We are weary of the bickering and bombast, fatigued by the posturing and self-promotion. For even as America faces a new generation of challenges, the halls of government are clogged with petty politics and stuffed with peddlers of influence. ~Mitt Romney (video)

Romney's Backdrop

Romney: I will make government as efficient as this SUV! 

A press conference later in the week might go something like this: 

Question: Gov. Romney, do you really think that the federal government is “the largest enterprise in the world”?  Is it really just a bigger version of a corner store in your mind? 

Romney: What I do know is that innovation and transformation are essential.

Q: Essential to what?

Romney:  More innovation and transformation!

It is weird how Romney and Obama mirror each other in their vapid, generic statements and their boilerplate agendas.  They are both “transformation” candidates: Romney wants to transform government, which is also what Obama wants.  Gosh, how original. 

Oh, look, Romney wants to secure the borders.  That’s fine, but what else does he have to say about immigration?  Nothing at all, as usual.  Certainly nothing that would be controversial or set off too many alarms one way or the other.  Romney thinks government is too big (applause here), and apparently he also loves his wife.  No surprises anywhere.  For someone who speaks of innovation and transformation in every other sentence, he rattles off every predictable conservative agenda item in the most unimaginative, rehashed way possible.  He even recycles Reagan’s “our best days are ahead of us” rhetoric.  And, yes, kids, he loves freedom.  When a candidate gives a speech against freedom, then I will be interested, if only for the sheer novelty of it. 

Query for Romney speechwriters: what does “nuclear epidemic” mean?  Do they know what epidemic means?  

It’s not just Obama’s ideas that he’s lifting.  Not to be outdone by any former Senator of Pennsylvania, Romney shows that he can also rattle the old sabre at the fearsome Venezuelan conqueror, too:

We must campaign for freedom and democracy in our own hemisphere, now threatened by a second aspiring strongman tyrant.

The first strongman tyrant being that mighty threat to democracy throughout Latin America, Castro.  Please, make it stop!  There are probably any number of reasons to oppose Hugo Chavez’s influence in Latin America, but defending democracy aint one of them.  His election and re-election are the results of mass democracy down south, whether we like it or not.  That he is doing his best to convert his election victories into something like one-party, perpetual rule is not surprising, but neither does it threaten democracy in any other Latin American country. 

Sam Brownback had best watch out for his bleeding heart conservative constituency–Romney is trying to poach that, too:

We must extend our hand to Africa’s poor and diseased and brutalized.

I guess that means sending aid for African AIDS victims and interventing in Darfur.  But who knows?  Vagueness is almost as important to Romney as innovation and transformation. 

He reprises his lame “explanation” of liberalism:

There are some who believe that America’s strength comes from government - that challenges call for bigger government, for more regulation of our lives and livelihood, and for more protection and isolation from competition that comes from open markets. 

That is the path that has been taken by much of Europe. It is called the welfare state. It has led to high unemployment and anemic job growth. It is not the path to prosperity and leadership. 

I love how he tells us what it’s called, as if no one has ever heard of the welfare state before.

Joel Surnow, pay attention!  Romney may be your guy:

America cannot continue to lead the family of nations if we fail the families at home.

And let’s not forget that America cannot defend its marriage to unnecessary international commitments if it does not defend marriage at home!  Or something like that.  Blech.  I’m beginning to feel queasy, but I will press on.  Oh, wait, he’s making a paean to American optimism.  Getting queasier.  He starts talking about innovation again.  The pain is getting worse…Now he is taking on Obama’s happy hope-talk:

But hope alone is just crossing fingers, when what we need is industrious hands. It is time for hope and action.

Okay, Obama, I’ll see your meaningless appeal to hope, and I raise you a meaningless call to action!  Take that!

Cue the silly exceptionalist reading of history:

America’s greatest innovation is freedom.

I know this is an applause line, and everybody probably loves this line.  “What now, Larison, are you against freedom, too?” someone will ask.  To which I reply, “Well, it depends.”  But my objection here is the idea that what we refer to as freedom somehow did not exist until Americans ambled onto the stage.  This is not true.  It is a mark of ingratitude to our ancestors to say that we somehow invented what they lacked, when we would have had no experience of political freedom had it not been for the British forebears who created the constitutional system that made it possible. 

But even if he has no idea where it came from, Romney is very excited about freedom:

Freedom will make the new American dream possible.

For those who haven’t read the whole speech, the “new American dream” now includes “dependable and affordable healthcare, secure employment and secure retirement,” among other things.  How freedom provides any of those things remains a mystery.  Presumably, freedom involves people making their own way and finding these things for themselves.  Romney’s MassCare certainly didn’t have much to do with any freedom I recognise.  How Romney’s prostrations before the idols of free trade (in Dearborn of all places–why not go over to Flint and kick some ex-factory workers in the shins while you’re at it?) provide for “secure employment” is also unclear, since the one thing that all his “innovation and transformation” do not do is provide secure employment.  Instead, they are only more likely to make employment less and less secure–and the more rapid the pace of innovation, the less secure it will become.  In an age of tremendous economic insecurity and anxiety, I can’t think of a message more out of touch with the country today than one that pushes innovation and free trade when more voters want some sense of stability and the protection of American labour.