Mitt Romney's concession speech
was remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that Romney attacked Democrats for wanting to "declare defeat" and "surrender" during his own defeat and surrender speech! Where do these people come from? Are they cynical? Or are they so blinded by self-righteousness that they can't recognize irony even when they're the ones creating it?
Just a few highlights from Romney's unintentional self-nomination for a sadly nonexistent Unintentional, Self-Created, Blissfully Unaware Irony prize:
And that is why we must rise to the occasion, as we have always done before, to confront the challenges ahead. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is the attack on the American culture... The threat to our culture comes from within. The 1960’s welfare programs created a culture of poverty. Some think we won that battle when we reformed welfare, but the liberals haven’t given up. At every turn, they try to substitute government largesse for individual responsibility. They fight to strip work requirements from welfare, to put more people on Medicaid, and to remove more and more people from having to pay any income tax whatsoever. Dependency is death to initiative, risk-taking and opportunity. Dependency is a culture-killing drug—we have got to fight it like the poison it is!
Translation: Whatever is wrong today, it was caused by liberals in the 1960s (see also, below: It's Bill Clinton's Fault We're Losing in Iraq). Things like privatizing a war, handouts to Halliburton? They don't count as government largesse. And privatizing social security would not be government largesse to Wall Street (see also, below: Only Liberals Can Overspend). The only people who shouldn't have to pay income tax are people rich enough to contribute to a Republican campaign. When I say "individual responsibility," I'm talking only about liberals. "Conservatives" shouldn't have to accept individual responsibility for anything because everything bad is the liberals' fault.
The attack on our culture is not our sole challenge. We face economic competition unlike anything we have ever known before. China and Asia are emerging from centuries of poverty. Their people are plentiful, innovative, and ambitious. If we do not change course, Asia or China will pass us by as the economic superpower, just as we passed England and France during the last century. The prosperity and security of our children and grandchildren depend on us.
Translation: America used to richer because China and Asia used to be poorer. The prosperity and security of our children and grandchildren depend on continued poverty in China and Asia.
And our economy is also burdened by the inexorable ramping of government spending. Don’t focus on the pork alone—even though it is indeed irritating and shameful. Look at the entitlements. `They make up 60% of federal spending today. By the end of the next President’s second term, they will total 70%. Any conservative plan for the future has to include entitlement reform that solves the problem, not just acknowledges it.
Translation: Ignore the fact that the current "conservative" administration has spent America into a $1.4 trillion deficit. Out of control spending is a liberal phenomenon. Only liberals can spend too much, so if we've been spending too much, liberals must be to blame. See also: Only Bad, Totalitarian American Enemies Can Torture.
It’s high time to lower taxes, including corporate taxes, to take a weed-whacker to government regulations, to reform entitlements, and to stand up to the increasingly voracious appetite of the unions in our government!
Translation: Okay, maybe we have been spending too much under the current, "conservative" administration... but that's the unions' fault!
And finally, let’s consider the greatest challenge facing America—and facing the entire civilized world: the threat of violent, radical Jihad. In one wing of the world of Islam, there is a conviction that all governments should be destroyed and replaced by a religious caliphate. These Jihadists will battle any form of democracy—to them, democracy is blasphemous for it says that citizens, not God shape the law. They find the idea of human equality to be offensive. They hate everything we believe about freedom just as we hate everything they believe about radical Jihad.
Translation: Forget what I just said a minute about the most fundamental challenge to America being an internal cultural threat. Seriously, that was, what, ten whole paragraphs ago? And I didn't really mean it, I was only pandering. Or even if I meant it, ten paragraphs is a long time to change your mind. I mean, listen to some of the positions I've taken on homosexuality and marriage! And all that health care reform when I was governor of Massachusetts, which I realized when I had someone write this speech for me was just a bunch of ridiculous entitlements forced on me by liberal unions, so not my individual responsibility. But I digress...
To battle this threat, we have sent the most courageous and brave soldiers in the world. But their numbers have been depleted by the Clinton years when troops were reduced by 500,000, when 80 ships were retired from the Navy, and when our human intelligence was slashed by 25%. We were told that we were getting a peace dividend. We got the dividend, but we didn’t get the peace. In the face of evil in radical Jihad and given the inevitable military ambitions of China, we must act to rebuild our military might. Raise military spending to 4% of our GDP, purchase the most modern armament, re-shape our fighting forces for the asymmetric demands we now face, and give the veterans the care they deserve!
Translation: Bill Clinton lost the war in Iraq, damn it! Bill Clinton! And maybe liberal unions, too. They're usually to blame for something, even though they're never willing to take individual responsibility for it.
Soon, the face of liberalism in America will have a new name. Whether it is Barack or Hillary, the result would be the same if they were to win the Presidency. The opponents of American culture would push the throttle, devising new justifications for judges to depart from the constitution. Economic neophytes would layer heavier and heavier burdens on employers and families, slowing our economy and opening the way for foreign competition to further erode our lead.
Translation: maybe I was right the first time, when I said the greatest threat to America comes from within. Okay, I'm switching back to my original position. For now.
Even though we face an uphill fight, I know that many in this room are fully behind my campaign.” You are with me all the way to the convention. Fight on, just like Ronald Reagan did in 1976. But there is an important difference from 1976: today… we are a nation at war.
Translation: If we weren't at war, I wouldn't declare defeat and surrender. I know that sounds a little counterintuitive, but bear with me...
And Barack and Hillary have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror. They would retreat and declare defeat. And the consequence of that would be devastating. It would mean attacks on America, launched from safe havens that make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like child’s play. About this, I have no doubt.
Translation: To prevent Barack and Hillary from retreating and declaring defeat, I will retreat and declare defeat. Because they've said they will retreat and declare defeat! Okay, I can't tell you exactly where or when they said that... but I have no doubt because I know it's true because I'm a Conservative Person of Faith and I don't have to back up veiled accusations of treason against liberals, who anyway as I've argued above (the position I switched back to) are traitors.
I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.
Translation: When I declare defeat and surrender, it's merely tactical. When liberals want to reallocate resources in the war on terror, it's a pathetic white flag. I mean, it was the same when I was at Bain Capital. I never fired anyone at a company I acquired; I was only rightsizing those people. I'm a good guy, and good guys by definition can't do bad things. Ask George Bush, he understands this.
This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters… many of you right here in this room… have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.
Translation: My reasons for surrendering are good reasons and you must accept them because I am a Conservative Man of Faith and when a Conservative Man of Faith surrenders it's not really a surrender, but a Noble Self-Sacrifice for the Greater Good, even nobler than the self-sacrifice I made by being a missionary in Paris instead of serving in Vietnam, even nobler than the self-sacrifice my five sons have made by campaigning for me instead of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (what? You want them to enlist now that I'm surrendering and they can't self-sacrifice by campaigning for me anymore? Uh... uh... let me get back to you on that, okay?). But wait a minute, I just realized, I'm not really even really surrendering! I only said I'm "standing aside." It couldn't have been a surrender, because only liberals do that, and I'm a Conservative Man of Faith.
Read the speech in its entirety. You'll find it singularly bereft of the notion of individual responsibility except as a slogan used to blame others for their lack of it. Memo to the Republican party: the first step in fixing a problem is acknowledging you have one.
Despite the speech's tremendous unintentional irony, Romney leaves the race less an ironic figure than a tragic one. Here's a guy with intelligence (albeit often well-concealed in his speeches); executive experience in politics and business; and (again, despite some of his ridiculous speechifying asides) demonstrated economic fluency, who lacked the confidence to run on any of it, preferring instead plasticity and pandering, right to the bitter end. He reminds me of no one so much as Hillary Clinton, another otherwise capable candidate whose lack of confidence in her own strengths has led to a sad pattern of pandering followed by attacks on her opponent, whose substantive record by its very existence calls hers into question. Romney and Hillary... even in Romney's tragedy, there is irony.