Mitt Romney’s vision of America is right out of Norman Rockwell and the 1950’s. It’s out of step with the complexity of today’s world.
His best line last night was, “You know 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.” To be sure, President Obama’s performance has, for a variety of reasons, not lived up to the promise of 2008. It is equally clear that the best feeling many may have about Mitt Romney is from the rhetoric of last night’s address, and that feeling dissipates quickly when the rhetoric is measured against reality .
Mitt Romney spoke a lot last night about an America of optimism, about hope and change, language that we love to hear. He extolled us as a nation of immigrants, even though during the primaries he had called on the 11 million undocumented to “self-deport.”
While he declared it a time “to put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations,” it’s a joke to think that such comity will obtain in the post-convention election. It’s a lie for Romney to assert that the Republicans were pulling for Obama after the 2008 election. He said that “Americans have supported this president in good faith.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said early on that the goal of the Republican Party was to deny President Obama a second term, and the GOP has dutifully opposed even things it used to support just to deny the President any small victories. That we “are united by so much more than divides us” is a claim that has yet to be validated.
We were reminded (especially by former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy and Workforce Development Secretary Jane Edmonds) that half of Romney’s cabinet secretaries were women. That was a good thing. But many of his and his party’s positions are inimical to women.
Romney’s evoking memories of his late parents was touching, and his affection for them is real. George Romney was a moderate Republican who was not a jingoist and was a staunch advocate for civil rights. When George ran for President, he felt transparency was important and made public 12 years of his tax returns. Mitt’s mother, Lenore, who ran for the Senate, was a champion of women’s rights. While they would have been proud of Mitt’s accomplishments, their views would not have been welcome at this year’s GOP convention.
When Mitt spoke last night about “care for the poor and the sick” and giving “a helping hand to those in need,” conventioneers scarcely responded as compassionate conservatives. (The NY Times David Brooks quotes a Pew study indicating that 57 percent of Republicans believe people are poor because they don’t work hard, and only 28 percent attribute their poverty to circumstances beyond their control.)
His brief references to foreign policy were positions that make Colin Powell cringe. And, at the same time, Romney’s silence on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the GI’s fighting them, still in peril, outraged neoconservative leader Bill Kristol.
Clearly this wasn’t the greatest acceptance speech a nominee had ever made, but it was the best speech that Mitt Romney ever gave. It will be fascinating to see how President Obama and the Democrats respond to it and the RNC next week.
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