Category Archives: Mitt Romney

Graham, McCain on Trump and the Khans

Khan

OK, vacation’s over and I’m back in the saddle, and we are in mid-outrage over the latest deeply offensive nonsense from Donald Trump. And, as is so often the case, the most pointed criticism is coming from leading members of the party that nominated him week before last for POTUS:

Already, the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures are attacking their nominee forcefully.
Sen. John McCain issue a very personal statement Mondaay blasting Trump’s comments about the Khans and paying homage to their son Humayun’s sacrifice. McCain noted that his son also served in the Iraq War and the McCains have been serving in the US military for hundreds of years.

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.

“Lastly, I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”

“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” Graham said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”…

As I noted last week (you’ll recall that I did spend most of my evenings blogging despite being on holiday, because I’m just that kinda guy), a lot of the Democratic Convention consisted of fare and themes we normally get from the Republicans — upbeat “Morning in America” patriotism, appeals to fundamental, traditional American values and the like.

Which has to be eating at Sens. McCain and Graham almost as much as anything else. Their values used to be what their party was all about. In recent years, that’s been changing, as ideological loonies have been squeezing them out. It was happening already in 2008, which is why I wrote this column, “Give me that old-time conservatism.” In 2012, the “base” (can an insurgency be called “the base?” Oh, yeah, I guess it can) reluctantly settled for the sane Mitt Romney after spending much of the primary season flitting from one extreme to another.

And this year, of course, it went screaming off the rails, which is why people such as McCain, Graham, Romney, John Kasich and the Bushes did not attend their party’s convention.

Graham takes a positive half-step on the flag, needs to do the right thing and take another

After I posted this, challenging Lindsey Graham to step up the way Mitt Romney has on the flag, Kevin Bishop from his office sent me a link to this item on The Hill:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Friday he would welcome discourse over lowering a Confederate flag near his state’s capitol building.
Graham’s remarks followed an emotional vigil that evening in Charleston, S.C., for nine people killed in a mass shooting at a church there earlier this week.
He reversed course following the ceremony, after arguing earlier Friday he would support the symbol remaining at full-mast outside the state capitol building in Columbia, S.C.
“I think it’s a debate that needs to happen,” Graham said of the flag’s future status, according to Fusion.
“We’ll take it up in January,” he added of South Carolina lawmakers. “We’ll see what they want to do.”

Of course, that doesn’t really go anywhere toward a positive result, since we know “what they want to do” on the flag — continue to ignore it.

But it’s a half-step. I look forward to our senior senator moving a little more toward doing the actual right thing.

Incoherently overheated headline of the day

guardian

And the award goes to… The Guardian, for “Romney decision clears path for next stage of Bush presidential empire.”

I’m not even sure what it means, beyond communicating the vague idea that The Guardian really has a thing about the Bushes, doesn’t it?

The hed would almost make sense if you substituted “dynasty” for “empire.” But I think somewhere in the lower reaches of some copyeditor’s brain was the mostly-suppressed, unacknowledged thought that “empire” had a more sinister ring to it.

The story itself doesn’t have quite the ring that the hed does. It’s fairly matter-of-fact. I am a little puzzled that the paper is going with such a limited, second-day approach on the breaking story. Romney’s bowing-out has farther-reaching impact than elevating Bush, if it even does that.

Romney himself seemed to be urging Republicans to look beyond Bush to “the next generation.” Bush at 61 is more or less in the usual age range for a presidential contender, so the implication is that Romney is thinking of someone else, someone with a name less well-known.

I found the way Romney put that sort of interesting:

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” Romney wrote. “In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”

I heard in that a hint of, You REALLY oughta be going with me, a guy who is well known and has taken his message across the country, someone who isn’t just getting started… but NOOOO, everybody said “Don’t run, Mitt,” so you’re on your own now, losers.

Hey, I’m holding out for a GOP nominee with a sufficient grasp of the English language that he knows “Democrat” is a noun, and the adjective is “Democratic.” That would be something (he said wistfully)…

Ouch! WSJ seriously disses Romney candidacy

If you’re Mitt Romney, busily launching your third bid at the White House, you’re not happy to see The Wall Street Journal say such things as these in a lede editorial (under the headline, “Romney Recycled“):

If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question? We can think of a few worthy possibilities, though one that doesn’t come immediately to mind is who would be the best Republican presidential nominee in 2016.

Mr. Romney told donors last week he is mulling a third run for the White House, confirming cheering whispers from his coterie of advisers. The question the former Massachusetts Governor will have to answer is why he would be a better candidate than he was in 2012….

Mr. Romney is a man of admirable personal character, but his political profile is, well, protean. He made the cardinal mistake of pandering to conservatives rather than offering a vision that would attract them. He claimed to be “severely conservative” and embraced “self-deportation” for illegal immigrants, a political killer. But he refused to break from his RomneyCare record in Massachusetts even though it undermined his criticism of ObamaCare. A third campaign would resurrect all of that political baggage—and videotape.

“If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question?” Ouch.

You know, if I were Mitt Romney, with more money than I’d ever need and no need whatsoever to earn a living, and I had my health and perfect hair, I suppose I might run for president, too. But beyond giving Mitt something to do, I do wonder, along with the Journal, what the rationale for this campaign is.

What’s his role? The post of duty Establishment candidate is filled by Jeb Bush, who as son and brother of presidents outranks a second-generation presidential wannabe.

One of Mitt’s main claims to qualification is his supposed business acumen. Well, what Mitt-shaped niche does he see out there in the market?

With Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and now Mitt Romney to choose from, we only need one thing to make 2016 complete: Surely, there’s a descendant of Harold Stassen out there somewhere who could jump into this…

Lesson (too late) for Romney: Always thank the servers

47 percent

HuffPost has been talking to the bartender who shot the infamous “47 percent” footage that did so much to undermine Mitt Romney last year.

Here’s what he said about how it happened:

The man, who tended bar for a company that catered to a high-end clientele, had previously worked at a fundraiser at a home where [Bill] Clinton spoke. After Clinton addressed guests, the man recalled, the former president came back to the kitchen and thanked the staff, the waiters, the bartenders, the busboys, and everyone else involved in putting the event together. He shook hands, took photos, signed autographs, and praised the meal—all characteristic of the former president.

When the bartender learned he would be working at Romney’s fundraiser, his first thought was to bring his camera, in case he had a chance to get a photo with the presidential candidate. Romney, of course, did not speak to any of the staff, bussers or waiters. He was late to the event, and rushed out. He told his dinner guests that the event was off the record, but never bothered to repeat the admonition to the people working there.

One of them had brought along a Canon camera. He set it on the bar and hit the record button.

The bartender said he never planned to distribute the video. But after Romney spoke, the man said he felt he had no choice.

“I felt it was a civic duty. I couldn’t sleep after I watched it,” he said. “I felt like I had a duty to expose it.”

As Huffington suggests, Obama owes Clinton on this one…

This was the year for The State to endorse Obama

A couple of weeks ago, in a column explaining why The State would not endorse in the Senate District 23 race between Jake Knotts and Katrina Shealy, after stating well why both candidates were unacceptable, Cindi Scoppe concluded:

One other thing has changed since 2008: Then, our editorial board endorsed in all elections; we no longer have the capacity or the compulsion to do that. Still, we felt like we had to try to do that in such a high-profile, high-stakes race as this. Unfortunately, we don’t see any way we can endorse Mr. Knotts, and we don’t feel comfortable endorsing Ms. Shealy. Starting next week, we will be making endorsements in some of the other high-profile local races.

She might have said that a different way. She could have put it, One other thing has changed since 2008: Brad Warthen is not the editorial page editor any more.

Apparently as a result, no one seems to be saying, as I so often did to the chagrin of my colleagues, The voters don’t get to vote none of the above. ONE of these people will hold that office going forward, and if we won’t belly up and say which one that should be, or at least which is the lesser of evils, then what business do we have expressing opinions on public issues the rest of the time? My point, to elaborate, was that in a representative democracy, most of the issues we opined on were things most of our readers had no direct say in. But they do have a decision to make at election time, and it’s a cop-out for an opinion page not to express an opinion on that choice.

That said, there were rare times when I gave in to the temptation to endorse neither candidate. We did it once in the lieutenant governor’s race in the 90’s. That was partly to express disappointment with the candidates, but also our way of saying how little it mattered who the lieutenant governor was. We did it one or two other times — in fact, we could very well have done it in one of Jake Knotts’ many previous contests. I don’t have the archives in front of me to check now.

And Cindi might have talked me into taking this non-position this time. She certainly presented a compelling case. Last time, I insisted we make a choice, and we held our noses and went with Jake (something we had never thought we would do in any previous election year) as a protest against the Mark Sanford-surrogate campaign Ms. Shealy was running. This time, as Cindi explains in detail, there are more reasons than ever, compelling ones, to militate against picking Jake even as a protest vote.

So I didn’t write this post then. Maybe the board was right on that one.

What brings it back to mind is The State‘s decision not to endorse for president, which I was sorry to see.

The endorsement for president is a different sort of animal. With most endorsements, the editorial board is writing about candidates that readers know little about, aside from what they read in The State and a handful of other SC publications. So the fact-finding, the interviews, that we conducted gave us access to information that the readers probably didn’t have. Even when voters disagreed with our endorsements, we could tell ourselves that the endorsement presented arguments they probably didn’t encounter anywhere else, and gave them grist for making a better-informed, better-thought-out decision. (It was also good for us as editorialists, forcing us to confront and understand the issues involved on a deeper level, which helped us do a better job going forward, beyond the endorsements themselves. You have to examine something more closely, and think about it a lot harder, when you’re going to take a position and share it with the world. Not taking a position allows you to kick back and not dig as deeply.)

With president, there was little likelihood that we’d add any thoughts that readers hadn’t encountered a thousand times elsewhere. And there’s a school of thought that holds that because of that, newspapers shouldn’t bother with presidential endorsements. I was at a rare meeting of Knight Ridder editorial page editors in San Jose in 2005 when Tony Ridder, president of the now-defunct company, argued that we should not endorse in those races — all it did was make half the readers mad, and it was a distraction from our franchise, which was local news and commentary. I, and I suspect most of the editors there (I was never interested enough to check), ignored him on that point. It was all well and good for someone sitting in California to look at things that way. But as an early-primary state, presidential elections loom especially large in South Carolina politics, and for the editorial page of this state’s largest daily — its capital city daily — to shy away from opining about it would be an insupportable cop-out.

It’s true that it does make a lot of readers madder at you than anything else you might do in a four-year period. But it also gives them a gauge by which to judge your opinions on the races they know far less about. The important thing actually wasn’t which candidate we endorsed. It was the reasoning we used to back it up. A fair-minded reader who was voting against the candidate we endorsed could still look at an endorsement and see how the board worked its way through a decision regarding which the reader has a vast amount of information. That would indicate to him or her how much to trust our thinking on races about which the reader knows next to nothing.

I know, you’ll say that partisans wouldn’t care about the reasoning — they would either give us a pat on the back for agreeing with them, or curse us for going the other way. But I submit that such true believers can’t be reached in any case. The only people who can be reached with reason are the kind who come to each race with an open mind, and carefully weigh all the legitimate pro and con arguments.

There are a lot of people like that, fortunately, and they tend to value endorsements. I learned that the one year when I didn’t provide a recap of all our endorsements on Election Day. It was early in my tenure as editor. I was trying to be humble. I was trying not to appear to “tell people how to vote” right at the moment of decision. The readers got quite upset. It’s not that they planned to go in and vote a straight State editorial board ticket. It’s that the list reminded them of the arguments we had presented, and reminded them whether they agreed or not. It was a very pure case of endorsements doing what they should do, make people think a little more about their decisions, and remember the thought processes they’ve gone through during the campaign.

Well, today, you’ll notice that list says nothing about the presidential race. Because The State didn’t make a decision.

You might not care a bit, but I was sorry to see it.

Not being privy to whatever discussions there were on this subject at The State, I can’t tell you why that happened. The paper offered no explanation. At no time did it say (unless I missed it, and I’m hoping someone will point it out to me now), we’re not endorsing in this one, and here’s why. All we got was this unusual piece that simply said whoever the new president was, he should “embrace pragmatism.” There was nothing in the piece that I disagreed with, except for the part when it failed to make a decision.

Taking a step back: The people who have gotten mad at The State over presidential endorsements over the years have been Democrats. That’s because, in my long association with the newspaper (and from what I could tell, for a generation before that), the paper never endorsed the Democrat in the general election. Not once.

This causes many Democrats to this day to call The State “a Republican newspaper.” Which is ridiculous, because over time, the paper had a very slight tendency (just over 50 percent) to pick Democrats overall. Not on purpose — each endorsement decision was made individually on the basis of the candidates and issues in that race — but that’s the way it worked out over the long haul. But partisans tend to embrace whichever facts “prove” that a newspaper is against them, so Democrats clung to their belief that we didn’t even consider their candidates for president. (Just as Republicans viewed each endorsement of an SC Democrat as proof positive that we were Democrats.)

Which absolutely wasn’t true. We considered them very carefully (in the four cycles when I was involved, in any case), but in the final analysis, we always ended up with the Republican. In each race, the reasons were different, but if you wanted me to give you a simple explanation, it’s that the national Democratic Party has a tendency to field candidates who are considerably different from the South Carolina Democrats we so often backed over the years.

But yeah, our record was pretty monolithic. And in the back of my mind, I had long hoped that sometime before my career at The State ended, we would actually endorse a Democrat — just to shut up the members of that party calling us Republicans. I wouldn’t ever have put my finger on the scale to make that happen. It would always depend on our honest assessments of the candidates on the ballot at the time. But surely it would have to happen sometime, right?

In  2008, it came closer than at any other time in my experience — ironically, in what would prove to be my last election at the paper, although I didn’t know it would be. For the first time, both parties endorsed the candidates we preferred from their respective fields. We had enthusiastically endorsed both John McCain and Barack Obama in their primaries. And they both  went on to win. As I wrote a number of times on my blog and in the paper, this was the win-win election — I truly believed that the country wouldn’t lose either way it went.

But of course, only one of them could be president, so we had to choose (by my book, anyway) just as all American voters had to do. For the board as a whole, it was not an easy decision. I liked Obama, but preferred McCain. The publisher, Henry Haitz, clearly preferred the Republican. Warren Bolton was strongly, passionately for Obama. Cindi Scoppe never made up her mind, as far as the board was concerned. If I recall correctly, she wrote a column at the time about her indecision. I know Warren wrote a column expressing his dissent, because I urged him to do so, and was happy to run it, including on my blog. I felt good enough about Obama that I thought it a good thing to express that point of view. But as a board, we were for McCain.

That ancient history is about all I have to go on in trying to figure out what happened this time. All of those same people are on the board, and there is only one other factor, who is a total wild card to me — Executive Editor Mark Lett now has the editorial staff under his division, and I have seldom if ever known an editor more publicly guarded in his opinions. Since Warren and Cindi write about metro and state issues, respectively, I can’t go by any pattern of their columns to track their opinions on the national scene since 2009. Mike Fitts and I were the ones who wrote about national politics, and we’re both gone. Actually, the answer to my question as to why The State lacked the confidence, or the will, or whatever, to endorse this time may lie in that simple fact. But I don’t know that.

What I do know is that were I still there, I would have been pushing for an Obama endorsement this year. Pretty much all the reasons we liked him in 2008 are still present, and some of the things I merely had to take on faith back then (given his light resume, which was a big reason why I preferred McCain) have been borne out in action. To give an example of that: I never saw Obama as the kind of antiwar candidate that many in the Democratic base saw. Sure, he was going to get us out of Iraq, but George W. Bush was headed in that direction, too. (The big difference is that he wouldn’t have gotten us into Iraq, but that was irrelevant by the election of 2008.) I had heard what the man actually said, and he talked like a guy who was going to pursue the War on Terror fairly aggressively, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What I didn’t realize was that he would go after terrorists with a deadly zeal that outdid his predecessor. Nor could I have predicted how deftly he intervened in Libya to rid us of a dictator who had been a murderous thorn in the side of this country since Obama was in grade school. Do I have beefs with him on foreign policy? Yes. I don’t like the timetable for departure from Afghanistan any more than Mitt Romney does. But I also recognize the political realities that led him to make that commitment — not unlike those that had his predecessor headed for the exit from Iraq before Obama took office.

And count me among those who think the series of decisions the president made leading up to the death of Osama bin Laden add up to what Joe Biden would call a BFD. The more I read about it in the weeks after it happened, the more I wondered where that instinct for leadership in such a situation came from. It would have been very easy to cop out in one way or another on the Abbottabad raid. But Obama made the right calls at each step. That acid test told me a lot. It impressed me.

On domestic policy… well, I have long seen the biggest domestic challenge (next to our current economic woes, perhaps) to be the mess of a health care nonsystem we have in this country, which gives us worse outcomes and lower life expectancy than those enjoyed by other developed nations. As far from perfect as Obamacare is, at least this president has done something, and it’s too early to assess how well it will work. And his opponent’s platform is to undo it, even though he knows, from his experience in Massachusetts, that in its essentials (particularly in the one thing the GOP base hates most, the mandate), it’s the way to go.

As for directing the economy — well, count me among the skeptics who doubts how much a president, whether named Bush or Obama or Romney — can do to direct, or dramatically affect, the economy. I have no idea — and little faith in the opinions of people who are sure one way or the other — whether the stimulus helped (in preventing things from getting worse) or hurt. But I think we would have had a stimulus of some kind no matter who had been in office. If I have a beef with Obama on the stimulus, it’s that he didn’t exert more leadership in the Congress to direct the money more toward strengthening the nation’s infrastructure.

On fiscal policy — Obama is the grownup who is willing to talk about both spending cuts and tax increases to deal with the deficit. The post-2010, Tea Party-infused GOP is not. I may not be sure about the effect of the stimulus, but I have a really good idea who precipitated the lowering of this nation’s credit rating, and it wasn’t Barack Obama.

As for Mitt Romney, we never even came close to endorsing him in 2008, and I haven’t seen anything from him since then that has significantly changed that assessment. I don’t think he would be a horrible president, but I don’t think he would be as good at it as Barack Obama has been — something I wasn’t all that sure about four years ago, given the president’s lack of executive experience.

A terrible thing happened to the GOP in 2011-12 — no one better than Mitt Romney ran for the nomination. That is to say, Jon Huntsman did, but didn’t last until the SC primary. The State knows this as well as I do, which is why Romney wasn’t the paper’s first choice among that lackluster field — although when Huntsman got out, the paper reluctantly settled for him as the least objectionable. So did I, if you’ll recall — and there is no question that among the candidates still seeking the Republican nomination at that point, he was the best. It’s just that that was a very low bar.

Unlike many, I’m not bothered terribly much by Romney’s vacillation on hot-button issues that are terribly important to partisans, but apparently not to him. I actually think he is a decent man, who honestly believes he has the skills to “manage” the country. And I think he would do his best. And frankly, aside from one or two issues such as Obamacare (where I vehemently disagree with him), I actually think we’d see more continuity in a Romney administration than most people think — just as we did in the transition from Bush to Obama.

But he does not inspire confidence, particularly in the supremely important area of foreign affairs. Not only do I worry about his inexperience (as I did with Obama four years ago, only to be generally pleased), he has given us reason to worry with his amateurishness when he has attempted to assert himself internationally.

Back to my original topic: Though I’m no longer in that role, I still, from long habit, tend to view these things as an editorial page editor. And from the moment no better candidate than Mitt Romney emerged on the Republican side, that vestigial part of my brain has known that this would be the year to endorse the Democrat. Next time, we would like as not have gone with a Republican again, but this time was the Democrat’s year.

But… here’s a news flash… I’m not the editorial page editor any more, and those left behind made a different decision. That was theirs to make, and not mine. But I was disappointed to see it. As the months marched on toward this day, I wondered, Are they gonna DO it? But they didn’t. That was a letdown.

Peggy Noonan is going with her gut on this

Last night was the annual Cardinal Bernardin lecture over at USC, and on my way in to hear Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta speak, Florence attorney and longtime USC Trustee Mark Buyck asked me what was going to happen in the presidential race. I told him what I said in this post, that it looked like Obama, at least in the Electoral College.

He said I should go read what Peggy Noonan had posted on her blog.

So I did. And in what Business Insider called “The Most Anti-Nate Silver Column Imaginable,” she basically argued that we should ignore the numbers and go with our gut. And her gut was telling her that Mitt Romney is going to win:

But to the election. Who knows what to make of the weighting of the polls and the assumptions as to who will vote? Who knows the depth and breadth of each party’s turnout efforts? Among the wisest words spoken this cycle were by John Dickerson of CBS News and Slate, who said, in a conversation the night before the last presidential debate, that he thought maybe the American people were quietly cooking something up, something we don’t know about.

I think they are and I think it’s this: a Romney win.

Romney’s crowds are building—28,000 in Morrisville, Pa., last night; 30,000 in West Chester, Ohio, Friday It isn’t only a triumph of advance planning: People came, they got through security and waited for hours in the cold. His rallies look like rallies now, not enactments. In some new way he’s caught his stride. He looks happy and grateful. His closing speech has been positive, future-looking, sweetly patriotic. His closing ads are sharp—the one about what’s going on at the rallies is moving.

All the vibrations are right. A person who is helping him who is not a longtime Romneyite told me, yesterday: “I joined because I was anti Obama—I’m a patriot, I’ll join up But now I am pro-Romney.” Why? “I’ve spent time with him and I care about him and admire him. He’s a genuinely good man.” Looking at the crowds on TV, hearing them chant “Three more days” and “Two more days”—it feels like a lot of Republicans have gone from anti-Obama to pro-Romney.

Something old is roaring back. One of the Romney campaign’s surrogates, who appeared at a rally with him the other night, spoke of the intensity and joy of the crowd “I worked the rope line, people wouldn’t let go of my hand.” It startled him. A former political figure who’s been in Ohio told me this morning something is moving with evangelicals, other church-going Protestants and religious Catholics. He said what’s happening with them is quiet, unreported and spreading: They really want Romney now, they’ll go out and vote, the election has taken on a new importance to them.

There is no denying the Republicans have the passion now, the enthusiasm. The Democrats do not. Independents are breaking for Romney. And there’s the thing about the yard signs. In Florida a few weeks ago I saw Romney signs, not Obama ones. From Ohio I hear the same. From tony Northwest Washington, D.C., I hear the same.

Is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re not really noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us? Maybe that’s the real distortion of the polls this year: They left us discounting the world around us…

Now, on a certain level I have to sympathize with Peggy on this. After all, I’m the intuitive type, and have no great love of numbers. And more often than not, my own gut has been right when it comes to knowing who will win an election. It’s been right ever since the first statewide race I covered in Tennessee, the gubernatorial contest between Lamar Alexander and Jake Butcher in 1978. All the top political writers at the big papers were saying it was a dead heat, too close to call.

But I had accomplanied each of both candidates, practically 24/7 (we used to really cover campaigns in those days), for a week each late in the race, and Alexander acted like a winner, and crowds reacted to him that way. And Jake Butcher was pathetic. I remember Speaker Ned Ray McWherter walking him around his district to introduce him to constituents, and he looked like a lost child.

I was right. And I was right that day Sarah Palin campaigned with Nikki Haley, and I saw how Nikki had hit her stride at just the right moment, and was convinced she had the nomination.

I have also been very wrong. In the primaries early in that same gubernatorial campaign, I traveled with Roger Murray, a Democrat who was getting tremendous positive reactions everywhere he went. Voters kept telling him he had done the best job in the multi-candidate debate just before this tour, and I believed that meant he was going to win. He wasn’t even in the top two.

But I was just a kid then — even months later, in the general, I had gained a lot of savvy I lacked during the primaries — and it was a valuable lesson, learning to discount the effect of being in the bubble. I haven’t been that spectacularly wrong since.

All that said, while I may not love numbers, I respect them, while Peggy Noonan seems to be wishing them away. “The vibrations are right.” Really? We’ll see, very soon.

Obama debate performance: Just ONE cup of coffee too much

Again today, The Onion captures the essence:

Obama Takes Out Romney With Mid-Debate Drone Attack

BOCA RATON, FL—Saying that the high-value target represented a major threat to their most vital objectives, Obama administration officials confirmed tonight that former governor Mitt Romney was killed by a predator drone while attending a presidential debate at Lynn University.

Sources said the drone attack, which occurred at approximately 10:10 p.m. Monday night, obliterated Romney in the middle of a statement on Chinese-purchased U.S. securities, sending his dismembered limbs and internal organs into the audience and leaving a smoking pile of charred flesh and bone in his seat.

“The information we have received from military personnel in the field indicate that tonight’s drone strike took out Mitt Romney, a former businessman the Obama administration has long considered a serious danger, especially in past few weeks,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney, describing the operation as “an unmitigated success.” “The president personally authorized the strike earlier this evening, and as soon as we had visual confirmation that the target in the drone’s sights was, in fact, Mitt Romney, we eliminated him.”…

So maybe President Obama didn’t quite go that far last night, but he was certainly on the attack to a degree that often seemed, to me, unseemly.

By the way, I tried to post this last night, but ran into technical problems — I had left my laptop’s mouse at the office, and my wife’s desktop internet connection was running so slow I figured I’d never get to bed. So here’s what I wanted to share, which was my Twitter feed from the debate. These started at 9:21 p.m. As usual, all Tweets are by me except where another screen name is indicated:

  • Obama needs to chill. Looks desperate. Nobody wants an Interrupter in Chief…
  • The Fix ‏@TheFix Worth noting: Obama has attacked Romney on every question thus far. #lynndebate
  • Peter Beinart ‏@PeterBeinart The egyptian govt needs binders of women to fully develop
  • Romney is coming across as calmer, which, when we’re talking national security, can sometimes count more than the words being said.
  • Yeah, Madeleine Albright redux! “@politico: Obama: “America remains the one, indispensable nation.” #debates
  • @howardweaver@BradWarthen that one redux’es WAY farther back than Albright.
  • Yeah, but I liked her cover version…
  • In Godfather terms, Romney is playing the Man of Reason tonight. Obama at times seems to be shooting for Crazy Joey Gallo
  • OK, I’ve heard the president say he “ended the war in Iraq” too many times. He didn’t do that; the Surge did.
  • The thing is, I generally approve of the job Obama’s done in the world. But he’s not selling it very well tonight…
  • If Obama loses this election, and does so because of this debate, I wonder, will it be because he just had ONE CUP OF COFFEE TOO MUCH TODAY?
  • That’s what I wanna hear! RESOLVE! “@DepressedDarth: I will build 5 new Star Destroyers if I’m elected president. #finaldebate
  • grannykate ‏@katespalmer @BradWarthen Surge changed tide. POTUS brought troops home
  • So would McCain have. Even Bush was on track to do that…
  • Almost an hour into this, and neither Obama nor Romney has indicated what he would do about Quemoy and Matsu. This is unacceptable.
  • Slate ‏@Slate RT @fmanjoo: Here’s the place for Obama to say, “Ask Osama Bin Laden if I apologized. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. Because he’s dead.”
  • Yeah, kinda what I thought… “@washingtonpost: FACT CHECK: Obama did not go on “apology tour” http://wapo.st/SjFXqM #debate
  • In what alternative universe did this “apology tour” take place? I totally missed it. Yet so many GOP tweeters assert it as article of faith
  • The president’s calmed down some. Hasn’t jumped anxiously down Gov. Romney’s throat in awhile.
  • No, Mr. President, we were no longer “bogged down” in Iraq when you took office. Not after the Surge. Stick to the good things you HAVE done
  • SunnyPhilips ‏@SunnyPhilips Sad many Americans would rather watch HoneyBooBoo or other trash TV than debates impacting their country’s leadership.#theirvotecountstoo
  • OK, I give up: What’s a Honey Boo-Boo?
  • SunnyPhilips ‏@SunnyPhilips Ha. You’ve made my day.
  • Romney’s strategy tonight has been not to commit major errors tonight. No big strategy proposals, just no screwing up. Generally working…
  • Nicholas Kristof ‏@NickKristof Candidates take a break from bashing each other to jointly bash China. 太过分了!
  • If Obama would blame China for Gamecocks’ two losses in a row, he could win South Carolina.
  • Ramez Naam ‏@ramez China holds only about 8.2% of US federal debt. Most is held by Americans. http://bit.ly/kaOUzI
  • Really? I’m not seeing that… “@ebertchicago: Obama looks cool. Romney looks sweaty. Will post-mortems agree? #debate
  • Scott Huffmon ‏@WinthropPoll Foreign Policy debate: Good thing there are no issues with South America or most of Africa or Europe to be dealt with !
  • Obama mentions Pacific strategy. About time we got into mega strategy. Still no mention of Quemoy and Matsu…
  • My Navy Brat nervous system is still twitching indignantly over the horses and bayonets thing…
  • Nicholas Kristof ‏@NickKristof Foreign policy debate spent more time on Israel than on Europe, India and Africa combined. That’s not our world.
  • Aaron Gould Sheinin ‏@asheinin Serious tweet: Seeing lots of Republicans calling the debate a draw.
  • That’s because they wanted their guy to be as combative as Obama was — which frankly was NOT a good thing…
  • I liked that they shook hands civilly and smiled at each other at the end. How pitiful is it that I’m clinging to something that small?
  • Dan Gillmor ‏@dangillmor If Romney can persuade the public that he’s the peace candidate — there isn’t one — then the American people are truly out to lunch.
  • But he might with some, purely on demeanor.
  • Anyone else think Romney was going particularly after women tonight, rocking back and not being Mr. Aggressive?
  • David GregoryVerified ‏@davidgregory The President is determined to pick a fight tonight; Romney determined to avoid it. What does that say about where each camp sees the race?
  • A lot.

That last one posted at 10:50 p.m.

So… what did y’all think — both during, and upon reflection? I haven’t had much time for reflection, so I leave you for now with the stream-of-consciousness.

Follow the bouncing polls

Slatest reports contradictory poll results following Mitt Romney’s big debate win last week:

A TALE OF TWO POLLS: In the wake of Mitt Romney’s historic debate performance last week, the GOP challenger has leapfrogged President Obama and now leads the incumbent among likely voters with less than a month to go until the election. Unless, of course, he hasn’t, and his post-debate bounce has since evaporated. Those were the two very different narratives suggested by a pair of polls out Monday.

GOOD NEWS, MITT: The Pew Research Poll released the results of its latest polling this afternoon—the first major survey taken entirely after last Wednesday’s debate—that showed Romney and Obama knotted at 46 apiece among registered voters, and the Republican out in front 49 percent to 45 among likely voters. That’s quite a change from last month’s survey, when Obama led 51-42 among registered voters and 51-43 among likely voters.

GOOD NEWS, BARACK: Gallup, meanwhile, offered a different snapshot of the state of the race for the White House. The polling outfit’s latest seven-day rolling average—which included polling conducted through Sunday—shows the president out in front by 5 points, 50-45, among registered voters. That figure was particularly noteworthy because Obama had seen a pre-debate lead of 4 points shrink to 3 points by Saturday, before jumping back up to 5 points once Sunday’s results were factored in…

Mitt Romney, peering deep into the abyss

How bad has the past week been for Romney, between the Libya remarks and the “47 percent” video? Bad enough that this bit from The Onion is just barely funny:

DALLAS—With his campaign still reeling from a series of miscues, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney asked a group of top advisers Wednesday whether it would be worth going after Obama by questioning the nation of his birth. “What about that whole deal with his birth certificate, or him being born in Kenya or wherever—you think that might stick?” said Romney, adding he was “just spitballing here.” “Also, wasn’t he connected to that terrorist guy, what’s-his-name? Ayers? Bill Ayers? That might have legs, right? Let’s look into that.” After agreeing that the situations should be investigated, Romney and his aides then reportedly sat in silence for 10 whole minutes.

And somewhere out there, some second-guessing Republicans are thinking, “The Donald is tanned, rested and ready…”

Meanwhile, over in a quarter where none of this is funny, one WSJ columnist is lecturing the nominee that his loyalty should be to the country, not his hapless campaign staff, and Karl Rove is saying yes, the situation is bad, but it’s not over — after all, Jimmy Carter was leading Ronald Reagan at this point in 1980.

Speaking of Reagan, Peggy Noonan is writing that it’s “Time for an Intervention:”

What should Mitt Romney do now? He should peer deep into the abyss. He should look straight into the heart of darkness where lies a Republican defeat in a year the Republican presidential candidate almost couldn’t lose. He should imagine what it will mean for the country, for a great political philosophy, conservatism, for his party and, last, for himself. He must look down unblinkingly.

And then he needs to snap out of it, and move…

The central problem revealed by the tape is Romney’s theory of the 2012 election. It is that a high percentage of the electorate receives government checks and therefore won’t vote for him, another high percentage is supplying the tax revenues and will vote for him, and almost half the people don’t pay taxes and presumably won’t vote for him.

My goodness, that’s a lot of people who won’t vote for you. You wonder how he gets up in the morning.

This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. They’re usually young enough and dumb enough that nobody holds it against them, but they don’t know anything. They don’t know much about America.

We are a big, complicated nation. And we are human beings. We are people. We have souls. We are complex. We are not data points. Many things go into our decisions and our political affiliations.

You have to be sophisticated to know that. And if you’re operating at the top of national politics, you’re supposed to be sophisticated…

And this is what Mitt Romney is hearing from what should be his cheering section.

Is Mitt Romney a bad CEO? No, says this writer

Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, Joshua Green insists that the chaos in Mitt Romney’s campaign does NOT mean that he’s a bad CEO:

Romney’s problem is not that he’s brought too little executive rigor to the job of running for president. It’s that he’s brought too much. He’s behaved too much like a businessman (or a consultant) and not enough like a politician. His campaign has all the hallmarks of being run by someone looking only at the numbers, someone who lacks a true politician’s appreciation for the other dimensions of a race—a feel for the electorate, a convincing long-term plan for the country. Were he forced to defend himself before a board of directors, Romney would actually have a pretty solid case for doing what he has done….

… Romney has scrupulously avoided committing to anything that is remotely unpopular, such as naming which tax loopholes he’d close to pay for his agenda. That is to say, he is doing just about everything a close reading of the polls says you should do, and he’s trying hard not to do anything the polls say you shouldn’t do. If a team of Bain consultants were hustled in to pore over the data and devise a strategy, I doubt they would have devised a meaningfully different campaign.

The problem is that politics is about much more than a tactical, short-term reading of the numbers. Candidate skills matter, and the audience in a presidential election is much more variegated than a board of directors. There isn’t much, frankly, that a stiff guy can do to make himself warm and approachable. (Earth tones, anyone?) The glaring weaknesses in Romney’s campaign—the fuzzy details, the inability to convincingly articulate plan for growth, and above all the weird tics and gaffes—are not ones that a businessman’s skills can rectify.

In other words, he’s more a bad politician than a bad CEO. We are left to conclude what we like about what sort of president he would be.

Something to consider, for all those who still think the silly phrase “run government like a business” makes sense.

What Mitt Romney thinks of Obama supporters

The WashPost brings my attention to the above video, which was put out by Mother Jones (and of course, if it were just Mother Jones, I wouldn’t be paying as much attention — but the Post seems to regard it as legit, so…) From the Post report:

Bits and pieces of a private fundraiser held by Mitt Romney have been leaked to Mother Jones magazine, exposing some blunt talk from the Republican candidate on voters, his campaign and American society.

In one video, Romney argues that it’s not “my job” to win over the 47 percent of voters committed to President Obama, because they are “dependent on government” and he will “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

What Romney says in the video will perhaps endear him to some of the base that have thus far been cold to him, because that’s exactly what they think of Obama voters.

But personally, I would have thought Mr. Romney had a somewhat more respectful, and open-minded, attitude toward this nearly half of the American electorate. It’s a bit disturbing to think that, if elected, he’d come into office holding 47 percent of Americans in contempt to this degree.

Looks like Nikki will stay away from SC even more

This is bound to create mixed feelings in people who care about South Carolina:

Gov. Nikki Haley will balance her time between governing South Carolina and stumping for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney over the next two months.

Haley’s target audience? Women voters, a critical voting bloc for Romney because of polls that show women favor incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama by a double-digit margin.

“Governor Haley has a very full schedule of job creation and economic development meetings and events in the next two months,” said Rob Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman. “But as much as her schedule permits, she does plan on helping the Romney-Ryan ticket. …

“Mixed feelings” in that our state could use some leadership in trying to pull out of, not only a recession, but our historic near-last ranking in by so many measures. On the other hand, if the only governor we’ve got is Nikki Haley, well… maybe she might as well run off and have her picture made some more, and leave us alone.

I find myself torn between the two ways of looking at it.

‘Sugar high?’ Sounds like someone’s a bit envious of someone else’s post-convention bounce

It appears that the Democrats got a modest bounce from last week’s convention, but the opposition refuses to be impressed, according to the WashPost:

BOSTON — Acknowledging Monday that President Obama has seen a surge in voter support since last week’s Democratic National Convention, the Romney campaign’s pollster likened the bounce to a “sugar high” and argued that the Republican challenger has a long-term advantage over the president.

Neil Newhouse, Mitt Romney’s pollster and senior strategist, wrote a memorandum released to reporters to rebut the conventional wisdom that Romney has fallen behind in the presidential race and to calm any panic among supporters. In the memo, Newhouse wrote that Obama “has seen a bounce from his convention” but contended that the president’s approval ratings are likely to recede in the weeks ahead.

“Don’t get too worked up about the latest polling,” Newhouse wrote. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly. The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama Presidency, and Mitt Romney will win this race.”

According to several new national polls, after months of deadlock, Obama opened a lead over Romney after last week’s Democratic convention in Charlotte. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday, 47 percent of likely voters supported Obama and 43 percent Romney. In a Gallup tracking poll, Obama leads Romney 49 percent to 44 percent, while an automated Rasmussen poll released Monday put Obama at 50 percent and Romney at 45 percent….

“Ultimate downfall?” Really. It looks like maybe Jim DeMint is acting as scriptwriter for Mr. Newhouse. Here I thought we were just facing an election. The Romney team seems to be planning something more on the order of Götterdämmerung. I can see Mitt in his helicopter now, cranking up the Wagner and explaining, “It scares the hell out of the libs… but our boys love it!

Are we actually being offered a clear choice between libertarianism and communitarianism?

Back when he was elected governor in 2002, Mark Sanford was an outlier in the Republican Party. He called himself a “conservative,” but his words and actions in his first months in office made it increasingly clear that he was not that at all, but was a rather extreme libertarian — which is to say, a classical liberal.

For years, this put him at odds with most elected Republicans, who were more conventionally conservative. Among people who knew and understood him, his fan base was generally limited to the Club for Growth, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, and such anti-public education activists as Howard Rich.

Then came the Republican defeats of 2008. After that, the party went through paroxysms of self-accusation, and the loudest voices were those that said the party’s problem was that it was not extreme enough (especially in nominating iconoclast John McCain), in particular that didn’t hate government enough. And those voices, belonging to Jim DeMint and others, started to gain traction quite rapidly. While they were still calling themselves “conservative” and still do, they were defining the term away from the more traditional meaning that I have long embraced.

Then came the election of 2010, which brought together the elite theorists of the Club for Growth and the lowest-common-denominator populists of the Tea Party, united only by the fact that they deeply despised the idea that citizens can ban together to address their common challenges as a community — that is to say, despised the very idea of government in a free society.

In spite of all that, the Republicans in 2012 chose as their standard-bearer a relative nonideologue. But he only got the nod by the skin of his teeth, after the extremists failed to unite, for more than a few days or weeks at a time, behind a candidate they liked better. And in order to make sure the muscular, energized libertarian elements of the party turn out in November, he chose the most vocal and articulate exponent of their worldview as his running mate.

And so the picture was complete: The GOP ticket was fully onboard with the libertarian agenda. (Economic libertarianism, anyway. Cultural libertarianism has generally been left to the Democrats.)

But who, if anyone, was out there to champion what I see as the viable alternative to that view — communitarianism?

Well, to my great interest, key Democrats started saying some very communitarian things this week. Bill Clinton put it as strongly as anyone:

We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity.  We think “we’re all in this together” is a better philosophy than “you’re on your own.”

The former president accomplished two things there: He shoved aside so much of the divisive class-warfare rhetoric we had heard from other DNC speakers (such as the one just before him), and said the one thing that is the simplest possible assertion of the communitarian worldview — that “we’re all in this together.”

At  least — and here’s a huge disclaimer — I think of that as being a purely communitarian statement. Truth be told, there is so little discussion of communitarianism out there that I’m not always entirely sure I understand it, which is why I say I think I have communitarian tendencies, rather than “I am a communitarian.”

But to me at least, “we’re all in this together” isn’t just a description of how the world should be. It is a simple description of the way the world is, and you can’t engage the world realistically and effectively if you don’t recognize it.

But if I liked that, I really liked the things the president had to say the next night. First, there was his use of the word “citizenship.” That probably doesn’t sound like much to you, just another Civics 101 kind of term that you would expect to hear in a political speech. But actually, we haven’t heard it all that much since JFK’s “ask what you can do for your country” speech. You won’t find it, for instance, in the speeches of Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney at the RNC the week before.

“Citizenship” jumps out at me because of something I noticed several years ago — that the radical libertarian wing of the GOP, which now so dominates the party, doesn’t really believe in it. Or at least, doesn’t believe in it in any way I would recognize it.

I wrote about this several years back, in the context of the “school choice” debate. I had noticed something fundamental about the thinking of the people who advocated for tax credits and vouchers: They saw themselves as consumers, rather than as citizens. A citizen understands that he pays taxes to support public schools because they are a public good that benefits the whole society, not just the children who attend the schools or their families. Because he wants to live in a society in which everyone has some education and some ability to support themselves and contribute to the community, rather than having vast swaths of the society being incapable of constructive engagement. By contrast, the “school choice” advocates saw themselves as consumers. They saw themselves as paying for a service with those taxes — and if they, personally, had no one in their families attending those schools (ifthey were childless, or if their children attended private school or were homeschooled), then they shouldn’t be paying for the service. To them, this was irresistible logic — because they related to the world as consumers rather than as citizens.

So the word got my attention. Here’s how the president used it:

But we also believe in something called citizenship — citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.

Exactly. But Mr. Obama went beyond that. He went on to use language that seemed directly lifted from a communitarian website or something:

We don’t think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don’t think the government is the source of all of our problems — any more than our welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles — because — because America, we understand that this democracy is ours.
We, the people — recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only, what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together — through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.

“Rights and Responsibilities” is essentially the tagline of The Communitarian Network.

But use whatever words you want to describe it — communitarianism, citizenship, civic-mindedness, or Donne’s “no man is an island” — the fact is that the president, and Bill Clinton before him, were offering a powerful alternative to the radical individualism that the GOP ticket is offering.

There is still much I find terribly off-putting about the Democrats, all of which was on display this week — the Identity Politics, the unquestioning embrace of abortion on demand, the unrealistic way so many of them still speak of national security (for that matter, their general lack of concern about it, as so many of them prefer to dwell on domestic issues).

But this notion of citizenship, set against a very different view of reality being set forth by the GOP ticket, to me rather powerfully recommends President Obama going forward. Now that he has framed the choice in this manner, I will listen with great interest for the GOP response. At this point, I fear that it is sadly predictable.

First sign of the post-convention bounce

This from Reuters is the first indication I’ve seen of the usual post-convention bounce:

(Reuters) – Mitt Romney has moved into a narrow lead over U.S. President Barack Obama in a small bounce for him from the Republican National Convention, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Thursday.

Romney entered the week four points behind Obama in the first installment of a Reuters/Ipsos rolling poll, with Obama leading 46 percent to 42 percent.

But the most recent daily rolling poll gave Romney a two-point lead of 44 percent to 42 percent among likely voters…

Possibly that bounce will increase. I heard someone from Gallup (I think; it was on the radio) yesterday say that historically, Republicans usually get a 5-point bounce, and Democrats get 6 points, making it pretty much a wash.

But we’ll see, as more numbers come in over the next week or two.

Oh, you know how I learned about this? From a DCCC email soliciting money. This is how the party functionaries work: “If we’re up, give us money. If we’re down, give us money.”

A good speech that failed to move the needle

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.

Yay! We can stop saying ‘presumptive’ now!

Just got this bulletin on my phone from AP:

Republicans nominate Mitt Romney for president.

No, really. They interrupted my day to tell me that. I guess if you’re still out there in the MSM, and you’ve been forced by your cautious editors to type “presumptive” several hundred times in the last few months, this is a big moment.

Nice job of repairing the ol’ Special Relationship there, Mitt. You trying to restart the War of 1812?

Well, you know how that awful Obama person went and insulted our Cousins across the water by dissing the Churchill bust?

Fortunately, Mitt Romney, a.k.a. The Mighty Mighty White Man, hopped across the pond to set things straight.

Above was the result. That’s from The Sun. Very lively newspaper industry they still have over there. Here’s more on the subject.

Anyway, the White House has really, really been enjoying this. And and at least one of Romney’s likely supporters is highly dismayed:

As Charles Krauthammer, who is probably Obama’s most vitriolic foreign policy critic on the right, put it, Romney really didn’t have to do much more than show up for the trip to be a success. Instead, he opened his mouth and undermined both of his goals. Whatever the right might say about the Obama administration damaging the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K., Obama has never caused an incident like the one Romney did yesterday. As an exasperated Krauthammer remarked last night, “All Romney has to do, say nothing. It’s like a guy in the 100-meter dash. All he has to do is to finish, he doesn’t have to win. And instead, he tackles the guy in the lane next to him and ends up disqualified. I don’t get it.”