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Opposite Speak
by Andy Cowan
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.

During a primary debate earlier this year, Mitt Romney did the opposite of milk an applause line by remarking, “As George Costanza would say, “When they’re applauding, stop.” This particular quote was loosely based on Jerry’s comments to George, and not an actual George line. Politicians may be known for a lot of things but complete accuracy isn’t one of them. Still, the inaccurately perceived show that wasn’t really about nothing seems to be influencing the presumptive Republican nominee who, accurately or not, has been perceived to be about… well, not a whole lot so far.

On the campaign trail recently, Romney cited his remedy for getting the economy going: “Look at what the president’s done and do the opposite.” As the writer who hatched George’s prescription for success on Seinfeld, “The Opposite,” I am the opposite of pleased about this.

Not that I don’t want the economy to move faster. If it weren’t for the opposite, I wouldn’t have moved faster to my computer to write this, even though I initially felt like doing the opposite, not moving. Our normal instinct is not getting out of our comfort zone. Not shaking things up. Good if you’re a soda can, bad for getting off your own can. But as for shaking up the economy, the Republicans have already tried the opposite of tax increases for millionaires and billionaires. And the money trickled the opposite of down. Romney’s top two economic advisors served under George W. Bush, one of whom was the chief architect of the Bush tax cuts. As for “getting the economy going,” under their watchful eyes, they watched it going over a cliff.

It makes sense that Romney’s embraced the opposite, considering his reputation as a flip-flopper. Indulging in a flip-flop of my own, it also makes the opposite of sense, because it shines a light on his flair for flip-flopping. He was pro-choice. He became the opposite of pro-choice. He was for his own Massachusetts health plan that could be applied nationally. He’s turned against such a thing, even minus the public option. He was for illegal immigrants obtaining a path to citizenship. He’s for self-deportation, the opposite of a path to citizenship, one reason behind his anemic standing with Hispanics. Following Romney’s “severely conservative” appeal to his base during the primaries, he now has to pay less attention to the opposite than the opposite sex, another voting block where he has his work cut out for him.

Speaking of work, the governor’s big argument is that he knows how to create jobs. Quoting another Seinfeld catchphrase: Yadda yadda yadda… Massachusetts went from 37th to 47th in job creation under his watch. The opposite of creating. He promised to use his business skills to encourage growth in the state... Yadda yadda yadda… It grew by 0.9 percent while the rest of the country grew by five percent. Not far, recession-wise, from a (one more Seinfeld catchphrase) double-dip?

Governing shouldn’t just focus on opposite extremes. It’s about compromise and getting things done. But, committing my second flip-flop, sometimes it isn’t. Take Obama’s singular decision to take out Osama bin Laden, against the advice of some in his top inner circle. Romney now says, of course, he would have given the order to kill bin Laden. I don’t doubt it, if he’d known it would turn out the way it did, a big if at the time. But remembering Romney’s 2007 statement that it wasn’t worth moving heaven and earth to find him, and considering the politics behind a failed mission, which couldn’t be far from the mind of a man who volunteered, “Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order,” how can we be sure Romney wouldn’t have done the opposite?

Romney claims the president is dividing America. But Obama’s goals for the middle class to feel as included in the American dream as do the privileged few work towards uniting America, not dividing her. The Opposite.

Obama admits he has a lot more work to do and people are still hurting. If he had it to do over again, I wonder if he would have done the opposite of expending his political capital on health care before financial reform. But he’s shaken things up. The first government surplus since September 2008 stems from lower government spending along with increased revenues.

The auto industry is the opposite of dying, where it languished when the private financing Romney preferred to a government bailout wasn't readily available, rendering his recent grab of the credit for its rebirth incongruous. Over two years of consistent job growth, however incremental, is the opposite of bleeding jobs at over 700,000 a month. Most of us still remember how scary it was in ’08. Romney’s camp may want us to do the opposite.

Published: May 20,2012 19:29
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Andy Cowan
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