I don't know if Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan or the folks that run the Republican Party ever studied or read The Wasteland -- T.S. Eliot's monumentally disjointed modernist poem. If they did then perhaps they remember the haunting words with which it opens:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land . . .
Then too, perhaps they also remember the promise one of the poem's many voices (or speakers) makes in line 30:
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
It seems to me that for Romney, Ryan and The Republican Party -- the "R R & TRP" of this week's title -- it is September, not April, which will likely turn out to be their "cruellest month." And for them, it will have nothing to do with lilacs, dead land or
Yes indeed, September has been rather cruel to R R &TRP. It began with a slightly amateurish national convention in Tampa at which disdain for President Obama was far louder and more palpable than passion for Governor Romney; a convention whose rhetorical high point was Clint Eastwood speaking to an empty chair. For all their efforts, the Republican ticket received virtually none of the political "bounce" which national conventions traditionally proffer. And, to make matters a bit worse, Tampa was immediately followed by the Democrats' National Convention in Charleston, which by comparison, was a tour-de-force -- sort of like Casablanca versus Any Which Way But Loose.
Then, the Romney camp inexplicably decided to turn their response to attacks on American diplomatic installations in Cairo and Benghazi -- which took the life of 4 Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens -- into a partisan political attack on President Obama. In a late-night communiqué issued even before the full extent of attacks were known, Romney said:
I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
When asked to comment on this impolitic comment, the president merely said "Governor Romney shoots first, aims later . . ."
Of course, the likely coup de grâce was provided by that brief YouTube video in which Romney, speaking off-the-cuff before a gathering of his fellow gazillionaires characterized nearly half the American public as lazy, good-for-nothing, tax-avoiding entitlement junkies. Speaking before his fellow Masters of the Universe at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida, Romney declared that in essence these "moochers" -- who comprise 47% of the American public -- should be written off, because there's not a snowball's chance in Hell that they will ever vote for him.
This is not fear in a handful of dust, as Eliot's narrator would have it; this is utter elitist disdain in a scattering of syllables. It shows in stark relief that Romney and his fellow plutocrats -- none of whom challenged his comments -- have neither regard nor understanding for the lives, challenges, aspirations or difficulties of the mass of humanity. Ironically, in their haughty "to-the-manner-born" demeanor, they remind one of the idle Edwardian rich of whom the aristocratic Eliot -- a man born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri -- was so terribly enamored.
By now, just about everyone has either seen the video or heard the audio capture, and knows that Romney also claimed that had his late father George been a Mexican (as opposed to merely having been born in Mexico) he would be having a much easier time of things in this presidential election. And so, having stubbed a toe in the dust of economy and ethnicity, Romney proceeded on to foreign policy where, not surprisingly, he fell flat on his face. Speaking about the ongoing struggle for achieving peace in the Middle East, Romney said:
I look at ... these thorny issues, and I say, 'There's just no way.' And so what you do is you say, 'You move things along the best way you can.' You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."
And this is the man who claims he will be far better for Israel than Barack Obama.
The mind reels.
Predictably, as R R & TRP's "cruellest month" turns the corner and heads for October, the news is not good . . . especially on the polling front:
- According to the latest Gallup Poll, President Obama is way ahead with Latinos, the nation's fastest-growing voting bloc. Gallup has Obama leading Romney by 66% to 26% among registered Latinos, who could be the voters who make the difference in November in four of the eight must-win battleground states: Colorado, Nevada, Florida and Virginia.
- According to the latest Pew Research Center Poll, nationally, President Obama has a 19-point lead among women registered voters.
- A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that zero percent of African-Americans support Mitt Romney.
- According to a new American Jewish Committee survey, more than two-thirds -- 69 percent -- of Jewish voters in Florida say they will choose President Obama over Governor Romney, who will win 25 percent of the state's Jewish vote. (Obama won 76 percent of the Florida Jewish vote in 2008.)
Personally, I have been interviewed on this last issue several times over the past couple of weeks. I get calls from journalists asking "How do you respond to all those who say the Jewish vote is going to go to Romney?" In the main, I tell them that although the crystal ball I gaze into is no better, no clearer than anyone else's, my gut instinct -- plus a lot of experience -- tells me that Obama and the Democrats aren't going to suffer any game-changing drop-off; that somewhere between 70% and 75% of the Jewish vote will continue voting "D."
The further we get into R R and TRP's "cruellest month," the more convinced I am that this is so. For in addition to Romney's "shoot first aim second" approach to foreign policy, he has failed to delineate where his policy would be all that different from President Obama when it comes to Israel -- except to claim that he would "Do precisely the opposite" -- Whatever in the world that means. And despite all his bluster and posturing regarding the president's policy towards Iran, Romney recently admitted to ABC's George Stephanopolus that he "shares the same red line" on Iran as President Obama.
In speaking with various journalists, I remind them that although Israel is certainly of great importance to Jewish voters when we go to the polls, it is by no means the only issue; of vital concern as well are issues ranging from women's rights and education to healthcare, and the future of Social Security and the Supreme Court. We tend to have long memories for those who trample on the rights of the poor and downtrodden and are generally suspicious of those who pander to the forces of intolerance in order to gain a vote. We won't soon forget that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan both addressed the 2012 "Values Voters Summit." The "summit's" organizers, which include Jerry Boykin, Executive V.P. of the Family Research Council and the American Family Association's Brian Fisher, have long and well-documented histories of gay bashing, anti-Muslim and intolerant statements, which include the disgusting linking of homosexuality to the Holocaust. And this is where Romney's running mate and the House Majority Leader choose to speak . . .
What a September. For R R & TRP, it has definitely been crueler than Eliot's April. In rereading The Wasteland, I came across a section that could easily have been written for R R & TRP . . . something they might do well to keep in mind if October and November aren't to be equally cruel:
My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
I never know what you are thinking. Think.
©2012 Kurt F. Stone