Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Conservatives must not vote for Mitt Romney

If we vote for Mitt Romney this year—and he wins—we won’t be able to vote for Paul Ryan for president in 2016.

It’s that simple. If Mr. Romney wins in 2012, Paul Ryan’s political goose is cooked.

If Mr. Romney is elected in November, he will be the incumbent in 2016, and we can hardly turn our man out of office after only one term and expect the American people to take our party’s replacement candidate credibly unless Ronald Reagan comes back from the dead.

It could happen, but it is certainly not the shrewd political calculation.

Therefore, Mr. Ryan will either still be stuck in the number two slot during a second Romney term, or worse, be tainted as part of a disgraced, turned-out administration after one term.

And in the increasingly unlikely event of a Romney incumbency four years from now, we also wouldn’t be able to nominate Chris Christie in 2016 either, or Jeb Bush or Mike Huckabee or any of our shallow pool of Latino hopefuls. If we put Mr. Romney in the White House, this year’s crop of rising stars are destined to wither on the vine for up to the next eight years. At the speed the world is changing, eight years might as well be a lifetime. If Mr. Romney wins, every dream we’ve ever had for any current up-and-comer will be pushed back to long-shot status, at best, the day after the election.

Wouldn’t it be better to let our next, less clumsy, more likable, candidate have four years to mature, to sweeten, to learn the ropes and the ins and outs of the new-media environment? More importantly, afford them four more years to polish their craft on a lame-duck president burdened with an obstreperous, proudly uncooperative Congress?

If you love America like I do, and don’t want to see the mainstream conservative movement’s voices stilled for another decade, play the long game. It’s time to cut bait.

Mitt Romney was never one of us and he never will be.

Mr. Romney gives every impression of being another well-connected political legacy with Daddy Issues that he is convinced can only be resolved by hanging his shingle outside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The last time we elected such a candidate, he tarnished the Republican brand for a decade and counting. Neither he nor his Vice President were invited to speak at this year’s Republican convention, the first time such an insult has been visited upon a living American ex-President since Richard Nixon’s post-presidency term of exile.

Why must conservatives not vote for Mitt Romney?

Why would we?

Friday, September 14, 2012

The ominous undercarriage of the media

I’m watching The 5 on Fox (the show’s title seems to refer to the combined IQ of the panelists, plus former White House press sec’y Dana Perino), and they are frothing with faux fury at live-mic comments picked up today at a rare Mitt Romney press availability. What made this press availability even more rare than other Romney press availabilities was that he was actually going to take questions. So the reporters in the room are heard coordinating their strategy beforehand; there is one question they all want to ask him (The 5 hasn’t bothered to mention what the question was) and they all agree if Romney calls on them, they’ll ask it.

And then apparently Romney failed to answer the question—so really, it could have been about anything but the Salt Lake Olympics—in spite of repeated attempts by the traveling press corps to get him to do so. Sounds exactly like any Romney press event to me; surely they didn’t expect any unprecedented substantive answers on his alleged policies or his past activities, did they?

So I’m wondering what has this fine assemblage of the Fox News braintrust gathered in Casablanca police inspector-worthy shock?

It was media collusion!

It turns out—according to Fox—the open-mic caught the liberal media elitists with their pants down, conspiring to get one of the two men running for the highest office in the land to come clean about something... but they’re not saying what. (I paused it to write this much. I can’t wait to see what happens next! Maybe they’ll even run one of the times the question was posed so I can hear what it was that so offended Mr. Romney.)

Dana Perino is explaining that what Fox ‘caught’ the press doing is standard operating procedure for any politician, not just one gaining fame for being extra slithery with the truth. Then, because she is on Fox after all, she adds that just the same, the press doing their job in a coordinated, professional manner “makes them look like lame-os.”

Really? Lame-os? So we’re talking… Lame-oGate?

Okay, now it’s getting good. The middle-aged guy with the Midwestern accent is pointing a finger to the sky and snarling, “They colluded to ask one question, and then they asked it seven times!”

Somebody else chimes in, “And not let him get away from it!”

Not Let Him Get Away From ItGate?

The original guy has never stopped talking. “And again and again and again… it just exposes what they are.”

Something in the back of my head begins to hurt.

“They’re the east and the west coast wing of the Obama team, because they have Chicago covered…” he goes on to say, then stammers while he waits for more word-clouds to form in his brain, before finishing up with a corker so outlandish that even his cohorts start laughing out loud off-camera.

“It’s the ominous undercarriage of the media!”

(I guess this guy has been trying to get the phrase “ominous undercarriage” out there for a while, which is why his fellow panelists began chortling mid-sentence. Pause for more light-hearted banter.)

Oh, and I forgot to mention, this hilarity is unspooling in split-screen; 2/3 of the image is an inset of live video of rioting in Cairo, and the other 1/3 is the panel, laughing it up as they simultaneously obfuscate the day’s domestic news and trivialize a violent crisis as it occurs in real time.

I feel like my brain should explode—it certainly wants to, like a Twilight Zone or Star Trek robot that has been disarmed by the last-minute introduction of an irreconcilable logic loop—but somehow it does not.

Now the brunette babe on the panel (Fox has discovered that there are brunettes?) is accusing “the media” of “ambushing” Romney because he’s a conservative, like they did Bush, and covering up for Obama “when he says things that don’t make sense.”

Must. Remember. To. Breathe…

They still haven’t said Word One about what the question he dodged was. Now the brunette is praising Romney for his bravery in facing the press at all.

At this point, in deference to my brain, I turn off the TV. And I ponder. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.

What does it all mean? And why haven’t I heard of this show? It’s awesome—admittedly, in an appalling way, but still. Doesn’t Jon Stewart know about it? Maybe he finds the fake sincerity of Fox and Friends more grating the ginned-up shenanigans of The 5, but I have to give it to these guys for sheer, casual indecency.

Ooh, and I have to single Dana Perino out for special recognition. I can’t remember what president she worked for, but I can tell just by watching and listening to her that she knows better.

(Perhaps Fox is running the split screen of Romney dropping the ball at today’s press conference and anti-American rioting at overseas embassies because they are trying to make Romney look good by comparison?)

In the end, I think this show exists because Fox must have decided it’s on so late that only bloggers and other cranks will be up watching it anyhow, and most of us don’t stray far from media outlets that fail to buttress our own previously-held opinions.

Which is a shame, because I give The 5 four out of five fingers to the back of the throat. The undercarriage of the media doesn’t get more ominous, superfluous or entertaining than this.

Friday, September 07, 2012

DNC 2012 Wrap-Up

All I remember from the second night was Bill Clinton, flying too close to the sun without even picking up a tan. Spoke for 45+ minutes, it turns out half of them off-script. It must have made the TV director crazy, because they cue their shot lists to the advance copy of the script they receive. Clinton didn’t even finish the script he ended up only riffing off of until 20 minutes before his speech.

Seriously. This color-coded transcript of what he wrote compared to what he said will blow your mind.

The man is a fucking machine. You could see the difference between Clinton and a normal human being again when Clinton and Obama left the stage together at the end of the night, and Clinton kept working the line after the president had already disappeared into the wings.

If you could package up crowd adulation and BBQ it by the pound, Bill Clinton would be the fattest man in America.

But his speech was more than a convention highlight, it was a career highlight. They’ll show clips from it when The History Channel does bios on him, or on political conventions in general. He sold Obama like he was a combination of George Washington, Gandhi and the T-1000.

I’m sure Obama will reciprocate when Hillary runs in 2016, eh?

And oh. My. God. Can you imagine the Bill Clinton speech at a Hillary nominating convention? The skies will open up and the angels will weep real tears.

There was more stuff the other night, but Wednesday was an extra-specially shitty day, and I only saw the rest of the evening’s events tangentially. If I was being paid for this gig, I would have to decline this week’s paycheck.

Tonight I watched it on C-SPAN and it was the way to go. For God’s sake, if I don’t know snarky Chris Mathews’ or little Sean Hannity’s opinions by now, I haven’t been paying attention. C-SPAN ran the whole thing with an unblinking eye, and a closed mouth.

The decision to have Gabby Giffords do the pledge of Allegiance was a beauty stroke. Kudos to Ms Giffords! Shit, I even forgive her for representing my least-favorite state in the world.

Then there was a lot of boilerplate convention demagoguery, but nicely done and warmly received. When footage of this year’s conventions is inevitably played side-by-side, the difference in enthusiasm and tone will be stark.

Then Joe Biden ambled out and nailed his speech like Pat O’Brien playing a priest giving a pep talk before the big game. “Bravery resides in every heart, and the time will come when it must be summoned.” I don’t know if his mother actually said that in real life, but that one single line is better than anything the RNC offered all last week.

And when a reference to Romney drew “boo”s from the crowd, Biden stopped his speech and said, “No. I don’t think he’s a bad guy.” Capra-esque!

Joe laughed, Joe cried, Joe got the crowd up on its feet… Biden’s speech was the speech of the night.

The president then delivered a good speech, but compared to the sheer passion and unhalting cadences of the Clinton and Biden speeches that preceded him, some of his orator shine wore off. Comparing it to Romney’s the week before would be damning it with faint praise.

I’m watching it again right now, and the rhetoric is soaring and the performance convincing. But I’m already in his political pocket, and it just didn’t feel special enough to compare with those that came before it this week.

And I frankly thought Ms Obama looked she was overselling it at times. In a lot of her reaction shots, she reminded me of a theater star who is trying to transition to films, but all her facial expressions are still designed to reach the back row.

Still, though, having watched most of both conventions, I have to give it to the Dems. No cascading-series-of-lies allegations have emerged to mar any of the spotlight speeches (kind of a big consideration this convention season) and the whole tone was just elevated from last week to this. I would describe the GOP crowd as determined, and the Democrats as excited.

The GOP has set its jaw and is marching off into the Russian winter under a commander it doesn’t really like or trust, and the Dems are linking arms, doing the Whoville dance and singing Kumbaya.

Somebody tell me again how there can possibly be Undecideds, unless they haven’t decided whether or not to vote at all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Seriously, though, who is this kid?

I remember when we thought five was the best year ever—and maybe it will turn out to have been—but six has become a formidable contender for the title.

I was looking back at photos of him from just last summer and felt myself going all light in the head. Can this really be the same kid?

For one thing, his haircut back then was just awful. Ugh. Now he uses hair product—just a little, tastefully applied—and is a handsome son of a bitch. Even with the missing teeth, he looks like a hillbilly Brad Pitt. (It’s still okay to make Hillbilly jokes, right?)

Besides the obvious outward changes, though, it occurred to me… back then, he was still struggling to sleep through the night dry consistently. He was still afraid of the dog instead of his master (I cracked this one when I turned over feeding and out-letting of the dog to him). He couldn’t read nor write a lick. And extricating a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ from him was a once-in-a-blue-moon event.

He was determined to stay a little kid because for five years, that’s exactly where we liked him the most and, apparently, subtly encouraged him to remain.

Then Kindergarten hit and really upset the apple cart. Our precocious bundle of joy turned overnight into a socially awkward scholastic underachiever who wasn’t even particularly adept at recess.

The Missus, to her credit, had been working with him on some critical stuff, like bike riding and reading, while I was wanking off trying to push a boulder up the inevitable unpublished novel. But Kindergarten caught my attention. And as soon as I took a look, I realized The Damned Boy (not his new sobriquet!) was playing his Mommy like a really cool guitar, something Eddie Van Halen would play. He had her reading to him, and pushing him down the street on his bike.

The first thing we did was send him back to Taekwondo, this time with him being fully on board. At the current 101 rank he’s about to age out of, he’s not required to memorize the twenty or so complicated steps to his form (think Tai Chi with more punches and kicks), but he has, on his own initiative. There’s maybe two or three other kids in his class who have done that, and the others are all the intense, aggressive little boys who will grow up to be Navy Seals or pro linebackers.

Immediately, all the drama about his lack of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ disappeared, to be replaced by curt, courteous “Yes, ma’am” and “yes sir”s. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but man is it cool when it happens.

And it’s not just formal courtesy either. He holds doors, he shleps groceries with minimal complaining, orders politely and concisely and pays for himself at Fuddruckers and fast food joints.

But it was over the summer that the heavy intensity training occurred. As soon as he was freed from school obligations, I used the first thing every morning as the time of day when he and I went out and checked items off his pail-and-shovel list.

During the last 3-4 months, The Boy has:

• Learned to read at a third-grade level, starting from virtually zero when we began. His resistance to reading remains considerable but was recently, finally made plain—his eyesight is several different kinds of fucked up, and his first glasses just came in a few days ago.

Which makes the fact that a crash course begun at the beginning of the summer vacation has yielded dazzling results even more impressive. He’s been reading age-appropriate kid stuff with his Mom (“Flat Someone”?) while he and I blazed through third-grade level reading and workbooks on the Titanic and the U.S. Presidents.

Just for good measure, we also watched the first few episodes of Roots after he tearfully accused me of treating him like a slave (and we were probably fighting about reading).

He now has an informed opinion about slavery, and we have heard no more about it around the house.

• Learned to ride a bike, also starting from about zero. His Mom and I (but mostly The Missus) have been working with him for what feels like years on his training wheels bike, to no avail. The damn training wheels were never strong or tight or something enough, and they never kept the bike aloft while The Boy was on it unless one of us was also keeping it from crashing, so instead of learning how ride a bike, he learned how to take his parents out for a good run.

I decided this was bullshit and yanked the training wheels off with extreme prejudice. Then I took him to a steep hill and ran down it with him until he had trained me how to run down hills real good. The Missus finally cracked the code when she combined my ripping-off of the wheels with her actual remembering of how to ride a bike, and he was at long last… up in no time.

• Learned to swim. At least that’s what I call staying alive in the water, and that’s what he learned to do. He can also do a slick but totally useless back float from the shallow end, but that will not keep him alive in the water like the dog paddle he seemed to pick up naturally between last summer and this summer. And with it came the confidence to try new things like the waterpark-length enclosed, loopy pool slide at the local ‘natatorium’ a couple weeks ago. Last summer, he was scared of slides the length of my arm.

• Conquered playground equipment. Look, let’s face it. We dropped the ball. We had so much fun hanging with him and watching him grow that we kind of missed some developmental milestones along the way. Rudimentary stuff.

All the stuff kids with sibs or physically- or socially-active parents were up to speed on, our little guy was woefully behind on. All the stuff I just expected would come with age, like they did with me, left unprompted hadn’t happened yet. No reading, no biking, no swimming—what the hell?

As soon as we realized that—and aware that I would have a lot more time than usual alone with The Boy as his mother traveled the world to take care of job-related stuff—I decided to bring him up to speed on everything I could think of by the time he entered first grade in the fall. One friend referred to it as “Little Kid Boot Camp.”

And I guess I worked him hard enough to earn his ‘slave’ epithet, although prior to Roots, I have no idea where he would even have been introduced to that concept.

Besides the results of my browbeating him all summer, he’s also grown tremendously on his own this year. He really took to school; he loved his Kindergarten teachers and they loved him. And he seems completely sanguine about the big step-up to first grade coming in a week. He is the classic only-child who gets along better with his parents’ peers than his own.

Which I used to think was kinda cool, but I have since come to reconsider that opinion.

He had to come into the office with us for the first couple weeks of the school year, and by Day One of Week Two, he was escorting lost undergrads (and presumably overgrads as well) around the labyrinthic bowels of the Social Sciences Department to their necessary destinations.

We went out on our first bike ride together today. It was the last day of his summer vacation and we went for a bike ride in the morning, and a trip down to the crick with the dog in the afternoon. It was as Andy and Opie a day as I could make it, at least around the edges (the dog is much stupider than Andy’s fishin’ rod).

I could only be happier with this kid if his eyes were in better shape. Even the stuff he does that bugs me are either amusing and non-harmful, or short-lived and easily corrected.

His teachers described him last year as a vector for love, and he still is. But this year, our little wellspring of good cheer will also be prepared to kick a little ass in the readin’, writin’ and runnin’ ’round the playground departments, too. He is well prepared to succeed on his own terms.

By the time I finish this, he’ll be seven. Sometimes I walk by his room at night at look at him, sprawled out almost the entire length and width of his regulation-size twin bed, and again find myself wondering, in all sincerity, “Who is this kid?”

DNC Convention Wrap-up, Night One

Very smooth-running night. Jimmy Carter beamed-in testimonial and Ted Kennedy video eulogy nicely done, the latter without being overwrought.

Right off the bat, the difference in tone from the RNC convention is palpable. To be fair, the GOP are the challengers in this contest, so it’s expected that they would come out of the gate swinging. But they had to spend most of their three nights repeating endless stories about their candidate’s individual, humbly unheralded acts of awesome wonderfulness, in a desperate attempt to convince America that their unlikable candidate was indeed likable.

Their job wasn’t to Etch-A-Sketch their candidate, it was to Etch-A-Sketch America’s brain. And it only worked to the extent that unconverted people watched the unconvincing spectacle last week and came away convinced Mittens is a hail-and-well-met type of fellow after all, which I’m not convinced happened at all.

The Dems, I think, will limit their cult-of-the-candidate pitch to tonight, because America already believes that Obama, while being the coolest cat in the room, still gives a damn about the help. I don’t think anyone believes Mitt Romney tips 20% unless the cameras are rolling. (But it all evens out in the end, because he does tip his super-rich church 10% a year faithfully.)

Plus, Obama has a record that he wants to talk about, not obfuscate, so it gives the second two nights something to do. To be fair and balanced, Obama also has a record he doesn’t much want to talk about, but my point is; everything is off the table with Romney and his surrogates—I won’t bore you with the list—but Obama is not afraid to spend two nights talking about the accomplishments that make him look good… and that will take two full nights.

I’m pretty sure I don’t remember the RNC spending much time at all on Bain Capital, or RomneyCare in Massachussetts. Frankly, besides his Olympics triumph, Romney’s CV felt a little light to fill a whole convention, let alone the Oval Office.

Back to tonight; speeches mostly boilerplate political yada yada, but the speakers seem lit-up, optimistic. Without paying close attention to the content, most of these speakers I want to like. Most of last week’s speakers were so self-serving and/or vague as to who they were supporting, it was hard to feel any personal connection to them since none of them seemed to want to be there (except for the Condi/Ryan night. They crushed their respective speeches, although Ryan’s was marred afterwards when it was revealed exactly how big a pack of lies it was).

Then Mrs. Obama came up and killed it. I was actually afraid she might be overselling it, but the crowd ate it up, and so did the talking heads, even over on Fox. Both Chris Wallace and Chuck Krauthammer gushed over her in the immediate aftermath, before flogging the inevitable, predictable big government storyline.

Wallace said (paraphrased), “I read it [the speech] beforehand and it seemed like a good speech, but to hear it delivered—wow!” Krauthammer also excreted unwilling words of praise for the First Lady before moving on to the exact same language about big government everyone else on Fox was repeating. (Then I switched over to another channel, msnbc, and their fawning adulation was harder to take than Fox’s rote outrage.)

The crowd reaction for Michelle Obama’s opening night speech tonight was livelier and more spontaneous than the best-received speech last week. Bill Clinton should leave them with a collective 48-hour erection tomorrow; I’m feeling tumescent already.