Saturday, September 29, 2012

What Itzhak Perlman Could Teach Mitt And Barack

What Itzhak Perlman Could Teach Mitt And Barack

The New York Philharmonic had its Grand Opening Gala this last week, Alan Gilbert at the baton, and the violinist Itzhak Perlman as the principal soloist. 

Since my tuxedo was at the dry cleaners (and my free cash invested in tuition) I had to content myself with watching on PBS.  The orchestra, as always, was superb, and Maestro Gilbert in complete command.  And Perlman?  Wonderful.  Find the clip on PBS if you have the opportunity.  Look at his face as he plays the Sarasate.  He loves it-loves the music, loves what it does for his soul, and ours.  Perlman finds joy in playing, joy in the genius of the composer, and to watch him is to get a tiny peek into a world of complete contentment.  He has a joyous passion.

He’s the perfect break from the tendentious slog that has been the 2012 campaign; the charges and counter charges, speeches, fundraisers, polls, gaffes, feigned outrage and spin.

Not one iota of joyous passion.  Anger, yes, because it drives the base.  Lust for power, yes.  Even dispassionate writing of checks, not for the public good, but coldly calculated to bring the maximum return on investment

Joyous passion? Not so much. Mitt Romney doesn’t have it.  He wants the job, of course, even craves it.  But his ardor is that of the corporate raider; he sees the target, has his staff do some analysis, devises a strategy, and plans for what he intends to “harvest” from the asset after the acquisition.   

Barack Obama?  After four years in office, hard years with huge challenges, we aren’t sure whether he has joyous passion either.  Passion can be tough to show, and oratorical skill is not the same.  Being President is a lot harder than campaigning for it.  It’s the endless hours of rehearsals, the sore wrists, tight fingers and bleary eyes; the sweat that the artist never lets you see.  Because 99 percent of the time, it’s not standing in an artfully lit concert hall wowing rapt aficionados.  It’s hard work.

Not every President has joyous passion, nor is it necessary to be a competent one.  George Herbert Walker Bush is a perfect example. But the best, and the best loved, had it.  JFK did, and inspired.  FDR had it.  Listen to his speeches, read the contemporary accounts, and you can tell he loved the job, and the electorate knew it, and loved him back.  Reagan had the sunniness, and no one seemed to care whether he involved himself in the nuts and bolts.

And Bill Clinton had it abundance. He embraced all of it-the job, the speeches, the challenges, the little details of policy, the back and forth of negotiation.  It kept him going at the worst of his troubles and projected itself into the electorate.  They knew he was a cad, but they also knew every day he rolled up his sleeves and got down to work, trying to make things a little bit better for everyone.  It remains the secret of his incredible popularity.  He still has that special grin that comes from having a great time at what you do, and you can’t help but grin right back at him.

But for Mitt and Barack, there’s been precious little fun.  This election, more than any other than I can remember, resembles cold trench warfare.  The logistical challenges of the ground game.  The massed artillery of the infinite variety of negative ads.  The propaganda machines inside the campaigns and their sympathetic media friends.  Not much in the way of joyous passion.

In a few days, we are going to see the gladiators directly engage, and we can take our measure of them.  The two sides have been feverishly engaged in pre-game planning, which primarily takes the form of intensive prepping, and an equally intensive lowering of expectations.  From Obama’s side, Mitt is a master who won 19 out of 24 GOP debates.  From Mitt’s, Obama is one of the great orators of the age, one who can make grown men weep and women sigh in (platonic) ecstasy.   

Substantively, you would think these two have a lot to talk about.  Mr. Obama has been anything but a caretaker President. He’s had the largest recession since the Great Depression, Obamacare, two wars to wind down, Osama Bin Laden, Arab Spring, and multiple threats of government shutdowns and defaults. A full plate of both accomplishment and failure.  Mitt, of course, would do everything differently (except Bin Laden, the credit for which really belongs to George Bush). 

But, I’m not sure we are going to get that much substance. While Mr. Obama has a clear record, Mr. Romney seems unwilling to actually get into the hard details of his plans.  The past couple of weeks he’s been doing something particularly odd, essentially agreeing with Mr. Obama on a number of points, while denying they have anything in common.  On Iran, there doesn’t seem to be a dime’s worth of difference between them, except that Mitt shouts more.  On healthcare, Mitt has not only taken a shine to some of Obamacare’s strong points, but actually, and affectionately, resurrected the ghost of Romneycare past.

So, policy is likely to be dull.  As for atmospherics, there’s always the possibility of a gaffe, or some display of an unpalatable personality quirk, but the parties are training for it.  Romney’s folk want him to loosen up a little, while appearing Presidential.  Obama’s would like him to shorten his answers and seem less like the boring Professor for a required course.

I know the policy.  What I’m really looking for is a little Itzhak Perlman--a little joyous passion.  I read a great story in the New York Times last week.  It was about John C. Flynn, a priest who served in the South Bronx for 50 year, in the toughest of neighborhoods, helping the hopeless, fighting drugs and despair and homelessness and poverty.  He turned down promotions and transfers, because he wanted to serve his community.  And when he died last Monday, he was mourned as “The People’s Priest.”

You can serve yourself by serving others....or you can just serve yourself.  

Joyous passion. 


Monday, September 24, 2012

Mitt Meets Fala

Mitt Meets Fala

For those of you who may have been in a land far far away over the last couple of weeks, Mitt Romney was caught on tape having a fireside chat with his People; hedge funders, investment bankers, folks who can write an eight figure check without any decimal points. 

The topic was the “47 percent”-those moochers who pay no income taxes; slovenly users who have made dependency a goal in life and are totally outside the electoral reach of Mitt’s message of economic growth through additional benefits to his friends and campaign contributors.

That Mitt thought the thoughts should come as no surprise to anyone.  Is there anything in Mitt’s history or current Republican Orthodoxy that doesn’t confirm that, for better or worse?  That he spoke those thoughts was equally plausible-he was among his peers and friends. 

But, that he believed them was a little more off-putting, because the dirty little secret is that not only does the despised 47% have all those scurrilous Obama supporters, but a lot of conservatives as well, including veterans and seniors.  It also has more than a few millionaires. 

For Mitt Romney, this was the most revealing moment of his campaign.  It tells you, in just a few sentences, how clueless he really is about the demographic challenges facing this country.  He is not just a buttoned-up aristocrat.  He is also someone who has lived so long in a bubble of his own beliefs that he no longer recognizes the reality around him.

His campaign reflects this; after the excitement and intellectual vigor that Paul Ryan was supposed to inject, the net is that Romney still believes he’s entitled to the office and still campaigns that way.  No detail, lots of negativity.

So, the Romney people saw the 47% as a tactical issue, not a substantive one.  They did a little bit of flailing, first, a small back-pedal, then a doubling down, then throwing in an “Obama the redistributionist” video from 14 years ago, and then an expression of how Mitt wants to represent all of us.  They are all words without much weight. I doubt there is a thinking person in the country, left or right, who has any illusions about Mitt’s world view. It’s pretty darn narrow.

But Mitt’s time with the shrimp and tenderloin set reminded me that not every aristocrat is tone-deaf to the sounds of anyone less fortunate than they are.  Nor is this the first time that we have had a debate over entitlements, taxes, and the role of the social safety net.

FDR had fought this battle and won it.  The electorate who brought him to power, and, later gave him even greater majorities in the House and Senate, understood that the Republican policies of the 1920’s had not only benefited the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, but had played a key role in the catastrophic failure that followed.  And Hoover’s devotion to dogma following the crash, fairly or not, fed the perception that he, and his backers simply did not care about the wide-spread suffering.  Still, throughout FDR's term in office, Republicans continued to rail against “socialism” and do their best to obstruct what they could.  They became reflexively anti-Roosevelt, isolationist, and increasingly critical, to the point of pettiness.

And, it started to work.  The recovery was slower than people wanted.  WPA and NRA helped, but didn’t fundamentally change things, and in 1937 we had another recession.  The 1938 midterm elections brought 72 new Republican members to the House and six to the Senate.  Roosevelt did manage to win re-election in 1940, but in 1942 with American now fully engaged in a war that wasn’t going particularly well, the GOP picked up 47 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate.

The 1944 election looked as if it was going to be competitive.  The GOP nominated Thomas Dewey, a renowned Governor and former prosecutor, and he pushed an agenda that included criticism of supposed inefficiency and corruption in Washington, and Communist influences in Roosevelt’s Administration.  There were other subscripts are well: Roosevelt the imperial dictator, and Roosevelt the sick old man.  The last part was certainly true.  By 1944, Roosevelt was wearing down, and already was suffering from the serious hypertension that would lead to his death by stroke.  There was talk that this time, Roosevelt would lose. 

Then, a little bit of serendipity entered into Roosevelt’s charmed political life.  An obscure Congressman accused Roosevelt of sending a destroyer back to the Aleutian Islands to retrieve his dog, Fala.  Roosevelt gave explicit instructions to his campaign that no-one should respond to it: he was saving this bit of small-mindedness for himself.

On September 23, 1944,  at a meeting of the Teamsters, FDR gave a speech that remains one of the best tactical performances ever.  Read it in full and you can see that very little is new in politics, not the least of which is pure talent.  Here are some of its choicer moments, in chronological order, still resonant as if they were written today.

“I got quite a laugh, for example - and I am sure that you did - when I read this plank in the Republican platform…."The Republican Party accepts the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, the Wage and Hour Act, the Social Security Act and all other Federal statutes designed to promote and protect the welfare of American working men and women, and we promise a fair and just administration of these laws."

“But, you know, even those candidates who burst out in election-year affection for social legislation and for labor in general, still think that you ought to be good boys and stay out of politics. And above all, they hate to see any working man or woman contribute a dollar bill to any wicked political party. Of course, it is all right for large financiers and industrialists and monopolists to contribute tens of thousands of dollars - but their solicitude for that dollar which the men and women in the ranks of labor contribute is always very touching.”

“They are, of course, perfectly willing to let you vote - unless you happen to be a soldier or a sailor overseas, or a merchant seaman carrying the munitions of war. In that case they have made it pretty hard for you to vote at all - for there are some political candidates who think that they may have a chance of election, if only the total vote is small enough.”

“(A)lthough I rubbed my eyes when I read it, we have been told that it was not a Republican depression, but a Democratic depression from which this Nation was saved in 1933 - that this Administration this one today - is responsible for all the suffering and misery that the history books and the American people have always thought had been brought about during the twelve ill-fated years when the Republican party was in power.”

And, finally, we get to the main event:

“These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since.”

The crowd went wild.

History does tend to repeat itself.   Happy anniversary, FDR and Fala. 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt, Myth, And Monsters

Mitt, Myth, and Monsters

Mitt Romney has a problem. He is within shouting distance of a long-sought dream, the Presidency.  He is facing one of the most vulnerable incumbents in modern memory.  He is running as a highly successful businessman in the midst of a tepid economic recovery, marked by persistently high unemployment.  He has an opponent who is viscerally detested by 40% of the country. He has Republican Governors and State Legislatures lined up to suppress Democratic voters. He has an unlimited war chest.  He even has a huge international crisis to distract Mr. Obama and provide scary and even gruesome images.   And yet, he’s not ahead by 10 points.

It’s been noticed by the party pros, who have given him a long list of suggestions, starting with “shake up your campaign team.”  It’s been noticed by Republican Congressional and Senatorial candidates-some of whom are even talking about bipartisanship.  It’s been noticed by the professional GOP media/publicists, who fugue between trashing Obama and telling Mitt what he’s been doing wrong.  And it was noticed at the “Values Voter Forum”, the annual Earth Day (without the Earth part) for the religious right, organized by Tony Perkins, where the pure of soul (Newt was there last year) come to testify as to their fealty to conservative values and voice their willingness to use charitable religious donations to support the GOP.

What gives?  How does the guy who methodically dispatched one opponent after another in the primary, using all the weapons of a modern political campaign, suddenly lose his way?

Well, actually, he hasn’t.  He’s still playing the game the way he did a nine months ago-pouncing on any gaffes, trying to capitalize on any crises, coordinating (not openly, of course) with stupendous amounts of Superpac cash that invest in attack ads, avoiding discussing his own plans except in generalities, and using his surrogates to fire from multiple directions.   

What he’s finding, however, is that the primary isn’t the general election.

First, the quality of the opposition isn’t the same. Obama fended off Hillary Clinton and John McCain.  That took talent and toughness.  Romney drew mostly second tier candidates, many with committed  bases, but without broader appeal.  Some self-destructed (Bachmann, Perry, Cain) some fizzled (Pawlenty, Huntsman) and some ended up talking to themselves (Gingrich, Santorum and Paul).  That group was tailor-made for the patient-but-ruthless, well-resourced, and “grown-up” Romney.  The GOP primary voter wanted love, but what they really wanted was to win.  Romney built a Presidential-looking battleship, and they signed on.

The second is more personal.  Many Republicans are united in hatred of a mythological Obama.  They really believe the most fevered fantasies of the wildest paranoiacs.  In the primary, that’s just fine.  But the general election is different; you are preaching to a different choir.  What will prized independent and undecided voters react to?  More importantly, what myth sells?

Myth making is part of pretty much every high profile campaign.  Professionals may call it something else, “narrative”, but at rock bottom, it is a story, either buffed up or muddied up, depending on the teller.  Myth is long on images and short on details.  Mitt has his own personal Myth; business titan, successful governor, Olympics savior, and deeply caring and compassionate man. 

Obama, of course, had his chosen Myth: healer, Nobelist, above party, all the “hopey-changy” stuff.  The Hope Myth ran right into the realities of governing, of running two wars, Obama’s personal shortcomings, and a wolf pack of an opposition.  The Hope Myth is dead, and Obama knows it. The Obama narrative is now down to two things; his actual record, which is mixed, and the GOP mythical Obama-as-the-alien-socialist-eroder-of-military-and-moral-strength-monster-under-the-bed.

Monster Obama is shorthand for the GOP, and the perfect dog whistle for the base.  They love sticking pins into their Obama Voodoo Doll.  It was just this past week that Kansas (the entire state) agree to look past Obama's parentage and let him on the ballot.   But Monster Obama has led to laziness in thinking, including in the Romney campaign, which sees it as the Occam’s Razor to all challenges.  Obama is always wrong, and he’s a Monster to boot.

So, what’s not working?  Well, not everyone hears the dog-whistle.  There are a lot of voters out there who haven’t made up their minds yet, but don’t buy the Monster label.  They see Obama as flawed and as his record as mixed, just not a Monster.  So, seeking better, they ask themselves two simple questions of Romney.  What kind of person is he, and what are his plans for them and the country?

That’s where Mitt runs into trouble. He doesn’t want to disclose his plans, and Ryan is under similar constraints.  He’s clearly concerned that the details might be unpopular with many of those he hopes to convince.  And, as to his feelings towards the general electorate, well, earlier this week a video surfaced of a Romney fundraiser with private equity types in which he tells his listeners that Obama supporters are “the 47 percent…who are dependent on government, who believe they are victims,  who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Ouch. 47% of us are moochers. That’s a lot of contempt for one Presidential candidate.

And, did I mention that Obama is a Monster? If not, I'm sure it will come up again.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Big Dog, The Cool Cat And The Cuckoo Birds

The Big Dog, The Cool Cat, And The Cuckoo Birds

The Big Dog rolled into town last week.  He was giving a speech and spent the night in the guest bedroom.  He’s a little older and grayer but he’s still the same BMOC you remembered.  He made your kids laugh, ate prodigious quantities of food, drank your wine, hugged your wife an eighth of a second too long, kept you up way too late.  The following morning he poked you out of bed at a ridiculous hour, and took you and your hangover out for a five-mile run. 

Bill Clinton came to Charlotte to nominate Barack Obama and the veteran hurler showed he can still bring it. All the repertory was still there.  The slider that seems to come in straight, but breaks down and away from right handed hitters.  The sinker that starts as a hittable whisper and ends at your shoe-tops. That inside fastball of his, a little high and a little tight, but never aimed at the head and always thrown with a smile.  And finally, his eephus pitch, a fifty-five mile an hour floater that looks so tantalizing that you either freeze, or swing (and miss) so hard it pulls you out of your shoes. 

Barack Obama made a calculated gamble bringing Bill in.  There’s an old adage in the theatre that you never share the stage with a cute child or a cuter animal, but the President knew he needed something different, a little star power other than his own. After nearly four years of the often-painful prose of governing, Obama sensed the electorate wasn’t looking for a revival of his particular brand of 2008 vintage poetry. 

So Obama was a Cool Cat.  He’s usually cool; he has to be, given the vitriol that is routinely thrown in his direction.  When the announcement was made, Mitt’s campaign and the conservative media establishment went into conspiratorial spin mode.  The most persistent refrains were that Obama was desperate, and that Bill would go off the reservation and barely talk about the man he was nominating.  Bill’s eyes, they said, were firmly planted on a 2016 Clinton Restoration in the White House.

None of that happened, of course.  Bill was Bill, explaining, teasing, charming, ad-libbing (about 2000 words of ad-libbing) revving up the crowd and making them laugh.  For the last four years, Republicans have been unrelenting in characterizing Obama as The Other-a strange alien being, birth certificate deprived, a Kenyan socialist, etc.  But Bill Clinton is jazz, a pure American art form; his drive, in his appetites, his gestures, his accent.  Bill blessed Barack, and dismantled the GOP’s personal attacks and policy drive while he was doing it. 

The morning after, some on the Right sneered at Clinton’s speech as some corn-pone hokum, but wiser heads tried to pivot.  Romney himself beamed upon Bill. Clinton was a fine and moderate man, very bipartisan and a pretty fair President. The GOP loved Bill. They have always loved Bill   If only Barack were like Bill.

Bill didn’t take the bait, and interestingly enough, neither did Obama.  He didn’t try to outdo Bill.  Obama’s acceptance speech was almost pedestrian.   He didn’t soar.  He talked about governing, and the work undone, and his plans for the future.  He hit a few ideological touch-points, he complimented his listeners, and he thanked Michelle.  But Obama wasn’t the striver anymore, he was the President, and he acted like one.

The professional politician and media review was fairly negative.  The Right jumped all over him.  Obama was boring, flat, Romney was better, and Clinton showed him up.  Obama’s regular supporters expressed disappointment.  From the mainstream newspapers, a sigh over the lost opportunities to make big concessions in a void. From the Left, well, Barack may have been last summer’s romance, but the Cool Cat was no competition for the Big Dog. All agreed, a subpar performance from a fading star.

Except, some odd things began to happen. Obama the orator might have been out, but Obama the President got a little traction.  His convention bounce was a bit bigger than Mitt’s, and there were rumors that Mitt and friends were pulling ads in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Bill’s good-humored but careful dissection of everything Romney/Ryan had an impact as well.  People listen to Bill.  Romney suddenly backtracked on certain aspects of Obamacare.  And Ryan insisted that Bill was wrong, everything in the Romney Plan would benefit everyone, but he couldn’t share the details. 

Bill Clinton did what Bill Clinton does best--make the Right a little crazy. The GOP’s supporters in the press, mindful of Clinton’s enormous popularity,  stayed away from him but doubled down on the anti-Obama rhetoric: Theissen, Gerson, Douthat, Brooks, Kudlow, Noonan, the entire Fox Empire, all in their own special way. 

That outrage is causing some of them to crack.  George Will, stalwart standard-bearer of the Right for 40 years, may have finally lost his bearings. Late last week he published a stunner, blaming the authoritarian nature of college and professional football on the Progressive Movement and the Democrats.  To read Will, you would think “Friday Night Lights” was originally to be set in Manhattan, and all those football coaches only pretend to be devout Republicans.  In fact, they are a Fifth Column meant to undermine the patriotic culture of the South. As a public service, I’m providing the link.  Read the column, and I think you will see that the Cuckoo Clock may be starting to chime in some households.

Does this mean Obama is going to win?  Definitely not.  Conventions bounces are, by their nature, ethereal.  The debates are coming up.  The big money continues to pour into the GOP and friendly coffers.  Plenty of time and plenty of cash are available. And plenty of anti-Obama sentiment.

But for many, the irony meter no longer registers.   This past weekend, I got the following text:  Just walked past an elderly woman, wispy gray hair, quite thin, well-turned-out, with beige crocheted gloves, a hat, sunglasses, and a button that, when I passed close enough to be able to read it, said "Socialism is not an American value."

Hang in there, George Will.  Help is on the way. 


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mitt Gets Rabbitskeenia And Paul Tells A Fib

Mitt Gets Rabbitskeenia And Paul Tells A Fib

One of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons is 1955’s “Hare Brush”, in which Elmer Fudd is afflicted with Rabbitskeenia, a disease in which the sufferer forgets his own identity and thinks he’s a rabbit.

This isn’t the Elmer Fudd we’ve come to know and laugh at.  He’s Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire, with offices atop the E. J. Fudd Building, dressed immaculately in a morning coat and old-fashioned stiff collar.  Clearly, a one percent guy.  But he startles his Board of Directors (all middle aged white men, as has been true since time immemorial) by hopping in and out of a meeting, worried that it’s hunting season and he’s the prey.  They all agree he must be placed in a sanatorium. 

I was drawn to this sad story while watching the GOP convention this last week, a wonderful confection of the stars of the party delivering a frothy mix of Obama-bashing, made-for-television inclusiveness, self-promotion, and respect (if not adoration) for Mitt.

Ann Romney kicked it off, and, although there has been some criticism that she pandered to women, I think she gave one of the best and most effective speeches I have ever seen.  It was about nothing and everything, about PTA meetings and carpools, and the struggles that young married couples may have, and all the things that women understand intuitively that their menfolk are clueless about. It also subtly reinforced a core value of the Republican Party: that the ideal family unit is Dad out there in the workplace and Mom running the house.

Visually, she was dynamite in reinforcing that message.  She could have stepped out of a Gurney play.  Dressed in red, blonde and immaculately groomed, profoundly un-ethnic looking, she looked every inch the GOP wife and not the candidate.  Compare her speech to Sarah Palin’s in 2008, or even Elizabeth Dole in 1996 for her husband, and you see the stark contrast in message.  Palin and Dole might have been speaking about others, but they were auditioning for themselves.  Ann Romney did something simpler.  In effect, she said “that’s my man up there. I put a wager on him more than 40 years ago, like every woman does when she gets married, and I hit a home run.  Pick him, and you will too.”  Think it doesn’t sell?  I’ll bet it does. 

Chris Christie followed and he delivered a dynamic speech, in full Joisey, which I found better in the first hearing than in the second.  Christie had one powerful idea-that if you (meaning, Chris Christie) make the hard choices, eventually people will respect you (Chris Christie) even if they don’t love you.  They might even vote for you (Chris Christie) in either 2016 or 2020.  The crowd went wild.  Mitt, in the audience, appeared to have just swallowed a healthy dose of Milk of Magnesia. 

Wednesday had several excellent speeches, including Condi Rice’s compelling personal story wrapped around a highly literate attempt to evoke nostalgia for the Bush Era foreign policy.  In case no one is noticing (and they should) Romney’s foreign policy team is largely made up Dubya’s undead.   And, of course, it had the man of the hour,  the dynamic, hyper-intellectual supernova of the GOP, Congressman Paul Ryan.  As billed, Ryan gave a bravura performance, tearing into Mr. Obama and laying out the GOP vision (at least the parts they want us to know.)  He also did something I did not expect.  He lied persistently, shamelessly and shockingly, most notably about a plant closing, about Medicare, and about his role in the demise of Simpson-Bowles.  When the campaign was asked about it on Thursday, they shot the messengers. How dare the fact-checkers check!

Thursday was Mitt day, and in many respects, it showed him at his best.   There were touching stories about Mitt the man, and bold tales of leadership from Mitt the Olympic Savior and Mitt the Governor. There was also Clint Eastwood, however, in deference to my personal memories of Clint the Actor, and Clint the Director, I will merely mention that he came not to praise Obama, but to bury him.

Mitt’s speech was solid and workman-like.  He touched all the bases; criticism of Mr. Obama, lower taxes on capital, drill-baby-drill,  his own personal accomplishments, and his vision for the future.  He got a warm (if not unbelievably passionate) response from the crowd, and was sent off to slay the dragon.

In the aftermath, several things emerged. Mitt did get a post convention bounce in the polls.  Ryan’s reputation took a small hit.  A delicious new little factoid poked its head out.  Runner’s World, a Socialist-inspired screed dedicated to race results, training tips, and running down (sorry about that) true Conservatives, reported that Ryan’s claim of running a sub-three hour marathon was only off by…about an hour.  Heck, if the sadly departed Kim Jong-Il could lie about his athletic prowess, at the very least it shows Ryan has (Dear) Leadership skills.

So, where does Elmer Fudd come in?  Well, while Ryan had a mere veracity problem, it turns that Mitt might have a touch of Rabbitskenia when it comes to remembering his past.  A careful review of the transcripts of the three days of Mitt-managed Mitt-love indicates nary a mention of anything un-pure in his past.  Romneycare, in particular, disappeared into the mists of unutterable history.  An entirely new Mitt, his past sins (and memory) sponged clean, emerged.

It also turns out that Elmer was a pretty shrewd fellow (or rabbit, as the case may be.) He convinces Bugs to change places with him and scampers away to the forest.  Bugs, on the other hand, goes through some drug-aided therapy by a psychiatrist with a Viennese accent, and after constant repetition of “I am Elmer J. Fudd., millionaire, I own a mansion und a yacht” comes to forget his past as well and believe he is Elmer.  He is pronounced cured, released from the sanatorium, picked up by his driver, driven to the forest for a little westful and wewaxing hunting,  and bedeviled by the real Elmer-turned Bugs. 

All of this might have come to an amusing roll-reversed end if not for the arrival of two T-Men, who arrest Bugs (as Elmer) for failure to pay $300,000.00 in back taxes (a considerable sum in 1955, especially since it is before the term “job-creator” was created.)  Bugs is dragged away, complaining it’s all the fault of the screwy rabbit, and Elmer, with a little twinkle in his eye underneath the hood of his bunny suit, gets the in last word. 

“I may be a screwy wabbit, but I’m not going to Alcatraz.”

A shame Elmer couldn’t have hung on until the Romney Administration.  He might have kept his company, the Fudd Building, the limo and driver, and the $300,000.00.