SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
August 28, 3:37 p.m.
Tucked away in the RNC’s media swag bag, alongside a pack of complimentary CSX peppermint breath mints (“Feel that good, minty breath/ Like a freight train comin’…”) and a huge fashion shopper featuring a young faux-delegate male cover model designed to melt the heart of every Wide Stance Republican in town—is a copy of Mitt Romney’s campaign autobiography, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.
Typical of its recent Republican kind, the volume is intellectually and grammatically (“British warships laid siege on Boston…”) sloppy, as well as pretentious, disingenuous, and self-referential. It is also filled with sneering personal insults aimed at the president of the United States. Moreover, Romney and his team have not bothered to update it since its 2010 publication date. In No Apology, the Obama administration still coddles Qaddafi and dangerously underestimates the threat posed by Osama bin Laden.
Here’s a sample passage, which starts with Romney’s long-discredited claim that only American winners in the Olympics put their hands over their hearts during the medal ceremonies: “I believe that we instinctively place our hand over hearts in memory of those who shed their blood for America. It is fitting that we do so during the playing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ as that song—written during battle in the War of 1812—commemorates the sacrifice that won our liberty.”
We place our hands over our hearts “instinctively”? I learned to do that in grammar school—the same place I learned that we “won our liberty” not in the War of 1812, but the American Revolution of 1775–1783.
It’s the title of Romney’s book that says it all, though: No Apology. This is an obvious reference to the right-wing claim that President Obama has gone around the world “apologizing for America.” Romney repeats the claim without citing a single specific instance of such an apology, or even addressing the ludicrous prima facie claim that we, as the richest and most powerful nation on earth for over a century, would have nothing to apologize for.
The added irony is that we could very much use an “apology” from the Republican party for its actions the last time it held unchecked political power. To wit:
This is just a short list, mind you.
By most objective measures, the Bush Administration left this country all but prostrate—deep in debt, devoid of a functioning economy, and coping with the deaths and maimings of tens of thousands of young servicemen and women. Granted, they didn’t do all of this alone. Plenty of Democrats and independents helped, particularly with deregulation. But the last time Democrats screwed up on anything like this scale—Vietnam—the party spent the next few decades assessing what went wrong and trying hard not to make the same mistakes again. And yes, apologizing.
Some of this was useless handwringing. But a lot of it was a reflection of the process by which a mature person—or a political party composed of adults—assesses itself honestly, learns from its mistakes, and starts to grow again. The Republicans, by contrast, simply reassessed their message and rebranded their far-right wing as a protest movement. Tactically brilliant, perhaps, but nothing that could lead to an increase in self-knowledge, or to a change in our stunted and dysfunctional politics.
More from Kevin Baker:
Appreciation — June 26, 2014, 8:00 am
From Johnny Cash to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”
New York Revisited — June 19, 2014, 8:00 am
And how it foretold the 2008 financial crisis
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”