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Monday, April 02, 2012

Sketchy, Etch A Sketchy 

When the Clarion Content's editorial offices were in San Francisco, one new piece of slang verbiage that was increasing popular was "sketchy." In the late 90's sketchy's meaning had been modified to refer to something shady or unsavory. The word had morphed from our youthful understanding of it as unfinished or incomplete to a much darker cloud of meaning.

Sketchy situations were to be avoided. People who appeared to be trouble or bring trouble were referred to as "sketch." As in, "Watch out for that dude, he's sketch."

A situation that was extremely ugly or clearly bad news was often tagged with a superlatively construction, "Etch A Sketchy," meaning supremely sketchy.

So it was with personal amusement, as well as societally, that we laughed along with those who mocked Mitt Romney's campaign for saying that the move from the G.O.P. primaries to the general election was "...almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

The truth has slipped out!

How sketchy!

You are not supposed to reveal the shape-shifting nature of your candidate that openly and plainly. They will argue, everybody does it. It being, tack one direction for the party's primaries, and tack back the other direction for the general election. They will tell you, dear readers, it is common place. And maybe so, the Clarion Content would hardly argue that today's politicians aren't a sketchy bunch, maneuvering and crafting their message to their immediate audience.

The interesting element to this story is two-fold, one, that Romney's closest adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, put it out there. As we said, it is amazingly indiscreet, an open secret that you just don't say, especially about your boss.

And two, we find it fascinating that this is the core of the criticism a hard right candidate might make against Romney. He is a position shifter. The evidence of it is litany.1 It is the stick a Palin or a Bachmann might have used to bludgeon Governor Romney. He was the primogenitor of "ObamaCare," now he is running against it. His 2002 Gubernatorial campaign website said he would support the strict enforcement of gun laws and recognition of domestic partnership for same-sex couples. One doesn't win Republican presidential primaries talking like that, ask Jon Huntsman. Political guru Nate Silver, over at the 538, wonders why Republican primary challengers haven't used this line of attack more successfully on Romney.

The Clarion Content agrees, the man has no core. And his own team found the perfect metaphor. When we once would have referred to Romney as slippery, hard to pin down, constantly flopping around; sketchy is much evocative of the reality. Romney is not simply a flip-flopper, he is an impermanent outline, not a line drawn in the sand, but sand blowing in the wind, positionless, ever shifting, ephemeral, willing to simply shake the board and start over with the next set of hollow promises and platitudes.2

1Ironically, it does not help President Obama much as a campaign tactic, because Romney's position shifting generally pushes him towards the middle. Obama can't very well attack, Romney for flip-flopping on "ObamaCare" or generally moving leftward.

2Lucky for President Obama, with $4/gal gasoline and a closet full of his own empty promises, he needs to face a candidate this lousy to have a good chance at re-election.

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