After not being able to last even 30 minutes on either Tuesday or Wednesday nights, last evening’s Republican Convention made for absorbing TV. (I watched on PBS.) One of the standard features of any convention’s last night is the biography of the Presidential nominee. I could not wait to see how Mitt Romney’s would be presented since he has been unwilling to discuss some of the most central events of his life: his religion, Bain Capital and being Governor of Massachusetts. It turned into an entire evening of the Romney biography, and I thought it was quite effective. The biggest challenge was to “humanize” a candidate who usually appears stiff and robotic.
First an older couple, then a younger woman, described a close relationship with both Mitt and Ann Romney when they were members of his Mormon temple. They each had a seriously ill child, and discussed how Romney comforted them during a time of crisis, presenting the image of a warm and caring man. There were not many dry eyes in the house, including my own.
After a couple of women who had senior positions in the Romney Administration in Massachusetts (including the Lieutenant Governor) spoke, we moved on to the introduction of about a dozen former (and one current) Olympic athletes. There were remarks made by three of them, including Boston’s own Mike Eruzione. For those under the age of 45, or not from the Boston area, Eruzione was the captain (and a star) of the 1980 hockey team that beat the Soviet Union and won the gold medal.
I had a difficult time figuring out why these folks were there, and what they had to do with the choice of a President. Then a somewhat disturbing connection started to emerge, emphasized in the biographical film that came next. The 2002 Olympics that Romney took over amidst a scandal and “saved,” came just after September 11. I will readily admit to perhaps overstating it, but was the message that the Romney who saved the Olympics was the national leader who brought our nation together after 9/11? Lord knows I have not had much good to say about George W. Bush, but one of his few actual positive achievements was being an effective leader following that tragedy. It wasn’t the Olympics that did that, even if it may have played some small part.
From there we moved on to what is being regarded as one of the most memorable events of any political convention and is already legendary. Mystery guest Clint Eastwood came out with a chair. It’s not that he was just off-message for this Republican gathering, with remarks about Guantanamo, Afghanistan, gas guzzling planes and student loans, he actually said it was not a good idea for a lawyer to be elected President. He apparently missed comments by an earlier speaker about Mitt Romney going to Harvard Law School. But he did all this while speaking to an empty chair that represented President Obama. While parts of this was amusing in the same way a drunk uncle can be sometimes amusing at a family gathering, it was bizarre, particularly since it came just before the introduction of the candidate by Marco Rubio. My favorite blogger, Andrew Sullivan, has captured a number of the most interesting tweets from the phenomenon now known as “Eastwooding” here. (Top on my list thus far is one reading, “This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.”)
Senator Marco Rubio proceeded to give a rousing introduction for the candidate (we’ll save the fact-checking for later). I was somewhat struck by remarks such as “Faith in our Creator is the most important American value.” I suspect the mullahs might say the same thing about Iranian values. As one friend remarked, his favorite moment from the Convention was the standing ovation for God. It’s easy to see why Rubio is one of the next generation of stars in the Republican Party.
Then Mitt Romney came on. About 18 minutes into his speech, I found myself wondering when he was going to stop talking about the importance of a mother holding her child in her arms and get to some substance. It turns out there was not to be much substance (his campaign earlier said he would start giving specifics about his plans in October (sic)). If the goal was for Romney to portray himself as an engaged and personable figure, I think he accomplished that, with a sizeable contribution from the video that focused in large part on his family life. He had some memorable lines, and even displayed a humor that people would actually understand.
I’ll come back later with a more substantive appraisal.