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By Chuck Colbert
Mitt Romney received a rousing reception as he accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination on Thursday, Aug. 30, making his way through a spirited crowd on the convention floor, approaching the podium to address delegates in the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The choreography evoked images of the president walking through the aisles of Congress before delivering a State of the Union address. After all, Romney’s remarks to GOP Convention delegates were the most important speech in his political career.
And part of the evening’s up-close and personal biographical story line was to make him appear utterly presidential.
But Romney’s everyman (and women) appeal for a better tomorrow, both inside and outside the convention hall, stopped dead in the water for LGBT Americans.
“Mr. Chairman, delegates. I accept your nomination for President of the United States of America,” he said, wasting no time in getting to the point.
“Tonight I am asking you to join me to walk together to a better future,” said Romney, sporting a bold red tie with thin blue stripes.
For nearly 40 minutes, in prime time national television, the GOP nominee served up Ronald Reagan, “morning-in-America” style optimism.
“We Americans have always felt a special kinship with the future,” said Romney.
He spoke of Mormon faith and family, business and jobs, foreign affairs and the environment, freedom and opportunity, immigration and workforce diversity. Romney’s appeal was to the GOP partisans and Tea Party adherents gathered in Florida, as well undecided and independent voters nationwide. Women and Hispanics were especially singled out for inclusion.
And in playing up traditional marriage and family life, Romney said, “My mom and dad gave their kids the greatest gift of all – the gift of unconditional love. They cared deeply about who we would be, and much less about what we would do.
“Unconditional love is a gift that Ann and I have tried to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren. All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers. If every child could drift to sleep feeling wrapped in the love of their family – and God’s love — this world would be a far more gentle and better place.
“Mom and Dad were married 64 years. And if you wondered what their secret was, you could have asked the local florist – because every day Dad gave Mom a rose, which he put on her bedside table. That’s how she found out what happened on the day my father died – she went looking for him because that morning, there was no rose.
Touching the raw nerve of voter dissatisfaction and unsteady economic recovery, Romney made his case for pink slipping the president.
Blunt but not snarky, Romney put it this way: “For too many Americans, these good days are harder to come by. How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?”
Continuing, he said, “Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I’d ask a simple question: ‘If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama?’ You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
For Romney, “The President has disappointed America because he hasn’t led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.”
The president just doesn’t get it, according to Romney. The name of the game is the free enterprise system, job creation, lower taxes, and less government.
“That is why every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: ‘You are better off today than you were four years ago,'” Romney said. “Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president.”
It was a good speech, not a great speech, any number of TV commenters and political pundits said.
Still, many LGBT listeners would find cold comfort from what a Romney-Ryan administration has to offer.
For instance, “As president, I will protect the sanctity of life,” he told delegates. “I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion.”
If there were any dissonance between the family value of unconditional love and less than full equality for LGBT Americans, it seemed lost on Romney.
But the party platform leaves little doubt. While embracing the “principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity,” the GOP decries “an activist judiciary” and blames it for “court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several states,” which the Republican document calls “an assault on the foundation of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children of cultural values.”
For her part, Ann Romney seemed to stick it same-sex couples.
“I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a ‘storybook marriage.’ Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer,” she told delegates on Tuesday evening.
“A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage,” Ann explained.
Oddly enough, Romney made no mention of his non-traditional, polygamous family ties. That would be Miles Park Romney, Mitt’s great-grandfather, a devout Mormon, who had five wives while living in polygamous colony in Mexico, according to Boston Globe reporters and authors, Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, in their recent book The Real Romney.
Even Log Cabin Republicans felt the sting of exclusion and derision with the gay exception to apple pie and the American dream for all.
“The obsessive exclusion of gay couples, including military and families, from the rights and responsibilities of marriage, combined with bizarre rhetoric about ‘hate campaigns’ and ‘the homosexual rights agenda’ are clear signs of desperation among social conservatives who know that public opinion is rapidly turning in favor of equality,” stated R. Clarke Cooper, executive director for Log Cabin Republicans.
Attempts to reach Log Cabin Republican and GOProud leadership for post-speech comments were unsuccessful, although GOProud had endorsed Romney before the convention.
But Jerame Davis of National Stonewall Democrats (NSD) offered a partisan perspective.
“Mitt Romney’s speech last night capped a bizarre and meandering GOP convention filled with shallow references to ‘defending’ or honoring’ marriage. What didn’t make the primetime schedule is the news that this Romney/Ryan ticket represents the most reactionary anti-LGBT platform in politics. Even ever-loyal gay Republicans had to admit defeat in their attempts to moderate the GOP at this year’s convention,” said Davis in e-mail correspondence.
Continuing, “While Log Cabin Republicans were bragging about their inclusion in the platform drafting process, the GOP was undercutting their work and their message by commissioning the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins to draft the platform’s anti-LGBT language. There could be no more clear message that LGBT people, whether they are loyal Republican operatives or average voters, are simply not welcome in the Republican Party,” Davis said.
Meanwhile, back on the convention floor, other bizarre –weird or off-kilter — rhetoric took center state when Hollywood star Clint Eastwood, aka Dirty Harry, engaged in an imaginary dialogue with an invisible president.
Speaking to an empty chair, make-my-day Eastwood, 82, took Obama to task.
“Mr. President, how do you handle the promises that you made when you were running for election?”
Thousands of stunned OMG tweets ensued.
Continuing, Eastwood pressed the invisible Obama why he had not closed the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“What do you mean, shut up?” Eastwood mumbled.
“What do you want me to tell Mr. Romney?” he asked, with an uncomfortable audience, including ill-at-ease Ann Romney, looking on.
“I can’t tell him that. He can’t do that to himself,” Eastwood said. “You’re getting as bad as Biden.”
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