I listened to the telecast of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Republican National Conference keynote address, which pushed out the theme of love versus respect, but I left feeling neither.
I'll give him that it was better than House Speaker John Boehner's extended "a man walks into a bar" speech, but it wasn't as good at Ann Romney's "I LOVE WOMEN!" address.
(Image: © Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com)
But the love/respect theme was a stretch when what Christie clearly wanted to do was slam Democrats and the Obama administration, so it was one of those bizarre speeches that lacked a cohesive storm center. It was more like a nitro-fueled T-shirt cannon aggressively pitting out buzzwords (Unions are bad! Democrats are bad for the economy!) to amuse the base. If I were Mitt, I'd be miffed, because he didn't get much love or respect. It felt like PR for Christie as a hero against the Democrats, though, so maybe that was Christie's goal, and as he said, he doesn't care if Mitt's happy?
Love versus respect, from Christie, is pretty ironic. Neither being beloved nor being respectful are his strong suits. As a lesbian mom I certainly feel neither from him. For example, I really wish he would have respected his state legislature and their voters instead of vetoing he gay marriage bill that his state's legislature passed earlier this year. What's love got to do with equal rights?
But maybe he is conflicted, because this keynote address? It felt a bit like Chris was fresh from a therapy session with Lorraine Bracco and was still obsessed with whether he exchanged enough love and respect with his parents.
He set it as the theme early in the speech as a family dynamic:
My Dad, who I am blessed to have with me here tonight, is gregarious, outgoing and lovable.
My Mom, who I lost 8 years ago, was the enforcer. She made sure we all knew who set the rules.
In the automobile of life, Dad was just a passenger. Mom was the driver.
Whoa. I want to give Dad an Oprah hug. Dang, Christie. You told him.
And then the rest of the address was like being trapped in a Branson banjo duel between Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin impersonators.
Tender Chris pretends to worry about love and feelings, but who needs a heart when a heart can be broken/taxed:
- Teachers don't teach to become rich or famous. They teach because they love children.
- Seniors are not selfish.
- These feelings are real. There is doubt and fear for our future in every corner of our country
- I have faith in us.
But then Bad Cop Chris says my dad was a wimp, screw what other people want, the answer is command R-E-S-P-E-C-T and be an enforcer like mom. Sock it to me sock it to me:
- Our founding fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity is fleeting and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and emotions of the times.
- Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say "yes," rather than to say no when "no" is what's required.
Wait, what? Just say "no" to voters and all those pesky little things like democratic principles? Oh! Now it's making sense. Christie cares about neither love NOR respect. Power. Christie is saying take and lead with power to exact your authoritarian will, and respect will follow from the generations to come.
There was a moment at the end of the speech that demonstrated this very well. On paper, you can see the flow was meant to build to a peak where the audience would "stand with him." The speech was well received by the delegates, but he didn't trust his audience to stand up at the end, so instead he TOLD the audience to stand up with him, sounding a bit like a gym teacher leading a round of jumping jacks in the gym. He didn't trust his oration to move an ovation, he instead required one. Yikes. That was awkward.
I don't know if he gained any votes for Mitt. It felt like Christie being Christie, talking to his base. I believe him when he says he doesn't want love, but I don't think he wants respect in the way his mother advised it, either. I think he wants power, because he feels power commands respect. And that's a song whistled to an entirely different tune.
If I were Mitt, I'd be bummed at that keynote. He'd be justified if he had Ann listen to him singing a quiet round of "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To" in his hotel room that night.
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