What country is this? Have I been on some kind of horrendous toot, and did I sleep for a month, and did I wake up in the wrong country? All weekend long on my TV set I kept seeing Paul Ryan, the right-wing social Darwinist cheese-head, and they said he was a candidate for vice president of the United States. What United States?
Not these United States. Surely. Somebody slap me. I need to wake up and realize this is all a bad dream. This is the guy who wants to plunge the entire nation into even worse debt by giving the aristocracy a trillion dollar tax cut, and he's really a candidate for vice president?
Oh, wait. We didn't used to have an aristocracy, did we? Maybe that's what's new. I've been thinking about that, because a couple friends have called or emailed me asking me to tell them my Romney coat-hanger story.
Sorry, I've told it here before. I'll recap it briefly for those who may have missed that class. It's not about Mitt. It's the father, George.
I was a reporter in Detroit. George Romney, a former Michigan governor, had been Richard Nixon's HUD secretary from 1969 to 1975, when Gerald Ford replaced him with Carla Hills. He came back to Bloomfield Hills to retire from politics, and I did a Sunday magazine profile of him.
I was intimidated. He was what you might call "an august personage," famous for having scant patience with the press, and I needed to get him to dish about himself. But that's not the story my friends wanted me to recall.
When I showed up at his house, I was in a car that had a very noisy dragging tailpipe. Romney couldn't stand the messiness of it. He's in a white shirt so heavily starched it looks like it was chiseled from Carerra marble, but he comes out of the house at one point with a coat hanger and tries to shinny underneath my car to tie up my broken tailpipe.
Can't remember how it ended.
But that's how he was. He may have been august, but he was also sort of a typically American regular-guy kind of rich person of the times. He knew what a tailpipe was. He knew how to tie one up. He had been underneath a car before.
And I can tell you one thing: If George Romney had been addressing the Detroit Economic Club, trying to fit in and win people over, he would never have said this: "I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pick-up truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck. So I used to have all three covered."
Yeah. Something about the sentence, "Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually." It just would never have issued from the mouth of Mitt Romney's father. He didn't say to me, "You need to call down and have another of your Dodge Darts brought out to the house, because this Dodge Dart that you're in now is making a distressing noise, actually."
Between George Romney and Mitt Romney and while I was sleeping through the last third of a century, some sort of sea change has taken place in rich people. I note with some relief actually ... and I do say, actually ... that Ryan is the least popular Republican vice presidential pick since Dan Quayle.
Do we think it could have anything to do with his ideas about getting rid of Medicare so un-rich Mom and Dad can go die under a bridge? That sort of thing is very upsetting to people who don't have premium, private, paid-up health insurance coverage for life. Actually. Do the Republicans not know that?
But it's not Republicans we're talking about. Republicans included people like George Romney and my sainted Kansas grandma. Regular people. This VP choice I hear them talking about on my television all day is not about Republicans.
It's this new thing. The Ayn Rand aristocracy. And that's the thing about aristocrats -- their Achilles heel. They don't know. They have no idea.
"Well if there's an issue with your health coverage, why don't you just call down and have your little man bring you out some other sort of health coverage, then, actually."
So for the rest of us, is that a good thing? Our golden opportunity? Or the sealing of our doom? Actually.