Whew, Mitt Romney needs a haircut, or something. To show up in London and tell the Britons they don't have their act together (not properly prepared) for the Olympics is, well, astonishing. Watching him spill forth his sassy remarks in a TV interview, I couldn't help thinking: This man is running for president of the United States? He needed a haircut, too -- it was growing down his neck. Anyway, David Cameron was right to fire back with the where's-Salt-Lake-City remark, and even though he's a Conservative, I couldn't help but chuckle. Dumb-bottom Americans!
So what about this American election? Watching from Europe, where I've lived for 30 years, you have to think it's true what a buddy of mine said the other day: Republicans must work hard to constantly come up with the dumb things they say because they have nothing else to say but dumb things. Their constituents demand it. But there are only so many dumb-bottom ideas to go around. Well, not really. The GOP appears to be gathering them all in, like the good shepherds they are.
But the Democrats, led by pretty-much-do-nothing Obama, just stand there staring at the GOP sheep. What's that about? Don't they ever read Paul Krugman? It's time to stimulate the economy with some kind of nuclear-powered prod, in his view, and mine, and you can't say it enough: Do it already! Flip the dang switch. Galvanize this puppy back to life. It can be done. You can explain to the People that it's not socialism from outer space. You can actually make this work.
And yet nothing is done. My dearly departed and sage brother reminded me at the time Obama got elected: Well, it doesn't matter, because you can't get anything done in Washington anyway, so it really doesn't matter who we send to the White House it could be a robot. I countered that sometimes a leader can get things done. I mentioned Kennedy, Johnson, even Nixon. He laughed and said, It doesn't work that way no more. The president can't ever get anything done. It's a fiction to think he can. That's all over.
I think he was right.
The other day I was sitting with a friend in Rome discussing issues on the rooftop of a hotel, an entirely odd thing to do for Americans to do on vacation. We came up with a short, wine-stained list of things we'd like to see Obama do in a second administration:
1. End the Afghanistan war immediately and bring all soldiers home.
2. Vastly increase federal funding for infrastructure projects and job creation.
3. Free Bradley Manning.
4. Close down Guantanamo and try the detainees in U.S. courts.
5. Punish the fat-cat bankers.
6. End the privatization of security in the United States and dramatically downsize the security apparatus.
7. End eavesdropping on American citizens.
8. Boldly strengthen health care laws to provide ever-wider coverage.
It is a lot to do, admittedly. But it could've been a much longer, fuller list if only we hadn't decided to go to dinner at a really nice wine bar that had fantastic food and had been recommended by a friend of my friend. But I digress: As is, it's a hearty eight-course plan that Obama could get behind and use to boldly lead where no American leader has gone before. Can he do that? Or are the poisonous gases of political competition so thick that he'd choke to death before he even got the list out of his mouth?
Ideas are always getting stuck in the political resin, going nowhere, becoming fixed and hardened for an eternity. Especially fresh ideas that actually could change things; ideas considered dangerous, effective and out there. That's because there are just too many vested interests, which in my mind always conjures up the image of a fat-cat in a slick suit puffing a cigar and very carefully doing absolutely nothing for hours, days, weeks and years upon end.
In London, Romney looked a bit like a fake Ronald Reagan trying to sort of out-style the other side with his abjectly false smile and his icky long neck hair. This was stunning failure and side-splitting farce rolled into one. Why in the world would you go to London and actually criticize their efforts to put on the Olympics, which as everyone ought to know is the most insanely impossible and money-wasting event mankind has ever organized. Why would you go there and tell them straight to their British faces that they have got it all twisted up?
Because you are a robot is why. Romney is a robot in a shiny GOP suit and is utterly embarrassing to the United States. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader (a Democrat, in case you weren't aware), told The Huffington Post that Romney's gaffe about London not being prepared for the Games was nothing less than a slap in the face of the Brits. "It's not good for us as a country -- it's not good for him -- but as a country to have somebody that's nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody ... ''
But this is what robots do. They've never heard of subtlety or nuance; they bolt forward and make goofy remarks and make America look bad. So, score one gold for Romney, in Insults. And another in Dumb-Bottomness. That's two golds for the Americans so far, and the Games have only just begun. We're number 1.