By Roger Ebert on October 10, 2012
A depression has descended upon me. I look at the blank screen, and those are the words that come into my mind. I do not believe for a second that Mitt Romney will win the election. I do believe that at this moment he is tied, 50-50, in various national polls. Many of my fellow Americans have at least temporarily disappointed me. It is clear to anyone in either party that in last week's debate Romney cast aside all of his principles and reversed himself on everything he has said he believes. As Hendrik Hertzberg worded it in the New Yorker:
"By the end of ninety minutes, Romney had retrofitted himself as the defender of Medicare, the advocate of Wall Street regulation, the scourge of the big banks, the enemy of tax cuts for the rich, and the champion of tax relief for the middle class. All these claims are spectacularly false."
Well, they are, aren't they? Pause with me a moment to recall the campaign before the debate. If someone had handed you that paragraph and asked you which candidate it described, would you have said it fit Obama, or Romney? The Romney who walked into the debate hall was on record for most of the previous eight years as the opponent of all the items on the list. And his running mate Paul Ryan has been even more outspokenly opposed.
I have no desire to debate the pros and cons of those issues. I simply wish to point out that Romney changed his position on each and every one.
After reversing himself on the central issues of the campaign, Romney's standing went up in the polls. How? Why? Were the members of the electorate paying absolutely no attention to the campaign? Were they responding only to the general opinion that Romney "won" the debate? Is winning, in the pro football truism, now the only thing?
Something that puzzled me is that there were no howls of protest from the Right. Romney now presented himself as the advocate of positions hated by the Right, and there wasn't a squeak of protest from the conservatives who have been excoriating Obama on the same issues. Did they all reach a common consensus that if it was necessary for Romney to lie, then let him lie? The Right has been advising him for months to be true to conservative issues. That wasn't working. Now he was being true to liberal issues.
The silence from the Right reminded me of another deafening quiet when there should have been a response recently. On the infamous tape of Romney addressing a room filled with his millionaire and billionaire backers, he essentially wrote off 47% of the American electorate. But not long after, in an interview on Fox News, Romney rolled that back, saying "I said something that's just completely wrong."
The rich men in that room presumably pledged a fortune to the Romney campaign chest. Were any of them offended that Romney no longer agreed with what he told them? We haven't heard from them.
Obama continues in the Presidential campaign in possession of his own lifelong principles. Romney now seeks the luxury of running on both his principles--and Obama's. What depresses me is that the polls suggest the electorate isn't alert enough to realize that. What allows me hope is that, given a little time, I trust the American people will figure this one out.