With a shudder, it occurred to me the other day that I’ve been writing about Willard Mitt Romney, off and on, for nineteen months. There are very few things I dream of spending nineteen months writing about, and he sure as hell isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, with Romney down to his final hours of pretending he can become President of the United States of America, the travail continues.
First, though, let me get Paul Ryan out of the way. Whatever he was thought, or hoped, to bring to the Republican ticket, what Ryan mostly brought was additional opportunities for ridicule, and even the shallow entertainment value thus provided got old fast. The vaunted conservative policy wonk – a “numbers guy” whose numbers (when he bothers to offer any) never add up, a “serious thinker” whose cherished political convictions are a bumper sticker pastiche of Ayn Rand’s Epistles to the Terminally Selfish, a small-government zealot whose entire life, pretty much, has consisted of feeding, if not gorging, at the public trough – has been surprisingly useless to the ticket. And I say “surprisingly” because I’d assumed that merely by naming a running mate, any running mate, the top of the ticket would receive a little less scrutiny, thereby benefiting the campaign. Happily, I stand corrected.
I was also convinced it was damn near impossible that a person could look more ludicrous than Ryan did in his now-infamous “Hey Girl” beefcake shoot, but I erred on that score, as well. In a world where Ryan could become the vice-presidential nominee of a major political party in the first place, not only was it possible, it was probably inevitable. When I saw the photos of the assistant-Commander-in-Chief-wannabe at a soup kitchen he was never invited to, stylin’ for the cameras as he scrubbed clean pots and pans, his grinning wife standing nearby, I experienced that vilest of emotions: feeling embarrassed for people too oblivious to be embarrassed for themselves. Mixed, of course, with newly refreshed loathing.
Yet even this sleazy perfidy pales beside the Romney/Ryan campaign’s crass exploitation of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, when a scheduled Dayton campaign rally was hastily converted into a “storm relief event.” BuzzFeed has a terrific piece on the debacle, brimming with ghastly details, but the short version is that Romney’s handlers rushed to Walmart, spent $5,000 on groceries and other items the Red Cross didn’t want, handed them out to attendees so that the attendees could then “donate” them back, and all the while were blithely unconcerned that the obviously phony event would be exposed as, well, obviously phony. Not quite as spectacularly phony as George Bush’s victory jig on an aircraft carrier, granted, but culled from the same Republican playbook. Not satisfied with this smarmy charade, Romney then embarked on some epic hurricane-driven flip-flopping over just what he would or wouldn’t do with FEMA were the country to lose its collective mind and elect him, and topped it all off Wednesday morning in Tampa by urging 2,000 perfervid supporters to dig, uh, not very deep:
“So please if you have an extra dollar or two, send them along and keep people who have been in harm’s way, who’ve been damaged either personally or through their property, keep them in your thoughts and prayers…”
As the media continued to stream horror stories from Sandy’s wake, Romney’s Thursday afternoon rally in Virginia Beach was interrupted by a protester, who asked:
What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!
As the candidate silently watched with his trademark vacant leer, the crowd began the boorish “USA!” chant Republican mobs, weirdly, use to try and shut up people they disagree with, as the protester was hauled away. Stinky little scenes like this have been integral to the Romney campaign, rather than isolated, garish eruptions of excessive exuberance, as they tended to be characterized back when Sarah Palin – or Ryan 1.0, as I now think of her – incited GOP crowds by claiming that Barack Obama “palled around with terrorists.”
As the last day of this sordid, abysmal campaign crawls by, we can at least be grateful that a few heretofore-obscure details are becoming clearer. That sure beats having to wait for the impending slew of tell-all books by Romney/Ryan campaign insiders, most of which will be read all the way through only by reviewers (and only because they’ll be paid to do so).
The recent plague of plutocratic extortionists threatening their employees with dire consequences for failure to vote Romney comes to mind. In These Times helpfully connected the dots back to a June 6 conference call where the candidate himself urged such a course:
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections…
Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.
And Romney practices what he preaches, telling a Florida rally audience this morning:
“He calls this plan forward. I call it forewarned. That same path means $20 trillion in debt. It means continuing crippling unemployment. It means depressed home values. Stagnant take home pay. And a devastated military. Unless we change course, we may be looking at another recession as well. In his closing argument, did you hear this just the other day? President Obama asked his supporters to vote for revenge. For revenge. Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country.”
The other day, a Wisconsin crowd was treated to this:
Romney said that Obama “promised to be a post-partisan president, but he became the most partisan” and that his bitter relations with the House GOP could threaten the economy. As his chief example, he pointed to a crisis created entirely by his own party’s choice — Republican lawmakers’ ongoing threat to reject a debt ceiling increase. Economists warn that a failure to pass such a measure would have immediate and catastrophic consequences for the recovery.
“You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress,” Romney said. “He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy.”
Romney has lots of company in the Cassandra cottage industry. Charles Schwab wants senior citizens to vote for Mitt and has taken the extraordinary step of campaigning for him, apparently because good old “Chuck” just doesn’t keep up with current events:
Schwab said he’s worried about his 12 grandchildren. If Obama is re-elected, “I don’t think they’ll have a real chance in the future,” he said. “This present administration has completely abdicated its responsibility for the growth of this country. … The last four years have been a disaster.”
In talking about struggling investors, Schwab did not mention how the stock market has rebounded strongly from its recessionary lows. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for instance, has more than doubled from hovering near 6,500 just after Obama took office in early 2009 to pass the 13,500 mark.
The Obama campaign has repeatedly stressed that the economy lost nearly 800,000 jobs the month that he came into office in 2009 and has been growing for more than two years, up 5 million jobs over the past 30 months.
And the enthusiasm for Romney doesn’t stop there. Rudy Giuliani shrugged off New York City’s Sandy-related woes and went to Ohio, where he told a rally:
He should resign! He told us he would resign if he did this poorly. Do you remember that? Do you remember that he told us that if he couldn’t get employment above 6 percent, he wouldn’t run for a second term?
He lied! He has been a disaster. The worst president for our economy in our lifetime. He doesn’t want a second term. He wants a second chance, because he screwed it up the first time…
Giuliani even revealed that he’s a 9/11 Truther. No, not that 9/11, the shiny new Benghazi one:
Maybe if we had a president who was paying attention, we wouldn’t be going through all this investigation of what’s being covered up about Libya.
The New York Observer‘s not particularly coveted backing also went to Romney. Their endorsement editorial even claims that Romney has a plan for growth, though how they managed to locate it is anyone’s guess. The Observer is owned by Jared Kushner, whose father-in-law is melon-headed waste of oxygen Donald Trump. Trump has functioned as a Romney surrogate to the extent that he could use the role for further self-aggrandizement. The Donald has been busy helping catapult the soundly debunked propaganda about Jeep moving its manufacturing to China, or at least he was until Chrysler VP Ralph Gilles tweeted that Trump is “full of shit.”
And as above, so below. You don’t have to be a rich twerp to support Romney; you can be an average middle-class idiot. Future face transplant candidate Eric Hartsburg of Indiana reportedly auctioned off his right temple for $15,000 and now sports a five-inch Romney/Ryan “R” tattoo there. If we’re lucky, some news organization will check back with him in about two weeks’ time to find out if anyone he meets actually remembers what that strange symbol means.
But for a “severely conservative” guy like Mitt, nothing tops an endorsement from the Antichrist himself; Dick Cheney recently hosted a Dallas fundraiser for Romney.
Here and there in the maelstrom of election-related chatter and chaff, some useful information has actually emerged. To cite one instance, before you make any rash music purchases this Christmas season, be sure to read the wonderfully titled “Pop music’s most unrepentant assholes are rooting for Romney,” a Mike Usinger article for the online version of the legendary Georgia Straight.
For one group of conservatives, however, the nazz is not and will never be Mitt Romney. As of 8:00 PM Eastern tonight, 2,060,788 people had pledged to vote for Jesus, despite His not having filed the requisite papers in any state in the union.
So here we are. Clean pots rewashed, canned goods and disposable diapers laid on a reluctant Red Cross, hecklers silenced, workers, investors and voters in general threatened, endorsements made, tats tatted, and Jesus poised to act as this cycle’s Ross Perot. Come Wednesday morning, the world is going to seem awfully dull, and I for one can hardly wait.