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Jason Stanford Headshot

The Man in the Chair Who Wasn't There

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So that happened. Clint Eastwood argued with an empty chair on national television for 14 minutes. Also, Mitt Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination, but his Pinocchio speech (in which he tried to become a real boy by lying) isn't what people are talking about. When an old man arguing with furniture is what people remember, your convention didn't go so well.

A generation later, all that people will remember about the Tampa convention was the time Clint Eastwood mainstreamed performance art. But maybe he was being subconsciously brilliant. Republicans can't run against the man in the chair. So they run against the man who isn't there. Call it their Dr. Seuss strategy.

They can't run against the Obama who believes, in his words, "in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," especially after they nominated a Mormon. So they run against the Muslim schooled in an Indonesian madrassa who doesn't exist.

Republicans can't take on the family man with the smokin' hot wife and the cute daughters. So a Tea Party activist claims Obama is gay.

Republicans can't defend blocking Obama's jobs bill from getting an up-or-down vote in the House, so Romney says Obama "hasn't put forth a plan to get us working again," a statement that tortures the truth so badly that it should be banned under the Geneva Convention.

Speaking of international law, Republicans can't even admit that Obama is an American. Despite Obama releasing his birth certificate and the Honolulu newspaper publishing his birth announcement when Obama was, you know, born in Honolulu, many Republicans stubbornly cling to the canard that he's a Kenyan. Actually, his mother was a Kansan and his father was African, so Obama is a Halfrican American.

And clearly Republicans can't run against the leader who has vanquished Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, and pirates. They can't acknowledge that he saved our banking, real estate, and automobile manufacturing sectors from the imminent insolvency. And they certainly can't credit him with the 4.5 million private-sector jobs created on his watch.

So they say he's not up to the job of creating jobs because -- stay with me here, it gets weird -- he's never had a job. As Speaker John Boehner told Fox News, "The president has never created a job. He's never even had a real job, for God's sakes. And I can tell you from my dealings with him, he has no idea how the real world that we actually live in actually works."

At the Republican convention, it was the same Mitt, different day. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte said, "President Obama has never even run a lemonade stand." Maybe we should be grateful she deigned to call him president.

Before Eastwood gave us the world's strangest Bob Newhart imitation, Ayotte et al. did their best to portray a president who created the recession and the stimulus, exploded the deficit with Obamacare, and cut seniors' health care by reducing the growth in Medicare spending. Republicans at the podium described a president who opposed the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, did not give any of the stimulus to the middle-class taxpayers, and told small-business owners that they didn't build their own small businesses.

Most hilariously at all, Paul Ryan wasted some of his precious prime time by blaming Obama for a GM plant closing in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., even though the plant closed during the George W. Bush presidency. Ironically, even that reference by inference was as close as either Ryan or Romney came to mentioning the last Republican presidency.

None of this is what we used to call, in the good old days, "true." The Barack Obama about whom Republicans in Tampa were complaining does not exist. If you care about such archaic notions as facts, you can research all this yourself at FactCheck.org. Remember, you're supposed to be in charge. An uninformed voter is no better than the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert.

Pound for pound, Mitt Romney doesn't match up well with Obama, so they've unconsciously created an alternate presidency they abhor. Clint Eastwood manifested this dysfunction when he debated that empty chair on the stage in Tampa. But the man in that chair isn't really there.

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