August 31, 2012

Jonah Goldberg Pastiche

Ah yes, I'm always reminded why I'm not writing for National Review when I sample a snippet of the ever-interesting Jonah Goldberg. There's humor, substance and common sense:
I thought he [Clint Eastwood] was great ("Oh come on. Talking to the furniture?" -- The Couch). First of all, the convention desperately needed something a little less buttoned-down and programmed. Getting that from Clinton Eastwood riffing on Obama is damn near a coup. Yes, in a perfect world, he should have had something that was better prepared and polished. But Clint's not a target shooter, he's a gunfighter, damn it.

Moreover, I think all of the people attacking Eastwood are doing Mitt Romney an enormous favor. The clips I've seen on the news aren't incoherent, rambling, or even weird, as some of the talking heads are saying. By my lights they're charming or funny. Chris Rock said on Twitter this morning something to the effect of "Clint Eastwood on phone with Obama this morning: Everything went as planned sir."

I like Chris Rock, but his grasp of politics is ludicrous. Eastwood's speech is going to be water-cooler talk all day today. If people don't like what he said, they won't hold Eastwood's comments against Mitt Romney. If they like what he said, that's bad for Obama. And lots of people who haven't focused on the election will now hear about how Clinton Eastwood -- a compelling American badass -- thinks it's time for Obama to go. I understand people who want to say Eastwood's act wasn't good for Eastwood or all that useful for Romney. But I'm baffled by the claim that there's an upside for Obama in what Eastwood said.

But let them attack him. If the Democrats want to berate an American icon for being too old, let them (just please do it loud enough so they can hear you in South Florida). If you want to bleat about how it was inappropriate for an actor, please ask Alec Baldwin or George Clooney to make that case.

About That Other Guy

Obviously, Romney's speech wasn't aimed at me. Or, in all likelihood, at most of you. It was aimed at various flavors of independents, moderates, Hispanics, and single women. The same, for the most part, can be said about the whole convention. Mitt Romney needs large numbers of people who voted for Barack Obama to either vote for Romney or stay home on Election Day. Therefore he needs to talk to Americans like he's trying to get a little squirrel to come over to him and eat out of his hand (as Elaine from Seinfeld might say). That's why there was so little red meat on the menu this week. Personally, I like a few guys like Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, slicing great slabs of red meat to dispense as treats for his loyal minions. Instead we got some poached chicken, maybe a few lamb chops when we were lucky, and the occasional amuse-bouche of actual steak (can you tell I'm hungry?).

Everything was more in sorrow than in anger. Obama's not a bad man, he's just in over his head. Besides, as Rubio put it, "it doesn't matter how you feel about President Obama. This election is about your future, not about his." That line carries a lot of water. It let's people off the hook for voting against a guy they like personally, a guy who's also the first black president, and it subtly calls attention to the fact that Obama is divisive.

But the two most effective and representative lines of the whole convention came from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (as it should be).

From Romney: "President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."

While this isn't necessarily red meat, it's got a nice pinkish hue bordering on red at the center. It also shows why red meat can be effective. Liberals hate this line because they think making fun of global warming is sacrilegious and "anti-science." So they're attacking him for it. But the average voter doesn't hear anti-scientific blasphemy, they hear, "Obama talks a big game about things that either don't matter or he can't do. Meanwhile this guy says he's going to focus on the economy and getting my kid a job that gets him out of the basement."

Which brings me to what I think was easily the best line of the night, from Paul Ryan.
We are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy that Barack Obama inherited, not the economy as he envisions, but this economy that we are living. College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.
That is brilliant and one of the few lines of the whole convention that elicited serious pangs of writerly envy. It works so well because it is poignant, funny, and feels very, very true. It captures the faded coolness and fizzled hype of the original Obama frenzy. That's a great message from a young (younger than me!) politician aimed at young people. But it also works very well for older people. People who are no longer all that young understand the pain and anxiety of wasted time and unfulfilled potential. The image makes you feel for the young adults effectively trapped at the bottom of an economic escalator that seems to be moving down as they try to climb up.

Drama Obama

I could be wrong ("You? Never." -- The Couch). But I think the Democrats are setting themselves up for a really awful problem. Already they're planning on a lot of "Yay! Abortion!" speakers.

As Ramesh and others have pointed out, whatever your position on abortion, odds are you don't like to hear a lot about it. Branding the Democratic party as the party that will respond to an economic crisis by ensuring abortion is as widely available as possible -- and insisting on telling you all about it -- just strikes me as ill-advised.


Thomas D said...

I'm not the biggest Romney fan, but boy was that a killer quote about Obama's afflatus and Romney's practicality. "He promised to heal the planet; I'll help your family." Awesome. That's a roundtripper.

Of course, if Romney wanted to help families in Massachusetts, he'd come back here, run as governor, and pledge to repeal Romneycare. I know a bartender who's paying nearly $400 a month for her mandatory health insurance. If that were me, I'd take a chance on the fines being cheaper!

TS said...

I bet I know that bartender!

I think health care is one of those insoluble situations. There's no way to deal with it except by rationing, but if we ration like we do all other goods, i.e. via money), it's seen as cruel, understandably so. So we're left between a rock and a hard place.