Once of the reasons Mitt Romney seems like such a time-warped, B-actor leading man of a candidate--a cross between John Gavin and Tom Tryon, with high-gloss Hollywood black hair for that new Cadillac shine and a smile that always has money on its mind--is that surface is all he seems to sport. Below the lacquer, there's no underlife; no doubts, no sawing contradictions, no gnawing resentments. As a human being, he still doesn't seem fully thawed, and you get the sense that his sweat would be cold, like refrigerator condensation. What's strange isn't that Romney seems capable of expressing empathy, since empathy is clearly not something he considers of corporate value, but that in all his years of public life he hasn't learned to fake it, to at least pretend he cares about those less fortunate or vulnerable, something even Rick Perry was able to do with his "have a heart" comment re immigrants. For this brief outburst of humanity, Perry suffered major backlash from the rightwing ghoul squad, but at least it showed a bit of blood circulation on his part. Romney's rusty mechanics on the campaign trail, the forced banter and the creak of premeditation at even the most casual moments, has evoked comparisons with Richard Nixon, but Nixon was genuinely an introspective loner; Romney is a joiner and belonger without any moon shadow of introspection. He doesn't seem to have given anything any deep thought, which is another reason he's no Nixon; Nixon was a law-school grind and a user-upper of yellow legal pads to work out the pros and cons and details of domestic and foreign policy issues, while Romney's policy brain operates on frictionless cruise control. He's a conservative corporate capitalist at home and abroad his thinking is so old, encrusted, and stuck in the frozen tundra that, as Daniel Larison has pointed out, he doesn't even qualify as a neoconservative--he's an unreconstructed Cold Warrior from the 50s or 60s. Another reason he seems like a throwback to the cardboard leading men of lesser Hitchcock and Preminger films.
He's a coward. He's never gone against the grain, stood up for an underdog or advanced an unpopular cause before it became popular, risked a single gleaming hair off his head, shone any backbone apart from the determination to win, tapped into anything larger than himself, risen to the moment.