Here’s my reaction to Mitt Romney’s big speech last night (you remember Romney; he came a couple of speakers after Clint Eastwood’s extraordinary presentation of surrealistic performance art), in two parts:
First, I really appreciated his tone. We had heard he would take this opportunity to reach out to us swing voters, and he did, mainly by leaving out any hint of the crazy hate-Obama talk that has become so common among Republicans. Not that he would have talked that way anyway — without the condescension that Marco Rubio applied in saying the president is a “good man,” let me say that I see Mitt Romney as a nice man — but he could have thrown the crowd a little more red meat, and he didn’t. He reached out.
In fact, I think he made his case in as positive a way as anyone could. He mentioned “Hope and Change” without the usual sneering contempt with which Republicans imbue the words, and said too bad, it just didn’t work out. So let’s try something different.
I think that’s his case, put as positively as possible.
That’s part one of my reaction. Here’s part two: I don’t think he made the case — again, to us swing voters, not the faithful in the hall — that he necessarily has a better approach than Obama. In fact, when he tried to explain the difference between the Obama approach and the Romney/GOP approach, he had a tendency to fall back on the red meat stuff, the favorite stereotypes that Republicans spout with regard to Democrats. You know, like the one about how liberals hate success, which was probably one of his bigger applause lines. It went like this: “In America, we celebrate success, we don’t apologize for it.” It has the added bonus of implying, I don’t know how they do it in the country YOU come from, but in America…
And the problem, for folk who are not Tea Partisans or birthers or Club for Growth types, is that we don’t hear much positive in what Romney would do instead that would be better. The clearest message about what he would do that is more or less understandable to all is repeal Obamacare. Which I certainly don’t want him or anybody else to do, especially when they don’t want to replace it with anything better.
And that brings us to the problem with Romney. The poor guy; he’s just a non-ideological businessman who wants this job, and he has to charm all these crazies in order to get to it. So you get some odd behavior. Someone on the radio noted this morning that in the video before his speech, there was not one mention of his one great accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts — the health care reform that helped inspire the national reform that he is obliged to attack.
So here’s what we’re left with: Romney is this nice, non-ideological guy who makes the entirely credible case that what President Obama has done hasn’t worked, or hasn’t worked very well. So we are asked to trust him, as a proven, competent businessman, to run things better. Never mind the details (because when we get into details, it doesn’t help his case).
On the whole, I think it was a good speech. He didn’t hurt himself. But I’m not at all sure he moved the needle, in any way that will last through the polling bump that Democrats will likely get next week.
Speaking of that — some commenters on the radio this morning were saying that puts the Democrats in “a box” — they have to prove next week that what they have done has prevented things from being worse, and that better days are ahead with them in charge of the executive branch. That’s probably doable, if Democrats can rise above their own pander-to-the-base foibles and project pragmatic confidence. We’ll see.
But in the meantime, here are my Tweets and reTweets from last night, showing my real-time impressions of the proceedings from 10:05 p.m. on. All are by me, except where otherwise indicated:
- I’m Clint Eastwood, and I don’t have to comb my damn’ hair if I don’t feel like it, punk.
- Larry Sabato @LarrySabato George H.W. Bush briefly entertained the idea of making Clint Eastwood his1988 VP ticketmate. It’s true.
- I wish Clint weren’t struggling like this…
- Scott English @scott_english Clint Eastwood is doing a one man show at the #RNC entitled “This what happens when you cut Medicare.”
- Wesley Donehue@wesleydonehue Watching Gamecocks, but according to twitter Clint Eastwood is either sucking or killing it.
- Kinda both. It’s weird…
- Roger Ebert @ebertchicago Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.
- OK, what’s up? Rubio’s wearing that same weird flag pin with the superimposed star that Ryan was wearing last night. Is it a cult thing?
- Oops, I was wrong. It’s not a star; it’s an “R”…
- Todd Kincannon@ToddKincannon I think the Eastwood speech is absolutely brilliant. He’s not a politician and he doesn’t sound like one.
- No. “Gran Torino” — now THAT was brilliant.
- Wesley Donehue @wesleydonehue Gotta get Phil back on twitter so that he quits suggesting tweets to me all night. He may become my ghost tweet writer.
- Is he trying to get you to post something about a “Mormon Jesus“?
- I’ve never watched Rubio before. Good speaker. But I’m struck that Eastwood is followed by someone you’d expect him to call a “punk”…
- Wow, they’ve got Mitt doing a “Bill Clinton” through the crowd. Are they desperate to humanize him or what?
- Well, the suspense is over — he accepts…
- Mitt just said “iPod.” Wow, he must be cool…That hepcat!
- Bruce Haynes@BrucePurple 10:34pm EST. Working people parties want to appeal to really want to be in bed now. And probably are. When will convention planners get it?
- Yeah. And all the really cool voters live in EDT…
- At this point, I’d like to see Clint come back out and pretend Mitt is an empty chair: “No, Mitt! I can’t do that to myself!”
- Ed O’Keefe@edatpost The Clint Eastwood transcript:http://wapo.st/UfbT12 #gop2012
- You mean that was WRITTEN DOWN???
- Greg Reibman @Greg_Reibman I’m still chuckling over the story of Mitt’s mom discovering her husband died. Nice to see the real Mitt.
- You mean like, “Where’s my flower?” That was … odd.
- Todd Kincannon @ToddKincannon We may have a new Reagan.
- Maybe they should have invited him to the convention…
- Rick Stilwell @RickCaffeinated Somebody please explain the “attack on success” to me. Haven’t seen it, want to know where that’s coming from. #learn #notjudging
- Dunno, but @KarenFloyd just quoted it without irony. It’s something Republicans are convinced Democrats believe…
- I liked that he cited “Hope and Change” without sneering. OK, that shouldn’t be a biggie, but the civility bar is really low these days…
- He’s playing his role. He showed up for work, and he’s doing the job. Not inspiring, not exciting. But solid, workmanlike…
- “Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” OK, remind me again where “middle class” starts and ends…
- “I want to help you and your family.” Is this the Democratic convention? I mean, is that what I want a POTUS for?
- TeresaKopec @TeresaKopec There sure are a lot of countries with CIA installed dictators that would disagree with Romney on that “America takes out dictators” line.
- On that one, he was right. Moral relativism (“Oh, America is just as bad as anybody”) is dead end, politically & geopolitically
- TeresaKopec @TeresaKopec Obama has never said that. (At least the Obama who is visible to the human eye & not the invisible one Clint was talking to.)
- No, he hasn’t. But some of my Democratic friends DO talk that way, as though this country were a net evil in the world.
- Where he was WRONG is that in the aggregate, Obama has projected US power more aggressively than any predecessor.
- Jack Kuenzie @JKuenzie Ah, the K-Tel version of “Living in America.” #GOP2012
- And if you act now, you get The Fifth Dimension performing “Up, Up and Away”…
- Bonus question: Compare and contrast this balloon drop to others throughout history…
- Amy Derjue @derjue Joe Biden is gonna SCHOOL Clint Eastwood on how to ramble incoherently in Charlotte. See ya next week, nerds! #gop2012 #dnc
- Scott English @scott_english Sometimes I wish it was the Party of “Hell No.” RT @tdkelly: Mitt leads crowd in reaffirmation of “party of no.’
- No, that would be the Tea Party…
Note that there were a couple of errors, only one of which I correct here (changing “Wow, he must me cool” to “Wow, he must be cool”). Romney did not exactly say, “I want to help you and your family.” He said, “MY promise… is to help you and your family.” That was my best effort to reproduce it on the fly; I messed up.