When the Republican National Convention began three months – sorry, make that three days ago, I was sure it would be a gag-inducing slop pail of trite slogans, inane speeches, mendacious mischaracterizations, tedious pseudo-piety, outright falsehoods, racist dog whistles, awful video presentations, cornball stagecraft and unselfconscious boorishness. I was wrong; it hasn’t been anywhere near that dignified.
Jeb Bush, the only member of the GOP’s “great” political dynasty whom the GOP would allow into the convention hall, draws warm applause when he says, “My brother, well, I love my brother.” It’s not clear whether he means Neil or Marvin. “He kept us safe,” claims Jeb. Ah! Marvin, then.
Bush gives a piece of his mind he can ill-afford to do without to Barack Obama: “It is time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies.” This admonition comes mere minutes after Callista and Newt Gingrich cap a tribute to Ronald Reagan by taking an extended swipe at Barack Obama. gratuitously including Reagan’s predecessor, Jimmy Carter.
Bush continues with a long and disorganized lament about the state of education in America, something he believes, total lack of evidence notwithstanding, that Mitt Romney can rectify.
CNN shows Ann Romney in the VIP box, looking – there’s no polite way to say this – rather pissy. When the camera pans to show that she’s seated with Scott Walker, I immediately understand why.
After an almost interminable interlude featuring LDS lay bishop and Romney friend Grant Bennett, apparently intended to persuade the party’s evangelical base that Mormons aren’t baby-eating lunatic cultists, CNN’s John King interviews Susana Martinez about “all those Mormons and Hispanics” out West.
I hop over to PBS, where Haley Barbour is chewing the fat with the panel. Barbour observes that Mitt Romney “has obviously got a giant heart.” Fortunately, Mitt can afford elevators to get it from one floor to the next in any of his spacious mansions.
Scott Walker talks to CNN’s Piers Morgan about his tearful reaction to Paul Ryan’s speech last night. Haley Barbour on PBS, Scott Walker on CNN; this is the best approximation of Hell’s TV programming one is apt to see on this mortal coil.
Walker defends Ryan’s repeated whopper about President Obama vowing to keep open an auto plant that closed under George W. Bush, a story Morgan describes as “disingenuous, to say the least.” Walker’s defense? Insisting over and over that Candidate Obama promised. He promised.
Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg is up, to claim that the President “demonizes the private equity that has created so many jobs,” to insist that “no jobs” have been created on the President’s watch, to praise Mitt Romney and Bain Capital for standing by Staples, to rouse the somnolent delegates into repeated taunts of: “They just don’t get it!”
Stemberg says that the President’s jobs council never meets, that the Vice President never stops talking, and that Mitt Romney represents hardworking Americans who make sacrifices and miss Little League games.
If you’re thinking that maybe Stemberg is a little unhinged, this is nothing. Back in February, he shared his “thoughts” on an ACA provision requiring employers to provide non-bathroom space and “reasonable break time” for breastfeeding employees:
“Do you want [farming retailer] Tractor Supply to open stores or would you rather they take their capital and do what Obamacare and its 2,700 pages dictates – which is to open a lactation chamber at every single store that they have?” he asked.
“I’m big on breastfeeding; my wife breastfed,” Stenberg added. “I’m all for that. I don’t think every retail store in America should have to go to lactation chambers, which is what Obamacare foresees.
“You can’t make this stuff up.”
No, indeed you can’t.
Mark Shields and David Brooks ignore Stemberg and agree that Republicans are guilty of “campaign malpractice” for having waited until the final night of the convention to create a personal narrative for their candidate.
On CNN, Ari Fleischer and Roland Martin arrive at pretty much the same criticism of the campaign.
Former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey talks about her former boss. He “served breakfast to homeless veterans” on his first day in office. He “never took a salary as Governor.” His “top priority” was “creating jobs.” As President, Mitt Romney “won’t just talk about family values, he will live them.”
The crowd gets all rambunctious when Healey, voice filled with inexplicable but righteous indignation, declares that Mitt Romney “will never apologize for America.”
Jane Edmonds, former Massachusetts Secretary of Workforce under Romney, says pretty much what Healey just said, with the added fillip of confessing that she’s a – gasp! – liberal Democrat.
Taylor Hicks, American Idol Season 5 winner, delivers an energetic “Takin’ It to the Streets.” A marked improvement over Tuesday night’s “Amazing Grace” by the Oak Ridge Boys.
As if to remind themselves of the nominee they’re saddled with, many of the delegates wave signs that read “Mitt!”
Gospel star and PTL Club veteran Bebe Winans performs, painfully, but in mere minutes, I will long with all my being to turn back the clock to this ham-and-cheese aria. What’s to come will be immeasurably worse.
And it begins with a video devoted to the Romney family. Ann! The boys! Mitt! Personal recollections! Fond moments! Charming home video! Funny hairstyles and clothes!
If only Hurricane Isaac hadn’t disrupted the convention schedule, think of what else they might have had time to work in. Seamus! Mitt shoving aside children and grandchildren to be first at the trough at family meals! Mitt visiting his money in the Caymans and Switzerland! Mitt preparing his tax return on an ironing board! The car elevator! The dancing horse! The multiple Cadillacs! The multiple houses! You people! Oh, well…
Clint Eastwood appears, sucks all the oxygen out of the room, nearly passes out, then exhales shakily, looks around the hall and launches into the single most bizarre spectacle in American political convention history.
By morning, this will be all anyone in America is talking about. Some people will come away convinced that the GOP actually nominated Eastwood. Some will mourn the golden days of Republican normalcy, when the down-to-earth, measured opinions of people like Sarah Palin, James Inhofe and Peter King gently held sway. Some will destroy their DVDs of High Plains Drifter and Magnum Force and Million Dollar Baby, abandon their homes and camp out on a mesa, waiting for the aliens to arrive.
Marco Rubio steps onto the stage, ignoring the strong possibility that it might harbor some brain-eating environmental toxin. Then the plucky young Senator really tempts fate by sipping from a glass Eastwood seems to have left behind. “I think I just drank Clint Eastwood’s water.”
Rubio wants to talk about Barack Obama, or more precisely, a cartoon version of Barack Obama perhaps inspired by Eastwood’s leftovers:
“Hope and change has become divide and conquer!”
“Under Barack Obama, the only change is that hope is hard to find.”
“Our problem with President Obama is not he is a bad person. By all accounts, he too is a good husband, a good father, and thanks to lots of practice, a good golfer.”
But Rubio also wants to talk about his grandfather and his father. He says a few words in Spanish. The immigrant-loving crowd goes wild.
Rubio ends by assuring the convention and the viewing audience that by electing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, we can ensure that “the American miracle lives on for another generation to inherit.”
Willard Mitt Romney’s entire life has led up to this point. He makes his way down the main aisle of the convention hall, in a transparently phony attempt to look like a President arriving to deliver a State of the Union Address. He kisses some ladies, shakes hands with some gentlemen.
As Mitt slowly gladhandles his way to the stage, the broadcast cuts briefly to Ann Romney, who – after Bebe Winans, Clint Eastwood and Marco Rubio – looks almost comatose. Then it’s back to her husband, who takes a circuitous route up the steps and around to the microphone, where he announces to the assembled delegates and party grandees that he has graciously and generously decided to accept their nomination. The crowd roars its gratitude.
Romney speaks for a long time, and while incidental bits and pieces of a couple of things he says might even be partially true, after three days of shameless lies emanating from the podium, Mitt Romney’s not about to set a new tone for the Confederacy of Dunces whose standard he now bears.
Romney describes America as – wait for it – “a nation of immigrants.” He extols Americans having “the freedom to build a business with their own hands,” just like he did when he fashioned Bain Capital out of chicken wire, twist ties, and a ton of capital fronted by wealthy Salvadorans with ties to right-wing death squads.
“USA!” chants begins. As I commented during the last Republican convention, you’d almost believe Republicans think they just discovered the place.
Romney talks about people “driving home late from that second job,” which I assume is something he saw in a movie or read about in Forbes.
Romney goes out on a limb and says, ”God bless Neil Armstrong.” Gutsy. Maybe this will help undercut criticism that the candidate surprisingly fails to mention, no less thank, our troops in harm’s way in Afghanistan. After all, Armstrong saw action as a naval aviator in the Korean War. So there.
As he always does when he talks about his father’s background, the candidate manages to make George Romney a poor mestizo refugee driven from his homeland by the cruelties of the Mexican Revolution to seek his own American dream as an immigrant in Michigan.
And Mitt didn’t have it any easier, so everyone just shut up! He talks about the terrible, trying times when he “had to travel a lot for my job,” conjuring up visions of a young Armani-clad Mitt Romney selling Fuller brushes door to door, or cleaning up elephant dung with an itinerant circus.
Romney’s speech is delivered with a new vocal tic, a precisely measured pause at improbable points in each sentence. If it’s intended to create an aura of humanness, it doesn’t work.
The founder of Bain Capital, who got remarkably rich from running Bain Capital and even in “retirement” from Bain Capital still makes an awful lot of money from Bain Capital, describes Bain Capital as “a great American success story.” Then he pivots to an allegation that the “centerpiece of the President’s reelection campaign is attacking success.”
He prattles about “creating tomorrow’s prosperity, not trying to redistribute today’s.” He says, “I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs,” although he shrewdly doesn’t mention what country he intends to create those jobs in. “Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class of America,” he claims, jamming two big fat lies into one short sentence. “My promise is to help you and your family.”
Rounding the clubhouse turn, Romney tells us that he’ll begin his presidency with “a jobs tour, not an apology tour.” Engorged with all this red meat, the “USA” chant returns one last time.
Music plays. Red, white and blue balloons drop. Paul Ryan joins Romney, the Ryan and Romney families join the candidates, and they all wave. The assembled Republicans cheer. And I do too, since I don’t think I could stomach another minute of this.