In the Arena

The Romney Speech

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CHRISTOPHER MORRIS / VII FOR TIME

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 30, 2012.

I think Mitt Romney just gave a very smart speech. It wasn’t a particularly stirring one, and it was certainly as insubstantial as any I’ve ever heard. It was rhetorical comfort food, a Father Knows Best speech. And perhaps the perfect antidote to the rhetorical excesses of all sorts we’ve experienced over the past four years–not just the President’s, but those of Romney’s own party. The key sentence, I believe, was this one:

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.

We’ll spend the next 68 days arguing about whether the solutions that Romney proposes will actually fulfill his promise. I don’t think he’s offered very much of merit so far. But for the moment, he has staked his claim to decency in a country tired of phoniness and rancor. That was the most important thing about the speech tonight.

(MORE: Romney Makes His Convention Case Against Obama)

Of course, it was disingenuous. The pandering to women–a vote he needs–was relentless and, at times, excruciating. He retailed some of the infamous Republican canards, such as the myth of an Obama “apology tour,” but he won’t bring the wrath of the fact-checkers down upon him the way his running mate, Paul Ryan, did last night. His rhetoric never jumped the rails. There was a lot of soapsuds in the speech–lots and lots about his five boys tumbling about and a genuine moment of emotion when he said he and Ann would give anything to break up another fight. The subliminal picture was of a row of suburban houses, the dads going to work in the morning, the moms wearing aprons, blowing their hair out of their eyes, frustrated as the kids rampaged innocently–the 1950′s and 60′s. He managed, for one night, to shift the focus from the real world the Romneys inhabit–a world of Caddies, speedboats, dressage horses and garage elevators–to an imaginary, nostalgic middle class world that existed before everything got so complicated.

He made his strongest argument in the simplest way: things aren’t going so well in this country. Many alternatives can be argued–that it could’ve been much worse but for the courageous and decisive actions of Barack Obama, that the President has laid the groundwork for things to start getting better soon, that the Republicans have stood in the path of progress since the moment Obama took office–but Romney connected with an essential reality: people are frustrated by the present and worried about the future. He raised the essential question about an incumbent President: what has he done to deserve another term? He cut to the chase–and that is not an insignificant achievement in the mudslide of blather we have endured this year. And overall, his team managed to produce a convention where the often-obnoxious animal spirits of the Republican base were held in check.

(PHOTOS: The RNC in Pictures: Meet the GOP Delegates)

I am not sure the speech was “a game-changer.” I am not sure it “moved the needle.” I’m not sure it will be remembered beyond tomorrow, or that it was watched by sufficient numbers of people tonight to make a difference. But it did lay down a subtle challenge for the President: Explain why your contract should be extended. Explain it in a way we can understand. And it laid down a stylistic challenge as well: in these difficult times, is it really necessary for you to accept your nomination in a football field in front of 74,000 people (as Obama will next week)? Do we really need those bread and circuses?

(PHOTOS: Republican National Convention 2012)

Romney’s speech added zilch to the substance of the campaign, but it may change the tone. If this is the candidate Romney really wants to be, it will be more difficult for his sleazy array of casino and fossil-fuel plutocrats to flood the air with negative ads–the contrast with the candidate he purports to be will be too stark–but it will also be harder for the President to continue his demolition job on his opponent. We will see how long the quiet glow lasts. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an unexceptional speech set such a powerful mood. It was certainly Romney’s best night as a candidate.

MORE: Mitt’s Moment: Can Romney Finally Open Up?

85 comments
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boonteetan
boonteetan

As far as the US foreign policy is concerned, be it GOP or Democrat, China remains a convenient and a must target. 

Should Washington be reminded that to collaborate with Beijing earnestly would bring a win-win scenario, and to antagonize is to invite a lose-lose conflict?   (btt1943, vzc1943)

SRSwain
SRSwain

I wonder if the Republican party will ever again be able to mount a candidate who can draw more than stick figures for the electorate, devoid of detail, color, texture, depth, perspective or truth.  This poor guy and his inept handlers are going to spend more than half a billion dollars, mislead their base and the rest of  the electorate, and still lose because their vision is the past, not the present, and not remotely the future.  "Bless their hearts," as we like to say in the South.  What a huge pain that they will pack the House with more obstructionism, ignorance and reactionary blather, completely setting at nought any hope of getting some useful work done for "We the people" or US the people.

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

 

Am I the only one who has noticed the wing-nut Republikkkraps

have never tried to attack Obama's "character" the way they did with

Clinton? 

 

Then again, their nominee is a member of a white

supremacist polygamous cult that thinks 40 year-old-men marrying 13-year-old

girls is OK. 

 

So it's not a stretch that they would haul up an

actor who’s had a palimony suit and multiple baby-mammas .

 

The look on Ann Romney's face during Eastwood's

speech was PRICELESS. You'd think a drunk old uncle was spoiling her husband’s

funeral.

 

The only thing missing was Sarah Palin, talking

to an end table.

Samuel Yap
Samuel Yap

That speech is a big disappointment because Romney only defined himself by what he thinks Obama is not.  He has no real self definition of himself. That is why he is long on Obama attacks - to define himself by what Obama is not - and very short on what he should be - his platform, in terms of doable, sensible and realistic (not 12 million jobs!) plans and programs, which are absent in the Obama Administration. His is a self definition by negation, and not of positive and practical action. No wonder he ends up in contradiction ( opposing Obamacare but espousing Romneycare which is very similar to Obamacare), spouting half truths and downright lies ( don't let the fact checkers dictate strategy), etc. Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up!

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

 Spin

it any way that makes you feel better: the fact is that Eastwood was

the best thing that could have happened to Obama in the GOP orgy of

self-adoration.

Mr. Obama couldn't BUY a gift like that!

Mitt "Don't Let Fact Checking Get In The Way" Romney in the White House? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!

Thanks, Eastwood!

GOBAMA 2012!!!

Cjones1
Cjones1

Associated with Nation magazine?

Cjones1
Cjones1

300+ Americans assuming $4.5 billion of national debt daily works out to $15 per day each ($5500/year...$22000 for a family of four). Clint hit it on the head about the empty chairs of Mr. Obama, Ms. Pelosi, and Mr. Reid.

B.O. really stinks.

Cjones1
Cjones1

300+ Americans assume $4.5 billion of debt each day...$15 each...$5500 per year...$22,000 for a family of four....talk about an empty chair...Mr. Eastwood had it right.

Cjones1
Cjones1

300+ Americans assume $4.5 billion of national debt daily...$15 for each man, woman, and child...$5500/year...$22,000 for a family of four.

Cjones1
Cjones1

B.O. stinks and his administration saddles each man, woman, and child with $15 of debt per day ($5500 per year...family of four runs $22,000). Mr. Eastwood had it right with the empty chair.

Can't wait for the convention where the democrats will promote their slaughter-a-daughter, pro-abortion agenda and their new age morality. How innovative they are...like Phillistines of old!

Commentary Fortytwo
Commentary Fortytwo

A smart speech? Not a mention of our ten year war in Afghanistan, our troops that have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. The end of the deployment in Iraq or our heroic veterans who have sacrificed life and limb (literally). Compare this to Obama's unrelenting presence as Commander in Chief and Michelle's tireless efforts to make life better for our troops. Romney basically gave a green light to Israel for war in Iran on his overseas trip and yet not a whisper of the realities of war or justification for increasing military spending. Yes, it is nice that his family loves him...but what is he going to do as my President? Not a word. But I guess for Romney that is smart, because if we knew we wouldn't vote for him. 

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

I've been voting the straight Democratic ticket since I first pulled the lever for President Carter and can't see myself ever voting for a Republican, but Mr. Romney did say one line about President Obama that struck home for me: "There's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."

That pretty much describes my feeling about Mr. Obama.

Commentary Fortytwo
Commentary Fortytwo

If there is a failure of the Obama Presidency it is our failure as a people to recognize his accomplishments and to support his efforts. I was elated when he passed the first major healthcare reform in decades - something no President in recent history has been able to accomplish. That means 40 million uninsured Americans will now be able to qualify for and afford healthcare. I was very proud of my President and my country when we at long last smoked out and eliminated Osama bin Laden. I was proud of him for fighting for a stimulous bill despite determined obstructionism from the GOP, as it is the only proven way out of a recession. I enjoy a quiet moment of pride every single month (30 straight and counting) that we have enjoyed positive job growth even in the face of a global recession.  His list of accomplishments in the face of overwhelming odds are many but are strangely unacknowledged, and unappreciated. It is actually quite baffling.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

You were proud of the Healthcare Reform?  I was hoping for something along the lines of a single payer system, like they have in Europe or Canada.  

Right from the start Mr. Obama caved in and compromised on a plan that was already a Republican creation (Romney care anyone).

What we got was a system that benefits the AMA, insurance companies, and big pharmaceutical companies.

When it comes to political ideology Mr. Obama is a 1980s Reagan Republican. The modern wacko GOP is just too stupid to realize they have won the war to stop fighting and declare victory.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"The only way to recapture that golden era of high growth, low unemployment and booming stock markets ... is to eliminate all taxes on the very rich so they can make even more investments in new ideas and innovative new companies. At the same time, we should just give up manufacturing, move all the talented people into high-tech and financial fields, and leave everyone else to tend the children and gardens of the talented."  (sarcasm off)

Brandt Hardin
Brandt Hardin

 

The dynamic duo of Romney and Ryan would drive the entire

economy into a nose dive as long as it benefits the richest Americans.  Income inequality is endangering the Middle

Class and making paupers of us all who don’t have those millions upon millions

of dollars.   Read more about the role of

Romney’s riches in this election and the power of his sacred undergarments at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot...  The working class of our country can’t AFFORD

to allow this election to be bought and sold!

turdface
turdface

great speech smart speech all those who spoke were excellent Romney  12,ooo,000 job promise he can and will turn this country around and make America great again. 

Michelle Rodriquez
Michelle Rodriquez

Obama is an American,he can set this country straight,if only the Republicans would let him,and not block every thing he's trying to do....that Republican convention was mostly lies and  hypocracy,I'm voting democrat.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

I do not think the Obama folks should stop defining Romney.  They have to continue telling the truth about Romney. This is the afterglow, in a few weeks with a continuation of the truth attacks, we get back to the  picture of the real Romney.

Mark
Mark

The lasting image of the campaign, the one that will bring Obama down:  an empty chair.  The pundits don't get the joke but America does (check out the 17,000+ comments on the Yahoo article on Eastwood's performance, virtually every one positive.)  

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ti...

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

The thing that impressed me about Clint Eastwood's skit is that at all times he remained respectful of the president.  He referred to him as Mr. Obama or President Obama, showing his fellow Republicans that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

georgiamd
georgiamd

Judging from the liberal reaction here, Romney hit a bases loaded home run. His speech was even tempered and right on target. Barack Obama's record is abysmal and if given four more years, he will likely bankrupt our nation.

Romney understands business and what it will take to reverse the negative slide perpetrated by Obama's economic naivety. 23 million unemployed and a 16 trillion dollars debt he continues to escalate by 4 billion dollars per day!

It is definitely time for a change in leadership.

"The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results."

-

Norman Vincent Peale

geoffmartin7777
geoffmartin7777

I laughed when King Willard made his little puppy dog eyes.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Really nice to see Clint stand up so well for us Democrats at the Republican Convention.

Good Job Clint!

oldwhiteguy
oldwhiteguy

If it's not going to move the needle, or be remembered tomorrow, what was the point?  Look, Reagan sold his program with "Morning in America."  Hal Riney's voice.  Moving visuals.   A line that conjured up moving into the light of day. Then he, with an actor's presence, presented a new vision.  Cut to 2012.  The tax cut didn't work and the party's been taken over by the right wing.  Yes, they kept them off camera.  But then Romney gets up there and serves up a helping of mac and cheese and we're supposed to stand up and cheer.  If you can't sell your policy plans (and they certainly can't, even ignoring the fact checkers), then you'd better justify your "anybody but Obama" pitch with some real emotion.  Face it.  Mitt's a placeholder.  All the real GOP talent is sitting this one out.  Michael Moore thinks  the money will get them elected.  Maybe.  Sure haven't got anything else.

Ed Kollin
Ed Kollin

Romney -  Started Bain who “invests” in other companies by

putting a little of their own money and lot of borrowing from big banks. “Invested

in” company has to pay back DEBT and naturally looks towered “expert” Bain to

solve solvency problem.  Bain gets management

fee and chooses who gets laid off. If “invested in/client” company survives and

thrives they form the basis of a Presidential captain. The bankrupt “clients”

and laid off outta sight outta mind.

Obama – Greatly

expands the National Security State started by Bush via National Defense Act, assassinating

who he feels like,  drones even at home thus

eliminating the basic premise of what America used to stand for ie “The Price

of Freedom”  “These colors don’t run”  Now it’s FEAR, FEAR, FEAR . The Bin Ladin assassination

is the centerpiece of his campaign. Since the body went into the sea immediately

this is on a purely trust basis. Greatly expanded the “Too big to fail” lets

reword ‘em for failure policy started by Bush.

Large segment of

Romney voters – We don’t like him for reasons stated above but will hold our

nose and vote for him because the other guy is a commie

Large segment of Obama

voters  - We don’t like him anymore for

the reasons stated above but will  hold our

nose and vote for him because the voters for the other side are all morons and

racists.

Third party or write in

vote the seemingly logical way to vote, total non-starter, the one issue that

unites both “tea party” and “Progressive” factions. God Help America  

lreed580
lreed580

Thomas Mann on Romney's speech: "The Romney campaign has, as strikingly evident at the Tampa convention, broken new ground in  its brazen and cynical disregard for the truth."

paulejb
paulejb

lreed580,

Who or what is a Thomas Mann? And why should we care?

MrObvious
MrObvious

For the same reason anyone should care about anything you write and the people you link too. Lets not go there.

itwill_matter
itwill_matter

Pathetic but predictable. The crowd was as expected, its all about America and how to re-live the wasteful and glory days. They are not ready to learn the hard lessons from Europe and the emerging countries. The wasteful and arrogant attitude must be maintained at all cost.

The US societyi in whole surely will not buy this, haven't they been the negative force in ensuring cooperation is not theirs to offer even if it means the policies and the US as a whole will be drawn back. This has been their moto from day one of the Obama presidency.

These rhetorics are patronizing and not only decieving to US citizens but to the wider global community.

paulejb
paulejb

itwill_matter,

"They are not ready to learn the hard lessons from Europe and the emerging countries."

=============================

Yes, that hard lesson that Maggie Thatcher identified for us: "Socialism only works until you run out of other people's money." 

Belay Mylast
Belay Mylast

Sorta like the Department of Defense has done to the rest of us.

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

No mention of Romneycare.  Immigration?  Diversity in the Gee-O-Pee?  Lack of

foreign policy?  Abortion?  Bushes?  It was an empty speech.

paulejb
paulejb

rokinsteve,

Yearning for a paean to abortion. Just wait, the upcoming Democrat Convention will be an abortionpalooza.