It is to my great dismay that I have realized that Mitt Romney and I have something in common. It is not the 15 percent tax rate or the $374,000.00 speaking fees; nor, for that matter, do we wear the same brand of jeans or sport the same haircut. Neither is it the issue of flip-flopping -- though my kids could make a strong case for my flip-flopping tendencies when it comes to domestic policies regarding soft drinks or video games. No, what I am referring to is that though Mitt and I are at different ends of the economic and political spectrum, when it comes to getting the job done (he, running for president; me, raising kids) we are nearly equal in our use of empty meaningless statements.
It goes without saying that the same could be said for the other Republican candidates, but let's stick with Mitt for now. In order to illustrate my point, let me use an example from his much-praised New Hampshire speech and one from my not very original home talk.
Romney (to America):
"Our campaign is about more than replacing a President; it is about saving the soul of America."
Me (to my sons):
"So, how was school?"
Parenting and politics are prime territories for the use of cliches and lofty or empty statements. Politicians tend to cater to the lowest common denominator to get elected and parents are too tired to think outside the box or open up a thesaurus. In my case, I keep recurring to the standard "so, how was school?" as a way to connect to my sons, realizing it is a meaningless question and a waste of time. Though I have tried variations, such as, "so, how was the first part of your science class?," I keep finding myself reverting to the same hollow words. I work in government affairs, and my son and I kidded around about introducing a bill outlawing asking "so, how was school?" and penalizing parents for its use. It was a worthwhile exercise as it taught him how a bill becomes a law. All that said, I have noticed a significant increase in my usage of "so, how was school?" in recent months, and not just because the kids are back in school so there is a logical reason to ask it. Quite possibly, this is an unintended or intended consequence of the brain drain produced by the Republican primary process. Even if you don't turn on the TV, it still manages to seep through and impoverish our public and private discourse.
I suppose it is safe to say that one way or another millions of dollars in polling fees, speech writers, consultants and catered lunches were required to carefully craft Romney's fine sentence above. Why, just the "saving the soul of America" ending probably required dishing out the big bucks, much more than his speaking fees. My meaningless question, on the other hand, was uncapitalistically free, plucked from the catalog of stock phrases floating around of what a caring and concerned parent is supposed to ask his son. This probably explains why Mitt is on his way to getting the nomination and might succeed in getting folks to eat up his empty talk, whereas I can't seem to get anything more than a blank stare from my sons or, if I am lucky, a vague reply of "school is fine" which every parent gets when they ask. Indeed, if kids were polled as to the question they hate the most it would surely be "so, how was school?" I guess I might need to hire a speech writer or a consultant; or maybe pull quotes from Mitt Romney's New Hampshire speech, like: "We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great." Or: "This President puts his faith in government. We put our faith in the American people."
I am concerned that once the primary process gets wrapped up and Romney is the nominee, his empty talk will augment and fill up even more of the air waves, which will have a corresponding detrimental effect at the home front. Whereas I now ask my kids 10 to 12 times a day "so, how was school?" this could increase up to 30 to 40 times a day. No doubt, this will have a divisive impact at home, as it will drive my wife and kids crazy. And we know how Mitt feels about divisive politics.
God forbid if he wins the presidency, my wife will have to put a muzzle on me.