Have You No Sense Of Decency, Sir?

That was the question Boston attorney Joseph Welch put to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.

I ask it now, as rhetorically as Welch did then, of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.


The “revenge” nonsense of course:  McRomney’s last-ditch, last moment attack on President Obama for having asked his supporters not to boo Mitt Romney, but to vote, because, as the President said living well voting is the best revenge.

Every sane American knows that joke; Mitt Romney does too.  But to Romney the candidate, suddenly, this is a sudden moment of clarity about the President.  Obama’s voters seek revenge!

It’s hardly a dog whistle anymore.

Rather, the message comes through loud and clear to anyone who cares to listen.  Romney’s crowds know what is being said:  there’s an angry black man over there exhorting his angry black voters (and their fellow travelers) to seek revenge on proper Americans.

A digression — but not really.  I’ve just started to read Gilbert King’s harrowing new book, The Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. It tells the story of four young African American men, falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949, and the terrible events that flowed from that lie.  One lesson to draw from that story:  the civil war between white Americans ended in 1865.  The civil war that pitted American whites — under the cover of law, often prosecuted by uniformed agents of the state —  against American blacks did not cease until the early 1960s.*

Mitt Romney was seventeen years old when the Civil Rights act was passed.  He was thirty-one when his church finally abolished its race-based restrictions.  He was a young man through the great civil rights struggles of the 1960s.  He knows — or should — the consequences of racial hatred and division.

Another digression:  I don’t have a lot of time for John McCain.  He’s responded to his defeat in 2008 with none of the honor, gravity or dedication to country that men like George McGovern or Jimmy Carter displayed in like circumstances– or as George Romney did, for that matter.  But I’ll give him this:  to a great extent he resisted the pull of race-baiting in the last presidential campaign.  His running mate wanted to go there, and so did much of his party, but he didn’t.  And that’s something, and not a small matter either.  So:  compare and contrast.

On the Republican side this year there has been an almost ceaseless background drone:  Obama is not quite a “real American;” he apologizes; he doesn’t get what this country is about.  The theme, blunt and gross at the Limbaugh end of the GOP noise machine, modulated and disguised just enough when it’s Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, is clear enough to anyone who’s lived in these United States long enough to reach the age when it is possible to buy a drink legally, or vote.  And I guess I’ve experienced what happens with any kind of constant white noise:  it kind of fades into the background, neither (quite) unheard nor consciously noticed.  That’s how it works best — a constant presence that never rises to the level that draws a direct reply.

But this last, this “revenge” idiocy, is one provocation too far, at least for me.  Mitt Romney knows what he is doing.  He’s telling this country that there is a guy over there, the President, who does not legitimately hold his office, who seeks not the best for America, but the revenge of some Americans on others.  It doesn’t matter that the claim is risible on its face, that it clearly morphs beyond recognition the actual meaning of Barack Obama’s words.  The trope sends a message that Romney wants to deliver.  It’s what you say when you can’t shout Ni-Clang! anymore; it’s how you play on the notion — as Politico would have it — that only white Americans can confer– or enjoya true mandate to lead.

Here’s the thing:  the easy path is to say that this is just what they do.  It’s been the GOP line since 1968, and it will continue to be so until we finally salt the fields of that no-longer-Grand, way-too-Old Party.  But I can’t leave it there, however much I understand that the hunger for power trumps all else.  Mitt Romney isn’t a party.  He isn’t a movement, or an institution, or anything but one man.  He owns his acts, his words, his choices.  And he has chosen to close out his campaign with a moment in his stump speech that plays on the worst impulses in American history.

Has he no shame?

At this sorry end of a seven year pursuit of the White House, the question answers itself.

*You could argue that it hasn’t ended yet — but I would say that there is a difference between sporadic acts and the sustained and legally protected violence of the pre-1964 era.  But even so, the fact that this is still even a discussion is something to fuel both anger and despair.

Image: Alfred Dedreux, Pug Dog in an Armchair, 1857 (Yeah.  I do know I’ve used this before.  But it works, OK?)

27 replies
  1. 1
    Sad But True says:

    really? one provocation too far? he hit that limit for me sometime back in february, i think it was.

    i gotta say, though, my opinion completely changed a short while ago, after i heard him talk with chris berman at halftime about the spirit of those women’s bobsled competitors back in 2002. now….i’m not sure who i’m going to vote for. fortunately, there are still some commercials for me to tune into before the andy reid era comes to its unofficial (yet blessed) end.

  2. 2
    redshirt says:

    No, they don’t.

  3. 3
    The Dangerman says:

    Has he no shame?

    No. He’s running for President for Pete’s sake.

  4. 4
    Steeplejack says:

    DVR Alert!

    Nate Silver is scheduled to be on The Colbert Report tonight.

  5. 5
    eemom says:

    OT, but de Boob just showed up at the bottom of mm’s “Predictions” thread — AFTER all the big kids went home — to go “nyaaah nyaaah nyaaah.”

    I did need a good laugh this evening.

  6. 6
    Soonergrunt says:

    Tom, if there’s one thing Mitt Romney has never been credibly said to have in public life was a sense of shame or decency. This last act is like Jim Jones putting cyanide in the Kool Aid when he finally knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the jig was up.

  7. 7
    geg6 says:

    Of course Mittens has no shame. He is a horrible person through and through. So is his entire family. There is nothing in his background, his business career, his actions as a candidate over the last five or six years, or his campaign right now that show any evidence of a sense of shame. I understand completely why Obama has such distate and disdain for him.

  8. 8
    Felonius Monk says:

    He has become the euphemism for “political mendacity“!

  9. 9
    catclub says:

    @geg6: ” I understand completely why Obama has such distate and disdain for him.”

    all the 2008 GOP candidates hated Romney after the primaries.

  10. 10
    Bruce S says:

    “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

    This is too polite a question to address to this scumbag. Mitt Romney has disgraced his family name. His father was a classic decent old-school Republican. His son is a symbol of everything that’s gone wrong with our country and our economy over the past thirty years. He’s doubled-down on the sociopathic trajectory of the cancer on our body politic known as the GOP.

    Romney is a 1% grifter. I can’t fucking wait to see the look on his creepy wife’s face tomorrow night. Romney is such a POS, I’d fucking vote for Richard Nixon before I’d vote for him – just on the basis of personal integrity.

  11. 11
    Punchy says:

    Its all about delegitimizing the Kenyan Kneegro for the next 4 years. Wouldnt be surprised in the least if theres a few state legys (looking at you, AZ and GA) that pass “laws” outlawing the Federal govt or some shit. After all, “he stole the election” they’ll scream….

  12. 12
    Steve says:

    This post sort of reads like you’re trying to encourage people to take revenge.


  13. 13
  14. 14
    AA+ Bonds says:

    The Democrats will get revenge on Mitt Romney for his actions as President if it is the last thing they do

  15. 15
    AA+ Bonds says:

    Oh, and Kill Whitey

  16. 16
    Narcissus says:

    Everybody who has any extended contact with Mitt seems to develop a deep dislike for him.

    Think about that.

  17. 17
    Don K says:

    Yes, Mitt has no shame. SATSQ.

    Having said that, as a gay man hell yes I want revenge, against the people who would toss me into jail or send me to a shrink, who would prevent my people from serving in the armed forces, who continue to prevent me from marrying, who would give hospitals the right to prevent me from being with my partner when he’s sick, and prevent me from making decisions on his behalf when that’s necessary.

  18. 18
    cmorenc says:

    Mitt Romney is one of the most enormous disappointments of failed, curdled potential in modern American history. He could have been the intelligent trans-partisan moderate Republican in the mold of his father, in the mold he first appeared to be following in his term as Governor of Massachusetts. The kind of intelligent, moral man who could pursue progressive ideals from within an enlightened conservative framework, and yet keep the nation’s finances prudently in order.

    However, that’s not the man, not the character that he proved to be. The Mitt that’s emerged during this campaign is a polished adult with superficially civilized manners, but who underneath remains the same person who was the ringleader bully in leading a mob to assaultively cut off the hair of a weaker classmate at prep school, and who in his earlier adult years was a predatory capitalist who cared little about the people collaterally damaged during extraction of his wealth from businesses. The Mitt that’s emerged is a sociopath, not a philanthropist, who will say anything, do anything, to sell and close a deal in order to seize the levers of power and money from a situation, fuck-you capitalism personified.

    Sorry Mitt, your dad would be deeply ashamed of you were he alive to see what you’ve become, what slimy disintegrity you’ve shown, how you’re willing to dip into the cesspool of the worst racist impulses and nativist fears in order to win office. Should you lose tomorrow, don’t let the door hit you in the ass going out on your way to obscurity.

  19. 19
    Don K says:

    @Bruce S:

    I lived through the Nixon era, and George fucking Bush made me yearn for Nixon. If anything, Romney is worse. Hell yeah, if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I’d vote for Nixon before either of those two.

  20. 20
    lefthanded compliment says:

    No decency, no shame, no honor, no soul: Willard is the ultimate empty suit. But the truly shameful thing is that somewhere around 47-48% of the electorate is going to vote for this predatory sociopath anyway. That sad fact can only reflect the level of residual racism in our society.

  21. 21
    Robin G. says:

    There’s a whole lot of probing questions we can ask about the nature of Willard Romney: the influence of the church, the corruptive power of money, vaguely Oedipal drives of sons to succeed where their fathers failed, the collective Id of the current Republican party and what that means for those who would march under its standard.

    But, at the end of the day, all that’s a circle jerk for armchair psychologists. The fact is that Mitt’s an asshole. That’s really all it is. He is just an epic level douchebag, full stop. And it will be a fucking *privilege* to help send him into exile tomorrow.

  22. 22
    Capt. Seaweed says:

    @Bruce S:

    I’d fucking vote for Richard Nixon before I’d vote for him – just on the basis of personal integrity.

    Shared on FB. Quote of the Year. Well done.

  23. 23
    @VividBlueDotty says:

    @Bruce S:

    I’d fucking vote for Richard Nixon before I’d vote for him – just on the basis of personal integrity.

    Totally agree with the comment of the year “nomination.” I’ve called myself a yellow dog for many years, but to be fair, I believe I would vote for a rabid dog or a dead dog before pulling the lever for Romney. He is the most cynical and the lyingest political candidate in the history of America.

    I have been waiting all day to see someone make of the “revenge” meme what I made of it this morning when I saw it on Facebook. When my otherwise (mostly) sensible WOMEN friends post “Vote because you love your country not for revenge” then I knew that Romney can say ANYTHING and get away with it. If he miraculously ekes out a win tomorrow those fools will get the Presidency they deserve and the rest of us will suffer. Cold comfort, true, but I don’t expect it to happen. I expect to wake up on my birthday, November 7th and celebrate the reelection of MY President, who has more character and integrity in his little toe than Romney has in his entire body.

  24. 24
    Gretchen says:

    I find Romney’s willingness to exploit racial division especially disgusting when I remember that he was a young man living in Michigan during the riots. Nobody who lived there at the time, as I did, can forget them. He knows the terrible cost of racial division, but is still willing to deliberately stir it up for personal gain. The man is scum. I hope after November 7 we won’t have to hear anything more about any of the Romneys again. Except maybe for their shock, anger and humiliation at losing.

  25. 25
    NotMax says:

    May Mitt’s campaign for the presidency end as well as his mother’s for the Senate.

  26. 26
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    I used to say that GW Bush made me long for Nixon… and good God, Romney is WORSE?!!??

  27. 27
    Ellyn says:

    It isn’t over. If you read Michele Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” you will find that she makes a good case for the idea that racism and violence are alive and well and have morphed into something that’s right there for those who have eyes to see.

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