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August 31, 2012

the offensive charm offensive

At some point the brain trust of the Romney campaign became convinced that charisma was not an intrinsic quality but rather the result of getting to know someone better.  Last night's speech by Mitt Romney was one of the most embarrassing and naive displays of wanting to be liked that I've seen from a public figure.  No, he wasn't talking about his calling, his overwhelming love of country that compelled him to run for the highest office twice.  What he was doing was opening up; can't you people see what a nice guy he is?

As far as the rationalizations of why you should vote for Mitt—well that's all Obama all the time.  It's as if Mitt only decided to run for president three months ago, as he looked back from the waning days of the first Obama administration and realized that Obama single-handedly gutted the middle class.  It was a pathetic appeal.

And while not as light on truth-telling as Paul Ryan's speech the night before, it was still less than honest.  Describing Bain Capital as a "small business"?  It might have been a ten person office, but capitalized at how many millions of dollars?  Some lady starting an iPhone repair shop or some fellow opening a buffalo wing/banh mi shop is supposed to buy that?  And dig this:

Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. That president was not the choice of our party but Americans always come together after elections. We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than what divides us.

When that hard fought election was over, when the yard signs came down and the television commercials finally came off the air, Americans were eager to go back to work, to live our lives the way Americans always have – optimistic and positive and confident in the future.

That is enragingly disingenuous, a total load of hooey.  The rage of the Republican Party is the same rage they felt to have a socialist Kenyan win the White House, and it's the same rage that's lead to the GOP caucuses sand-bagging the president at every opportunity.  It's a mischaracterization and a lie, but Romney was trying so hard to win Most Popular that it was hard to tell if it was intentional or if Mitt Romney just wasn't paying attention.

It was jarring, this charm offensive, as his speech veered back and forth, running over topics that should have set off alarm bells as not exactly hand-in-hand with the party platform: a tribute to immigration, a story of how the government helped his father eat as a Mexican war refugee, a confusing proscription for a happy marriage.  But did this charm offensive work?  To answer that, understand that, as the Awl's Approve This Message puts it, last night Mitt Romney was upstaged by an empty chair.  To know Mitt Romney better is to know that his life is unlike 99% of Americans.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:34 AM

August 30, 2012

rnc night two: pau lryan is a liar

So it's not like Paul Ryan was going to walk on stage and admit that, as a member of the GOP House caucus, he is as responsible for the economic quagmire of the past four years as the president.  That's not how campaigns are run obviously.  But that's the truth, or what passes for it these days.

But the job of the vice presidential candidate is to be the pit bull, the member of the team attacking the other side, and that's just what Paul Ryan was last night.  And it was a disappointment to me, because as easy as it was to laugh at the speakers of night one (yes, even Ann Romney and her oh-how-I-love-that-man-of-mine schtick), Ryan's speech just raised my blood pressure.  It wasn't the attacks& — attack away — it was the utter disregard of telling the truth that got me.  The lie about the spending of the Obama administration, and the lie about the Janesville plant.  The one about the credit downgrade was super cute, considering the downgrade was specifically caused by the partisan buffoonery of the GOP House.  And the one about the Simpson-Bowles commission was where I started cursing on Twitter, because Paul Ryan was on that bleeping commission and bleeping voted against it and didn't bother to share that with the viewing public last night.

He's just a liar.

I missed the rest of the night, which was probably good, because I don't know if I could've stayed awake through Tim Pawlenty AND Rob Portman.

But yeah, Paul Ryan is a liar, a very dishonorable man.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:49 AM

August 29, 2012

rnc night one

Usually you can tell when it's convention season because I offer posts that generally start with, "So I didn't actually watch the convention last night..."

But no longer!  I watched night one, from Rick Santorum up.  And let me just say, where do I start?

The dissonance between Rick Santorum's smug boylike face and his weird bass speaking voice is enough to nearly distract you from the fact that he is utterly untethered from reality.  He rattled off the expected social conservative applause lines, the whole Every Sperm Is Sacred bit, and landed on a fantastically specious claim that some sort the social safety net was created four years ago.  Hey, he was once leading Mitt Romney!  Cool.

Chris Christie was the keynote speaker, a day after his advisers planted a story in the NY Post prophylactically under the bus.  Classy!  As was the rather tepid—without a schoolteacher and a video-recording iPhone in front of him he's another guy reading a teleprompter—speech which was all about how Chris Christie achieved bipartisan legislation and Chris Christie fights the teacher's union so elect Mitt Romney.  Or something like that.  Chris Christie was also once leading Mitt Romney.  Neat.

But the favorite of the pundits was Ann Romney, who is surprisingly deft with a teleprompter; clearly she's done this before.  I kept flashing back to the 1950s as she warmly cooed to all the ladies out there, and I don't mean all the ladiez out there, but rather all the ladies who are barefoot and in the kitchen.  Clearly she was coached by the campaign, because she built one section of the speech on some alternate reality in which she and Mitt, the son of the president of General Motors and the governor of Michigan, once struggled financially.

Ann Romney is now leading Mitt Romney.  Awesome.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:15 AM

August 28, 2012

talk about the weather

So a year ago this morning a bunch of us were in New York, wandering the streets, surveying the damage.  Hurricane Irene, this was, which had just blown through, giving us (well, me) a bit of a white-knuckle night, howling winds, pounding rain, etc.  The city was lucky, as it were, as Irene missed us by a fraction of a degree, hitting us nearly dead on rather than a bit to the east, which would have hit us with the storm surge that would have flooded Manhattan below Canal Street and Waterfront Brooklyn.

So while we were congratulating ourselves, Irene snuck upstate and flooded out a bunch of Adirondack and Vermont communities.

Tonight we'll all get to sit in front of the TV set and again watch the cruel wind blow.  No, not Chris Christie at the Republican National Convention, no, but Hurricane Issac landing in the general vicinity of New Orleans.  It probably won't be that bad, and even if it is, one improvement over the past seven years is that Michael Brown is no longer running FEMA.

Not to say that there are more storms than usual or anything.  That'd be impossible to tell, right, at least in any kind of statistically meaningful sense.  You know, same with tornadoes, and droughts, and those sorts of things.  These are trends that we cannot discern with the human eye!

Oh, also the Arctic ice cap is now 40% less icy than it was in 1979.  That span of time would be, what, a generation?  A generation and a half?

It is of course impossible to draw any conclusion from any of this.  We're just not capable, and these are American jobs we're talking about!

Go have your Tuesday.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:23 AM

August 27, 2012

heidi moore on the bain dump

Surely if you are still interested in the dump of the Bain Capital documents you've been doing your own research, but grant me the luxury of making one last suggestion.  Heidi N. Moore is a business journalist who is decidedly non-political.  I wouldn't say a-political, as I've seen her espouse an opinion once or twice, but her coverage (and she covers everything business) does not take sides.  And it is patiently informative, and the perfect gateway drug if you're looking to get your hands dirty with financial journalism.

So naturally I recommend her explainer of the relevance of the Bain dump:

The real question is: sure, [arcane tax avoidance strategies are] common and legal, but is it unpleasant to contemplate? And yes, like much of the tax code, it is. John Cook is absolutely right that incorporating a fund in the Cayman Islands is a laughable fiction - the fund can pay Caymans taxes, but it really does do business in the United States, and the U.S. could use that money.

Moore is also one who gently chided her colleagues that claimed that the Bain dump was nothin' new and so what? so she deserves some credit for that at least.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:17 AM