Romney’s speech

…seems to have struck the pundit community as pretty good, and less radiantly mendacious and irresponsible than Ryan’s, at least insofar as it serves his immediate political needs.  I thought it was just awful, almost as embarrassing as the unspeakable preceding episode from Clint Eastwood. Eastwood’s performance was just sad, a great talent flailing about trying to do something he’s completely unqualified for and an awkward reminder of Reagan confusing himself with his roles in movies.  But Romney was doing what he wants to be hired to do for a living, and boy, was he bad at it.

The first half was a treacly stream of cheap sentiment and bromides about how great America is, not a bit advanced from a Frank Capra movie or this which was pushing the boundaries of kitsch when it was written in 1946.  It’s all true at one level (sometimes aspirational) or another, but so is the beauty of the sunset, and do we learn anything hearing it again, and does Romney stating a view about anything, however banal, provide any information about his convictions? Asserting the wonderfulness of your country is not patriotic or inspirational or enlightening; like most assertions, especially assertions of a widely held opinion, it’s just boring and icky.   The second half pretended to tell us what Romney will do if elected, larded with some silly jingoism and anti-Obama snark, but all we really got was a bunch of objectives.  I ding my students severely when they confuse goals with policies, and saying you will reduce the deficit without saying what you will actually do to get there is more eyewash.

I don’t think the speech, or the whole convention, will do Romney much more good two weeks from now than the balloons.


Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

10 thoughts on “Romney’s speech”

  1. A few people over here stayed up to watch.

    The consensus seems to be that Clint Eastwood stole the show, but in the worst way possible. No one will remember what Romney said – their memory will be dominated by the Eastwood train wreck.

  2. Mr. O’Hare – Did you ghostwrite today’s NYT editorial? “delivered in a treacly tone with a strange misty smile on his face suggesting he was always about to burst into tears…Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides”

    Or maybe the editorial board at The Grey Lady are fans of RBC. No matter the specifics, it’s about time the Authoritarian Plutocratic Party got called out on its aggressive cowardice. It’s like we used to say, back in the day – “if you’re gonna play, ya gotta pay.” Except the gutless corporate predators and their political division have twisted natural sensibilities so well for so long, normal human response to chickens**t behavior has been truncated. Even if the Times did steal your thunder (or not), damn it’s good to see the Cloacans getting called on their feces.

  3. “The first half was a treacly stream of cheap sentiment and bromides about how great America is”

    I couldn’t agree more. And, as Carl Jung noted, “sentimentality is a structure built over brutality.” So the first half of the speech was the shoring-up of the hate base, without being obvious about it.

    The second half was “vote for me, I’m the one they call ‘generic Republican.'” He knows that his policies are against the interests of the overwhelming majority of Americans, so why say anything at all other than some phony goals?

    So the design made sense (to me), but the GOP message is so angry, confused, and generally insane that there’s no way to come up with a winner. McCain did exceptional well with grateful patriotism (“my country saved me”) last time around, but Mitt Money doesn’t have that kind of story to tell.

  4. “The first half was a treacly stream of cheap sentiment and bromides about how great America is, … The second half pretended to tell us what Romney will do if elected, larded with some silly jingoism and anti-Obama snark, but all we really got was a bunch of objectives.”

    C’mon, this wasn’t Meet the Press, it was just a convention speech so the delegates could applaud and carry on. To have hoped for more would be totally unrealistic.

  5. And if he wins, I can just *hear* you saying, “How could that be? I don’t know a single person who voted for him?”

    He wasn’t *talking* to you.

  6. It’s the standard structure:
    V.P. is attack dog who can say anything (Cheney, Biden, Palin) and the P. is the calming / mature fatherly figure who you could hang with. (Obama, GWB, McCain sorta)

    1. Comment fail. Obviously Romney hasn’t said anything so far this campaign about what policies he supports, or at least anything coherent, so that could have been written before. But sometimes convention speeches are used to lay out a roadmap of the future Presidency. Remember all that talk about this being a “reboot” of the campaign? Yet there was nothing new. Except talking ad nauseum about his mother.

  7. Wait, wait…isn’t it the Rs who claim that nobody from Hollywood should ever dare talk about politics or government or anything serious, and if they do have the audacity to talk, surely nobody should listen to them?

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