TAMPA, Fla. — It was about halfway through the speech given by Mary Fallin, by the grace of a pitiless god the governor of Oklahoma, where I finally came close to losing it. She rolled herself into this remarkable passage:
The history of my great state of Oklahoma offers a great example of pursuing the American Dream. It was built and settled by pioneers movibe west to seek better lives. During the Great Land Run of 1889, thousands of families rushed to put a stake down on empty plots of land. They built tent cities overnight. They farmed the land and they worked hard. And, in 1897, eight years after the land run, a handful of adventurous pioneers risked their own money — not the federal government's money — to drill Oklahoma's first oil well, the Nellie Johnstone. By doing so, these early-day pioneers changed the future and Oklahoma forever and today Oklahoma is one of the nation's key energy producers and job creators. President Obama wants us to believe that Oklahomans owe that success to the federal government — to the Department Of Energy,to the EPA, to the IRS, or maybe even to him. Mr. President, we know better. As we say in Oklahoma, that dog won't hunt.Handed in as a seventh-grade history essay, this would get no better than a D. Delivered to the convention of one of our only two political parties, it was perhaps the most singularly dishonest speech I have ever seen a politician give, and I grew up in Massachusetts, and Willard Romney was once my governor. My god, Oklahomans wouldn't even have Oklahoma without the federal government, without the Homestead Act of 1889 or the Railroad Act — both, by the way, achievements of a Republican presidents named Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison. And the land wasn't exactly "empty," Governor. It got emptied by a big-government program called the United States Army. You know what your state would be without the federal government, Governor, without the votes for the legislation from congressmen from the east and north, without the soldiers from New England and the Great Lakes? You know what Oklahoma would be?
Sand, with a whole lot of pissed-off Native Americans.
I'm not sure if it will be played this way. Ann Romney was sweet and lovely — and very defensive about people "attacking" hubby's success, but only as a "mom," of course — and Chris Christie brought down the house. But the Republican Party did something remarkable at its convention on Tuesday. It set out on an experiment to see exactly how much unmitigated hogwash the American political system can contain on a single evening. The Republican Party has set out at its 2012 convention in search of the Event Horizon of utter bullshit. It has sought to see precisely how many lies, evasions, elisions, and undigestible chunks of utter gobbledegook the political media can swallow before it finally gags twice and falls over dead, leaving the rest of America suckers all the same. What you didn't see in primetime, from Arthur Davis to Ted Cruz, and from one 2016 contender to another, was the GOP embarking upon the task of seeing exactly how much nonsense it could produce at top volume before democracy screams and gives up, like Noriega in Panama when they played the metal music at him.
It was something to see, I'll tell you. An entire evening based on a demonstrable lie.
The theme was We Did Build It — which, as every sentient being knows, is a mendacious barbering of something the president said a while back. (On the video screens in the hall, television commercials based on a severely edited version of the president's remarks were interspersed between the speeches, just in case somebody sought relief from the lies for a couple of seconds.) And there also was a lot of talk about how the various speakers Did Build It.
There was Jack Gilchrist from New Hampshire, the metal-shop owner, who was briefly an important Romney surrogate until it was revealed that his company took a few cool millions in small-business loans. There was Sher Valenzuela, running for lieutenant governor of Delaware, who talked about how she and her husband Did Build their business. She also talked about her husband, who was a soldier, and her father, the former drill sergeant and "a blue-collar union guy." She did not talk about her sideline, which is giving PowerPoint presentations to people — probably, I am sure, not in convention centers built with tax dollars — on how to suck up government contracts. There was a similar thing going on with Bob McDonnell, the slippery, up-and-coming transvaginalist of Virginia, who proved that his family Did Build It, by having his father join the army, his children doing the same, and himself, finding the "same job" in government once held by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. After listening to this laughable bafflegab for a spell, you begin to wonder whether or not the U.S. military is a rather large venture-capital concern with anti-tank weapons.
It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie. It was an entire evening based on demonstrable lies told in service to the overriding demonstrable lie. And there was only one real story for actual journalists to tell at the end of it.
The Republicans simply don't care.
They don't care that they lie. They don't care that their lies are obvious. They don't care that their lies wouldn't fool an underpaid substitute Social Studies teacher in a public middle school, who would then probably go out one night and get yelled at by Chris Christie. ("They believe in teacher's unions. We believe in teachers," he said in his speech. Yeah, you just don't believe in paying them.) They don't care that their history is a lie and that, by spreading it, they devalue the actual history of the country, which is something that belongs to us.
Did Ted Cruz really quote Martin King in this hall? Did Artur Davis, the newly minted Republican turncoat from Alabama, just cite Jack Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Lyndon Fking Johnson as examples of "leaders" who "reached across the aisle"? Lyndon reached across the aisle? Yeah, he did, and he grabbed their peckers and put them in his pocket, and he didn't give them back until the skinflint bastards coughed up Medicare. Jesus, this was pathetic. They don't care that they lie so obviously that they always get caught, like they did with the evening's entire theme, like they have in and around the Tampa Bay Times Forum, or with the story of poor Jack Gilchrist. The Republicans will just tell the lie again. And again. And once more, until people get tired of telling the truth in response.
It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie because it was an entire evening based on rejecting — publicly and dishonestly, and without caring that the facts of your own biographies give the lie to the words you're saying — the idea of a general political commonwealth as expressed through the national government, which has been the great engine behind the expansion of the country's size, the country's wealth, and, yes, the country's freedom. It was a purchase in that political commonwealth, and not in a loose confederation of states, that King sought, and that Lyndon sought to give the country's poorest citizens, including the vote, which the government of John Kasich in Ohio is presently working assiduously to roll back.
It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie, and it was topped off by a demonstrable liar named Chris Christie, who talked about how the president can't lead, and that nobody wants to tell the Americans the truth of the sacrifices we have to share, and talked about "politicians who pander" at a convention that is preparing to nominate Willard Romney, which was the final hilarious lie of the night, since Romney hasn't stopped pandering since he walked down the steps of the Massachusetts State House in 2006.
Earlier, though, Christie rang the theme of the evening's overriding demonstrable lie, too. He talked about how his family Built It, his Irish father and his Sicilian mother.
They both lived hard lives. Dad grew up in poverty. After returning from Army service, he worked at the Breyer's ice-cream plant in the 1950's. With that job, and the GI Bill, he put himself through Rutgers University at night to become the first in his family to earn a college degree.Chris, old man, you didn't even build yourself yourself. The tax dollars — the federal tax dollars — of, among other people, my parents paid your father's Army salary, and they paid for the G.I. Bill. The tax dollars of thousands of other people paid for his education at Rutgers, which is, as it proclaims, The State University Of New Jersey. All of them were proud to do it, because they knew that they were part of a political commonwealth that has as its proudest expression a national government in which all citizens have purchase.
And, Chris, and Bob, and Sher, and Jack, and all of you, you're welcome.