13 Jan 2012

Quelle horreur! Mitt Romney parle francais!

One of Mitt Romney’s best applause lines is when he states that America needs to be the best of what it once was as opposed to the worst of what Europe has become.

Amongst conservatives, Europe has morphed into a byword for the state-controlled, government-infringing, liberty-crushing, lazy, sclerotic old world. And Obama, Mitt charges, wants America to be just like that.

Never mind the fact that both Uncle Sam and Europe are fighting over hospital beds in the same intensive care ward. Mitt may want us to think that he is a Europe hater but Newt, in his latest ad, has just reminded us that Mitt is in fact a closet European.

Horreur of horreurs, the candidate speaks a smattering of French, just like that other lanky Massachussets millionaire, John Kerry. Mitt learnt his French while working as a Mormon missionary in France. Hey, stuff happens.

Kerry, you may remember was the Democrat who failed to dethrone George W Bush in 2004 and is married to a Portuguese-born Heinz ketchup heiress. His wife looks and sounds European. He himself is part French. He speaks fluent francais. He adored France, and together with his somewhat aloof style, his love of windsurfing – a sport for rich people- and his patrician family, it was all used to make him seem out of touch and arrogant.

The ability to speak French became shorthand for all the above. It worked against John Kerry, and now Newt Gingrich is trying to make it work against rival Mitt Romney.

Not only was Mitt Romney a job-cutting greedy venture capitalist and the Republican governor of a contagiously liberal state – Massachussets – he also speaks the language of the devil: seductive, elitist and untrustworthy. French. Being a Mormon is the least of his problems.

If French is a bit too outré, then Mandarin is downright sinister. And Jon Huntsman, Obama’s ex-ambassador to Beijing, masters plenty of it. Wouldn’t you want your man in China to speak the lingo? Evidently not if he then wants to run for president. The ad ends with the obvious conclusion: Huntsman is the Manchurian candidate. All the candidates are up to it.

Negative ads, produced by so called Super PACs, or political action committees, that can raise unlimited amounts cash and produce on-air bile as long as the candidates that benefit from them have no direct contact with them.

In case you feel too sorry for the polyglot Jon Huntsman, just remember that the Super PAC batting or bating on his behalf with mud-slinging ads aimed at the other candidates is bank-rolled by his billionaire dad.

Not surprisingly, this election cycle is widely expected to cost more than $11bn, twice as much as last time. More than $1.5bn will be spent just on getting to the White House. Much of that money will be spent on negative ads.

The one foreign language that is not just beyond reproach, but that candidates love to be filmed stumbling through, is Spanish. That’s because there are roughly 50 million Americans of Hispanic origin. And everyone wants their vote.

One more thing. Breaking news: Newt Gingrich also speaks a bit of French. What is the world coming to?

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