Monday, August 27, 2012

Romney To Ryan To Akin; Mitt Goes Platform Diving

Romney to Ryan to Akin; Mitt Goes Platform Diving

There is a scene late in the movie “Judgment In Nuremberg” in which two American jurists, presiding over a trial of Nazi judges, are debating whether someone who was following enacted legislation could be held responsible for the application of unjust laws.  One insists they be acquitted, while the other, played by Spencer Tracy, demands to know why. Tracy’s view prevails, and the trial ends in convictions.

Afterwards, he meets with one of the German jurists, a person Tracy held in great esteem before the war.  The man accepts the verdict, praises Tracy for his fairness, but pleads that he never expected it to come to the end it did.

Tracy final words are decisive “(I)t came to that the first time you sentenced a man…you knew to be innocent.”   

The movie’s sympathies clearly lie with Tracy (as they must) but the larger question of when authority must resist injustice is still valid.  Equally true is the question of what fealty a Presidential candidate owes to the party platform upon which he runs. 

Ordinarily, we don’t pay all that much attention to party platforms.  They are part of the back stage arcanery (or chicanery) that is the political convention, with rules and credential committees, and off-site meetings for shrimp, roasted tenderloin, and cash with well-heeled lobbyists and ultra-wealthy contributors.  It is what we don’t get to see when the network cameras are on.  Much of this is covered by the peculiar omerta that is politics, from the tiniest contest for alderman, to the Presidency itself.  There are things you just don’t talk about.

The Romney machine was moving towards Tampa with an inexorable momentum that may very well carry him to the Presidency. His choice of Paul Ryan was greeted with a type of rapture formerly reserved for the Beatles, he is outraising Mr. Obama by a huge margin (and that’s just the disclosed money) and Republican-dominated administrations in swing states across the country have put in place a thicket of barriers to voting for those who are more likely to support Mr. Obama.  Even Timothy, Cardinal Egan, the most powerful Catholic figure in the country, had been brought in to close the Convention.  Charisma, money, brute force, and some help from a higher authority.  Little had been left to chance.

And, then came Todd Akin.  An obscure Congressman from a very conservative Missouri district, he won the GOP senatorial primary in a splintered field.  Akin, by all accounts a deeply and sincerely religious man, has a negligible record of accomplishment in Congress, and apparently few friends there.  Congressman Akin indulged himself in a few out of the mainstream thoughts about rape, and then made a quick detour into the science of reproduction, and the female body’s ability to distinguish between good and bad sperm.

Skunk at the picnic!!! As fast as you can say “conference call with Romney and Rove” virtually every Republican in the country ran for the hills.  The GOP Senatorial campaign and Crossroads said they wouldn’t fund him, and dozens either begged or demanded that he drop out (including, after a pause to see where the wind was blowing, Romney and Ryan).  When he dug in, they started looking for procedural moves to get him out (he did win the primary, but what’s an election if you don’t like the vote?) When that didn’t immediately work, they developed a case of collective amnesia.  Akin, Akin?  You mean that gay guy on American Idol?  Never heard of him.

Akin was not without a few friends.  Back home his constituents shared many of his views, as did many Christian conservatives, and Mike Huckabee lent support.  Huckabee hit the nail on the head.  While Akin’s language could have been more politic, on the topic of faith in general and abortion in specific, he was right in the mainstream of contemporary Republican thought.  Ryan himself was a co-sponsor, with Akin, of a bill that would have banned all abortions, without an exception for rape, incest, or the health or life of the mother.

Yes, but, Ryan didn’t mean it that way, and certainly Romney holds a different position (surely, that must be the most used phrase in the campaign-there is always something where Romney held, or used to hold, a different position.)  So, Akin has to go.

Except,  Akin won’t, and Akin’s work lives on.  The GOP Platform committee has met and adopted a document of surpassing conservatism.  It’s down on Sharia Law. Wants a Constitutional Amendment to ban tax increases.  A return to the Gold Standard.  A provision denying women roles in combat (take that, Tammy Duckworth, so you lost your legs in the service of your country!).  A double fence on the Mexican border, presumably because one is insufficient. Reality TV this isn't.

And, that absolute ban on abortions, with no modifying language, and an acknowledgment that it could be extended to ban several forms of birth control.  It even includes a “salute” to states like Virginia, who tried to add the trans-vaginal ultrasound.

So, where does Mitt stand on these?  Well, Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, hastily pointed out that it’s the GOP platform, not Mitt Romney’s platform. 

I don’t think that’s enough.  I can understand and respect that there are people of faith who deeply believe that abortion is wrong in all circumstances, and wish to live their lives that way.  But the GOP position, Mitt Romney’s position, appears to be “carry your rapist’s baby to term, or die trying.” That's a little harsh for me.

Romney has made it to the doorstep of the office of the most powerful person on Earth.  He has done it with smarts, and ruthlessness, and tons of money, and a remarkable skill of running on his past accomplishments while denying his past positions. 

He has even managed to deny Ron Paul delegates their moment in the Sun, even though he didn’t need the votes.  A man with that kind of talent for power could have softened platform, toned down some of the more outlier parts.  He chose not to, for reasons only he must know.

Mr. Romney, is it your platform, or not?  I think we would all like to know.