We learned a little more about Mitt Romney this week during the convention, although most of it came from other speakers talking about his charity and family commitments.
We learned a great deal more about the upper rank-and-file of the Republican party who attended the convention.
It's almost not even fair to mention the two alternate delegates who threw peanuts at an African-American camerawoman, saying, "This is how we feed animals.'' It was horrifying—and one wonders how such people managed to get credentialed even as alternates—but the RNC appropriately and promptly threw them out. It's disturbing, and may raise legitimate questions about the kind of people attracted to the Republican convention, but it's also unfair to automatically taint the rest of the delegates with the outlandish behavior of two attendees.
But there was other discomfiting behavior.
First, there was the rambling, bizarre, and somewhat offensive performance by actor Clint Eastwood. Eastwood had an imaginary conversation with an empty chair, which was meant to signify President Obama, and he criticized the president for anemic job growth. Fine; that's fair game. But he also had the president making imaginary vulgar comments to both Eastwood and Romney. That's not only an insult to the institution of the presidency, but it's just weird. Obama doesn't talk that way; it's not as though Eastwood were conversing with an absent Rahm Emanuel. Romney may want Obama out of office, but he never would have done something that disrespectful. Presumably, the Romney campaign had no idea Eastwood would behave that way, and they can't fairly be blamed for it. If anything, Eastwood's way-too-long and verging-on-incoherent address took away from what voters should have seen during the primetime hour: the well-done biographical video of Romney.
But the crowd loved it, cheering all the distasteful exchanges Eastwood perhaps genuinely believed he was having with the empty chair.
And where did Romney get his biggest and weakest reactions from the crowd?
The former governor—who paid substantial attention to the dangers of climate change when he was running Massachusetts—made a somewhat sneering reference to Obama's concern about global warming, saying:
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.
It was something of a cheap shot, but made much, much worse by the almost hysterical cheering from the audience. The denial of basic science is the exact mindset that leads candidates like Todd Akin to believe a woman's body naturally prevents pregnancy when she is "legitimately'' raped.
What didn't win the crowd over? Romney's very nice, compassionate conservative piece of his vision for America, which, he said, "will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need.''
"That America is the best within each of us. That America we want for our children,'' Romney said. But it's not the America the crowd seemed to want.