Friday, August 31, 2012

What I Heard Last Night

If one of the talking points Mitt Romney has about Barack Obama is that his presidency has disappointed us, I must say the Mittster’s nomination acceptance speech last night at the Republican National Convention did not differentiate him from the incumbent. I was not blown away by his rhetoric, his message or by his delivery. And, for sure, I was not provided an inkling as to how he would achieve his five point goals. Yes, they were lofty. But without specifics, it’s like my saying I would like a body as trim and buff as Paul Ryan’s. Unless I’m specifically willing to devote time to the exercise regimen Ryan endures each morning, it’s just not happening. 

You might already have read analyses about the speech, so I’ll try  to keep my take to a minimum of what I jotted down as Romney was smiling that awkward smile of his as he soaked up the love, if not the respect, of the conventioneers, who, honestly, seemed less enthusiastic than those I’ve seen at other party gatherings. 

First, I couldn’t believe Mitt said, “If you ask Ann and I...” I’m picky about grammar. The correct phrase is, “If you ask Ann and me ...”, “me” being the object of the verb “ask.” “I” cannot be the object of a verb. I suppose Romney might want to reconsider any suggestion to downgrade or eliminate the Department of Education.

Second, Romney said Republicans “united” behind Obama when he assumed office. What distant Bizarro world has he lived in since January 20, 2009? The only union Republicans made was with themselves in their effort to, in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s words, make Obama a one-term president.

Third, Romney soft-pedaled the troubles Obama inherited from George Bush. He barely acknowledged Bush’s legacy—two wars, a failed economy, a rising deficit.

Fourth, he suggested the best feeling Americans had for Obama “was the day you voted for him,” ignoring the euphoria we all felt when we heard Osama bin Laden had been killed, on orders from a Democratic president.

Fifth, saying that Obama’s lack of business experience made him unqualified to be president, especially compared to his business background, Romney ignored the fact that some of our greatest or most important presidents were similarly inexperienced (FDR, JFK, Nixon, Reagan, Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt) or were failures in business (Truman, Lincoln, Jefferson).  

Sixth, Romney criticized Obama’s attacks on his record at Bain Capital, saying the president didn’t understand not every business succeeds. Fair enough. I would expect then, Romney would drop any future references to Solyndra, the solar energy company that received a $500 million federal investment but wound up filing for bankruptcy a year ago tomorrow. As Romney said, not every company succeeds.

Seventh, “As president, I’ll protect the sanctity of life,” Romney said to wild cheering. But what did he mean by that? Would he continue to defend a woman’s right to an abortion in cases of rape, incest or risk to her life? Would he work to outlaw contraception, as his running mate Ryan advocates? Would he support legislation to criminalize women and their doctors for abortions? Would he support legislation to extend rights to the unborn, from the moment of conception? Would he reject embryonic stem cell research? Would he reject federal funding for Planned Parenthood?  

Eighth, Mocking Obama’s promise “to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet,” Romney said, “My promise is to help you and your family.”  His promise is a good one, but in denigrating Obama’s, he projects his disdain for the realities of climate change and pollution. It is indisputable sea levels are rising, that the world’s air and water are getting dirtier. To ignore the long-term implications is evidence Romney is living in a dream world of the 1950s.

Ninth, Romney resurrected Reagan’s question as to whether we are better off today than four years ago. To someone currently unemployed or in danger of losing their home, the answer is obvious. But let’s look at the trends. Unemployment is slightly higher, 8.3% compared to 7.6% when Obama took the oath of office. But the trendline points down and would be lower if not for the massive layoffs of state and local government workers. Job creation is up. The Dow Jones Industrial Index was 8,281 the morning of January 20, 2009. NASDAQ was 1,529. The S&P 500 was 850. This morning they were, respectively, 13,000; 3,049; and 1,399. Gas prices are almost double what they were, despite the highest level of U.S. oil production. Housing prices seem to be creeping back up, but too many homes remain under water (and I’m not referring to Hurricane Isaac). 

To sum up, economic statistics and trends can support Obama or Romney, which is why so many pundits believe Romney must make himself more likable, and Obama less likable, for the GOP to retake the Oval Office. Which brings up a most interesting question NBC’s Brian Williams asked Tom Brokaw last night—why is it that after six years of running for the presidency, Mitt Romney remains an unknown to much of the electorate? Brokaw didn’t have an answer.

An example of how much of a blank slate Romney is could be observed in the weird Clint Eastwood segment of last night’s convention. Eastwood said he never thought it was a good idea for an attorney to be president, an obvious reference to Obama’s Harvard Law School degree. The crowd laughed and cheered. I guess Eastwood and his live audience didn’t read Romney’s resume—he, too, is a Harvard Law School graduate, class of 1975. 

Chinese Fortune: Jon Huntsman Jr., the former governor or Utah and ex-Ambassador to China, was asked by Stephen Colbert to say in Mandarin what he really thinks of Romney. Here’s a translation: "All right!  Let me put it this way.  I think that two months from now Governor Romney will have a lot of success."

But as Nathan pointed out on, “Unfortunately for Romney, the election's slightly more than two months away.”

Foreign Language: Finally, here’s another example of dumbness on the airwaves. Stephen A. Smith, an ESPN talk-radio host, said yesterday he would gladly learn Spanish if he knew he would be sent to Brazil to cover the 2016 Summer Olympics. His co-host, producer or anyone else listening in didn’t tell him Spanish would do him little good in Rio de Janeiro as Brazilians speak Portuguese.