30 August 2012

Mitt's the one Reagan warned us about, and he loves women just as much as Joe Namath

I hope it's okay to say that Mitt's speech was not a stemwinder, and not all that memorable. I'm not sure it had to be. We heard all night that he's a really great guy, and we heard what a failure Obama is. I think all Romney needed to do was come across as a grown-up, and really, that's what he does best.

But let me tell you just a couple things that bothered me.

First, Mitt said: "My promise is to help you and your family."

Some years ago, Reagan said: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Mitt, my family doesn't want your help. They want you - as the government - to leave us alone.

Second, this passage:

When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way.  I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, "why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?" 

Don't you wish she could have been here at this convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice? 

As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff.  Half of my cabinet and senior officials were women.  And in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.

I get it, okay? Message: Mitt loves women. Love-love-loves them. This is just over the top, and it kind of reminded me of Roger Staubach's 1975 interview with Phyllis George, where he assured her that he loved sex just as much as Joe Namath.

Hey, it was an okay speech, as these things go. I was a little disappointed that Kid Rock didn't show up to perform his song in person as Mitt took the stage. He would've been better than that Night Ranger guy or Taylor Hicks.

Taken as a whole, the convention did pump me up. If I have misgivings, they were not sown by anything that happened this week. They've been sown during the last four years, as America has chosen more wrong turns, and politicians have fallen below even my low expectations of them to an extent that was previously unimaginable.

Every election, if you follow these things, is "the most important of our lifetimes." This one defies hyperbole. It really is existential.

Do I trust Mitt Romney because he inspires me? Because he's a great leader, speaker, ideologue, politician? No.

I trust him because I have to. Because there is no other choice. Because I do believe in America, and if there was ever a time we needed a turnaround specialist, it's now. He'll do the right thing.

All the rest of it is nitpicking.

A picture-in-picture is worth 2000 words, Mitt. Duh.

Politician visits to disaster areas are always, always photo-ops and nothing more. As is so often the case, President Calvin Coolidge had it right when he declined to visit the victims of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, judging such a visit to be pure political grandstanding.

But in an election year, don't you need to do a little grandstanding?

Don't get me wrong, we all appreciate, as Ann Romney explained the other night, that Mitt sees helping others "as a privilege, not a political talking point."

Nevertheless, particularly in the wake of Katrina, and the ongoing hateful characterizations of Republicans as "uncaring," why would there be any debate whatsoever about whether Romney should visit the region ravaged by Hurricane Isaac? If it doesn't hurt rescue and clean-up efforts? If it maybe helps a few folks feel better? Why would he not do this? What's to consider?

I suspect Governors Jindal and Bryant would be glad to host. Might take two days, and it seems to me that sometime between September 4th and September 6th would be an ideal time to visit, so the cable channels have more than just Obama's "party" to report. They might even need to go split-screen.

A picture-in-picture is worth two thousand words.

Fact-Checking Ryan's shaky "playlist" claim

During his Wednesday night acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Congressman Paul Ryan (R, WI) claimed that his "playlist goes from AC/DC to Zeppelin." We find this claim questionable on three counts:

  • First, "Zeppelin" is actually "Led Zeppelin," which would go under "L" not "Z." It is possible Mr. Ryan does not know the band's full name, and fabricated his entire claim. In any case, it is unlikely that his playlist ends at "L."
  • Second, since Mr. Ryan has previously claimed to be a fan of "Rage Against the Machine," it is clear that his playlist does not end at "L." Unless, of course, the mendacious Mr. Ryan also fabricated his earlier claim.
  • Third, even if he manually truncated "Led"from the artist name in his iTunes library, it is clear that no fan of the two groups he named would not also listen to ZZ Top, which would follow "Zeppelin."

We therefore rate this "playlist" claim Three Pinocchios!

29 August 2012

Ryan: We don't have to settle for "a country where everything is free but us."

The slate of speakers on Day Two seemed stronger across the board, and there was little doubt that the attack dog had his day, capped off by a blistering indictment delivered by Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Ryan seemed comfortable in this traditional role of the VP candidate, tearing Obama's insufferable and empty talk to pieces; shining a light on the failed policies of the past four years.

And he did it with ridicule.

I don't want to bore you with superlatives, because that's too easy. Ryan avoided the Mondale vibe ('hard truths") quite effectively. He talked about tough times, but connected them all to the incumbent.

I'm feeling better tonight, and it seemed like the crowd in Tampa was feeling it, too.

One passage worth repeating:

College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life. Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.
None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.
Listen to the way we’re spoken to already, as if everyone is stuck in some class or station in life, victims of circumstances beyond our control, with government there to help us cope with our fate.
It’s the exact opposite of everything I learned growing up in Wisconsin, or at college in Ohio. When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.

RNC Day One review..am I the only one completely unimpressed with the headliners?

Well, Day One is in the books, so it's time to review. Actually, this was Virtual Day One, as Monday's festivities were cancelled. Presumably, Governor Christie had ordered Republicans to "get the hell off the beach" in advance of the Tampa hurricane that never materialized.

If you wanted to see all of the speeches, your only televised option was C-SPAN, but, at least on my cable, they have no HD feed. (I know, I know - "first world problems.") I saw some criticism that MSNBC did not show any of the minority speakers. I was watching on Fox and didn't see most of them, either. Who cares? Most Americans won't ever see most of any of this. One reason is that even those who try will be subjected to hour after hour of commentary that interests exactly nobody while the candidates and office-holders silently prowl the stage behind them, heard only by the party faithful present in the hall.

The party's standard-bearers have become, these days, merely a silent backdrop for the well-coiffed talking heads of cable TV.

But let's talk about the two headliners: Ann Romney and Chris Christie.

The candidate's wife was poised, attractive and convincing in her speech. Really, her speech had only one drawback: she is the candidate's wife. I'm not sure when this tradition started, to be honest with you, and I don't see what it adds. If his wife's endorsement is a surprise to you, or if you find it insightful to learn that she sees endearing, admirable and human qualities in her husband, then you are not just out of touch with politics, you are a little out of touch with reality. I guess that never stopped anybody from voting, though.

None of this is a criticism of the speech, per se, only of this silly tradition established over the last twenty years or so. We talk about how financial disclosure and gotcha politics scares off good people from seeking office - how many don't run because their wives simply don't want to be forced into a candidacy of their own?

The keynote was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and his speech was a pretty big disappointment to me (no, that's not a fat joke.) We talk about Romney's "well-oiled machine," his great organization - did nobody vet these speeches? There must have been 10,000 people on Twitter who immediately picked up on the contradiction in the opening lines of these two speeches: Ann Romney wanted to "talk about love," while Christie basically said "love is b*** s***."

Christie was quite enthusiastic, and it seemed the crowd enjoyed him, but his speech was not helpful to the cause - and not only because he barely mentioned Romney; not only because of how long he regaled us with stories of the New Jersey Miracle. I think the problem was a much more fundamental messaging problem.

"We'll tell you the hard truths" is dangerously close to "he won't tell you. I just did."

It didn't work for Mondale, and it won't work for Romney. Has it been that long since the "hope and change" theme we mocked won? Your top line has to be "we can do better," not "things are really crappy." People know that already. And when you don't even tie the crappiness to the incumbent (another failing of Christie's speech,) then why on earth would I "stand up" and "fight with you?" Against what? For what? Fight to tell everybody how crappy things are?

I admit I did not know exactly what to expect from Christie. I know him from the many very entertaining YouTube clips where he berates rude and stupid questioners at townhall meetings. As a keynote speaker, though, and as a party leader, he was a disappointment.

09 August 2012

I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message of which I have no knowledge

I hate to keep rehashing that Super PAC ad where a guy named Joe Soptic basically accuses Mitt Romney of murdering his wife.

I mean, when CNN debunks it, and MSNBC says it's despicable, it is kind of hard to defend.

And when you get busted for denying any knowledge, it gets harder to and harder to distance yourself from the accusation.

But now it looks like the Obama campaign itself - not the Super PAC, the Obama Campaign - is spreading the same accusation. In case it gets scrubbed, here is what's on Obama's web site right now:

I'm sure Jay Carney can explain how this is all fair game. I mean, it's just accusing Romney of murder - not even that, just negligent homicide.

For crying out loud - it's not like claiming the administration "gutted welfare reform" by removing work requirements when what they actually did was illegally waive welfare work requirements.

Because that's a low blow, man.