From Here to Anonymity (Man of a Thousand Farces edition)

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: Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (Man of a Thousand Farces edition)

From Here to Anonymity (Things to Say in Denver When You're Desperate edition)

Oceans of ink and passels of pixels have been devoted to the first “debate” between Barack Obama and that guy who wants to replace him. The latter was immediately proclaimed the winner by many observers on both sides of the partisan divide, despite the Republican hopeful’s numerous lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations, distortions and deflections. Once the fact-checkers got busy and portions of the punditocracy indulged in some relatively sober second thought, the challenger’s “victory” appeared more and more Pyrrhic and the President’s comparatively subdued performance began to seem less dispirited than dignified.

Having watched all but a few of the GOP “debates” before and during the primaries, I found Romney’s performance pretty unsurprising. He’s not awful in these ludicrous settings. More importantly, for a guy who gives the impression of not being able to get out of bed in the morning without getting his foot caught in a bucket, he managed to get through the debate bucket-free. He had no opinions on the height of Colorado’s trees, he managed to avoid wagering with the President, he made no reference to airplane windows, his wife’s Cadillacs, his NASCAR team owner friends, the backsides of buildings, regional cheese-enhanced delicacies, being unemployed, or never having his birth certificate questioned.

Another thing he avoided all evening was the truth. Overviews of this prodigious prevarication can be found throughout cyberspace, but I recommend the ones you’ll find at Alternet, Rolling Stone, New York magazine, and, my personal favorite, Think Progress.

As always, I found the commentary from the Left more informative but far less entertaining than that from the Right. It’s one thing to be a Republican politician; it’s quite another to be a red-blooded polemicist for Republican politicians. Would the smug, sanctimonious spin and disdainful deceit of rightwing pundits be up to the standard set by their candidate? Of course, silly. The hyperbole couldn’t be any thicker if Romney were to stuff his manhood into a flight suit and proclaim “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier. And this was the real target audience, not the listless Republican base, nor independent voters, nor the supposed legions of undecided voters out there in Iowa and Virginia and, yes, Colorado. Romney’s performance was pitched to the self-serving, self-regarding, self-appointed guardians of Mainstream American Values, conservative commentators.

Let’s start with Peggy Noonan. Mitt Romney needed to talk a lot of folks down from the ledge, but none more urgently than Noonan. Take a bow, Governor! Peggy’s back on terra firma, and she’s got some gushing to do:

The impact of the first debate is going to be bigger than we know. It’s going to affect thinking more than we know, and it’s going to start showing up in the polls, including in the battlegrounds, more dramatically than we guess.

Or, um, not, but the portentousness is just getting started:

America got its first, sustained look at the good and competent Mr. Romney… He was confident, gracious, in command of the facts. He looked like a president, acted like one. He was easily the incumbent’s equal and maybe more than that, so he became for the first time a real alternative to the incumbent, a living one, not just a name on a ballot…

He was a normal, smart adult, and he knew things both about America and about public policy…

Normal? Smart? Yes, that does sound pretty presidential. Not satisfied just playing nicely with her shiny new Mitt Romney doll, Noonan tosses a few spleen-tipped darts at her Barack Obama dartboard:

He’s never been punctured before. But by debate’s end Wednesday night, if you opened the window this is what you could hear: Ssssssss. The soft hiss of air departing from a balloon.

But even that’s insufficient. Noonan insists on playing Kreskin, and thinking just doesn’t get more wishful:

… this whole race is on the move again, it’s in play again, and it’s going to get fun…

Everything he said—everything—was something you’d heard too many times. Mr. Romney gave the president some openings. The president didn’t take them. Why? It crossed my mind he was playing possum. But possums wake up at some point.

Mr. Obama’s likability numbers are about to go down. It’s going to be a reverse Sally Field: You don’t like me, you really don’t like me.

If Noonan’s analysis was all multicolored highlighting with hearts and flowers scribbled in the margins, George Will’s was that of the stern schoolmarm, ready to plant a dunce cap on the head of the electorate should they stubbornly refuse to appreciate the brilliance, the steely determination, the sheer presidential presidentitude of his man Willard:

… a masterfully prepared Mitt Romney completed a trifecta of tasks and unveiled an issue that, because it illustrates contemporary liberalism’s repellant essence, can constitute his campaign’s closing argument.

Romney’s tasks? “Unleashing his inner wonk about economic matters” is first up, followed by “tutoring Obama on such elementary distinctions as that between reducing tax rates… and reducing revenue,” and the third, a flimsy attempt at a Hobson’s Choice between Will’s cartoonish characterizations of “a society in which markets — the voluntary collaboration of creative individuals — allocate opportunity” and the lowering Obamian menace of “today’s depressed and anxious society of unprecedented stagnation in the fourth year of a faux recovery — a bleak society in which government incompetently allocates resources in pursuit of its perishable certitudes and on behalf of the politically connected.” Why were these Romney’s tasks? Because Will thinks Romney actually accomplished them.

Oh, and that unveiled issue that “illustrates contemporary liberalism’s repellant essence”? Some incoherent gibberish about Obamacare’s Republic-sabotaging, Constitution-shredding, freedom-filleting Independent Payment Advisory Board. Wake the hell up, America! If we’re not careful, why, someday everyone might have the sort of health coverage that George Will enjoys! I think I just heard John Adams roll over in his grave, although it might have been Button Gwinnett. Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (Things to Say in Denver When You’re Desperate edition)

From Here to Anonymity (Eve of Derision edition)

It has long been apparent that neither Mitt Romney nor his handlers have any idea what they’re doing, and since nothing says “helpful and fellow-feeling” like the Republican Party, a stampede of GOP deep thinkers has charged into the breach. The unsolicited advice began before the first balloon hit the floor at the end of the convention in Tampa, and has only increased in sound and fury since.

The clearest sign of the mess Mitt Romney finds himself in is that even perpetually ardent hyper-partisan Peggy Noonan is beginning to sound delirious with frustration. Her September 18 Wall Street Journal column – entitled “Time for an Intervention”! – excoriated Romney’s hamfisted attempt to exploit tensions in the Middle East:

… he seemed like a political opportunist, not big and wise but small and tinny.

Noonan was even more dismissive of Romney’s notorious Boca Raton fundraiser remarks:

This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. They’re usually young enough and dumb enough that nobody holds it against them, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know much about America.

Jeepers! Noonan hasn’t sounded this fretful since George W. Bush was nearly assassinated by a pretzel. She’s so pessimistic she believes the entire Republican Party is going to have to step in and save the candidate from himself. While her prescriptions for a campaign turnaround are comical, she depicts the urgency of Romney’s need for one rather eloquently:

It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment… An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.”

As to the comical part, well, the Republican Party Noonan believes in ceased to exist decades ago, if indeed it ever existed at all:

… Luckily, Romney has access to some of the best writers and thinkers in the business. I say it that way because to write is to think, and Romney needs fresh writing and fresh thinking…

Time for the party to step up. Romney should go out there every day surrounded with the most persuasive, interesting and articulate members of his party, the old ones, and I say this with pain as they’re my age, like Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush, and the young ones, like Susana Martinez and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio—and even Paul Ryan… he should be surrounded by a posse of them every day. Their presence will say, “This isn’t about one man, this is about a whole world of meaning, this is about a conservative political philosophy that can turn things around and make our country better.”

… Party elders, to the extent you exist this is why you exist:

Right this ship.

Whee! On September 28, Noonan sounded no less frantic, although she’d managed to weave some silver linings out of whole cloth over the space of ten days:

… there are some institutional and personal elements surrounding the Wednesday debate that may well work in Mr. Romney’s favor.

From a canny journalist with a counterintuitive head: “The media will be rooting for Romney.” Two reasons. First, they don’t want the story to end. They’re in show biz: A boring end means lower ratings. Careers are involved! Second, the mainstream media is suddenly realizing that more than half the country (and some of their colleagues) think they are at least operationally in the tank for the president, or the Democrats in general. It is hurting the media’s standing. A midcourse correction is in order, and Wednesday will offer an opportunity: I think it’s fair to say Gov. Romney more than held his own this evening, and a consensus seems to be forming that the president underperformed.

Which, if Noonan were capable of being honest about it, is exactly the sort of bullshit narrative that America’s vigilant free press is ready to deploy, even if Romney kicks off the evening by accusing Jim Lehrer of not having written a decent song since “The Vatican Rag,” tries to bet the audience $10,000 that he’ll win the debate, throws up on himself, and finally collapses in an aspic of tears and flop sweat as Ann Romney comes running out from the wings, screaming, “Look what you people have done to him! I told you people I was worried about his mental well-being!”

Noonan goes on to paint a lovingly detailed picture of a Barack Obama who exists only in the fever swamps of the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation. At this point, I don’t think she’s trying to convince her readers as much as she’s trying to convince herself that Romney can win the debate and win the White House, and I don’t think she’s making any headway. In Noonan’s lush imaginings, the President is vulnerable because, A, everyone is too easy on him, B, he’s boring and pedantic, C, he doesn’t like to be questioned, D, he makes stuff up, and E, he acts like the biggest celebrity in the world, just as the McCain campaign alleged. Putting aside the fact that if her portrait of Barack Obama had any validity he wouldn’t now be the incumbent, it’s touching that Noonan retains enough vestigial faith in Romney to believe he could capitalize on these weaknesses even if they were real.

Others, in both the Republican squawkoscenti and among the hoi polloi, aren’t so sure. The recent Values Voter Summit featured a gratifying number of long faces, and no small amount of backseat driving: Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (Eve of Derision edition)

From Here to Anonymity (RNC 2012, Thursday)

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.

8:05 PM:

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.

8:20 PM:

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.

8:47 PM:

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.

8:50 PM:

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.

8:54 PM:

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.

9:02 PM:

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.

9:08 PM:

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.

9:12 PM:

On CNN, Ari Fleischer and Roland Martin arrive at pretty much the same criticism of the campaign.

9:15 PM:

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.”

9:20 PM:

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.

9:27 PM:

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!”

9:50 PM:

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…

10:02 PM:

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. Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (RNC 2012, Thursday)

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! Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (RNC 2012, Wednesday)

From Here to Anonymity (RNC 2012, Tuesday)

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus got convention week off to a fine start by having his ass handed to him by Chris Matthews on Monday’s Morning Joe. After a good cry in his hotel room, Priebus re-emerged to gavel the convention to order. Seconds later, the handful of conventioneers who had bothered to show up got a welcome break when he gaveled the session into recess for the day.

Monday also brought a slew of announcements about the hastily rearranged schedule for the rest of the week. Among other happy tidings, the Party of D’oh decided to drop billionaire birther buffoon Donald Trump, while Bobby Jindal and Rick Scott both withdrew voluntarily, citing an urgent need to pretend to be doing something about hurricane preparedness. One prestigious speaking slot for Thursday night still remains unspecified, so it’s not entirely out of the question that they’re finally going to dig up Ronald Reagan and put him in front of a microphone one last time.

The Republicans did, however, get to unveil their snazzy US national debt clock, which immediately put me in mind of the ones they didn’t have at their 2008 and 2004 conventions. It was the finishing touch to what the New York Times giddily described as a “Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired” stage, which I guess would be an apt description if the architect had ever been a set designer for Max Headroom.

Yesterday’s official theme was “We Can Do Better” and of course the balance of the week will demonstrate that, in fact, they can’t. Tuesday, however, was “We Built This” night, so let’s review what the Grotesque Old Party cobbled together from spit, chewing gum and bold ideas lifted from Ayn Rand’s wastebasket.

7:05 PM:

CNN ignores the convention and reports that Hurricane Isaac has made landfall in the Delta, and trots out some flyover animations interspersed with live footage of Anderson Cooper in the rain to prove it. I’m convinced.

PBS, on the other hand, is sticking with the convention. Mark Shields and David Brooks join anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. Brooks, fresh off a startling satirical piece about Mitt Romney, reverts to post turtle punditry and enthuses that the excerpts of Ann Romney’s speech “look good.” I’m not convinced.

7:10 PM:

In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, a notably pale John Boehner insists that the election is going to be “a referendum on the President’s economic policies,” which is no more accurate than his observation a little later that Mitt Romney is “a shy guy, a humble guy.”

Flipping back to PBS in disgust, I’m told by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy that the country is “going to fall in love with Paul Ryan.”

7:16 PM:

Having run out of lies to tell Dana Bash, Boehner gavels the evening session to order. He then embarks on an extended metaphor comparing America to his family’s bar back in Cincinnati. Whoever told Boehner he should underscore his famously thirsty image by talking about taverns should probably be fired. Somehow, though, I expect it might have been the Speaker’s idea.

Boehner comments briefly about the candidate’s father, describing George Romney as a “can-do kind of guy.” And indeed he was, when it came to releasing his tax returns, for example.

7:23 PM:

Reince Priebus takes the stage, sounding a little tipsy himself. He drones on for a few minutes about something or other, using a little body English to waft his remarks out to the convention hall. He finally shifts into high gear when he declares that “Barack Obama has a problem with the American dream.” By the time he gets to a line about “our generation’s rendezvous with destiny,” he’s bobbing and fidgeting like an overamped parrot on a perch. Shortly after, he wanders backstage in search of a cuttlebone to sharpen his beak on.

7:44 PM:

Utah Republican Congressional candidate Mia Love, a rising star in her party (because she’s, A, an African American, B, young and attractive, and C, a colossal conservative blockhead) provokes the night’s first convention floor “USA” chant. She paraphrases, poorly, Lincoln’s legendary 1862 message to Congress, and exits to loud applause. David Brooks proclaims her “truly a star,” which probably means the poor woman’s political career is doomed.

7:55 PM:

Sher Valenzuela, who hopes to become Lieutenant Governor of Delaware, takes the podium to talk about her autistic son who’s now in college and her army veteran husband, a second-generation Mexican American with whom she runs an upholstery business that employs over 70 people. She says their firm has taken work from Chinese and Mexican competitors, and urges everyone to vote for Mitt Romney, a guy she doesn’t realize would be happy to see those jobs sent back abroad as long as his “blind” trust turned a quick buck on it.

8:02 PM:

Valenzuela laments the Obama Administration’s “all-out assault on free enterprise.” I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t either. The crowd in the Tampa Bay Times Forum almost certainly doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop them from cheering madly.

Reviving a tradition that helped make their 2008 convention coverage so pitiful, CNN flashes one of their little “facts” at the bottom left of the screen; we learn that, among other things, whole fruit and baseballs are not allowed within the RNC security perimeter. How did we survive before the advent of 24-hour “news” networks?

8:05 PM:

The Oak Ridge Boys sing an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace,” a concept so novel I can only marvel that nobody’s ever thought of it before. It’s cheesier than a Denny’s Moons Over My Hammy Omelette, but with less nutritional value.

8:09 PM:

First (and only) “We Built It” chant from the delegates. Intuitively aware that it doesn’t seem to scan very well, the crowd soon withers into silence.

8:11 PM:

New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte comes on to decry job-killing government regulation, offering – as Republicans are wont to do – absolutely no examples of same. She then introduces a metal fabricating entrepreneur from her state, Jack Gilchrist, who leans into the loaded phrase “taxpaying Americans,” by which I assume he means Republicans, although not necessarily Mitt Romney.

Gilchrist gives a moving and entertainingly accented account of owning a business in Barack Obama’s America. “I blame no one else for the challenges we face, ” he claims, before whining that the “Federal government is killing us out there” with rules and regulations that are “too hard to follow.”

8:23 PM:

Ohio Governor John Kasich emerges from the wings, dripping charisma, to the strains of “I Gotta Feeling.” I got one myself, and it only moves deeper into my abdomen as Kasich blathers on.

Kasich spends most of his time at the podium gushing about Ohio’s enviable turnaround since 2010. From 48th to 4th in job creation! Improved credit outlook! 122,000 new jobs! Sounds like a splendid example of recovery under Barack Obama’s economic policies, which seems to prompt him to scurry back on message. He points to the debt clock, to show that, yes, America is in debt. He condemns “smothering regulations” but fails to cite a single one. Then he throws in some humor, praising Mitt Romney’s “history of being a great job creator” and how Romney’s government-financed rescue of the Olympics “built a shinier and brighter America.”

8:40 PM:

Newt Gingrich, with a straight face, lectures the CNN audience about Democrats’ “straight socialist baloney” and avers that “the government increasingly runs the banks,” something I expect will surprise both the government and the banks.

Then the purulent John Sununu is interviewed. He declares “this party is united” and insists that Republicans are hitting Democrats “on the issues.” He doesn’t explain how his characterizing Democrats as “vermin” just the day before fits into this issues thing; perhaps it’s still being fine-tuned…

I switch back to PBS, where David Brooks comments that “It’s a philosophical night.”

8:59 PM:

Scott Walker takes the stage, downsizes it, slashes its pension, ignores its cries of protest, smirks and exits. Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (RNC 2012, Tuesday)