The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the RNC
Though the Republican National Convention has been over for a few days now, the speakers moved on to other commitments, and the Democratic equivalent in full swing, it still has an odd, rather incomplete feel to it. The customary bump in the polls which usually follows a convention has failed to properly materialise for Mitt Romney, no real issues of significant substance seem to have arisen, and the candidate even lost the news cycle the next day to an empty chair.
This is not to say that Romney did not do well in Tampa, or that he delivered a poor speech. It is just that the whole convention (with one important exception) simply seemed rather forgettable, especially after having seen the first major speeches of the DNC these last two evenings. But the aim of the Republicans in Tampa was to humanise Romney, and in this they had a measure of success. They sent out Ann Romney ‘to talk about love’, and people with heartwarming tales of Mitt’s generosity and kindness to share. And although the agenda was transparent, and the anecdotes all appeared to be from the 1970s and 1980s, it was still an overdue change from the dry, almost robotic feel of most of Romney’s campaign. As for the candidate himself, he continued with this theme, inserting this self-consciously tear-jerking section about his parents:
My mom and dad were married for 64 years. And if you wondered what their secret was, you could have asked the local florist. Because every day, dad gave mom a rose, which he put on the bedside table. That is how she found that the day my father died. She went looking for him because, that morning, there was no rose.
…Alongside very little on the economy, foreign policy, or indeed policy of any kind.
If the (limited) success of Operation Humanise Mitt can be taken as the ‘good’ of the RNC, Paul Ryan’s speech must be placed within the ‘bad’ category. Again, it is not that the speech itself was bad, in fact he had some of the best lines of the convention, accusing the President of lacking leadership and speaking of college graduates back in their childhood bedrooms ‘staring up at fading Obama posters’. The problem with Ryan’s speech is that it was so consistently false from beginning to end that it qualifies as a work of fiction.
Ryan implied Obama was to blame for the closing of a GM plant in Janesville which actually shut months before his inauguration. He claimed the stimulus was a useless waste of money, despite the 2.5 million jobs created and the ‘long-term, transformative impact’ it has had. He lied about both Obama’s stance on Medicare, and his own. Ryan even attacked Obama for creating a ‘bipartisan debt commission’ and ignoring its recommendations, without mentioning that he was actually on that very commission and voted against its recommendations himself. He lied repeatedly and to such an extent that even Fox News rebuked him for it, saying ‘Republicans should be ashamed that there was even one misrepresentation in Ryan’s speech but sadly, there were many‘.
The thing with Paul Ryan, however, is that he is a very skilled politician. He understands how the media works, and he knows that while accusations run on page one, corrections are buried on page 12. Most Americans watching Ryan’s speech will have taken it face value, and never read the ‘fact-checking’ blogs which have so pilloried him. But while Paul Ryan is a politician shaped in focus groups, with a carefully constructed image and a carefully honed style, Clint Eastwood is not.
Clint Eastwood’s speech at the DNC was one of those moments so inexplicable that it takes on the appearance of a bizarre dream in the memory of those who witnessed it. Eastwood embarked on a rambling 12-minute attack on Barack Obama, who was represented on stage by an empty chair. While the concept itself was perhaps not a particularly bad one, the combination of Eastwood’s age, stumbling speech and weak hold on the facts (such as claiming Obama started the war in Afghanistan), just produced the image of a ‘crazy old man’ ranting at an inanimate object, as this direct quote below illustrates:
And how do you handle, uh… how do you handle that? I mean what do you say to people, uh, do you, uh, do you just, uh, you know, I know… people uh… people were wondering… you don’t… you don’t handle… ok.
The Washington Post wrote that the Romney team afterwards insisted that ‘Eastwood, a non-politician, gave a non-political speech‘, but anyone who saw it would agree that ‘nonsensical’ would be a more apt description.
There was one clear ‘victor’ for ugliest moment of the convention in Tampa. This came when two men in attendance allegedly threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman, before saying ‘this is how we feed animals‘. Though the men, who have not been named, were unlikely to have been delegates rather than supporters, the disgusting incident highlights that the Republican party still does have a race problem in its midst. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week put Mitt Romney’s support with black voters at 0%. With sixty days until the election, his convention already over and seemingly no support whatsoever from a section of the populace, Romney can barely afford any more of the bad or the ugly if he is to follow through on his promises in Tampa and win in November.