WASHINGTON -- So now comes the Big Reveal?
Not the stripper in Tampa made up to resemble Sarah Palin, but something far more intriguing.
Will Mitt Romney use his Florida convention to finally peel away the layers of opacity and show us who he really is?
Mr. Romney told The Wall Street Journal that he won't indulge those who want him to "lie down and let it all out"; he won't be personalized "like I'm a piece of meat"; he won't do a version of "This Is Your Life"; and he won't "take everybody to my childhood home and say, 'Here's where I rode my bicycle.' "
Even if he wanted to, Mitt couldn't reveal himself. He has recast his positions so many times, he doesn't seem to know who he is.
He presents himself as a uniter who disdains negative campaigning, and then in the next breath, in his home state of Michigan on Friday, he makes a cheesy birther crack about the president -- a bat's squeak calling to the basest emotions -- especially bizarre given that his own father was born out of the country, in Mexico, with a questionable right to run for president.
Being a merchant of doubt, spreading canards under the guise of humor, is a nasty business.
Even Bob Dole, known as the conservative Hatchet Man in his day, is warning that his party could curdle if it doesn't start appealing to ethnic minorities, young people and the "mainstream," and stand up to the far-right lunacy. The GOP has veered so far right that Jack Kemp, Mr. Dole's running mate in 1996, now looks like Teddy Kennedy compared with Kemp's protege Paul Ryan.
"We have got to be open," the 89-year-old Dole told The Daily Telegraph of London. "We cannot be a single-issue party or a single-philosophy party." He added that he was concerned about the "undercurrent of rigid conservatism where you don't dare not toe the line."
Sometimes pols pander so much they never find their way back to their core, or try to find their way back too late.
Mr. Romney seems to be forever on a journey out of vagueness, an endless search for identity.
Even teaming up with the most policy-specific Republican House member in a bid for reflected ideological clarity has not worked. Rather than Mitt's gaining focus, Paul Ryan is losing it.
When he was put on the ticket, Mr. Ryan had an aggressive record of fighting against abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. He also had a reputation for sticking to his convictions, despite the political consequences. But he told reporters he would abide by Mr. Romney's view that abortions should be allowed in cases of rape and incest. On Thursday, asked during a TV interview in Roanoke, Va., whether a woman should be able to get an abortion if she was raped, he replied: "I'm very proud of my pro-life record, and I've always adopted the idea, the position that, the method of conception doesn't change the definition of life." But he also said he would adapt to Mr. Romney's position, which he described as "a vast improvement of where we are right now."
Mr. Ryan's budget proposed the same $716 billion in 10-year Medicare savings that President Barack Obama did in his health care law. But now Mitt says he'll restore those payments to health care providers, payments he asserts -- wrongly -- that Mr. Obama "robbed" from Medicare. Mr. Ryan is echoing the attack with more vitriol than his new master.
We will be told in the next few days what a wonderful father and grandfather Mr. Romney is, and that is no doubt true. But being the son of a onetime presidential aspirant and the privileged patriarch of a coddled clan should not be sufficient reasons to be promoted to the Oval Office.
Mr. Romney may remove a few bricks, but he will likely leave intact the walls encircling Mormonism, his Mormon tithing, the cult of Bain, hidden tax returns and the job that dare not speak its name -- moderate governor of Massachusetts.
Poor Eric Fehrnstrom. The Romney spokesman got in trouble in March when he was asked how the candidate would pivot from far-right positions in the GOP primaries to more centrist ones in the general election.
"Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign," he said. "Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."
Already suspicious conservatives pounced on the remark as proof that Mitt would say anything to get elected.
But Mr. Romney never did shake up the Etch A Sketch. He remains too insecure about his base. Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are both running for their bases -- and Mitt is running from his own elusive better angels.
And that is what's disturbing about the prospect of a President Romney. Even though he once seemed to have sensible, moderate managerial instincts, he won't stop ingratiating himself with the neo-Neanderthals.
That's the biggest reveal of all.opinion_commentary
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist for The New York Times.