Thursday, August 30, 2012

Footnotes on the GOP convention Day 3

The general nastiness of this convention continued tonight with the CEO of Staples appearing to praise  Governor Romney--which was fine--then moving on to say one lie after another about President Obama, who he doesn't know from Adam. And with every fake indictment he'd puctuate his attack by getting the mob--er, crowd--er, audience--to chant with him "He just doesn't get it."

Lordy do I hate political chanting. Hate it from the left, hate it from the right. It symbolizes the reduction of political discourse to raw tribalism--often with ugly racial overtones.

And it clashed with the following segment in which we met several families who'd been members of Bishop Romney's congregation in Massachusetts, along with a member of his bishopric who'd gone on to become a bishop himself (in Mormondom, a bishop is the appointed lay leader of a congregation, along with two appointed male assistants, who together with the bishop are, collectively, the equivalent of a paid priest or minister in other religions).

These people spoke kindly and positively about Bishop Romney. They reminded me of the many Mormons I know here in Silicon Valley, and they never stooped to the kind of vicious word-war that has typified this year's Republican National Convention.

What they said about Bishop Romney was uplifting. It was also the same as could have been said about the half dozen-plus bishops I've known personally. Let me be a little delicate here. I'm not trying to gainsay what these good people said about the goodness of their bishop towards them. I believe every word they said. All I'm saying here is that such behavior is par for the course. It's a very unusual bishop in any Mormon ward who doesn't do what Bishop Romney did, always backed by his two assistants in the bishopric, along with the Relief Society president and her assistants, the Primary President and her assistants, the ward secretary, the facilities manager, the teachers, the ward missionary leader, and many other people, all called to their tasks just as the bishop was.

So Bishop Romney definitely deserves the equivalent of a service medal for his work in the bishopric--but not the Medal of Honor. The Mormon culture brings out the kind of service these people described Bishop Romney as providing. And you have to see it in context of his work being backed up by dozens of other people.

I only heard one disturbing note in the "Mormon section" of the convention. The member of his bishopric who'd gone on to become a bishop himself praised Bishop Romney for not preaching every Sunday but rather giving the pulpit over to members of his ward/congregation to speak.

Huh? That's the way the Mormon church is organized. The bishop isn't the preacher giving a sermon every Sunday. Most of each month you have a youth speaker, an adult male speaker, and an adult female speaker. I've been attending Mormon wards for decades, both in my home town and in other states and countries, and that's the way it's done everywhere. So I see this bishop taking advantage of the fact that most non-Mormons don't know how Mormon services are run. And while the rest of his testimony rang true to me, it made me wonder if he wasn't shading the truth in other ways.

I would have thought someone on Romney's team would have vetted the talk and made him change this bit.

This isn't a big thing, but it's one teensy bit of fact-checking you probably won't get anywhere else.

It is a feature of tribalism to be kind and helpful to members of your tribe. The question is how you treat others--people you may not know personally--because Bishop/Governor/CEO Romney will never know me personally. So while this evening's presentation gave me a positive and believable picture about how he treats people he knows, people who work under doesn't tell me how he relates to the half of the country that isn't Republican, the half that challenges much of what he claims.

Thus far what I've seen is that he doesn't like being challenged. No one challenges the bishop of a ward. It's not in the Mormon culture's DNA to do so. And no one challenges his boss at work--not if he wants to stay employed. I know about this from several first-hand experiences, actually, having a tendency to speak my mind. Mr. Romney has a tendency to get aggrieved when people demand to see his tax returns--he being possibly the richest man who has ever run for the presidency, and there being the appearance that he's stashed a lot of money in tax shelters offshore.

And one thing I know absolutely about the Mormon church is that all Mormons are enjoined to avoid both sin--and the appearance of sin.

I know he knows this. But he is used to being revered, and by all accounts he's a kindly if demanding lord and master. Maybe he thinks his himness being challenged is unseemly. He says "trust me." His wife says "trust him." And the Romney's appear to expect you to click your heels and say Yes Sir!

Back to the convention, a black woman who described herself as a liberal Democrat who'd been on his cabinet in Massachusetts, praised Mitt fulsomely, and again I saw no reason to disagree with her description. Nobody said he was a bad boss.

We got a couple of Cuban immigrants, who seem to collectively believe that anything to the left of Paleo-conservatism = Fidel.

The highlight was Clint Eastwood, who said he had President Obama sitting in the empty chair beside him on the stage. He then proceeded to have both sides of the ensuing fantasy conversation. You sure can make someone look like a fool when you put all the words in the other guy's mouth. Especially when the words are obscenities Eastwood didn't utter explicitly, but he made sure you knew exactly what he meant--obscenities more commonly associated with Republicans. In fact, exactly the obscene invitation Dick Cheney made to a Democratic Senator on the floor of the Senate a few years ago.

The audience lapped it up. What better way to show your total contempt for your opponent than to act as if he sinks to your own level?

Eastwood's a smart guy and a good actor, and he did all this cleverly. That shouldn't mask the fact that it brought insulting a sitting President from the floor of the other major party's nominating convention to a new low. And there's no doubt that the same guy who brought his former ward members on stage to speak of his kind heart also brought Clint Eastwood on stage to put obscenities in the mouth of Romney's opponent. That speech was vetted. Every speech was vetted. And this amusing little talk gave me the measure of this man--not Eastwood, whose only public office was mayor of Carmel some years ago. Romney.

How do we reconcile the venality and viciousness of Mitt Romney's political conduct with the virtue of Bishop Romney's personal conduct? And what Romney has his pals say for him after being approved by him is exactly the same as Romney himself saying those words. The RNC convention isn't some SuperPac beholden to no one but their secret funders (thanks, Supreme Court). It is, in toto, the Mouth of Romney; the Mouth of the Republican Party.

And that mouth is a potty mouth.

Then we got Romney's speech. More of Ryan's "more in sorrow than in anger" shtick, the more in anger than in sorrow having already been done by many minions.

And his speech was, at heart, telling America that the GOP's nonstop, four year campaign to prevent President Obama's administration from accomplishing anything domestically, to the extent that it succeeded...was Obama's fault.

It was like the guy who'd mugged you suing you for bruising his fists.

After describing himself as a successful small businessman--though running a multibillion-dollar investment firm isn't often lumped together with the little guy with a laundromat.

This led him to describing Obama as having been unqualified for the job of President due to his lack of business experience.

Meaning that he just said that his Vice Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, isn't qualified to be his running mate. How could no one in that big hall (built with government subsidies) notice this?

And in his litany of how the fortunes of America's middle class have sagged during his presidency, not once did he mention how people like Mitt Romney--the top 1% in income (I'd say "earnings" but that's open to question)--made out like gangbusters during President Obama's first term. The 1%'s income went up just as the incomes of the rest of us went down.

Then he went on to re-state his trademark string of outright lies about President Obama, leading to a set of promises that sounded great....apart from every responsible economist out there saying they are mathematically impossible.

He administered quick slaps to the faces of homosexuals, lest any Log Cabin Republicans think they had a place at his table.

And he dismissed human-caused global warming by ridiculing President Obama's concerns about it. Scorn and ridicule of scientific fact--a Republican staple.

Then he tried to claim that Romney's foreign policy would be vastly different from Obama's "apology tour" foreign policy--reviving that completely debunked old canard.

Of course he made a play for Jewish votes by stating that Obama has "thrown Israel under the bus" by doing nothing whatsoever but talk to the Iranians. Apparently he's never heard of Stuxnet, or of the careful, thorough work the President has done behind the scenes to squeeze Iran more and more. What Romney could do more than that is nothing short of going to war there.

Apropos of that he made it clear that America's military is languishing on short rations because it's only as big as the next biggest 17 nations' military expenditures combined. That Obama--what a Scrooge.

At the end Ryan came onstage and waved to the crowd, arm in arm with Romney--the man Romney had just said was unqualified to be there waving. Very, very strange.

The most successful businessmen before now who were Presidents? Jimmy Carter...and Herbert Hoover. Yes, that business qualification is really sumpin' ain't it?

The balloons were pretty...

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