Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game? – Republican Convention Edition
As the Republican National Convention shrinks in the rear-view mirror of this presidential campaign, there’s a fair amount of talk about how well run it was, and how it presented a (to use a dated phrase) kinder and gentler Mitt Romney—and Republican Party—to the nation’s undecided voters. And that’s true as far as it goes. The Paulites and goldbugs were shunted aside, as were the more strident social conservative voices in the party. Starting with Ann Romney, many speakers testified to Mitt’s warmer, more human side.
But let’s not lose sight of the meaning of the Clint Eastwood Moment on Thursday night. One of the only two major political parties we have decided it would be, not okay, but a good idea to turn over a quarter of the one hour of prime time television programming at its disposal that night to, as Ed Kilgore described him, an “82-year-old eccentric without much political experience beyond the mean streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea” to do and say pretty much whatever he wanted. This is the same Republican Party that in 1972 pioneered the use of scheduled-to-the-minute “spontaneous demonstrations” on the convention floor.
Kilgore again: “I’ve worked in the script and speech operation in six Democratic National Conventions, and I can tell you that hardly anyone “likes” teleprompters. Plenty of people—Senators, former Cabinet Members, people who have made thousands of political speeches—don’t normally use fixed texts. Very few Convention speakers want to rehearse, either. But they all do, from a fixed text, on a teleprompter, and under constant instructions that if they ever want to eat lunch at The Palm again, there had better not be any surprises….
Now I don’t know that the Eastwood incident will have any enduring effect on perceptions of the Convention, much less the elections. But it’s one of many examples of how just when you are convinced that Mitt Romney runs the tightest ship in the business, run by ruthless cyborgs who insist on reducing the margin of error to nothing, something like this always seems to happen. It certainly helps convince me that no Romney lead in the polls is entirely safe. And it ought to make at least a few people nervous about how this Genius Business Leader’s hand-picked underlings might function if they are in charge of the country next January.”
All of this followed a Night 1 in which Ann Romney’s paean to love was immediately followed by Chris Christie’s cold-bucket-of-water-advice-from-his-mother that being respected is way more important than being loved. (Not to mention Christie’s…well…not mentioning Mitt Romney until he was 2/3 through his speech.) Then, any benefit from Paul Ryan’s fiery Night 2 speech was immediately undermined—not by its lies, but by its blatant, numerous, easily disprovable lies. (Not a good script to hand to the ticket’s designated “teller of hard truths”.)
Once upon a time, giants of image-making and party discipline—men like Roger Ailes, Michael Deaver and Karl Rove—bestrode the Republican Party. Now it’s considered high praise that the party—at its national convention where the powers that be control virtually every word, sound, symbol and movement that takes place in the arena—didn’t look too scary to middle America, and the presidential nominee’s speech was “solid”?
Can’t anybody here play this game?