Slouching Towards Tampa (Things Fall Apart edition)

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When the first installment of this column appeared last September, it was unclear how the contest for the GOP nomination would unfold, although it was already a certainty that it would be an eldritch spectacle. And so it has been.

The twenty-fifth and final edition of this column finds the triumphant yet stultified Romney, his rodentine running mate Paul Ryan, still-in-it-but-not-to-win-it challenger Ron Paul, 50,000 delegates, sundry other Republicans and media types, and a developing hurricane named Isaac all converging on Tampa.

Their playground awaits. For weeks, Tampa strip clubs have been gearing up for the convention with that yearning spirit of unfettered free enterprise that gets Republicans all hot and bothered:

One place is bringing in a stripper who looks like former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. There are major renovations taking place. And some nude clubs have already been giving potential customers a taste of the talent online…

Even the Gray Lady decided to raise her hemline and demonstrate some prurient interest:

… Tampa cannot shed its national reputation as the strip club capital of the country. “It’s not true,” said Joe Redner, the owner of the renowned Mons Venus and a man famous for fending off local attempts to close his club. “It would be nice, though.”

While the revelations in the Times piece aren’t really very revelatory, it’s always nice to have one’s intuition confirmed:

Angelina Spencer, the executive director of the Association of Club Executives, which serves as a trade association for strip clubs, said an informal survey of convention business in New York and Denver had determined that Republicans dropped more money at clubs, by far.

“Hands down, it was Republicans,” she said. “The average was $150 for Republicans and $50 for Democrats.”

Oddly, the Times piece somehow views these lopsided statistics as evidence of some sort of bipartisan naughtiness equivalency, but the paper was at least good enough to correct some numbers days after the article originally ran:

An article… about strip clubs in Tampa, Fla… misstated the estimated number of such businesses in the Tampa Bay area. There are about 30 such clubs, not 50. The article also included an invalid comparison between the number of strip clubs per capita in Tampa and Cincinnati. The Ohio city said it does not have strip clubs.

Not at all coincidentally, the Ohio city doesn’t host national political conventions. Cincinnati’s last convention, a Democratic one, was in 1880. Of course, back then nudity hadn’t been invented yet.

With the convention imminent, website Daily Bleach helpfully offers up the “The 10 Raunchiest Stripper Ads Welcoming Romney and the Republicans to Tampa” with handy links and examples of the graphics, along with a rundown of other sex-related doings:

In the past week alone, a slew of x-rated websites have announced the tawdry, hardcore erotic services they’re offering exclusively to convention attendees. These include VIP cabanas, Sarah Palin impersonators, champagne toasts, free homosexual steam rooms, “smelly foot worship” with a stunning dominatrix and something frighteningly named the “Santorum Stimulus Package.”

Added bonus: beats hell out of having to listen to a Bobby Jindal speech! But strip club owners and their workers aren’t the only busy folks in Tampa right now, as Hillsborough County Sherriff David Gee notes in his “open letter to the public“:

I am confident to tell the public that we are prepared to make it a successful RNC in Tampa…

To the agitators and anarchists who want only to bring a dark cloud to this event, let me be clear: criminal activity and civil disturbances will not be tolerated and enforcement actions will be swift…

There will be arrests. The question is how many. We are prepared to handle any number of RNC-related arrests through our Orient Road Jail. We are committed to due process and the rule of law regarding RNC-related arrests. We have procedures and policies in place to ensure an orderly and lawful process for anyone arrested…

Whence the dark cloud actually originates is going to take the sheriff by surprise, I think, but he’s certainly not kidding about that jail:

Sheriff David Gee has ordered the Orient Road Jail, a 1,700 bed prison in Tampa, emptied, relocating some inmates to another nearby prison and releasing others on bond. The entire facility has been transformed into a one-stop booking, detention, and bond-issuance center capable of handling large numbers of arrests…

Good times ahead, and all part of Tampa’s rich pageant, a pageant described in the title of Will Doig’s excellent Salon analysis as “America’s Hottest Mess.” Doig draws a direct and depressing linkage between the corrosive influence of the Teabagger mindset and the civic neglect and consequent dysfunctional nature of cities like Tampa. How can people afford to frequent strip clubs if they have to waste their money paying taxes?

… Tampa can only do so much thanks to a toxic combination of hostility toward government, revenue and collectively used amenities. What’s the matter with Tampa? The Republican conventioneers will get to see for themselves when they arrive.

One delegate, however, will not. For the first and last time ever, I stand with Paul LePage. His party does not:

Gov. Paul LePage will not attend the Republican National Convention next week after a GOP committee Friday overwhelmingly rejected Maine’s delegates to the convention in Tampa, Fla. The ousted delegates supported Texas Rep. Ron Paul…

Most of Maine delegates chosen at the state convention were Paul supporters. The RNC instead has chosen a slate of delegates split between the libertarian congressman and Mitt Romney…

“I have decided not to attend the 2012 Republican National Convention and instead focus on state business and spending some time with family,” said LePage in the statement distributed at midday Friday. “I made it clear, when the challenge was issued, that I felt the Maine delegates selected at the Maine Convention should be seated in Tampa. It is unfortunate that not all of these delegates will be seated.”

Another late scratch is LePage’s fellow rightwing asshat governor, Florida’s own Rick Scott:

Gov. Rick Scott has announced he will pull out of his Republican National Convention activities, including his speech scheduled for Monday night in Tampa…

The governor said it is a real possibility [Isaac] could have a Category 2 hurricane landfall on the Florida panhandle…

Scott said he and his family are still coming to Tampa, but he will be focused on the storm.

Thank goodness for that. Personally, I think seeing Scott being interviewed by Anderson Cooper as the two of them shout at each other over the wind and rain and struggle to keep their feet planted on Channelside pavement promises to be one of the week’s real highlights.

Remember, though, there’s more to a convention than just strippers and mass arrests. The committee responsible for crafting this year’s official Republican platform has been working hard to obliterate their party’s appeal to independent voters with a perfect balance of unabashed misogyny, fiscal recklessness, firearms fetishism, regressive social policy, and a whole truckload of anti-gay, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry. To nobody’s surprise, they’ve pulled it off: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Things Fall Apart edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (Ryan's Hope edition)

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Mitt Romney’s “bold” decision to add Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket took his campaign’s previously one-dimensional tapioca flavor and added a distinct note of artificial vanilla extract.

The Romney campaign certainly needed some kind of boost. Following his calamitous Bland Tour of the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland, the increasingly ridiculous candidate came home to polling numbers that probably made him wish he’d stayed overseas. A Washington Post-ABC News poll put his favorable rating at 40%, unchanged since May, but found that his unfavorable, not great to begin with, had climbed from 45 to 49%. Worse still, only 41% of Republican respondents described their opinion of Romney as “strongly favorable” as against 61% of Democratic respondents who felt that way about the President.

Clearly, then, it was time to shore up support among the base, and maybe even create a little excitement. But how, and who? Christie? Portman? Jindal? Palin? Haley? Huckabee? Hutchison? Jointly and severally, no. Enter Paul Ryan, a Dick Grayson to Romney’s Bruce Wayne. Ryan was a surprising pick in a number of ways. For starters, he’s Catholic, making this the first Republican ticket in history not to include a Protestant (or two). Second, he’s part of the Congressional Republican power elite, and while Wisconsin election law allows him to run concurrently for his House seat, his loss in the national race this fall and what’s apt to be perpetual association of his name with Mitt Romney’s will only diminish his clout and tarnish his prestige among GOP true believers. Third, as he set about proving almost immediately after being named to the ticket, he might just end up being a bigger liability than Mitt Romney. Ryan’s tea baggage seems to get heavier by the day.

Ryan’s signature “accomplishment” to date is of course his proposed budget, rolled out to many an “ooh” and an “ah” back in March. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” (PDF here) is equal parts boilerplate, bromides and bullshit; in essence, the same concoction with which Republicans have been gulling their faithful and hoodwinking susceptible independents since well before the Reagan Revolution. As was the case with earlier heralds of a new and mercifully fictitious Republican Golden Age (Gingrich, Delay, etc.), Paul Ryan has no use for modestly:

This budget serves as a blueprint for American renewal. Its principled reforms empower individuals with greater control over their futures. It places great faith in the wisdom of the Founders and promises to renew confidence in the superiority of human freedom…

The Ryan plan’s unworkable and frequently downright absurd policy prescriptions are supported with the same old easily debunked clichés Republicans always resort to because they don’t dare just come out and admit that, while they might love it, they just don’t like their country:

… the unchecked growth of government has degraded its effectiveness and rendered its institutions incapable of meeting the challenges of the 21st Century.

The free enterprise system is being stifled by a federal bureaucracy fixated on depriving citizens of their ability to make social and economic decisions according to what is best for their own needs and interests.

The future of the nation’s health and retirement security programs is increasingly based on empty promises from a government unwilling to advance solutions that save and strengthen them…

The federal budget process has collapsed, allowing government to spend recklessly and throw tax dollars at problems on an ad hoc basis as the nation’s fiscal hole grown deeper.

And how does the intrepid Ryan plan address these phony crises?

Cuts spending… relative to President’s budget

Brings size of government to 20 percent of economy by 2015, allowing the private sector to grow and create jobs

… identifies strategy-driven savings, while funding defense at levels that keep America safe by providing $554 billion for the next fiscal year for national defense spending

Repeals President’s health care law; Advances bipartisan solutions that take power away from government bureaucrats and put patients in control; No disruption for those in or near retirement; Ensures a strengthened Medicare program for future generations…

After analyzing the Ryan budget, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called it as it saw it, and it did not see it kindly:

It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history)…

… the Ryan budget would impose extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and over time would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance or become underinsured.

… alongside [the] dismantling of key parts of the safety net, the budget features stunning new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans… on top of the average tax cut of more than $125,000 a year that the Tax Policy Center (TPC) estimates that people who make over $1 million a year will receive if — as the Ryan budget also proposes —policymakers make all of President Bush’s tax cuts permanent.

In fact, TPC reported yesterday that the four major new tax cuts in the Ryan plan…  would cost $4.6 trillion in lost federal revenue over the next ten years…

The New York Times offered up a handy précis of the Ryan plan in real-world terms:

The House Budget Committee blueprint for spending and taxation over the next decade would reshape Medicare into a system of private insurance plans, shrink programs for the poor and turn them over to state governments, and try to simplify the tax code for individuals and businesses. The six existing tax rates, topping off at 35 percent, would be reduced to two, 10 percent and 25 percent, while states would be allowed to place time limits, work requirements and other restrictions on programs from food stamps to welfare.

Under the Ryan plan, spending would be cut $5.3 trillion below President Obama’s budget through 2022. Medicare would be shaved by $205 billion. Medicaid and other health programs would be cut $770 billion. Other entitlement programs, including welfare, food stamps, agriculture subsidies and transportation, would be cut by nearly $2 trillion. Budget experts said that last figure was so high it could only be reached by scaling back or eliminating payments to the working poor through the earned income credit.

Times columnist Paul Krugman felt personally vindicated by the Ryan plan, and was delighted to say so:

Way back in 2010 I declared that Paul Ryan — who was rapidly becoming the darling of the “fiscal responsibility” crowd — was a fraud, a flim-flam man…

His latest budget proposal… calls for huge tax cuts, supposedly offset by closing loopholes and ending tax expenditures — except that in a long report he fails to name a single tax expenditure that he would cut. It assumes drastic cuts in discretionary spending, basically eliminating everything except defense. And over the medium term, of course, it’s a plan to savage the poor while giving big tax breaks to the rich.

So actually two questions: are people finally willing to concede that Ryan is not now and has never been remotely serious? And — I know this is probably far too much to ask — are they going to do a bit of soul-searching over how they got snookered by this obvious charlatan?

Krugman’s rhetorical point was exquisitely if unknowingly bolstered by Peggy Noonan, who has a weakness for charlatans. Noonan, who has been dead wrong about absolutely every damned thing for going on 62 years now, thinks Paul Ryan is serious. Even funnier, she no doubt considers herself serious too:

Republicans know how meaningful this campaign became when Mr. Ryan was picked: He changed its subject matter just by showing up…

The more you see of Paul Ryan, the more you understand and appreciate his thinking…

Yes, that seriously does sound serious, but at least Ryan gets a Secret Service detail now, handy in case Noonan’s enthusiasm gets out of control. Of course, not all the media shared that enthusiasm. The very day Ryan was announced as Romney’s running mate, an editorial in the Times returned to his plan:

More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans… billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry… cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations…

… he has failed to explain how he would make [the poor] self-sufficient — how, in fact, a radical transformation of government would magically turn around an economy that is starving for assistance. At a time when state and local government layoffs are the principal factor in unemployment, the Ryan budget would cut aid to desperate governments by at least 20 percent, far below historical levels, on top of other cuts to mass transit and highway spending.

The campaign immediately put some daylight between Romney and the Ryan plan, but not because they’re ashamed of its disgraceful, moth-eaten ideas. Republicans have all trafficked in those same ideas for, oh, the last 30 fucking years, so I figure Romney just wants to recycle them in his own words, not Paul Ryan’s. Mitt was still magnanimous, at least in the sort of shrunken, puckered way Romney has of seeming magnanimous: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Ryan’s Hope edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (Big Mac Daddy edition)

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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. Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Big Mac Daddy edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (Turn Right at Greenland edition)

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You probably remember at least the highlight reel of Barack Obama’s Grand Tour overseas four years ago, when the then-candidate visited the UK, France, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and wrapped the whole thing up with a brilliant speech to nearly a quarter-million people in Berlin. It was a triumph of statesmanship, politics and marketing, and proved beyond a doubt that the supposed political neophyte had presidential chops to burn.

I mention this because Mitt Romney recently returned from his Bland Tour, which was mercifully restricted to only three countries (had it been eight, we’d likely be in the early stages of World War III already). As with the Obama trip in 2008, Romney’s sojourn was intended to demonstrate the candidate’s gravitas and comfort on the world stage; quite unlike the Obama trip, Romney accomplished neither.

If Romney and/or his campaign operatives were hoping to follow in the President’s footsteps, they were doomed from the start by Romney himself, a candidate with all the gravitas of a KFC Double Down, a guy who probably starts feeling uncomfortable the moment he steps out of the bathroom in the morning, hair immaculately coiffed, forced smile firmly affixed to his face, wondering if today might just be the day, at long last, when he meets someone who actually likes him.

First stop, the United Kingdom. The engines of Romney’s plane hadn’t even cooled down when two anonymous campaign advisers unpacked their dog whistles for an interview with The Telegraph:

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”

“Obama is a Left-winger,” said another. “He doesn’t value the NATO alliance as much, he’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.”

Yet Romney had no intention of letting his staff monopolize the stupid remarks. He kicked things off with public doubts about British preparedness for the Olympics:

Elevating his tendency for gaffes to the international stage, Mr Romney said that because of concerns about security, it was “hard to know just how well it will turn out.”

Mr Romney told NBC News he saw “a few things that were disconcerting” about London’s preparations. “The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging,” he said.

And he was just getting started:

He… appeared to breach protocol by disclosing that he had received an unusual briefing from Sir John Sawers, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), on the situation in Syria. An adviser boasted to The Daily Telegraph that Mr Romney had also previously met the head of the Security Service (MI5).

He also raised eyebrows by referring to Ed Miliband with the American-style honorific “Mr Leader” and saying that he had enjoyed viewing Olympic volleyball courts from “the backside of Downing Street.”

Not content with insulting his hosts, Romney decided to stick it to his wife and her fancy dancing horse/tax break/”therapy” gimmick Rafalca, as well:

Mitt Romney tried to distance himself from the elite horse-dancing sport of dressage… telling NBC’s Brian Williams that he doesn’t know anything about it – and doesn’t plan to watch his wife’s horse compete in the upcoming Olympics.

“It’s a big, exciting experience for my wife. I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport,” Romney said. “I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not be watching the event. I hope her horse does well.”

Well, of course, he couldn’t watch the event, because he was too busy insulting Palestinians on the next leg of his trip:

A top Palestinian aide accused Mitt Romney today of making a “racist statement” when comparing the economic vitality of the Israelis and the Palestinians…

“It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation,” Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Associated Press.

“It seems to me this man (Romney) lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people,” Erekat said.

What Mr. Erekat apparently doesn’t know is that Romney lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of the United States and its people, too.

Poland was Romney’s final stop, and the weary traveler decided at that point to delegate the stupid remarks back to his staff: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Turn Right at Greenland edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (Truckin' edition)

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If he were put on an antique diving helmet and a gorilla suit and recite the Gettysburg Address from a diving board forty-three feet above a wading pool filled with piranhas, Mitt Romney still wouldn’t be the slightest bit interesting. Except, perhaps, to Jim Wilson, a retired insurance salesman whose fascination with Romney approaches idolatry, as noted in a previous edition of this column.

For reasons known only to Wilson, his Maker and possibly his therapist, back in 2011 the man began following the candidate all over the country, something even the Romney clan – wife Ann and sons Tagg, Tugg, Borg, Blip and Fauntleroy – seem reluctant to do. Wilson’s admiration was aptly characterized by the New York Times as “fanatical” in a May profile. Among other things, the article amusingly revealed the campaign’s initial suspicions about the man:

The Romney campaign kept its distance from him at first. Aides to Mr. Romney, nervous that a suddenly ubiquitous fan might prove a liability, went so far as to vet him. Finding nothing alarming, they began to see an upside to his doggedness and free labor.

Uh-huh. The “upside” being that despite Romney’s clearly absolute dearth of charisma, the campaign can always point to Wilson as evidence that the candidate is capable of some sort of quasi-human quasi-connection. In a reassuring sign of prudence, however, Wilson seems to realize that a face-to-face meeting with his hero just might kill the magic:

For many campaign volunteers, the reward for long hours is face time with the candidate. Mr. Wilson seems uninterested, repeatedly turning down invitations to meet with Mr. Romney backstage at events. They mostly exchange waves.

Wilson’s ’98 GMC 1500 already had a ton of miles on it when he decided to add another 40,000 or so by pointlessly tailing Romney, with the intended last stop being Romney’s inauguration: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Truckin’ edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (With Friends Like These edition)

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With his certain victory today in the Texas primary, Mitt Romney will finally have his party’s nomination more or less sewn up, but is there anyone, even among Republicans, who actually likes Romney? Of course not, but it’s fascinating to watch those who, for various reasons, are pretending that they do.

Let’s start with evangelicals, a voting bloc without which the Republican Party would be about as viable as Whigs. Romney has a dual problem with evangelicals: he’s nowhere near conservative enough, no matter how much he pretends to be, and his religion is regarded by a large swath of the Christian right as little more than Scientology with a big-ass choir.

Romney made the quadrennial ritual forelock-tugging visit to Liberty “University” on May 12. Despite a large turnout to hear him speak, and the faint praise of some in attendance, others on campus were less than welcoming:

Liberty teaches that Mormonism is a cult, and university officials took down a commencement Facebook page after it was flooded with hundreds of posts objecting to Romney’s appearance.

Jerry Falwell Jr., the “school” chancellor, showed off his versatility with a little stand-up routine before Romney’s speech, likely sending Jerry Sr.’s corpse into rapid rotation:

… Jerry Falwell Jr. told parents, staff and students that “we are electing a commander-in-chief, not a pastor-in-chief.”

Not to be outdone, the candidate did some comedic ancestor-spinning of his own:

Romney went right at the latest hot-button issue, bringing much of the audience to its feet in cheers by declaring: “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.”

Romney has also received lukewarm plaudits from another previously hostile demographic, his former primary rivals. Erstwhile Swiss citizen Michele Bachmann, for example, had contended as far back as December:

“No, he cannot beat Obama because his policy is the basis for Obamacare… You can’t have a candidate who has given the blueprint for Obamacare. It’s too identical. It’s not going to happen. We have to have a candidate, a bold distinct candidate in the likeness of Ronald Reagan.”

Not having found such a candidate, Bachmann has since decided that if she squints tightly enough, a flip-flopping, suspiciously moderate, milquetoast venture capitalist is close enough. Bachmann also accompanied fellow has-been Herman Cain to a DC press conference on May 16, where Cain issued his own full-throated “yeah, he’ll do” endorsement:

“We as conservatives know that in order to win, we have got to rally around our nominee… It is clear that Governor Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee, so I wanted to formally endorse him today… I know there are lot of people who may not be as excited as some of us about the process, or as excited about the ultimate nominee…”

Another vocal Romney skeptic has finally come around, if only because it keeps his incessantly marketed name in the news:

… Donald Trump is delighted that Mitt Romney is using The Donald’s star power to lure lottery contestants and donors to a major fundraiser June 28 for Romney’s presidential juggernaut.

… fortunate attendees will receive, according to the campaign, “airport transportation in the Trump vehicle… stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower… [get a] tour of Trump Tower” and “dine with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney.” Trump will host a fundraiser for Romney, featuring a drop-by by former rival Newt Gingrich, next Tuesday at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.

Trump managed to fake enthusiasm for Romney better than most, but can’t do so without, as is his wont, paying homage to himself:

“I feel strongly that Mitt is really doing well. I think he’s gonna be a great candidate and a great president. We need a great president. I feel a lot of people listen to what I have to say.”

Funny stuff, though not as funny as his tellingly phallic comments from April of last year:

“I’m a much bigger business man and have (a) much, much bigger net worth. I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney,” Trump said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Romney, a candidate who will unhesitatingly cozy up to any abrasive jackass, is perfectly cool with another of Trump’s look-at-me gambits, his birther obsession. In fact, it was precisely this topic that yesterday prompted Romney to make his first honest statement of the campaign:

Asked… whether Trump’s questioning of President Barack Obama’s birthplace gave him pause, Romney simply said he was grateful for all his supporters.

“You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” Romney said. “But I need to get 50.1% or more and I’m appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.”

Whether that appreciation extends as far as granting Trump a plum turn at the podium in Tampa remains to be seen:

“Mr. Trump’s massive popularity is just one of the many reasons he is being sought as a keynote speaker at the Tampa RNC Convention,” Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump, told The Daily Caller.

Trump’s not the only major league asshat who seems to have succumbed to a mild case of Romney fever recently. You might remember a Republican éminence grise or bête noire – named George W. Bush:

“I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home — the White House.

Alas, since Bush was essentially as welcome as herpes to the organizers of the 2008 Republican convention in Saint Paul, I don’t expect his being “for Mitt Romney” will net him much mic time this go-round, which is a pity. It would be a real highlight of the convention to see Bush and Trump on stage together, spinning plates, perhaps, or maybe doing a combover-and-paper version of “Dueling Banjos.” Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (With Friends Like These edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (Newtorious B.I.G. edition)

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Last month’s Friday the 13th was an inauspicious day for Newt Gingrich. The disgraced former Speaker and vanity presidential candidate was lucky enough to get a private tour of the St. Louis Zoo, but Gingrich’s luck ran out when he was bitten by a Magellanic penguin.

What prompted the attack is unknown. Since Gingrich pontificates more frequently than most people blink, the penguin could have been irked by some insufferably pompous pronouncement. Or maybe the bird prefers Romney. Perhaps it simply mistook Gingrich for a pasty, freakishly large cuttlefish.

Whatever the cause, Gingrich’s campaign never recovered, even if his finger did. It was no secret that things were already going badly. Gingrich had begun renting out his donor list to help cover a $4.5 million campaign debt. The Center for Health Transformation, a Gingrich “think” tank, filed for Chapter 7. The campaign bounced a $500 check to Utah.

Finally, having previously announced that he would announce the end of his campaign, he announced the end of his campaign:

“Today I am suspending the campaign, but suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship…”

Pow! Take that, all you people who believe that suspending a campaign means suspending citizenship! Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Newtorious B.I.G. edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (Veep Doo-doo edition)

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Republicans have rushed to embrace the distraction of possible running mates for Mitt Romney, probably because it beats sitting around lamenting that their nominee is going to be Mitt Romney. The good news for the GOP is there’s no shortage of potential names; the bad news is that all of them are wretched.

Speaking of wretched, Senator John McCain was recently asked by CBS if he had any bright ideas for VP. “I think it should be Sarah Palin,” he said, and then he giggled like a schoolboy on nitrous oxide. Make of that what you will.

There’s no question that Palin still has a solid core of support among a certain type of no-information Republican voter. The party powers-that-be, however, might have reason to feel differently:

At the website for… Sarah PAC, donors are assured that funds they give to the PAC will be “dedicated to building America’s future by supporting fresh ideas and candidates who share our vision for reform and innovation.” According to Politico, however, those funds are currently doing nothing of the sort.

The committee’s [April 11] filing says that Sarah PAC raised $388,000 between January and March and spent $418,000 over the same time period, most of it on further fundraising and a bevy of political consultants, as well as a down payment on building space in Tampa, Florida near the site this summer’s Republican National Convention.

None of the funds have been spent on candidates or donations to other conservative causes…

And if Palin’s “ask not what you can do for your party” approach isn’t off-putting enough to the Republican establishment, there’s also the fact that she hasn’t come up with any new material in four years. In an interview with Sean Hannity about Hilary Rosen’s completely justified characterization of Ann Romney, for example, Palin’s contribution to the “nontroversy” was the same old same old:

“The comments that Hillary Rosen made today certainly have awakened many mama grizzlies across the nation,” the former Alaska governor asserted.

Mama grizzlies, Governor? Really? Palin won’t say one way or the other whether she’s interested in being a two-time failed VP candidate, but she did toss out an intriguing name in a March interview on Fox News:

“You know who I’d like to see… Colonel Allen West. Colonel Allen West, who’s been to the school of hard knocks, he should be the one who should be considered seriously for VP.”

Why, yes, he should be, by any party determined to lose 50 states this November. Yet Palin’s not the only one who thinks West’s jib is sufficiently well cut to take up residence at the Naval Observatory. Nikki Haley, who has herself been mentioned as a possible Romney running mate, echoed Palin, albeit a little tepidly:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a top surrogate for GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, suggested Wednesday night that controversial Tea Party freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) could be a “good” choice as the party’s vice presidential nominee.

“You’ve got great ones. You have heard Gov. Palin talk about West, and he’s good.”

And if the Palin and Haley endorsements aren’t enough to persuade the Republicans to go West, maybe that of novelty presidential candidate and serial philanderer Herman Cain will:

“Colonel Allen West out of Florida. Here’s why. He is well-spoken, he is direct, people in Florida love him, he has a huge following. He is from Florida. Florida is going to be one of those key states… But more importantly, Colonel Allen West is a dedicated patriot. He served in the military, and he is willing to serve his country some more.”

And a vice president isn’t subject to Article 15 proceedings, which is a huge plus, but if Romney wants to tap West as his running mate, he might need a time machine. The Congressman was most recently spotted hanging out in the year 1954:

… at a town-hall event in Palm Beach, he told supporters that he has “heard” that up to 81 Democrats are, in fact, communists, the Palm Beach Post reports.

In the video… someone asks West how many members of the Democratic Party are “card-carrying Marxist Socialists.”

“I believe that there are about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West responds…

When pressed for specifics, a spokeswoman for the West campaign said that West was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Some days later, West proffered more implausible specifics:

I think that if you would take the time to study the political spectrum of ideologies, you’d understand that at the turn of the [20th] century, American Communists renamed themselves as progressives. If you study the Woodrow Wilson administration, people referred to the Woodrow Wilson administration as a progressive administration…

There’s a very thin line between communism, progressivism, Marxism, socialism — or even, as Mark Levin has said, statism. It’s about nationalizing production, it’s about creating and expanding the welfare state. It’s about this idea of social and economic justice. And you hear that being played out — you know, now with fairness, fair share, economic equality, shared sacrifice, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

I’m starting to think Palin, Haley and Cain are onto something here. That’s certainly one of the most forthright, unequivocal attacks on social and economic justice I’ve ever seen. Sadly, this courageous asininity landed West in hot water with another bunch of America-hating Bolsheviks: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (Veep Doo-doo edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (A Candidacy to Remember edition)

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One hundred years ago today, the RMS Titanic slipped into the North Atlantic, taking with it more than 1,500 lives; five days ago today, Rick Santorum went to Gettysburg and suspended his presidential candidacy. Except for the majestic luxury liner, terrible casualties and historic milestone stuff, the two tragedies are virtually indistinguishable.

So what was Rick Santorum’s iceberg? That’s tough to say, because there are so many possibilities. I’m leaning to a campaign appearance in Fairfield, California back on March 29, myself. A Los Angeles Times headline about the event is a cheery highlight of the election season so far: “Rick Santorum invokes Ronald Reagan at Jelly Belly factory in California.”

At the time, Santorum had racked up a number of primary wins, some of them almost surprising if one discounts the depth of “Anyone but Romney” sentiment (which, of course, one can’t). At least part of the GOP “intelligentsia” must have realized that Santorum should be treated seriously. He was certainly being treated seriously by the Romney campaign, meaning that they were delighted to spend, well, titanic amounts of money attacking him. At some point in one of the debates, Santorum even fielded two questions in a row on geopolitics, and answered both with shockingly nuanced calls to moderation.

Rick Santorum had arrived nationally, in other words. So what did he do? He started gnawing off his own newfound prestige like a critter caught in a leg trap:

“Let them know, conservatives all across this country have not given up the fight, we’re not going to concede to the moderate establishment who wants to convince everybody that it’s over, it’s time to go away…”

If you’re unaware of the Republican moderate establishment, they were last seen headed for the exits following the Dole campaign in ’96, but Santorum obviously doesn’t know that.

“They’re asking you, people of principle, to compromise your principles and to be for someone who is less corely convicted than Ronald Reagan because we need to win. My question is, ‘Win what?’ Every time we run someone that the moderate establishment of the Republican Party said we need to win, we lose. Why? Because Americans don’t have a clear choice. They don’t have a vision for someone who actually believes and who dramatically, decisively lays out a vision for the American people to inspire and lift up and get people, like Reagan did, to believe in themselves.”

It’s hard to even imagine a more “corely convicted” politician than Rick Santorum. I admit I don’t fully understand what “corely convicted” even means, but it surely has a Santorian ring to it.

The speech foreshadowed both his eventual withdrawal from the race and his determination to remain an outsider (or maverick, if you will). It was also noteworthy that Santorum used the words “Reagan” and “stool” in the same sentence:

“We as conservatives need to stand up and fight for a candidate who can win this general election, who stands solidly, firmly on the ‘three-legged stool’ that brought the Reagan coalition together.”

He returned to this theme in his concession speech on April 10. Or at least I think he did; Newsmax’s transcript is pretty dodgy:

And laying out not a thee-legged [sic] stool of Ronald Reagan but a four-legged tool [sic] with the Constitution being one of those vitally important legs that we had forgotten about.

He’s right; you can’t be too careful laying out a stool, and no good could ever come from forgetting about vitally important legs. Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (A Candidacy to Remember edition)

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Slouching Towards Tampa (¿Habla Jackass? edition)

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Rick Santorum has a BA, an MBA, a law degree, and served two terms in the House and two in the Senate. He also has all the common sense of a summer squash and seems not to know anything about the laws of the country he thinks he should govern.

Campaigning ahead of the March 18 primary, Santorum advised the 3.7 million residents of Puerto Rico to ix-nay the anish-Spay if they want statehood for their archipelago.

His reasoning, such as it was, was this:

“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law, and that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language.”

That might be so in Santorum’s theocratic, repressive, regressive and wholly imaginary version of the United States, but the real world United States demands no such thing. Not yet, anyway. And what Santorum would probably consider a surprising number of Puerto Ricans know this, and were righteously peeved by his comments. Thus Santorum sweatily tried to clarify his position the next day, but only managed to convey his apparent belief that Puerto Rico is a country:

“I think English and Spanish – obviously Spanish is going to be spoken here on the island – but this needs to be a bilingual country [sic], not just a Spanish-speaking country [sic], and right now it is overwhelmingly just Spanish-speaking,” he told reporters.

Uh-oh. But wait! Campaign team to the rescue:

A representative of the Santorum campaign, J. Hogan Gidley, said late Thursday that “Rick is an advocate of making English our official language — just like 90% of Americans. He knows there’s no current federal law in place — but what he was talking about — is that once English is made the official language — obviously all states would need to comply.”

Oh, so that’s what he meant! Well, J. Hogan, if he perseveres, maybe Santorum’s own English skills will eventually improve to the point where he can be understood without your help, but I’m not optimistic.

With Santorum having wedged both his feet firmly in his mouth, Mitt Romney managed to keep his own yap shut about eating cheesy arroz con gandules or learning to say “¡Socio!” just long enough to win the primary, with 83% of the vote over Santorum’s second-place 8%. By the way, the District of Columbia primary is a couple of days away and if you’re dreading hearing what Santorum intends to tell DC residents about their path to statehood, don’t worry. He isn’t even on the DC ballot.

After his escape from Puerto Rico, Santorum might have believed that Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois would be a nice, non-threatening suburban venue for his next campaign appearance. But it was not to be:

Two men who kissed one another were kicked out of presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s rally Friday evening…

Santorum was 15 minutes into his speech when the two men shouted and got the attention of the crowd. They exchanged a kiss, prompting guards to eject them and the crowd to chant “U-S-A” while they were leaving the gym.

I remember the damnedest things prompting “U-S-A” chants during the 2008 Republican Convention, for example, and similarly weird instances elsewhere, but this one just beats the hell out of me. In any event, Santorum’s speech was every bit as absurd as the behavior of the crowd:

“We need a president who understands that America is the greatest country in the history of the world and what we’ve done across this country, across this world, it’s not oppress, it’s not invade, we are not invaders, we are not people that seek gain of territory, oil, property. What we seek is security for ourselves and liberty and prosperity for others and it’s nothing to apologize for.”

A Gallup poll taken a couple of weeks back suggests that Santorum might want to apologize to the roughly two-thirds of Republican voters who just aren’t turned on by his candidacy:

A little more than one-third of Republicans say they would vote “enthusiastically” for either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum if either candidate were to win their party’s nomination for president… This level of enthusiasm is similar to Republicans’ feelings about voting for Romney in early 2008, but lower than the enthusiasm level for that year’s eventual GOP nominee, John McCain…

Whether or not such findings have influenced the increasingly heated rhetoric between the Romney and Santorum campaigns, it’s a gas to watch them heave insults and innuendo at one other.

Last weekend, Santorum told a Wisconsin audience to beware his rival:

“Pick any other Republican in the country. He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama,” Santorum said at an evening rally near Racine.

Santorum later tried to clarify that he was talking only about Romney’s ability to campaign against the national health care law championed by Obama and the Democrats.

“Tried to clarify” in this case is shorthand for flying off the handle when Jeff Zeleny, a reporter for the New York Times, pressed Santorum on his characterization of Romney:

“What speech did you listen to? Stop lying! I said he is the worst Republican to run on the issue of Obamacare. And that’s what I’m talking about. I said uniquely for every speech I give, I’ve said he’s uniquely disqualified to run against Barack Obama on the issue of healthcare. Would you guys quit distorting what I said?”

Santorum added: “Quit distorting my words. If I see it, it’s bullshit! Come on man, what are you doing?”

The candidate later unveiled his new GOP litmus test on Fox News:

“If you haven’t cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you’re not really a real Republicans is the way I look at it.”

Yet, sensing that Bullshitgate might get out of hand at a crucial point in the primary race, Santorum went out of his way to be conciliatory a day later in a CBN appearance:

“Of course,” Santorum said, when asking whether he’d consider being Romney’s running mate.

This follows by several weeks Romney’s slightly more-than-implicit “of course not“:

Speaking on Fox Business Network, Romney was asked, if he won the GOP presidential nomination, whether he would pick a running mate more conservative than him on the economy.

“Well, that would preclude Rick Santorum,” Romney responded. “I find it interesting that he continues to describe himself as the real conservative. Rick Santorum is not a person who is an economic conservative to my right. His record does not suggest he has the fiscal conservative chops that I have.”

Which is a small point in Santorum’s favor, actually. Romney’s “fiscal conservative chops” have been front and center in the serial revelations about his La Jolla beachfront property. First it came to light that Romney is tearing down the 3,000-square-foot home on the plot and replacing it with a more Romney-appropriate house three to four times larger (depending on which news story one cites). Then detailed plans for the new house were revealed, showing that it will have: Continue reading Slouching Towards Tampa (¿Habla Jackass? edition)

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