Mitt Romney’s quest for the real him

    Listening last night to Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, I was reminded of the opening lyrics in Quadrophenia, the famous rock opera written and performed by The Who:”Can you see the real me, can ya? Can ya?”

    There have been so many Mitts over the years, each one Etch-a-Sketched to meet the political exigencies of the moment, that it was impossible to know whether he was finally unveiling the real him. But he did manage to present a workmanlike approximation of someone real – someone with actual blood in his veins (he teared up when talking about his mom and dad), and empathy in his heart (he talked about struggling Americans as if they were actual people, not just data points). And rather than pander yet again to the Republican right (his default mode during the long primary season), this time he spoke directly to the centrist swing voters who had backed Obama in 2008: “Tonight I’d ask a simple question. If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? 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.”But will any of this provide Mitt with the sizable, sustainable poll “bounce” that he sorely needs? Doubtful. This convention will be swiftly supplanted by next week’s Democratic convention. Indeed, the Nielsen people say that the TV audience for the GOP convention was far smaller than the viewership for the party’s ’08 convention, and The Hollywood Reporter said yesterday that, among viewers aged 18 to 49, Paul Ryan’s big speech was trumped in the ratings by some cable reality show called Honey Boo Boo.Actually, Romney had better hope that he hasn’t been trumped by the pitiful spectacle of an addled Clint Eastwood riffing with an ornery Obama who wasn’t there. (What a perfect metaphor for the GOP: an angry old white guy fuming about the Obama of his imagination.) Yep, leave it to Romney to get upstaged at his own convention by a foul-mouthed empty chair. But we were talking about Romney. He said nothing particularly memorable. He had so many necessary tasks to perform (exude empathy and humanity; hammer on the economy; share some personal history; put a positive spin on Bain but don’t dwell on it; mention the Mormon faith but don’t dwell on it; project a sense of vision; reach out to women) that he wound up spreading himself too thin. He insisted that he’s the guy to fix the economy (12 million new jobs!), but he likely frustrated the swing-voting viewers who hungered for details on how he would actually do it.And then there were the glaring omissions. He uttered the word “Massachusetts” exactly once, staying silent about his single term in public office. Although he repeated his rote promise to repeal Obamacare, he never once mentioned his pioneering health reform law, the one that served as a template for Obamacare. Although he blustered briefly about Iran, he never once mentioned the war in Afghanistan, much less suggested what he would do to prosecute or terminate it. He said that he would protect “the sanctity of life” (audience cheers), without naturally mentioning that he used to characterize himself as a “pro-choice progressive” (his words) or that his mother Lenore (whom he frequently invoked, much to the audience’s delight) ran for the Senate in Michigan as a pro-choice candidate.And then there were the lies. Of course.Mitt dredged up one of his earliest lies, the one about how Obama has supposedly traveled the world apologizing for America (“President Obama began with an apology tour”). There was never an apology tour; Obama has not apologized for America. That lie was demolished three years ago.Mitt repeated the lie about how Obama’s $716-billion Medicare cut will “hurt today’s seniors,” whereas, in reality, that transfer of money to Obamacare will add new health benefits for seniors. (I said all this in yesterday’s post, after Ryan repeated the lie.)Mitt repeated the spring ’11 lie about how Obama has supposedly “thrown Israel under the bus,” whereas, in reality, Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak told CNN this summer: “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”Mitt declared that “unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class.” Obama in fact has not raised taxes on middle-class taxpayers; on the contrary, he has lobbied for, and signed, a number of tax reductions (the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and a payroll tax cut through 2012).Mitt also said that, under Obama, “family income has fallen by $4,000,” which is yet another lie; he got that stat from a study that includes the last 13 months of the George W. Bush era (the recession began on Bush’s watch in December 2007), although apparently that little nuance didn’t register with the nominee.It was also perversely amusing when Mitt, in soft-soap mode, insisted that “I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed” – a line that had the audience nodding in agreement. Apparently everyone in the hall had amnesia, because, if memory serves, the Republicans in Washington made a pledge in the first days of the Obama tenure that they would do everything in their power to ensure that he not succeed.It was also a tad tacky that Romney saw fit to mock the issue of climate change (“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise in the oceans and heal the planet”), a line that actually drew laughter from the audience – although I suppose we can debate whether mocking climate change was worse than the Wednesday night incident when the audience cheered a politician’s paean to her .357 Magnum.So we’ll have to revisit the polls in a few weeks, after the vapors of both conventions have dissipated, to see whether Romney has gotten any traction, whether swing voters feel that they have finally connected with the real him. As the plaintive teenager sang in Quadrophenia, “Is it me, for a moment?”——-

    Monday is Labor Day, and I am outta here. Have a great holiday, and I’ll see you on the flip side.——-

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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