Last night I flew across the country, watching the Republican National Convention on the 9 inch screen carefully placed into the back of the seat of the asshole in front of me who couldn’t figure out whether he wanted to sit up straight or recline all the way into my computer.
I’m armed with 6 Jack Daniels and a complimentary bag containing exactly 7 peanuts, so I’m in exactly the kind of surreal mood to watch these Republicans talk all night. For the record, I understand that he’s a racist douche but the guy who threw peanuts at an African-American camerawoman at the Convention last night while declaring that he was trying to “feed the animals” did provide a more agreeable portion of peanuts than Delta Airlines.
A number of low-wattage Republicans spoke earlier in the evening, but let’s skip ahead and begin with the much touted Ann Romney speech, which I sum up by invoking the amazing Patton Oswalt who described a certain kind of stand-up comedian as “yeah…you’re funny but who gives a shit?”
First, we’re treated to an introductory speech from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. The theme of the night is to attack the “you didn’t build that” line that was taken entirely out of context, but has become one of the central premises of the Republican argument for the presidency. There is something deeply significant in that fact.
Haley, who unlike most of the speakers tonight actually read the program, repeats the “didn’t build that” line while informing us that South Carolina makes more tires than anyone else. The sad part is that this is a fact that I will never forget. It will be forever lodged in my brain, pushing out important stuff like the quadratic equation or who Dylan McKay married in 90210.
Mercifully, Haley is wrapping up after proclaiming “victory” in the Boeing dispute that was only a victory if you call, “Boeing giving the other side everything they wanted” a victory. Haley asks America to “Send [Obama] home…back to Chicago.” I’m impressed she didn’t say “Kenya,” ‘cause you know she wanted to.
Rachel Maddow is just running through the speech and explaining what the dog whistle racist code words were. The terrifying moment for America should be Maddow’s matter-of-fact tone. Hurling covert racism (as opposed to peanuts – which is “overt” racism) is so expected in these speeches that there’s not even a point in feigning shock.
Here comes the First Lady of Dressage herself, Ann Romney. She did not ride out on Rafalca while wearing the “Bird shirt” like I’d prayed. It’s for the best because I don’t think the other passengers on this plane would have appreciated my convulsive laughter.
Much has been made of Ann Romney’s speaking skill. Yeah…I guess. I mean, she’s a much better speaker than her husband, and after Mitt gets beat down in November, we should start the clock on the Romneys moving full-time to New Hampshire or Connecticut because those are Senate seats she could potentially win.
But this speech elevates trite to a whole new level. I could write this on the back of a napkin and I don’t mean in that “Gettysburg Address” sort of way. A speech has to be measured in the context of its goals. The two goals of putting Ann Romney on stage are (1) outreach to suburban white women that Mitt Romney needs to win, and (2) prove that Mitt Romney was not sent back to this moment to kill John Conner. On both counts she failed.
The overarching theme of the speech is “Love,” which is actually a decent theme for accomplishing both goals. It allows Ann to cast the GOP as focused on the positive (the non-we hate gays) aspects of family that test well with women and specifically sets up the Mitt and Ann love story which would at least demonstrate some humanity – kind of a “The Man From Hope” if Hope was an elite gated community.
But rather than talking about the deep respect for the struggles of women with families, Ann Romney talks about her deep identification with those women. There’s a difference there. Ann explains that her life is no “storybook” because she had kids in the house screaming at her (that said, how bad is this when they’re screaming from another wing of the house) and sadly suffered from medical ailments. You know what? No one has “storybook” lives, and telling us that your life isn’t perfect isn’t endearing, it’s “join the fucking club.”
There’s nothing here about the struggles of suburban women only an apology for how we should assume she speaks for the struggles of suburban women. This speech should have followed the hackneyed but effective, “I’ve Met” model. “On my campaign trips, I’ve met _________ who told me…” Express some empathy or at least sympathy before bludgeoning the audience with the idea that the Romney household struggles are “pretty much the struggles of America.” God this is a very pretty disaster of a speech.
Now let’s hear about Mitt. She explains that he was “a little nervous” and that “girls like that.” Great. It’s not like the campaign is suffering from the perception that Mitt is a wavering wuss or anything.
The George Romney story reminds me of the Seinfeld episode the The Yada Yada. “He became a carpenter. Worked hard became the head of the car company and governor of Michigan.” I think Ann missed a few steps. Like the whole “hooking up with the daughter of a Republican party bigwig in order to get a plum assignment working for a Senator that blossomed into a career as a lobbyist and eventual role as a PR spokesman for the auto industry.” This whole “he was a carpenter” story from Mitt is so disingenuous. By the time Mitt Romney was born, George was already the number 2 at the company that would become AMC. When Ann Romney explains that Mitt grew up with privilege but he still earned his success, she is trying to dupe the American public into thinking Mitt lived and struggled and strived as a carpenter’s son for decades before George Romney hit the big time. Not so much.
“Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he’s helped others because he sees it as a privilege not a political talking point.” Occam’s Razor suggests there’s another reason he doesn’t talk much about helping people…
But seriously – “not a political talking point?” Pretty sure I’ve seen this ad about a thousand times over TWO different election cycles.
If there were ANY other good stories of Mitt’s generosity, we’d be hearing them. And now Ann is going to tell us what Mitt’s too modest to tell us! Oh, she’s not really going to talk about it either.
Remember there are staffers helping write this speech who presumably probed Ann Romney for weeks trying to see if there was any endearing quality or compassionate story to put in this speech. The lack of ANYTHING we haven’t heard before is a deafening silence. Well, that’s not totally fair — I guess as Governor of Massachusetts he spent a bunch of money on scholarships. That’s something.
She does get the audience going with a little call and response on the subject of “success.”
“Would we be attacking success if the last 4 years were successful?” Well, no, but mostly because if the last 4 years were more successful Obama wouldn’t even be in a campaign as much as a coronation.
Well we’re talking about success so what does that tell us about Mitt? “This man will not fail.” Well stacking the deck in every deal you ever take on helps. Seriously, Mitt Romney has rigged the Kobayashi Maru test at every critical juncture of his life and like Captain Kirk he’s missed out on the character building lesson.
Well, that was it. Mitt comes out. Waving. Suburban women condescended to. Mitt Romney life story left exactly as threadbare as before. Ann, this man may not fail, but you certainly did.