Yesterday was noteworthy primarily as a reminder that having basic competence in speech delivery is no greater a hindrance to a political career than having basic policy competence might be, a lesson amply demonstrated by intensely awkward performances by Perpetually Crabby John McCain, Official Senate Turtle Mitch McConnell, and a host of lesser Republican luminaries. We saw George W. Bush's budget director dispensing budget advice with absolutely no mention of how that worked out the last time around, and George W. Bush's National Security Adviser give us a speech on various foreign policy that proved she had not really learned anything in particular about foreign policy since about midway through Bush's first term; I am fairly certain that is the time frame she cribbed her current speech from, merely pasting in a Mitt Romney here and there to make it fit the mood of the day. Kudos for an excellent delivery, however.
We were then treated to a very special performance from the greatest bullshit artist in politics today, and therefore not coincidentally the special honoree of the evening, one Paul Ryan. Think a young, crooked Nixon channeling the theories of Ayn Rand, putting it through the sausage grinder of Orwell's worst fears, and delivering it with the smirking assurance of a Baghdad Bob. Obama closed a GM plant in Janesville, he snarled, not mentioning that the time-traveling plant had shuttered before Barack Obama ever entered the White House. The stimulus was nothing but "political patronage" and "cronyism", he bellowed, not mentioning the letters he himself sent requesting those very same stimulus dollars be steered towards his district—letters specifically heralding the stimulative effects they would have. He decried Obama's cruel cuts to Medicare, not mentioning his very own budgetary support of the precise same Medicare changes, and certainly not mentioning his plan to end the program entirely in favor of (partially) subsidized private insurance. He hammered Obama for not supporting the "bipartisan deficit commission", but did not mention that it was Paul Ryan, who served on it, who helped botch the thing so badly that the "commission" could not even reach a conclusion to be supported—because Paul Ryan, among other commission members, would not vote to support it. Paul Ryan also only discovered the deficit after a certain Barack Obama was elected president; before then, he was a reliable vote for whatever Bush-era budget busters happened to be on the table, including, yes, the wars. And the tax cuts.
It is hard to choose a capper, given all that, but I think blaming Barack Obama for the downgrading of the United States credit, after the last disastrous round of GOP debt-ceiling hostage taking, may be worthy of the prize. After all, it was the Paul Ryan contingent of the House that demanded the crisis in the first place, and it was the Paul Ryan contingent of the House that the credit rating agency S&P specifically identified as the most substantive threat to the future credit of the United States. In exchange for this round of hostage-taking, it should be pointed out, the Republicans received yet another blue-ribbon panel on debt reduction, which failed entirely, and something called a sequester, a promise that if the United States could not work out a way to bring its budget into line with what the Republicans demanded, the entire budget would be slashed by a certain amount in order to forcibly meet that pointless, arbitrary number. Paul Ryan deplored that, too, in his speech. Paul Ryan also voted for it.
It has become a bit of a parlor game to try to guess which of the current crop of blustering politicians are truly evil, and which are merely stupid. With Paul Ryan, though, there is no particular doubt. Paul Ryan is very smart, and Paul Ryan sells his vapid, Randian premises with enough raw horseshit and hucksterism to make even the most crooked car salesman in the country blush. Welcome to the newest incarnation of Republicanism. If it looks a lot like the last version with a new face plastered on it, congratulations; you're catching on.
Tonight, Mitt will speak—or Mitt!, as the convention signage would have it. It was the Mitt campaign that embraced a doctored, faked quote and made it a prevailing convention theme, so Mitt is no slouch at bullshit himself, but he will have a tough act to follow. Here's the full schedule:
- Things kick off again at 7:00pm eastern. We'll quickly move to a video celebrating Ronald Reagan, who is thankfully dead enough for the current crop of Republicans to claim he'd support whatever the hell they say. Then we'll hear from Newt and Callista Gingrich, together; I presume this is because Callista is smart enough to never let the old fart out of her sight, not even long enough for a speech.
- From there, we move to Jeb Bush, who is the only Bush left that Republicans still trust enough to let speak live, without editing. And good luck with that.
- Now comes the humanizing part of the evening. Did I say humanizing? I'm sorry, that was Tuesday. Tonight is the night for a heavy videotaped push to convince America that Bain Capital is a damn fine thing, and that if you hate Mitt Romney's Wall Street practice of buying companies with borrowed money, loading them up with debt, and sticking other people with the bill, you hate America. We'll also be treated to a video entitled, on the program, "Massachusetts Record", and if it mentions one damn thing about a certain healthcare mandate, after all of the effort that has been spent to demonize that same mandate over the last few days, I think a great many of us will eat our hats.
- Next: a mystery guest. Speculation as to who this mystery speaker might be ranges from Clint Eastwood to the reanimated corpse of Reagan himself (well, the reanimated hologram of Reagan himself.) I'm going to dismiss the Reagan hologram theory simply because I'm not sure the party could find enough tape of Ronald Reagan saying things the current Republican party still agrees with to make a whole segment out of it, so let's hope for Eastwood. If it ends up being a mere Chuck Norris or the like I think the conventioneers are going to be all but despondent. Oh, and then Marco Rubio will introduce ...
- Mitt Freaking Romney, who these convention-goers have just spent all week pretending to be excited about. If you don't feel at least a little bit sorry for them, I'm sorry, but I'm not sure you have a soul. Mitt Romney will then give the speech of his life, or at least the Disney Hall of Presidents version of the speech of his life, and everybody will stand and yell like their seats have all been hooked to an electric fence charger. You didn't think Republicans speakers were giving all these shout-outs to Thomas Edison for nothing, did you?
And that, thankfully, will be that. Among the pressing questions are ... well, there aren't really any. These things are scripted to within an inch of their stuffy lives. The only real question of the evening will be whether Mitt tries to match his vice presidential nominee's new bullshit-per-word record, or whether he leaves that to Ryan and his SuperPACs. I don't have a guess on that one, but we'll know soon enough.
An entire convention centered around a doctored quote. Yep: They really did build that.