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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
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”