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Letter to Mitt

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Kathleen Parker
March 7, 2012
— Dear Mitt: Consider me a neighbor leaning over the picket fence. You have a picket fence, don’t you? An ivy-covered wall? Fine, I’ll get a ladder.

This is what I want to say: Pay no attention to that man in the bow tie. Just because George Will says something doesn’t make it so. Just because he has written you off as unable to defeat President Obama, don’t believe it. This isn’t over.


Also, not in any way to compare these two: Do not fear Rush Limbaugh. When he utters something repugnant, say so. When he calls a young woman a “slut” on the public airwaves, do not say you would not have chosen those words. Be offended! Be outraged! Do you need Limbaugh’s base to win? Are those really your people?


You had an opportunity to establish yourself as a leader and missed it. Though not irreparable, this is a shame and is symptomatic of what ails your campaign. Too eager not to offend, you are reluctant to say what is true.


You have my sympathies. At this point in the campaign, your autopilot has been recharged to within an inch of its life. You’ve said the same things so many times, you’re not sure you believe them anymore. You don’t remember what it’s like to kick back and enjoy a quiet cup of cocoa by the fire. You’re winning, but it feels like you’re losing. (Thanks, George.)


This is when friends are supposed to intervene and remind you of who you are. The problem is, a candidate doesn’t have friends. He has advisers, consultants, contributors and All Those People out there—Everyday Americans with their cellphones pointing, snapping and clicking. You need them to love you, but it’s not your nature to ingratiate yourself. The whole process is exhausting and humiliating and—can we be frank?—monumentally stupid at times. Most of the time.


If you’re lucky, you have a good dog. Never mind. You do have a family and a fabulous wife, but she can only do so much. At the end of one endless day after another, you’re alone with your sound bites, the fleeting thrill of a win coupled with the ever-dawning possibility of crushing defeat. While others foam and fiddle on the periphery, this is the existential bubble in which you dwell. Some of us just like to call it hell.


In the spirit of neighborliness, herewith a few thoughts to consider as the wolf sniffs at the sliver of light beneath your door:


First, your wall is too high. You have constructed a barrier around you, perhaps to protect yourself from the cruelties of a world that remains skeptical of what’s at the core of your being, and that’s your religion. Or maybe it is a function of always trying to get everything just right. Sometimes too careful, you’ve also made yourself remote and concealed your best stuff. People feel that distance no matter how rolled-up your sleeves are or how many pancakes you flip. Relax. Stop trying so hard. Find the strength and humility you express so beautifully after losses, and bring it on now.


By the way, I’m sorry I called you a “dork” on “Meet the Press.” I was thinking about how uncool you are and how much I like that in a president. It’s an outdated word that meant out-of-step back in our day. Kind of dorky, actually. I followed that remark with an analogy: You’re like the doctor who doesn’t have a good bedside manner. Who cares? His cure is what we want.


No one in this country thinks you’re a cool, with-it kind of guy—and they’re fine with that. They don’t want you to be cool. They want you to fix the economy. They want you to be serious, presidential and the grown-up you are.

There’s no predicting what will happen in November, no matter what the pundits say. But if you go down, enjoy the ride by being fearlessly yourself—uncool, unafraid, intelligent, experienced, determined and, as you put it, resolute. Be as liberated in seeking victory as you would be in defeat. This includes being outraged at the outrageous, willing to tell unpleasant truths, temperate in matters grave (steering you away from statements such as Iran will have nukes if Obama wins), and being willing to lose.


True Mitt can win, by George.


Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Her email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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