Healthy Ridicule

The Republicans have some fun at the president’s expense.



TAMPA, Fla.–Here was our favorite line from Mitt Romney’s convention speech: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

We liked it even better when we saw that the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof had tweeted: “Seriously, Romney’s speech esp troubled me by mocking rising seas/climate change. The dismissiveness was appalling.” Gaia is a jealous Goddess, and She will not be mocked!

It actually hadn’t occurred to us that the Romney line was a repudiation of global warmism. If so, that’s lagniappe. What we enjoyed was the deft way in which Romney punctured Obama’s self-aggrandizement–by quoting his most immodest promise ever, pausing for effect, then making an almost comically modest promise of his own.

[image] AFP/Getty ImagesHA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Previewing Romney’s speech last week, Peggy Noonan advised him to use humor: “President Obama can’t stand to be made fun of. His pride won’t allow it, his amour propre cannot countenance a joke at his own expense. If Mr. Romney lands a few very funny lines about the president’s leadership, Mr. Obama will freak out. That would be fun, wouldn’t it?”

Romney managed to do so at least once. In a somewhat similar vein was the more-in-sorrow-than-anger condescension of his assertion that “I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed.” No doubt journalism’s fearless “fact checkers” will be on the case. FACT: Romney is GLAD Obama failed! PANTS ON FIRE!!!!

If Romney can strike a similar tone face to face with the president, the debates ought to be a blast. And he wasn’t the only one having fun at Obama’s expense. Clint Eastwood, a former mayor of Carmel, Calif., performed an apparently improvised routine in which he carried on a dialogue with an empty chair in which he pretended the president was sitting. It was very odd, but the crowd loved it. And, as notes, the president felt compelled to issue a rebuttal: a photo of a chair with him in it!

Throughout the convention Republicans made hay of Obama’s infamous Friday the 13th “You didn’t build that” speech. Romney celebrated immigrants to America, who “came, not just in pursuit of the riches of this world, but for the richness of this life. Freedom, freedom of religion, freedom to speak their mind, freedom to build a life and, yes, freedom to build a business with their own hands.” The previous night, Paul Ryan said:

If small-business people say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place. Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at 5 in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them. After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.

Many other speakers touched on the same theme. The tone was indignant, not lighthearted, which was suitable given the viciousness of the president’s attack on Americans who’ve earned their success.

” ‘We did build that,’ has already been established as one of the more dishonest political memes in a campaign season undisturbed by shame,” the Times’s Bill Keller harrumphed on Tuesday, after the convention showed a video in which three small-business men responded to the Obama attack:

The Republicans took a clumsy phrase from an Obama speech in July. . . . The Republican spin-masters whipped this into a preposterous claim that Obama denied American entrepreneurs any credit for their creations. The fact that this slogan has been thoroughly debunked has not kept it from being the defining theme in Tampa.

Keller actually claims that Obama “um, never actually said” what the GOP video quotes him as saying and what Keller himself shows that Obama said by providing an even lengthier quote than appeared in the video.

Obama’s journalistic supporters live in a bizarre alternate reality in which a politician’s actual words mean nothing. When the president says something foolish and offensive, he didn’t say that. Meanwhile every comment from a Republican can be translated, through a process of free association, to: “We don’t like black people.”

The question of race is central to the leftist media’s protectiveness toward Obama, who has both benefited and suffered from a racial double standard. As the late Geraldine Ferraro pointed out in 2008–and was attacked for pointing out–Obama would not have risen so quickly had he been white. No sane person believed that stuff about casting down the oceans and mending “the planet,” but a lot of Americans thought electing a black president would be a salve for racial wounds.

Obama rose in 2008 as a symbol of racial aspirations–the black aspiration to be recognized as fully American and the white aspiration to redeem the sin of racism. That made it difficult to criticize him, much less to mock him. John McCain’s campaign was hobbled by a fear of appearing racist, and Obama himself received a degree of deference that is excessive for any politician.

The left has not moved beyond seeing Obama as a racial symbol, and that is for two reasons. First, his record as president doesn’t have much else to recommend it, so that crying racism is about the best they can do as an argument for re-election. Second, it is of great psychological importance to American left-liberals to believe that their opponents are racist and they themselves are not. Their self-image as a moral elite revolves around the imputation of invidious racial attitudes to others.

Romney and the Republicans, however, have moved on. This was best exemplified by the nominee’s birth-certificate quip, which we wrote about on Monday. Birtherism, once mortifying to mainstream conservatives and Republicans, is now just a joke, although the left continues to take it very seriously.

It is healthy for America that the president be criticized and even mocked. Deference to a Dear Leader has no place in a democracy. It’s healthy for race relations, too, that he be judged on his record rather than held to a lower standard in the name of racial progress. When a black politician is treated just like any other politician, that’s genuine progress.

If Obama had been subject to the usual rigors of politics in 2008 and before, and if his backers in the media and elsewhere had not been so keen before and during his presidency to deflect criticism by invoking race, he probably would have a thicker skin, better arguments and a deeper understanding of America. Those qualities would make an incumbent a better bet for re-election. Then again, without the racial symbolism and all the accompanying baggage, he probably would still be the junior senator from Illinois (if that). Life is full of trade-offs.

Romney’s speech continued the convention’s theme, noted here Wednesday, of appealing specifically to women. But whereas we had some quibbles with Ann Romney’s special pleading on behalf of her sex, we rather liked Mitt’s formulation in describing the Romneys’ life as a young family:

These were tough days on Ann, particularly. She was heroic through it all. Five boys with our families a long way away. I had to travel a lot for my job then, and I’d call and try to offer support. But every mom knows that that does not help did the homework done or get the kids out the door to school. I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. I knew without question that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine.

Implicit in this is a very effective rebuttal to all the left’s “war on women” nonsense. Romney’s account is entirely traditionalist inasmuch as it puts the family at the center of life, but the opposite of misogynistic in that it puts the mother and her domestic labors at the center of the family.

It would be nice if someone would say a word about fathers, whose presence is vitally important to a child’s socialization even if their domestic duties are less labor-intensive than Mom’s. But politicians go where the votes are. Almost every family includes a mother, but in recent decades divorce and illegitimacy have thinned the ranks of fathers (except of course in the bare biological sense). Anyway, it’s hard for anyone to argue with a celebration of motherhood.

To be sure, some women will be impervious to any effort Romney might make to attract their votes. We saw a group of them yesterday afternoon, standing across the street from a shopping center just outside the convention’s perimeter. They were dressed in odd pink outfits, and two of them held aloft a banner that read VAGINA IS NOT A 4-LETTER WORD. (Math is hard.)

At first we thought they were there to protest the event we were attending, billed as a “Celebration of Pro-Life Women Leaders” (they included Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch of Wisconsin). But it turned out instead they were opposing the restaurant downstairs from the venue to which we were headed.

“Hooters discriminates against women’s body parts!” one of the pink protesters screamed as we walked by. Perhaps she’s right, but one wonders what kind of equal-opportunity effort she would propose to remedy the problem.

Arriving at the celebration, we were crestfallen to learn the bar offered only soft drinks. It turns out there are both wet and dry pro-lifers. The ladies at the Susan B. Anthony List (counterpart to the pro-abortion Emily’s List), who invited us, are among the former. But a co-sponsor, Concerned Women for America, has a policy against adult beverages at its functions, and the drys prevailed–until after the event, when we adjourned to the nearby “Woman Up Pavilion” for a tipple with the SBA ladies.

On that spirited note we bid farewell to Tampa and the Republican National Convention. Next week it is off to Charlotte, N.C., for the Democrats. We just hope we get invited to the Unconcerned Women for America party.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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