I don't know if Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan or the folks that run the Republican Party ever studied or read The Wasteland -- T.S. Eliot's monumentally disjointed modernist poem. If they did then perhaps they remember the haunting words with which it opens:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land . . .
Then too, perhaps they also remember the promise one of the poem's many voices (or speakers) makes in line 30:
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
It seems to me that for Romney, Ryan and The Republican Party -- the "R R & TRP" of this week's title -- it is September, not April, which will likely turn out to be their "cruellest month." And for them, it will have nothing to do with lilacs, dead land or "fear in a handful of dust." Rather, what will make September so incredibly cruel for them is a witch's brew of bad press, lackluster campaigning, pallid poll numbers, and impolitic misstatements made by a standard-bearer who perhaps, when all is said and done, doesn't really want to be president all that much.
Yes indeed, September has been rather cruel to R R &TRP. It began with a slightly amateurish national convention in Tampa at which disdain for President Obama was far louder and more palpable than passion for Governor Romney; a convention whose rhetorical high point was Clint Eastwood speaking to an empty chair. For all their efforts, the Republican ticket received virtually none of the political "bounce" which national conventions traditionally proffer. And, to make matters a bit worse, Tampa was immediately followed by the Democrats' National Convention in Charleston, which by comparison, was a tour-de-force -- sort of like Casablanca versus Any Which Way But Loose.
Then, the Romney camp inexplicably decided to turn their response to attacks on American diplomatic installations in Cairo and Benghazi -- which took the life of 4 Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens -- into a partisan political attack on President Obama. In a late-night communique' issued even before the full extent of attacks were known, Romney said:
I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
When asked to comment on this impolitic comment, the president merely said "Governor Romney shoots first, aims later . . ."
Of course, the likely coup de gr- ce was provided by that brief YouTube video in which Romney, speaking off-the-cuff before a gathering of his fellow gazillionaires characterized nearly half the American public as lazy, good-for-nothing, tax-avoiding entitlement junkies. Speaking before his fellow Masters of the Universe at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida, Romney declared that in essence these "moochers" -- who comprise 47% of the American public -- should be written off, because there's not a snowball's chance in Hell that they will ever vote for him.
This is not fear in a handful of dust, as Eliot's narrator would have it; this is utter elitist disdain in a scattering of syllables. It shows in stark relief that Romney and his fellow plutocrats -- none of whom challenged his comments -- have neither regard nor understanding for the lives, challenges, aspirations or difficulties of the mass of humanity. Ironically, in their haughty "to-the-manner-born" demeanor, they remind one of the idle Edwardian rich of whom the aristocratic Eliot -- a man born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri -- was so terribly enamored.
By now, just about everyone has either seen the video or heard the audio capture, and knows that Romney also claimed that had his late father George been a Mexican (as opposed to merely having been born in Mexico) he would be having a much easier time of things in this presidential election. And so, having stubbed a toe in the dust of economy and ethnicity, Romney proceeded on to foreign policy where, not surprisingly, he fell flat on his face. Speaking about the ongoing struggle for achieving peace in the Middle East, Romney said:
I look at ... these thorny issues, and I say, 'There's just no way.' And so what you do is you say, 'You move things along the best way you can.' You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. All right, we have a potentially volatile situation but we sort of live with it, and we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it."
And this is the man who claims he will be far better for Israel than Barack Obama.