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Land of smiles: Recapping the conventions



PHUKET: Here are some highlights of the recent US political conventions for readers who may have missed them on TV:

The main thrust of the Republican convention was to emphasize Mitt Romney’s warm humanity. Mitt reminds people of one of those wooden statues of American Indians that used to stand outside cigar stores. To humanize him, they brought out his wife Ann, a warm and vivacious woman who stole the show. Many viewers must have wondered why they didn’t nominate Ann, and send Mitt back to stand outside a cigar store.

Mitt gave a speech that revealed his warm humanity. He reminisced that his father used to give his mother a fresh rose every morning. He neglected to tell us whether he had ever given Ann so much as a dandelion.

CNN political guru David Gergen opined that Mitt evoked Norman Rockwell America. That could be a problem for Mitt. Norman Rockwell was a popular artist who portrayed an idealized version of small-town America around the 1940s. Rockwell is dead. His America may also be dead. And there are no cigar stores left.

Mitt missed a bet by not bringing out one of his ‘house slaves’ to testify to his warm humanity. “Mr. Mitt is so sensitive to our feelings,” the slave might have emoted. “Why, when they take us outside to flog us, Mr. Mitt can’t bear to watch. He stays inside to re-itemize his tax deductions and keeps the door closed to shut out our screams.”

The Republicans suffered a major disaster when they let revered movie icon Clint Eastwood give a rambling, quavering speech to an empty chair. I’ve been a big fan of Clint ever since the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s, and it nearly killed me to see this shambling old guy, now white-haired, wrinkled, and 82, unwittingly torpedo his own legacy. They should never let you speak in public after you’re 65.

The Democratic convention was much livelier than the Republican one. Bill Clinton gave the best speech of both conventions: “We say, ‘We’re all in this together.’ The Republicans say, ‘You’re on your own.'” Even Obama couldn’t top that. Unfortunately Bill’s speech was too long (it always is), at 48 minutes. If you can’t say it in 20 minutes, you’re not doing your job.

Obama didn’t need to emphasize his warm humanity, but he did anyway. He affirmed that he tried to be home for dinner every night at 6:30 to help his daughters with their homework. That made me wonder. Wouldn’t the country be better off if he let Michelle handle the homework while he stayed in the Oval Office burning the midnight oil and struggling to reduce the deficit?

Both conventions were marred by American jingoism, with delegates chanting “USA all the way” and the usual gush about the greatest nation on Earth. But if you didn’t take it too seriously, it was a lot of fun. Primates acting like primates. Just like a circus.

Ye Olde Curmudgeon, who plans to vote for George Washington, can be scolded for his cynicism c/o

— Ye Olde Curmudgeon


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