Explaining Romney's Brain Freeze on the Troops and Afghanistan

Mitt Romney didn't mention the war in Afghanistan in his RNC speech, while Democrats spoke of the troops often.

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Maybe Mitt Romney's brain freeze had to do with "The Germans."

Not the Germans themselves, mind you, or Angela Merkel or the fiscal crisis facing Europe. I'm thinking maybe Romney was watching the Beeb late one night and clicked onto what can justly be described as the most brilliant half-hour of comedy ever produced in the English language, and that is, of course, the episode of the British comedy Fawlty Towers entitled "The Germans."

In that excruciating and hilarious episode, John Cleese, playing small-town, low-rent hotel owner Basil Fawlty, is readying for a visit from German tourists. He's concerned that the long-term hotel residents—several of whom were quite old—might not be able to avoid bringing up World War II or the Nazis or some such topic that might cause friction in the breakfast room. So the perpetually neurotic Fawlty keeps running around the hotel, whispering forcefully, "Don't mention the war!" to his regular boarders, desperately trying to avoid some sort of international hotel incident.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Afghanistan.]

It would be one explanation as to why Romney didn't mention the wars when he gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. It was particularly remarkable since military members are believed to vote more Republican—and surely the GOP believes that, or they wouldn't have been trying to extend early voting hours in Ohio for members of the military and no one else. Where's the shout-out? Where were the thanks for the sacrifice and commitment of the troops? Contrast it to the Democratic National Convention, a meeting where many, many people had opposed the war in Iraq. There, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden saluted the troops and their families, having built a lot of street cred by working with military families in the last few years. You can be against a war and for the troops, and Obama and Biden have managed to communicate that gracefully. Why wouldn't Romney, who needs those military votes, make the same gesture?

Romney has responded to the question by noting that he brought up Afghanistan at another speech before the American Legion, saying he talked about his Afghanistan policy. Actually, he didn't really talk about policy there—he just stated the fact that U.S. troops were still there. And that isn't even the point. The point is to connect with human beings, something Romney has had trouble doing as a candidate. He may well connect beautifully and lovingly with his family and friends, and that would be enough if he weren't a candidate for president. But people expect their presidents to feel them in some way—if not the effusive "I feel your pain" uttered so frequently by Bill Clinton, then something that indicates that they understand and commiserate.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

It's a day when we think a lot about those we have lost in conflict. And it's not about whether you're a pacifist or a war-monger or something in between. It has nothing to do whether these wars, or any wars, are justified. It's about people—remembering them and thanking them for their service.

Basil ended up getting banged on the head, and then could not stop mentioning the war—to the point where he ended up bringing one of his German guests to tears, and not in a good way. So Romney needn't be pounded on the head. A light tap, however, might do the trick.

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