From Here to Anonymity (RNC 2012, Wednesday)

7:15 PM:

“We Can Change It” is the announced theme of the night, but mere minutes into Mitch McConnell’s speech I realize this was a head fake. Having been in the Senate for 28 years, McConnell is a polished and professional prevaricator, so it’s fitting that he be the one to unveil the evening’s real theme, “We Can Lie about It.”

“The President may want to give up on the problems we face and manage the decline,” McConnell muses, seemingly unaware of a spate of recent stories linking the Minority Leader to a deliberate strategy of Republican obstruction commenced the moment Barack Obama won office. I think it’s already safe to declare “Unintentional Irony” a sub-theme for tonight.

McConnell has more, though. “Barack Obama has been working to earn a spot on the PGA Tour,” he quips. I know full well this is another lie; the Republicans would already have denounced the idea if it were true.

And the wit just keeps on coming: “To call this a recovery is an insult to recoveries,” says a man whose party has done its utmost to sabotage this recovery.

7:22 PM:

On CNN, Michele Bachmann, wearing all the makeup John Boehner decided to eschew on Tuesday, tells Piers Morgan, “I love Paul Ryan,” describes Romney/Ryan as “an undeniable winning ticket,” and opines that Ann Romney is “comfortable in her skin.”

Bachmann and fellow circus act Herman Cain have been in town since Sunday, when they held a “Unity Rally 2012” for 500 Teabaggers at Rivers Church:

“This is what the Tea Party is not,” Bachmann blasted in a fiery address… “We are not an unwanted second-class political party. We are the conscience of the United States Constitution. And we won’t apologize for that.”

Hey, if she won’t apologize, I will: I’m deeply sorry I ever heard of this tool.

7:30 PM:

Rand Paul fires up the crowd, invoking Hamilton, Madison, Reagan, and I think Honey Boo Boo. He starts off by dissing the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “travesty of justice.” He thunders that the President “fundamentally misunderstands America’s greatness.” He essays the evening’s first gross distortion of the President’s “you didn’t build that” remark. He generally makes even his wizened father seem like a reasonable human being, a Herculean achievement.

7:45 PM:

Video tribute to – shhh – George Bush and his father George Bush, wherein the two failed Presidents say nice things about each other. Dad praises his son’s administration for “integrity, honesty, never any kind of scandal,” which confirms my suspicion that the old guy deliberately avoided the news for eight years after his son’s appointment to office by five-ninths of the Supreme Court.

Toward the end of the video, which also features Bush Family molls Laura and Barbara, a little tepid praise is tossed Mitt Romney’s way. The ex-First Ladies assure us that Ann Romney will be a great asset in the White House. All that’s missing is the younger Bush’s surprise at learning Mormons are not people from a country called Mormonia, and a discussion about how Rafalca will make a wonderful First Horse.

8:00 PM:

John McCain appears on the stage. He’s celebrating his 106th birthday today, but magnanimously has spared some time to come to Tampa and lie. His speech artfully mixes old clichés from his 2008 campaign with brand new ones befitting his status as an elder statesman the rest of his party studiously ignores.

“Always we have led from the front, never from behind.” If the reference seems a little unclear, that’s because it’s a sarcastic riff on a May 2011 comment by an anonymous Obama adviser to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, discussing the Administration’s Libya intervention. Others speakers tonight, including Condoleezza “What, Me Worry?” Rice, will echo this, and it won’t get any more clever or amusing through repetition.

McCain’s other bleatings range from stern (“our President is not being true to our values”) to really stern (“we can’t afford to have the security of our nation and those who bravely defend it endangered because their government leaks the secrets of their heroic operations to the media”). He finishes by fluffing Mitt for several minutes, a sad little epilogue to the McCain 2008 campaign’s devastating opposition research book on Romney, still one of the finest reads of the year.

8:15 PM:

PBS is interviewing Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who maintains “we’ll never shrink government unless we strengthen the family,” a natural lead-in to the PBS panel having a friendly sit-down with that nice young Rick Santorum.

Santorum rhapsodizes about Paul Ryan’s fictional “working class background” before practically begging Ryan, in a tone perfectly suited to a Jerry Lewis Telethon, to “lay out his vision to working class voters.” Asked by the panel why Mitt Romney couldn’t do the same, Santorum changes the subject: “Barack Obama is a great threat to the future of the country, and I think he’s destroying it on multiple levels.”

Thanks for nothing and see you in four years, Rick.

8:29 PM:

Pam Biondi and Sam Olens, the Attorneys General of Florida and Georgia, respectively, conduct a sort of Romper Room call and response session to give every Medicare recipient in the hall (hint: many thousands) a chance to stamp their feet about the Affordable Care Act. As incredible as it seems that two such miserably untalented speakers have speaking slots at the RNC, it’s even more incredible to think that both of them graduated from theoretically accredited law schools.

8:35 PM:

John Thune. I suppose it’s a testament to the Republican Party that its ranks include so many cretins, imbeciles, twits, twerps and dunderheads that Thune is easily forgotten, right up until you see him again and think to yourself: Oh, yeah, that jerk. He warms up the crowd with a story about his immigrant forebears, who were not, in fact, named Thune. I don’t catch the name he mentions; Schicklgruber, maybe?

Thune, like many of the evening’s speakers, is in a jocular mood. Discussing his lack of an invitation to the White House for some basketball, he cracks: “President Obama would be easy to defend because he’s always going to go to his left.”

But Thune’s not all gutbusting humor and immigrant grandparents. He has some important lies to tell. He claims that Barack Obama’s “first instinct is to condemn achievement.” There are other lies, but Thune is so dull I forget them as soon as he finishes his speech.

8:55 PM:

Mark Shields of PBS comments a little wearily that every speaker at the convention seems to begin with: “My grandfather came here…”

9:00 PM:

Vice-presidential also-ran Rob Portman picks up the torch Thune dropped on the stage, broadening it to include the entirety of the President’s party: “Democrats love to demonize Mitt Romney’s success in the private sector.” At one point, Portman interrupts the blame game that’s been going on since Monday to a new level, to note: “Blaming others does not qualify as a plan.” Upping the incredulity, he insists that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will “lead in breaking through the partisan gridlock in Washington, DC.”

After blaming a few more things on Barack Obama and the Democrats, he shouts “no more blame” and exits the stage in a cloud of irony.

9:15 PM:

Steve Cohen, an Ohio business owner, tells the delegates and those of us at home that the government is “waging an unnecessary war on coal.” Of course, it’s hardly news that Republicans hate unnecessary wars.

Cohen refers darkly to the “mountain of regulation” holding back small business. And like every other speaker who has harped on this tonight and the night before, he doesn’t cite a single specific regulation of particular concern.

9:30 PM:

Please, T-Paw, don’t hurt ‘em! Yep, it’s Tim Pawlenty, here to prove two things: one, he does too have a personality, and two, the Borscht Belt extends all the way to Saint Paul.

“Welcome to Barack Obama’s retirement party!”

“The first President to create more excuses than jobs!”

“The tattoo President.” (Seemed like a good idea the night before, yada yada, yada…)

The Republican Party gets a vivid reminder of why nobody outside the Pawlenty household ever thought this guy should be in the White House, and I get a vivid reminder of why I’m an idiot for watching this crap.

Then Pawlenty gets all serious; he’s a-got him some lyin’ to do. Mitt Romney has “made a success of failing companies.” Mitt Romney is “a remarkable person.” Mitt Romney has a “can-do spirit.”

Something, something, something, God bless America!

9:40 PM:

Desperate to revive the conventioneers after this near-bored-to-death experience, the GOP sends out Mike Huckabee. Dumb as a bottle of floor wax Huckabee might be, but he’s godamighty folksy, especially following Tim Pawlenty. The Huckster gets right down to business in an unusually peevish state, condemning the Obama presidency as a set of “miserably failed experiments that have put this country in a downward spiral.” He goes on in this vein for a while, then switches back to the comfy environs of folksy.

“My parents taught me I was as good as anybody.” Sure, and they were wrong, sir, but don’t blame yourself. “I care far less about where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than about where he takes this country.” In other words: sure, the guy is a cult member, but who else do we have?

Huckabee drifts off on an odd, extended reminiscence about Bono’s views on America, and ends with “We will do better!” But when, Governor, when?

9:57 PM:

Condoleezza Rice, possibly the worst civil servant in the nation’s history, comes out to share her utter lack of expertise. She starts off by saying “good evening” forty or so times, but things go quickly downhill thereafter.

Reminiscing back to the glorious morning of September 11th, 2001, she begins by saying: “I can remember as if it were yesterday…” which proves, if nothing else, that her memory has grown sharper with time. Why, when she testified before the 9/11 Commission on April 8th, 2004, she had a spot of trouble remembering the title of that pesky August 6th, 2001 PDB, although, after repeated prodding, she did finally get it.

“You cannot lead from behind.” In my head, I fill in the rest of the sentence for her:  “… a children’s book.” She eagerly claims a share of the credit she believes is owing to the Bush Administration for “preventing the follow-on attack that everyone thought inevitable.” Gosh, yeah, great job with the barn door post-facto, ma’am.

Thank God for those distracting CNN on-screen “facts”! They sure beat concentrating on this woman’s speech. I learn that Secretary Rice was one of the two first female members admitted to Augusta National, and that she has already rejected the idea of accepting a position in a Romney White House. Cool.

Proving that she doesn’t know much about Republicans, the basest aspects of human nature or the Venn overlap between, she insists: “We have never been jealous of one another and envious of each other’s successes.” Addressing a roomful of people who are jealous of poor people’s SNAP benefits and envious of their mostly mythical flat-screen TVs, Rice has raised the “Unintentional Irony” theme into the stuff of convention legend.

She wraps it up with memories of growing up in the Jim Crow South believing that she could be President one day, and growing up to be Secretary of State. The convention crowd goes absolutely nuts with applause and cheering. Apparently, they just love the idea of a disadvantaged African American ascending to the halls of power in Washington… unless his name is Barack Obama, of course.

10:15 PM:

CNN mostly ignores New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, opting instead to have correspondent Candy Crowley share her amazement and admiration for the fact that Condi gave her speech without a teleprompter. Heady stuff. Finally, Crowley runs of out of superlatives and CNN turns its attention to Martinez, who regales the audience with the story of how she and her husband left the Democratic Party (apparently a Republican bought them lunch). “I’ll be damned – we’re Republicans!” she claims to have exclaimed.

10:25 PM:

Martinez gets the bum’s rush to clear the decks for a video intro for Paul Ryan, in which we learn that he chopped down a cherry tree, ended slavery, defeated the Nazis and gave up his seat on the bus for an obscure little lady named Rosa Parks. Something like that, anyway.

The video ends, “The Boys Are Back in Town” blares from every speaker in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, and Paul Ryan bounds onto the stage, all young and vibrant and shit.

He has some one-liners too, natch. “After four years of the runaround, America needs a turnaround.” But the serious lies come thick and fast, as well. “I have never seen opponents so quiet about their record.” He invokes the hated name “Solyndra.” He mocks the “Greek columns” from the 2008 Democratic convention. He says something about “a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind,” whatever the hell that means. He accuses President Obama of being “the kind of politician who puts promises on the record and then calls that the record.” He insinuates that Democratic social policy engenders “a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next,” which, ironically, is a pretty accurate description of this convention so far.

Startlingly, he drags out his already widely-debunked lie about the auto plant back in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin being closed down on Barack Obama’s watch after the President promised to keep it open. (The plant was shuttered on December 23rd, 2008.)

He seems to remember at the last possible moment to say some nice things about the guy who invited him on the ticket. He describes Mitt Romney as “prayerful, faithful and honorable.” He talks awkwardly about the commonalities between his Catholic faith and his running mate’s Mormon faith. “Our faiths come together in the same moral creed,” he says, which makes me think of those old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ads.

He points out his wife and kids, and his mom. He has a family! The convention hall erupts in huzzahs as if every person in it can only dream of actually having a family.

Too soon, all too soon, he shuts his mouth and greets his family(!) on the stage, as Led Zeppelin assaults the PA. Wednesday is over. Thursday awaits.