Earlier this year, columnist Charles Blow called Mitt Romney a 21st century Tin Man—he has no heart.
And it showed in the vapid speech the candidate gave at the NAACP convention this week. Mitt is so rusty about his real emotions that he couldn’t get in sync with the NAACP organist who was trying to help his speech along. The first thing that came out of his mouth was “I do love THAT music!” Really Mitt? Dang. Just say you liked the organ music, or that you loved “God Bless America,” which the organist was playing. Don’t say that music. It’s like saying those People.
The core of Romney’s speech was “I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring, best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president.”
Well, Mitt, we really don’t understand who you truly are in your heart. You don’t know how to show us what’s really there. And If you can’t fully communicate what you believe is best for African Americans at the NAACP convention, you can’t do it anywhere.
So what was this speech about? I believe it was, in part, an obligation Romney knew he had to fulfill, but it also helped to reinforce the Tea Party racial grievances. It also allowed him to show his chutzpah by saying “Obamacare” in a convention hall that was populated predominately by African Americans. Duh. Everyone knew he’d be booed for that! As a matter of fact, I was hoping for a good ol’ “you lie!” to round things out.
Seriously, the problem with Mitt Romney is that he wants the presidency so bad, he’d be willing to sell his soul to Beelzubub tomorrow to get it. Being booed was not a problem, especially since he can fundraise off the booing. What the NAACP speech firmly solidified is that Mitt Romney is the most wooden Republican candidate ever—and it’s not because he was booed. Simply put, Romney does not have a testimony.
What do I mean by testimony? Well, any good LDS or Pentecostal will know what I mean. A testimony is a story about how you got over, how God helped you with some trial in your life; a story that people can connect to across culture and class. In the LDS tradition, members are encourage to share their testimonies in their services, and I have heard several LDS members give compelling, heartfelt, sincere testimonies.
I’ve often wondered why Romney, despite his status in the LDS church, is such a wooden speaker. Perhaps it’s because he continues to try to steer away from his faith, and to a middle ground that both white and black evangelicals can understand. By speaking about his father and God at the end of the speech, Romney tried to build a bridge to the crowd by talking about family, about how his family meant a lot to him. His stilted, pained expressions, however, spoke otherwise. The Tin Man just could not connect. Even with 200 of his closest paid fans in the audience clapping for him.
While there have been many white Republican presidential candidates who have appeared at the NAACP convention, including George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and John McCain, I doubt seriously if any others have done this poorly. The NAACP are a polite, respectable group. They were not going to agree when he said he would get rid of “Obamacare” but he could have expected that. He could have said Affordable Health Care,” and he still would have been booed, but at least it would have been respectful.
The NAACP speech revealed the depth of Romney’s stiltedness. If you can’t at least stiffly sway to the Hammond B3 organ there is truly no hope for you.
Romney’s stilted, uncomfortable, and standoffish speech proves that the RNC is going to need a lot of oil to loosen up their candidate before their convention. Not even the man behind the curtain, Karl Rove, can get him a heart at this point. Seriously, after today’s speech, I don’t expect Mitt to be in the “I’m a Mormon” campaign anytime soon.