body language: Mitt has “a funny walk,” Aykroyd said. “He wears a girdle, I think.”
This seemed almost literally true during a photo op in Israel earlier this week, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States stood next to the relaxed and voluble Benjamin Netanyahu like an animatronic prop.
OK, ignore if you can the two men’s hilariously prolonged handshake at the beginning of the clip (I assume it went into extra innings for the cameras), and instead check out Mitt’s arms: they’re held stiffly at his sides, hands below the belt; no gestures for him and no self-assertion at all. Maybe the problem was that, even though Romney was trying to talk “tough” about Iran, his body knew that simply parroting whatever Bibi (and Sheldon Adelson) want him to say is anything but tough. So his body tried to shout, “Weak!” Just look at the symbolism of the old chums’ relative body language: Bibi grabs the mic, Bibi grabs Mitt’s hand for the shake; Romney, meanwhile, is all deference and obedient schoolboy, and about as commanding as one.
Is this the sign of a “wimp”? Or of growing up with Mormon modesty? I dunno. But in public, an awkward and passive posture is Romney’s most customary stance. Not only does he have no physical swagger, but he seems to recoil from the very space a swagger might propel him into.