Mitt Romney remains as remote as the planet Jupiter
Koch, who infuses gazillions to build up the Tea Party and tear down the president, was a member of the New York delegation. On Tuesday, he was in the hall, sitting in what had to be one of the most expensive single seats that anyone ever bought.
The stage show looked like America but the convention hall did not. The crowd seemed like the sanctuary of a minority – economically wounded capitalists in shades from eggshell to ecru, cheering the man from Bain and trying to fathom why they’re not running the country any more. The speakers ranted about an America in decline but the audience reflected a party in decline.
We may not have learned who Mitt really is; just that he doesn’t like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin and that he does like peanut butter on his pancakes. But it’s clear that he is unlike the vast majority of Americans in every respect. Romney is counting on the fact that he’s a native alien, rather than a non-American alien, as he tried to paint the president with his recent birther crack.
But so far it isn’t working. It’s a strange moment when Americans relate less to the tall, handsome, rich prince of a famous political family than to a skinny black dude of mixed parentage who spent a lot of time in Indonesia.
Given the president’s lacklustre performance and the listless economy, Romney should be killing it. But he’s an odd duck running with a dissimulating striver. Ryan’s harsh stances toward women, the old and the poor are on record, so he set a new standard for gall when he intoned: “The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.”
The convention rebranding as compassionate conservatives is encouraging in that it shows that Republicans feel they are at a disadvantage with their Ayn Rand disdain for altruism, their Kempian trickle-down economics stripped of the humanity of Jack Kemp, their worship of the wealthy as the engine of economic prosperity.
Expected to draw Catholic votes, Ryan has been forced to renounce the atheist, Russian-born Rand, but he channelled her when he talked about wanting to define his own happiness, adding: “That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.”
Ryan’s lies and Romney’s shape-shifting are so easy to refute that they must have decided a Hail Mary pass of artifice was better than their authentic ruthless world view.
The Grand Old Party illusion is Romney’s latest attempt to figure out how to pull ahead in a race where the rivals are mired in one tiny little margin.
“A masquerade party,” scoffed David Axelrod, the president’s strategist, “to cover up the final takeover of the Republican Party by the right. It was like Barry Goldwater in ’64.”
As I wandered the hall Tuesday night, past cowboy hats and cheeseheads, I ran into Christopher Shays, a delegate and former congressman. I asked the Connecticut moderate if he felt lonely at the conservative masquerade ball.
He laughed and then said wistfully: “Our biggest crime was trying to impeach the one president who was working with us.”