Slouching Towards Tampa (Big Mac Daddy edition)

Mitt Romney’s little reminiscence about poking around in his father’s sock drawer and discovering a free-McDonald’s-forever card signed by Ray Kroc himself was, amazingly, not quite the weirdest story from the right-hand side of the campaign trail last week. I’ll get to the weirdest one below, but I’m still fascinated by the runner-up.

Romney was speaking to a crowd at a Chicago fundraiser when an attendee mentioned having worked for McDonald’s, and its head honcho directly, for many years. The invocation of Ray Kroc apparently activated something in the candidate’s personal anecdote database, a database that has served Romney only fitfully to date as he oils his way around the nation in search of cash and votes:

“You know how boys liked to go through their dad’s top drawer, just to sort of see what he has in there, maybe find an old coin he might not miss?” Mr. Romney asked the audience…

“I found a little paper card, a little pink card, and it said this entitles George W. Romney to a lifetime of a hamburger, a shake and French fries at McDonald’s,” Mr. Romney said. “It was signed by the hand of Ray Kroc.”

Mr. Romney said that when “I saw this thing [I] was like, ‘This is a gold mine, Dad!’”

“So I had it laminated,” Mr. Romney said. “My dad, as you know, would go almost every day to a McDonald’s restaurant and get either a hamburger or a fish filet sandwich. And he would present this little card, and of course, the person behind the counter would look and say, ‘Well, what is that?’ They’d never seen something like that, but he said it was never turned down.

“They always honored it,” Mr. Romney said.

Let’s just consider this in context for a moment. Kroc bought McDonald’s in 1961 from the eponymous brothers who opened the first McDonald’s outlet, so that’s the earliest possible date for the drawer incident. Romney would have been about 14 at the time. George Romney, meanwhile, had been head of American Motors since 1954, had been named Man of the Year in Industry by the Associated Press four consecutive times by 1961, and was a millionaire on the strength of the astonishing rise in his company’s share price under his management.

Against this background, George Romney’s younger son was rifling through Dad’s dresser, looking for… well, let’s say maybe an old coin. And the famous auto tycoon, at least after the lamination his larcenous son generously arranged, didn’t pay for his many orders at the Golden Arches; instead, he simply flashed a card which none of the McDonald’s employees recognized, but which was nonetheless sufficient to prompt them to give him his grub for free.

It’s a measure of the overweening aura of strangeness of most of Romney’s personal anecdotes, I guess, that I can find this story completely believable. Peculiar, even vaguely creepy for reasons I can’t explain, but completely believable.

What I still find totally unbelievable, despite empirical evidence for it, was the hands-down weirdest Romney campaign story of the week. I’m referring, of course, to Paul Ryan being tapped as his running mate. While I’ll be disparaging everything there is to disparage about Paul Ryan in the next installment of this column, right now all that occurs to me that I should have seen this coming.

After all, Romney and Ryan had a chance to bond during their Wisconsin crime spree back in April, when the pair plied their audience with free eats at a Cousins Subs:

The Democratic Party obtained video of the luncheon from one of its staffers who attended the event. In the video, Romney says, “So bring your friends to the polls, get out and vote and if you want another sandwich, there are more back there.” Romney and Ryan interchangeably ask voters whether they want “turkey, ham or Italian” subs. The subs in question ranged from $4.49 to $4.99.

Naturally, in true GOP style, the Romney campaign treated the ensuing criminal complaint with juvenile derision:

WISN 12 News received a statement from the Romney campaign, which called the complaint laughable.

“This is a laughable stunt by the Democrats designed to distract from President Obama’s disastrous polices that have resulted in record job losses and skyrocketing gas prices. Democrats are willing to do and say anything to avoid a discussion about the president’s three years of failure in the White House.”

Sadly, the hoagie racketeers were cleared by Waukesha DA Brad Schimel, who is – if you’re not sitting down, please do so right now – a Republican. And far more significantly, Leopold had found his Loeb, Sacco his Vanzetti, Butch his Sundance. And now they want to take their crime spree national.

As if the Ryan pick weren’t, in and of itself, um, electrifying, the GOP have started teasing us all with a trickle of announcements about the roster of speakers in Tampa a mere two weeks hence:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are among seven headline speakers announced today for the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The first look at featured speakers also includes South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

A few days later, Reince Priebus unveiled five more names: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, Luis Fortuño, Puerto Rico’s Governor, and a man who needs no introduction (and in fact shouldn’t be allowed outdoors off a leash), Scott Walker.

You know, I’ve watched every available minute of TV coverage of every Republican convention since 1968, and every four years at about this point in the summer I start to ask myself why. A mildly intriguing aspect this time around, though, is who won’t be speaking at the convention: George Walker Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney and Sarah Louise Palin.

Palin’s statement about her non-attendance appeared first at Greta Van Susteren’s Fox blog:

“…Everything I said at the 2008 convention about then-candidate Obama still stands today, and in fact the predictions made about the very unqualified and inexperienced Community Organizer’s plans to “fundamentally transform” our country are unfortunately coming true. This year is a good opportunity for other voices to speak at the convention and I’m excited to hear them. As I’ve repeatedly said, I support Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in their efforts to replace President Obama at the ballot box, and I intend to focus on grassroots efforts to rally Independents and the GOP base to elect Senate and House members so a wise Congress is ready to work with our new President to get our country back on the right path. This is imperative. As President Clinton said in 2008 while candidate Obama and lapdogs in the media were thrashing his wife’s record and reputation, this is “…the biggest fairy tale.” For the sake of America’s solvency and sovereignty we must close this nonsensical book in November…”

Well, hey, at least she capitalized “community organizer” – albeit unnecessarily.  As to Cheney, he claims he’ll be fly fishing in Canada that week; for what, he hasn’t specified, but human souls is a reasonable guess:

“I’ve done a lot of conventions over the years, but this is a special trip I’ve been planning on for a long time.”

Sure you have, Dick, sure you have. As to George W. Bush, your former boss – I still can’t type that with a straight face – what’s his story?

Bush supports Romney and believes he would be a great president, “but he’s still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa,” spokesman Freddy Ford said in an email…

He said in a recent interview with the Hoover Institute that “I’m a supporter of Mitt Romney. I hope he does well. But he can do well without me.”

I’m already looking forward to the 2016 GOP convention, mostly to see what excuses are offered up for the conspicuous absence of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.