Last night, Mitt Romney formally accepted the nomination as the Republican candidate for the upcoming Presidential election. This was not a rousing occasion. This was very much the crowning of a man no-one liked, but no-one hated enough (or was organised enough) to depose. While the winning candidate's acceptance speech is always full of nods to right of the party (“As president, I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty: the freedom of religion”), nods to the moderate swing voter (“I will not raise taxes on the middle class”), nods to their corporate backers (“by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables”), and nods to those demographic groups which seem to be rejecting them (in Romney’s case, all women – “women are more likely than men to start a business. They need a president who respects and understands what they do”), it also has that old-favourite: the illogical, ill-thought-out, purely populist, kicking-the-opposition, lowest-common-denominator barb. Here is my pick of last night’s speech:
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
This got rousing applause. From a man who fails to rouse pretty much anyone (or any thing. Ever). Well done, Mitt. With this sort of nonsense you may be alright yet. Here is a few reasons why that statement is ridiculous (with the caveat that it is, of course, not expected to be anything but).
1. President Obama didn’t exactly promise this
He promised a better engagement with the international bodies concerned with climate change. He promised to try and get climate change legislation through Congress (which Congress failed to pass). He promised to try and switch America’s energy focus from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to more climate-friendly renewable technologies. Now, I’m not saying he’s succeeded in doing all or any of these things. However, I’m pretty sure President Obama did not promise to stand on the East Coast with an oversized swirly-straw and drink-away all the excess sea-water flowing off the glaciers. The man may think of himself as a hero, but his bladder simply wouldn’t be able to stand that kind of sustained abuse. Even Obama would recognise this, I think. Likewise, I don’t think he ever promised the use of Air Force 1 to jet-over a ginormous bandage which Obama would personally apply to a gaping wound somewhere over an ill-defined South East Asian mining paradise. Maybe he did – maybe I wasn’t listening carefully enough – but I’m pretty sure he didn’t.
2. Obama didn’t promise one at the expense of promising the other, as Romney implies
I can’t remember President Obama mentioning at any point that he preferred trees to children (I mean, I can see the argument, but I don’t think he’s ever publicly stated it). Was there a point in his first state of the Union where he grabbed Inhofe by the collar and growled in his face “I don’t give a damn about little Jimmy, I’m going to save the beavers…” before skipping out arm-in-arm with Babs Boxer humming ‘The Birds and the Bees’ as they went? Maybe there was, but I reckon it’d be on YouTube by now. Good to have assurances Mitt won’t do this, though, I suppose. Sod the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees (or the moon up above and this thing called 'love', for that matter), Mitt, what about ME and MY FAMILY, ey, EY?!
3. These two things ARE NOT EXCLUSIVE
Finally, a basic understanding of the physical realm requires us to recognise that ‘I’, and therefore others (i.e. ‘my family’) inhabit the ‘planet’. We can be understood as ‘on’ or ‘in’ or ‘of’ it – it doesn’t really matter – either way, there is still a need for this ‘planet’ as the basis for a basic level of life-support. So, you know that oil and gas you were talking about drilling away at, Mitt? Yeah? That comes outta ‘the planet’, you see. You know that house you live in, Mitt? Yeah, that MASSIVE one in the nice part of town with the gold taps and butler. Yeah, that thing that has a pool and tennis courts and the needless ex-Marine watch guard which your family sometimes frequents. Yeah, that thing. That’s on ‘the planet’ too. No, no, I’m not kidding. I’m really not. Hey, you know how you care about your family, Mitt? And how you’re so proud of breeding, and how you want them to breed too (and then those little breed-ees to breed again, and so on)? Yeah, they’re called ‘future generations’, and they’re gonna need ‘the planet’ to live on/in/with as well. I know, I know. Get-outta-town, ey.
That is unless Mitt and his family live on another planet, of course. A theory which I’m finding increasingly conceivable…