A running diary of the first full day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
2:02 p.m. ET The Republican National Convention begins its Tuesday session with the presentation of colours, followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the National Anthem (performed by a “nationally recognized singer!”), followed by the invocation. Delegates actually cheer during the prayer. “Dear God, bless Mitt Romney and–” Wooooooo! Yaaaaaa! FREEEEEEE BIRD!!!!!! Some housekeeping matters ensue – and then a musical interlude by the house band, led by that G.E. Smith guy who used to be on Saturday Night Live. In the audience, an Ann Coulter lookalike dances amid a sea of white hair and white skin.
2:26 Reince Priebus, the Republican National Chairman, gestures to two debt clocks that have been installed in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. One shows the many trillions in total national debt. The other chronicles how much debt has been accumulated since the start of the convention. Then, using simple math, Priebus demonstrates once and for all how further cutting taxes for the richest Americans would result in America’s debt load being reduced. (Kidding. For some unknown reason he did not do that.)
2:28 Chairman Priebus, which sounds like a Star Wars character or a really high-end hybrid (The 2013 Chairman Priebus: Comfort With Conscience!), characterizes Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as “America’s comeback team.” But then what are we going to call a reunited Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart?
2:29 Preibus assails Barack Obama’s lack of business experience: “He hasn’t even run a garage sale or seen the inside of a lemonade stand.” Wait – the inside of a lemonade stand? They sure must have some really elaborate lemonade stands back in Preibus’s home of Wisconsin! Big-box lemonade stands where you can go inside, stretch your legs and really get your 50 cents’ worth.
Little boy: Uncle Reince, why aren’t more people buying my lemonade?
Uncle Reince: You don’t have enough square footage, kid. And you can trust me on this – I’ve seen the inside of a lot of lemonade stands.
2:32 RNC co-chair Sharon Day takes the stage to Holler Some Things. It’s the same strategy she likely uses to get her hair to poof up like that. Day hollers that “unaccountable czars” – the worst kind of czars, if you ask me – are making and enforcing policies on American citizens. She hollers that Barack Obama threatens the very existence of American liberty. She extra-hollers that this is the most important election in American history. Got that? Most. Important. Ever. SUCK IT, LINCOLN.
2:44 Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn comes out to tout the many virtues of his fine city while delegates don’t give a crap what he’s going on about or whatever.
2:53 Factoid: When American political figures aspire to eloquence, it’s never just “the United States.” It’s always “the United States of America.” Or, better still: “The. United States. Of America.”
3:03 Admittedly, it’s a tough chore to balance the tasks of expressing solidarity with those in the path of Hurricane Isaac and expressing enthusiasm for ripping Barack Obama a new one, but basically most of the people so far have been saying something along the lines of: “I express solidarity with those in the path of Hurricane Isaac. In other news, Barack Obama nurses from the bosom of the Devil’s mother and hates puppies.”
3:20 A Republican senatorial candidate says that he and Mitt Romney share a defining belief – that “our children are owed a better future.” Why? No one ever explains why. A decent future? I guess we should do our best. But why do we owe them a better future? If we’ve got ideas that will make things better and make everyone more prosperous, I say we do that shit NOW. Then we’ll get the benefits. It’s all there in my campaign slogan: Children are their own future.
3:28 Rick Berg, a congressman from North Dakota, comes out to say that Barack Obama has put all of America “on the wrong track.” But wait – he goes on to say that North Dakota is doing great! Unemployment is below 3 per cent! The budget is in surplus! Wow, North Dakota has really benefited from not being connected in any way to America!
3:32 If you’re playing that drinking game where you down a shot every time someone at the Republican National Convention says “Obamacare,” I’d just like to point out that, congratulations, you’re dead.
3:44 Barbara Comstock, Virginia House of Delegates: “Over the last four years, we in Virginia have kept the American Dream alive.” The delegates from the other states immediately think to themselves: “That’s exactly the kind of douchey thing someone from Virginia always says.”
3:53 The mayor of Oklahoma City comes out to say the wife of vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan was born in Oklahoma. This follows the old adage about speech-making: Always open with an anecdote that not one person on God’s earth could give a shit about. Tragically, the mayor waits until the end of his address to mention that Oklahoma City is “more walkable” than ever. YOU DO NOT BURY THAT KIND OF GOLD, BUDDY.
3:56 Flipped over to CNN to find a promo for Piers Morgan’s upcoming interview with Jeb Bush. On Monday night, Morgan interviewed the five grown sons of Mitt and Ann Romney. I’ve read a thousand Twitter cracks about how terrible Morgan is at his job, but until this moment I had not actually witnessed it for myself.
Morgan boasted at the outset of the interview that he would cajole the Romney boys into revealing some of the “chinks in [their father’s] armor.” And what a job he did! Using a proprietary blend of softball queries and I’m-British-so-you’re-obliged-to-think-I’m-charming-ness, Morgan coaxed the overwhelmed and overmatched Romneys into revealing the following shocking truths about the Republican nominee:
a) “His hair is too perfect.”
b) “He’s a pretty interesting guy.”
Lid to the presidential race, consider yourself blown off.
It turns out Morgan subscribes to the school of interviewing that holds that it’s more important to ask a question that sounds hard-hitting than it is to ask one that may actually provoke a useful answer. Speaking of Mitt Romney’s refusal to make public more of his tax returns, Piers turned in his chair, looked a Romney boy dead in the eye and asked: “Can you guarantee to the American people that he has nothing to hide?” You’ll never guess how the Romney son responded. Instead of saying “No,” and driving his father’s presidential campaign straight into the ground, he instead said “Yes.” That’s some good journalisming!
As the interview concluded, the first verdict on its quality arrived. “That was a fascinating interview with the Romney sons.” This bit of praise was delivered by… Piers Morgan.
4:13 Listen, I’m as big a fan of hyperbole and exaggeration as anyone, but come on: The “great state” of Kentucky?
4:31 Hey, just FYI, if you’re looking for a white guy I think I saw him on the stage at the Republican National Convention.
4:44 Dear Republicans: I hear you. I heard you the first time. I heard you the next 200 times. If I’m going to bless your country, I’m going to bless it, okay? You can stop urging Me to do so. Sincerely, God.
4:52 There are those who say that nothing can scar the psyche like the sight of one’s parents’ having sex. I challenge these people to tune in to the musical interludes during this convention and watch Republican delegates “dance.”
5:02 John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, tears up as Mitt Romney is formally nominated for President of the United States. Moments later, he tears up when he discovers the backstage catering table is out of Diet Sprite.
5:05 The roll call of the states begins – that delightful American tradition in which the states of the union cast their ballots for the nominee (or nominees) of their choosing, while also highlighting aspects of their home that they are most proud of, even if many of these things come off as very sad to the rest of us.
Let’s rate the brags.
Alabama. “Alabama is on the move!” Look at it go: It’s almost up to the 1950s! Grade: D+
Alaska. “The largest red state in this glorious union.” “Roaring rivers!” “Gigantic glaciers!” Here we have a real missed opportunity to mention the state’s world-leading standing in the importing of eccentrics, loners and drifters. Grade: C
American Samoa. “The only American soil in the southern hemisphere.” What every Republican in the arena was thinking: “Them folks ain’t Americans.” Grade: D
Arizona. “The Grand Canyon state.” Was a decent-enough boast when they started making it FIVE MILLION YEARS AGO. Grade: F
Arkansas. The delegation casts its vote without saying anything nice about its state. When you rank 47th in the union in education, I guess there’s no need to boast. Grade: F
California. “…the state that gave America and the world the inspirational leadership of Ronald Reagan.” Part marks for not mentioning how it also gave the world the film version of Cat in the Hat. Grade: B-
Colorado. “…the centennial state… home of greenback cutthroat trout [and] outstanding snow.” Attention America: we have nature and weather! Grade: D
Connecticut. “The constitution state.” Apparently, no one from Connecticut wants anyone else to come to Connecticut. Grade: F
Delaware. “The first state to ratify the constitution.” And nothing has ever happened there since. Grade: D-
District of Columbia. Nothing. They’re just “excited” to vote. Nerds. Grade: F
Florida. In a genuinely classy move, the delegation calls for a moment of silence for those affected – and those who will be affected – by “Isaac, the storm” (presumably to differentiate it from Isaac, the Asimov). Grade: B
Georgia. “Empire state of the south.” Whatever. Grade: F-
Guam. “America’s tropical paradise.” Thanks to global warming, that’s every place south of Montana now. Grade: D
Hawaii. The state’s delegation quotes Mark Twain, who called Hawaii “the loveliest fleet of islands to sail in any ocean.” This would have been a savvy move if anyone at the convention had ever heard of Mark Twain. Grade: D
Idaho. “The 43rd star on the American flag.” Worst. Claim to fame. Ever. Grade: F–
Illinois. “The birthplace of Ronald Reagan… and home to the soon-to-be immediate past president of the U.S.” Not bad. Grade: B
Indiana. “This is the land of tax cuts and plural balanced budgets.” Equally interesting: it is 760 feet above sea level. Grade: C-
Iowa. “The land between the Missouri and the Mississippi.” FYI, we are located near things you have probably heard of! Grade: D
Kansas. “We celebrate success, like [University of Kansas] basketball.” We have nothing else. Grade: D-
Kentucky. “The horse capital of the world, and indisputably the college basketball champion state of the nation.” Whoa, take it up with Kansas, dudes. Grade: D
Louisiana. “The home of Gov. Bobby Jindal.” The person who governs our state is willing to actually live in our state. That’s how awesome we are. Grade: F-
Maine. “We have a Republican House, Senate and Governor.” And look: the rest of us have a Don’t, a Give and a Shit. Grade: F
Maryland. “Home to Chesapeake Bay… and the finest blue crabs on the face of the earth!” Now I’m interested: Things live here that are delicious! Grade: B
Massachusetts. “…the home of Mitt Romney.” And also Romneycare but shhh! Grade: C-
Michigan. “[We take] great pride in being the home state of Gov. Romney and the Romney family.” Massachusetts is totally giving you the stink eye, Michigan. Grade: C-
Minnesota. “We are very proud of our state Republican party, which runs a fair convention with integrity.” Worst tourism pitch ever. Grade: F–
Mississippi. “… the great state of Mississippi…” WHERE’S THE PROOF?? Grade: F
Missouri. “The Show Me State.” Pervs. Grade: D
Montana. “Big Sky country… with our coal, oil and gas fueling America.” ‘Sure, fine, don’t mention us at all. SEE IF WE CARE OR LETTER BOMB YOU.’ – Brotherhood of Unstable Hermits. Grade: D
Nebraska. “The Cornhusker state… home to the top-ranked college women’s volleyball team in the nation!” That’s totally going to play well among those who assess a state’s attractiveness based solely on its success in obscure sports (collegiate level only). Grade: C
Nevada. “The silver state.” Dear Nevada: You know you can change your motto, right? Grade: D.
New Hampshire. “The granite state, where it all begins.” Translation: We’ve got nothing. Grade: F
New Jersey. “The garden state.” NO ONE THINKS OF YOU THAT WAY. Grade: F
New Mexico. “Four hundred years of cultures working together, [a state] where we teach our children to respect God.” I guess “cultures working together” sounds better than “illegal immigrants willing to do your landscaping if you don’t ask too many questions.” Grade: C
New York. “The media capital of the world and the financial capital of the world.” Nice try but YOU ALSO HAVE BUFFALO. Grade: D
North Carolina. “Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.” North Carolina is located in a Charles Atlas comic book advertisement? Cool. Grade: B
North Dakota. “The lowest unemployment rate in the U.S.” And the highest U.S. rate of moustaches per capita (male and female – congratulations!). Grade: C
Northern Mariana Islands. “We are strong believers in God.” Great. Um, like, the Earth God? Because honestly we’ve never heard of your “country” or whatever. Grade: F
Ohio. “Home of eight U.S. presidents.” This represents the first time in 80 years that any state, city or person has taken credit for William Taft. Grade: D
Oklahoma. “From a state that believes in faith, family and freedom.” Yeah, that really sets you apart. Grade: F
Oregon. “The New Jersey of the west.” Prepare yourselves for the premiere of Oregon Shore. Main difference: more flannel. Grade: F———
Pennsylvania. “… cradle of democracy… birthplace of a nation.” These are all just fancy words to overshadow the fact that Pennsylvania also gave us Christina Aguilera. Grade: C
Puerto Rico. “The 51st state of the union!” Riiiiiiight. Grade: F
Rhode Island. “Home of delights you know… and ones you don’t know, like Del’s lemonade.” We have the capacity to acquire both citrus fruit AND sugar. FEAR US. Grade: C-
South Carolina. “Diligent, honourable and God-loving people.” Translation: We are boring. Grade: D
South Dakota. “Home of the big Pioneer auto show… the pheasant hunting capital of the world.” We are touting our D-list attractions because we have no attractions that are C-list or above. Grade: B+
Tennessee. “The volunteer state… we have no income tax.” You’re coming on a little strong, Tennessee. Grade: C
Texas. “The largest Republican state in the union… we didn’t elect a Democrat for 20 years.” I expect more from people with that much hair. Grade: D
Utah. “The greatest snow on earth… home of the five national parks.” Translation: All things considered, we have built very few cities and attracted very few people to live here, leaving many open spaces. Grade: D
Vermont. “The 14th star” on the flag. Don’t tell the people of Vermont, but it looks exactly likes the other ones. Grade: D
Virginia. “… the mother of presidents and the cradle of democracy.” This is the second state to claim that it’s cradle of U.S. democracy. Don’t tell me America was raised by a broken family. Grade: C-
Virgin Islands. “America’s paradise.” Whatever. Take it up with American Samoa. Grade: D-
Washington. “The evergreen state.” I for one am tired of the unending conflict between the coniferous and deciduous states. Grade: F
West Virginia. “… the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia.” Funny, I’d never heard that particular euphemism for “hillbilly.” Grade: D
Wisconsin. “Miss Wisconsin is Miss America.” Let’s grade this one on the curve since it gives me the cover to post this photo. Grade: B+
Wyoming. “We are No. 1 in bentonite!” Bentonite is a clay mineral – an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate, which makes it just obscure enough to qualify as the single most delightful – and indisputably sad – brag of the roll call. Way to go, Wyoming! Grade: A
7:51 The pretty lady from Northern Exposure goes on a wild rant about how the people’s voices will prevail and freedom and tyranny and democracy and whatnot. You dodged a bullet there, Fleishman.
8:47 Bob McDonnell, governor of Virginia, says “the EPA is now the Employment Prevention Agency.” People laugh. It’s funny because: Up yours, earth.
9:15 The thing I love and regret and admire and fear most about American politics is the sheer joy and utter shamelessness with which political operatives take the remarks of their opponents wholly out of context. This is true of both parties. The Republicans crafted today’s schedule around the theme of We Built It – a response to the rather disingenuous claim that Barack Obama once flatly declared that American entrepreneurs had nothing to do with their own success. When they played the audio of the President’s “damning quote” over a video segment, you could hear that the words had been cut up and shifted around. The excerpt had had more work done on it than a 40-year-old actress.
But an even bolder flight from context was put on display just now: the playing of a clip of Obama saying, “Along the road to recovery, there will be bumps in the road” – followed by a video montage in which hard-working Americans solemnly declare, “I am an American, not a bump in the road.” Yes, that’s EXACTLY what Obama meant: that Americans themselves were the bumps in the road… that the recovery would more quickly gain momentum if only there weren’t any people around to slow it down with their big fat stupid bodies. I think we’re one, many two, conventions away from strategists on both sides just saying: “Screw it: we’re making shit up from scratch. Jeb Bush? Cannibal. Go with it.”
9:28 Rick Santorum makes an appearance to declare: “I shook the hand of the American Dream and it has a strong grip.” Wait – the American Dream has actual hands?? Does it have only hands, like a pair of Things from The Addams Family? Because if so, that’s a creepy dream. Santorum goes on to describe and mention various hands, and certain special hands, and military hands, and disabled hands, and Republican hands, and other hands that his own hands had touched. This was all meant to be profound but mostly it just want to make me give Rick Santorum some Purell. He’s like Martin Luther King except, you know, I Had a Hand. Then I thought a little more about all those many hand references, and his hand obsession, and figured that what he was actually trying to tell us is that he masturbates a lot.
He also said jack-all about Mitt Romney, by the way, which was weird. He didn’t even mention Romney’s hands.
10:11 Wolf Blitzer introduces the speech of Ann Romney by saying, “She is amazing, I think everyone agrees.” Stay on your toes, Fox News. OR THE BLITZER WILL SNEAK UP ON YOU.
10:14 Ann Romney says she wants to talk us about the love she has for her husband and the love she has for her children. She wants to talk about her heart. This disappoints Rick Santorum, who was totally hoping: hands.
10:16 Ann goes on about how the people who really hold it all together for America are women – especially mothers. “I LOOOOOVE YOU WOMEN!” she hollers, Oprah style. “You are the best of America.” And when my husband is president, his party will call you a whore if you decline to carry your rape baby to term! LOOOOVE YOU!
10:27 “Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he helps others, because he doesn’t do it so others will think more of him. So I’m going to tell you about how he helps others so you’ll think more of him.” I’m paraphrasing.
10:31 “Look into your hearts. This is our country. These are our children. This is our future.” These are my keys. That is your lamp. These are Rick Santorum’s hands.
10:35 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie arrives at, and devours, the podium. This gives the rest of his speech a cool, echo kind of sound.
10:39 “We have become paralyzed by our desire to be loved…” Christie delivers a passionate attack against political leaders who do what is popular and not what is right (Democrats only; all Republican leaders are way deeper). He rallies the people. He raises his voice. And he concludes this passage of his speech by declaring, “Tonight, we’re going to choose respect over love!” Which immediately reminds every voter in America: “Oh, yeah, I don’t love Mitt Romney. I’d forgotten that but happily this guy reminded me. Thanks, Chris Christie!”
10:48 Christie says that Democrats are focused solely on their desire to hold power. Whereas Mitt Romney will generously share power in a sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune where all decisions have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.