Tonight Mitt Romney had a chance to give the American people something new. Instead, he phoned in a performance whose only "new" moment was a bizarre and trivial myth about his dad. He might as well have sent a robot in his place or sent a videotape. His badly lit skull, pasty coloring, and wide grin made him look like a vampire.
The beginning was a patriotic montage so over the top it sounded insincere. One could accept when he said "Optimism is uniquely American" even though it was xenophobic and nonsensical on its face. One could accept that he referred to a "nation of immigrants," like virtually all the other speakers, without acknowledging his anti-immigrant policies. One could even accept the "special kinship of freedom," although it sounds vaguely racist. We ain't kin, Mitt (cue the music from "Deliverance"). But when he remembered watching the moon landing without mentioning the death of an astronaut which put on people's minds, and had the nerve to say with a smug cheshire grin "I wish President Obama had succeeded because I wanted America to succeed," something so emotionally insincere, he completely lost the audience. Note to Romney: when you talk of the pain of the people, you are supposed to look pained, not like you've put one over on them. Perhaps that was intended to be the "humor" moment of the speech. There weren't any others.
He then began plugging his own horn, bragging about his own life story, because apparently the work done over the preceding hours by people who knew him and sang his praises wasn't enough. We had to hear stories from his own lips! One story was ridiculous, namely that his father bought his mother a rose every single day and that's how she knew he was dead, because he didn't bring her a rose one day. He couldn't resist the urge to make his father into an impoverished refugee from the Mexican revolution, "fed by the U.S. Government" rather than a relation of the wealthy top Salt Lake Mormon hierarchy. Like so much of what Romney says, it comes from that magical thinking cult context where if a story ought to be true, it is. He then said he considered going into the auto business but decided not to in order to distinguish himself from Dad. Rich kids always say that, don't they? It's never true. His father did not have a history of getting him great auto jobs: the one he held in high school was security guard, about the only job in an auto plant with no relevance for learning how to run the business.
Romney did say his mother was an actress, which might give him a genetic excuse for mythomania. But when he tried to reinforce his convention's weird reach for women's votes by saying of his wife, "Her job as Mom was harder than mine and more important than mine," one could only ask, then why didn't she run for president instead of you? Sexism and Patriarchy have never done such a bad job of hiding behind women as at this convention, where the female business execs turned out to be working for their husbands, the politicians were mostly wives who fell into it, and there was hardly a pantsuit to be seen.
Nor could Romney leave Bain Capital alone. By now, everybody knows that he originally turned it down when Bill Bain asked him to run it, and he only agreed to do it after B.B. told him he could return to Bain & Co if it didn't work out. He did eventually return to Bain & Co. because Bain & Co. was failing, and he "saved" it by getting the government and some banks to write off their loans by threatening to spend all the remaining cash on bonuses if they didn't. Nonetheless, Romney felt it necessary to pretend he started the whole thing and he "could have asked my church's pension fund to invest but I didn't." He then said the Episcopalian pension fund did invest and profited wildly. None of this alleged distance from the Mormons is remotely believable, since we know some early investors in Bain Capital knew his dad, and it is simply a non-starter to pretend the Mormons didn't create his whole career, such as his leadership of the Salt Lake Olympics. There were no non-Mormons calling for his expertise. There was no great market for Mitt Romney Olympic buttons other than among the Mormon faithful. It was another confusion (see Ann Romney speech) trying to associate him with that other church, the "normal" Episcopalian church, rather than with the Mormons many distrust. He then reiterated the same list of four companies he supposedly built and excused some failures because that's how business is (even though he has never excused Obama's one failure at Solyndra with a similar logic. Obama clearly has a higher businesse success rate). That was pretty telling too, that he didn't have any other companies he could mention besides the ones already brought up by Sternberg. He didn't mention his standard business model for "helping" companies either. Bain Capital would buy a controlling share and then tell the company to cut costs and borrow money. Bain would typically take 30% of the cash the company borrowed as a "fee," and dump the company, leaving them to pay back the remaining cash, interest, and the money Bain took. Now that's a seriously high usurious interest rate on a loan and it is hardly surprising many of them failed.
Romney said his whole focus as president would be JOBS JOBS JOBS although his actual plans don't have anything much to do with jobs, except the military buildup he promised. He complained that Obama's military budget cuts, which his running mate Ryan agreed to, would cost "hundreds of thousands of jobs." This was really a novel use of the military, as a make work project for the unemployed. The military hasn't asked for more people, and at least if we had another stimulus we would get roads and bridges. What will we get from more soldiers except more wars (money spent fighting abroad is an inefficient stimulus), or increased domestic surveillance! Romney also promised more jobs on domestic energy production (independence by 2020!) and accused the president of an "assault on coal, oil, and gas" without revealing that to make that energy economically viable, energy prices would have to rise still more.
Specifically, Romney's plan to add "12 million jobs" is 1) energy independence (even though oil and gas are not labor intensive); 2) every parent be given school choice (how does this create jobs, if public schools are starved of cash?); 3) new free trade agreements with more countries but consequences when nations cheat (note how he never says exactly what he will do about China's mispriced currency. He never says, oh we will ban imports from China unless they do this and that. Because he won't. Indeed, he will sign a free trade agreement with them. More trade agreements means more job losses); 5) Concentrate on small business with no specifics other than a "jobs tour." This is not a plan, this is just sticking a JOBS sticker on the "miscellaneous" file folder. The only way it could create jobs is if Romney's CEO friends decided to do a lot of hiring stateside to help him. In other words, only if the rich have artificially held down employment in order to hurt the government for political reasons, could Romney ever succeed with a "plan" like this. But those CEOs wouldn't do it, because altruism is not their business, nor is Mitt Romney their brother.
The remaining five minute rant covering all other issues was a bunch of dog whistle buzz words.
"Repeal and replace Obamacare" was one, which probably offended the convention crowd because they don't want it replaced, just gone Another was "unlike Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class" (a blatant lie). He also said he would "honor the sanctity of family life, protect the definition of marriage, and uphold freedom of religion." These were code words for no porn, no gays, and billions of free money for preachers and religious schools.
He then sneered, "President Obama promised to start to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet," as though Obama were playing God and the idea of stopping the rise in carbon dioxide insane, but that he in contrast would "help you and your family." He then falsely accused Obama of "allowing Iran to build nuclear arms, " "throwing Israel (and Poland) under the bus," etc.
With colloquial terms like "Throw under the bus" and "Obamacare," Romney essentially revealed he is without class, merely a Sloganeer. Even George W. Bush was sensible enough to give the convention something new to work with. Romney's speech was like a giant anticlimax, and his creepy personal presence undid much of the support he might have gotten from the dramatic loyalty shown him in the early hours of the evening by praiseful friends. He really believes he can run on one fact: people are worse off now than four years ago, without any reference to what will fix it. Perhaps we are safer with the undead than with Romney.