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Friday, August 31, 2012

Mitt Romney's Speech: Lukewarm Mashed Potatoes and a Plan to Create the Sunrise

Last night's acceptance speech for the nomination to the top of the Republican ticket was, by most accounts, a plate of warm mashed potatoes. Not too hot, not too cold, not overly seasoned or anything to get excited about. It was a speech, he didn't trip over the podium and fall into the audience in giving it, and the absence of humiliating failure is a success of sorts. What will be remembered will be Clint Eastwood's rambling, incoherent stand-up routine (at least, I think it was supposed to be comedy of some sort). Advice to future convention planners: if a prominently scheduled speaker can't give you any advanced copy of a script, do not let them go on. I don't care who it is or how starstruck you are -- if it's not in writing, it doesn't get broadcast. Abraham Lincoln, risen from the grave by the personal hand of God had better have a stack of 3x5 index cards someone can look over. If not, hit the road you spooky undead emancipator.

Inspiring it was not. It will never be quoted by someone with tears in their eyes. Jonathan Bernstein pretty much nailed it when he summed it up this way: "A generic speech and a generic convention for a generic Republican candidate." It was a speech by a guy who's running for president. Not the first and not the last and certainly not noteworthy. If speeches had a color, this one would be beige.

Unfortunately, it was also the generic speech for a generic Republican in a way worth remarking on. While it steered mostly away from substance and toward humanizing a seemingly robotic candidate, you can't have a completely substance-free acceptance speech, no matter how badly you might want one. You're going to have to talk about your opponent. You're going to have to talk about policy. You're going to have to make a case beyond, "No really, I do have a pulse."

And it was in those moments that Mitt slipped into the old habit of slinging the BS.


The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler fact-checked the speech and found six inaccuracies or distortions (you could argue seven, but I'm cutting some slack for a vague statement on taxes). The first is pretty weasely and that's the one I want to concentrate on. The rest of the lies are pretty familiar, but this one seems new.

In this statement, Mitt promised to create jobs. Specifically, "And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs." He didn't say how and, as Kessler points out, he didn't really have to. That would probably happen if he didn't do anything at all.

[T]he number is even less impressive than it sounds. This pledge amounts to an average of 250,000 jobs a month, a far cry from the 500,000 jobs a month that Romney once claimed would be created in a “normal recovery.” In recent months, the economy has averaged about 150,000 jobs a month.

The Congressional Budget Office is required to consider the effects of the so-called “fiscal cliff” if a yearend budget deal is not reached, which many experts believe would push the country into a recession. But even with that caveat, the nonpartisan agency assumes 9.6 million jobs will be created in the next four years. (This is a revision downward; CBO had estimated 11 million in January.)

But Moody’s Analytics, in an August forecast, predicts 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, no matter who is president. And Macroeconomic Advisors in April also predicted a gain of 12.3 million jobs.

In other words, this is a fairly safe bet by Romney, even if he has a somewhat fuzzy plan for action. We have often noted that presidents are often at the mercy — or the beneficiary — of broad economic trends, and Romney’s pledge appears to be an effort to take advantage of that.

So, given those numbers, does Mitt Romney have a "plan" to create jobs? I suppose sitting on your hands doing nothing constitutes a plan, but reaping the benefits of something that's going to happen anyway isn't actually "creating" anything. This is a brand new, shiny lie. Romney has a plan to create jobs in the same way that I have a plan to create a sunrise tomorrow. His "plan" is merely to take credit for something he didn't do.

So yeah, the whole speech was bland and tasteless, despite being seasoned with a few lies and the promise to take credit for something he wouldn't be responsible for. If this is any indication of how he's going to do in the debates (Mitt's Republican debate opponents have been idiots and lunatics, so you can't measure future performances by those), he's heading into a bloodbath.

Romney's really going to have to crank it up a notch and I think he may be at full volume already. He just may not have it in him -- even with the help of lies.


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