Love and respect have at least two things in common: they were themes at Tampa on Tuesday night, and Mitt Romney is still working on obtaining them from the American people.
“The greatest lesson Mom ever taught me,” Chris Christie said in his keynote address Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, “...was this one: She told me there would be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. She said to always pick being respected.”
Contrast this with Ann Romney, who noted in her speech that, “I want to talk to you tonight about that one great thing that unites us, that one thing that brings us our greatest joy when times are good, and the deepest solace in our dark hours. Tonight I want to talk to you about love.”
As someone who was really hoping Ann would say “bacon,” not love, I confess a certain sympathy with Christie’s view.
Love. Respect. Which matters most? And which can Romney hope to attain? People always address him as you would a wonderful machine whose workings you do not entirely understand. “Look what it did!” you murmur. “Look what it can do! Let’s get one for the kitchen, Carol!” You’re happy to take it home if it’ll cut down the heating bill, but it’s not going to replace the puppy.
Tampa, if the first night is any indication, is an effort to move past that. Ann will make us believe in the warm, human Mitt Romney if she has to repeat uncanny, propagandistic phrases dozens of times without blinking! Respect him? Chris Christie will make us respect him if he has to gesture a lot, scowl meaningfully and force us to listen to Three Doors Down.
In fact, he seemed to think the best way to gain respect for Romney was barely to mention him, apparently laboring under the misapprehension that enough had already been said on the subject and people wanted to hear more about New Jersey.
Even the love needed a little work.
Ann’s strength has always been her warmth and humanity. These qualities are fundamental to most humans, but they are difficult to broadcast from behind a podium. Mitt Romney, who is by all accounts a live human, has severe difficulty with this, giving him a public demeanor that closely resembles that of a constantly overcompensating cyborg.
Ann did her best to counteract that, as usual. She noted in her speech that in the early days she and Mitt had to eat a lot of tuna and pasta, which is, I think, hardship, although it could also have been Tuna Helper. Ann also gave off what multiple commenters called an Oprah-like vibe. One kept expecting to see the delegates pawing under their seats for tickets and car keys.
But, also as usual, the warm family anecdotes of the Human Mitt soon blurred into the Lore of Mitt The Efficient Accomplisher of Mighty Works and Builder of Businesses. “Sounds handy to have around the home,” one thinks, “but — not cuddly.” Then again, these are not cuddly times. This recession leaves no time to sand the edges off.
Still, the conclusion of Ann’s speech left much to be desired, climaxing with the kind of refrain repeated to denizens of Brave New World as they slept. (“Ending is better than mending. More stitches, less riches!”) “You Can Trust Mitt,” she intoned. “He loves America.” It was that bad. “This man will not fail. This man will not let us down. This man will lift up America!” Even Ann, warm, human Ann, could not help sounding a bit robotic.