FROM TAMPA TO CHARLOTTE
This is a difficult weekend for me to post, because I’m concentrating all my energies on working on my next book. So permit me just a few comments.
First, let’s look back at Tampa.
The bottom line for Mitt is that, on the one hand, he and his backers did a nice job of demonstrating that he is in fact human and not a visitor from outer space, but on the other hand, he offered little info about what he would do as President and is still depending on the public to take a huge leap of faith that he’d be an improvement on Obama.
I subscribe to the theory that whether you’re talking about a prize fight or a political campaign, the challenger has to really “take it” to the incumbent. He can’t just win on points – he has to knock him out. And certainly, Tampa was not a knockout. The GOP made plenty of boasts, but they said nothing about details. Exactly how are they going to create 12 million jobs? By dumping money on billionaires? By drilling in Yellowstone?
And speaking of Yellowstone, Romney really pissed me off when he said that he learned to love America by visiting the National Parks, and then later in the same speech, ridiculed Obama for saying that he would like to heal the planet and confront global warming. It makes you wonder whether Romney’s speech, at its core, was as dishonest as Lyin’ Ryan’s.
But let me not be too negative. I thought the GOP showed that they have a lot of young political talent, including Ryan, if only someone told him that public hypocrisy is not a political asset. Senator Marco Rubio will be a force to be reckoned with. And so will Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico. She gave an excellent speech.
Ann Romney’s was strong too. Believe me, I spent half of it gagging. All her pandering to women was making me ill. But at the end of the day, she did her job. She humanized her husband. She convinced me that Mittens is a fine family man, and she even got me thinking about whether he’s a paragon of virtue in that stuck-in-the-50s kind of way. I still find that hard to believe given how easy it is for him to change his spots. Clearly, he doesn’t believe that a politician is obliged to level with the public. But otherwise, he seems to be a guy who honors his obligations, and I respect that.
Truth be told, I fell asleep during Mitt’s speech. It happened somewhere in between the time that he was mocking my concern for the environment and prior to the time he was pandering to me about Israel. I would have heard the whole speech if some senile jerk hadn’t remained too long on the stage about an hour earlier, talking to an empty chair. When all is said and done, Clint’s 12-minute horror movie will be the most lasting impression of this Convention. For those of us who love the Dirty Harry movies, it was hard to know whether to laugh, cry, or get mad. I’ve already seen that people are calling the speech “Every Which Way But Lucid.” And yet I found it lucid enough. Clint had no trouble communicating that he supports Romney, that at least one other big-name Hollywood actor does too (Jon Voight), and that it is time for me not to waste any more time watching Clint Eastwood movies.
Free country, Clint. Just sayin’.
Now, let’s look ahead, toward Charlotte.
I don’t remember the last time I felt more alienated from the Democratic Party before a Presidential Convention. Maybe 1980. But that’s the only time that comes to mind, and I’ve closely followed every Presidential campaign since 1968.
I don’t doubt that President Obama has something of a record to run on. He nailed Bin Laden. He made some progress on gay rights. He saved this nation from falling into a truly awful depression. He helped to universalize health care coverage, thus bringing us into the 21st century. And he did all that despite having to deal with the least cooperative opposition party in recent memory. The President definitely has some material to work with at the Convention.
And yet … when you compare the poetry with which he campaigned for the job to the ineptitude that he brought to the job at so many critical junctures, you’re talking about quite a gulf. Time after time after time, he would bring a knife to a gunfight. And we couldn’t tell whether his Party was in the White House or was the opposition. If he wins this election, and the GOP asks Clint Eastwood to lend them some brand spanking new Smith and Wesson Model 29 revolvers, I won’t be expecting our President to fight fire with fire even then. In fact, what I would expect from a second term is four years of gridlock – much like our city’s Beltway during rush hour (and quite often even on weekends).
What’s even sadder than contemplating the failures of the Obama Presidency to date is to contemplate what the Democrats have left in the tank after this Presidency ultimately ends. Yes, there is Hillary – perhaps for one more run. But where’s the young talent? And what do they stand for? Being less crazy than the Republicans is certainly a feather in their cap, but as a political party’s only raison d’etre, it’s a little lame, wouldn’t you say?
I still believe the President will be re-elected. I still expect him on Thursday night to summon some of that poetry that we once came to expect from him. And I am hopeful that just as Tampa convinced us that Mitt is human after all, Charlotte will convince us that the Obama Presidency truly had some fine moments. But somehow, I have lost the feeling that this Party represents me. In fact, I don’t know what it represents… other than an improvement on the Republicans.
So let me sign off with one final idea. The Republicans brought some fine entertainment to their convention. The Democrats are obliged to do the same. But who should be the entertainer? My recommendation is to counteract Clint with Meryl Streep. She’s a great actor and a class act. And I’m sure she’s still in control of her faculties. If Meryl isn’t available, what the hell – get Ellen DeGeneres and have her stand up on the stage and yell out “I love women!” It worked for Ann Romney, so why not Ellen? Plus, it will have the virtue of being true. And politically correct. A trifecta.
On second thought, maybe the Dems should just stick with the politics, and leave the comedy to the GOP. Think of the possibilities. The old GOP used to stage stodgy events, littered with one reference to soldiers and veterans after another. This year, the GOP candidate doesn’t even mention the current war, and his warm-up act is a joke-telling alta kocker. Four years from now, maybe they’ll campaign for the legalization of marijuana and get Cheech and Chong to introduce the nominee. Then, instead of talking to Obama as an empty chair, maybe they’ll pretend that Hillary is a joint and smoke her. Anything’s possible with today’s Republican Party. Anything.