We almost had a news story of historic proportions last week. No, not the implosion of Mitt Romney’s presidential ambitions, though that would have been one for the books, both accounting and history.
Let’s see a show of hands from anyone who was truly surprised to learn that the nominee of the Grand Old Party might have expressed contempt for 47% of the electorate behind closed doors. Romney has equivocated so frequently on the campaign trail, reluctant to discuss the specifics of his assorted agendas, that you had to figure he was saving the straight talk for his best buds. Sure enough, it was at a fundraising dinner whose plates cost the median household income of an average American family that the nominee was, as Allen Funt used to say, caught in the act of being himself.
Romney, secretly recorded in Boca Raton in May, expressed his disdain for those who pay no income taxes—that includes not just low-earning citizens but also a number of high-earning corporations-that-are-people-too who game the system—as well as offering snarky commentary on immigration, Latino voters, Mideast peace and David Letterman. The hour-long video, made public by Mother Jones magazine, stirred a breeze among huffing and puffing Democrats, but it reached gale force among Republican partisans who urged Romney to double down on his statements. Indeed, the nominee has not renounced anything he actually said, only the way that he said it: “It’s not elegantly stated, let me put it that way.”
It was unnecessary to be elegant in Boca, because Mitt was among his own. The event was held at the 10,000-square-foot home of fellow vulture capitalist Marc Leder, and the folks who proffered $50,000 a plate for the festivities there likely share the belief that a Romney-Ryan ticket is the best way to preserve their opulent lifestyles. After all, the Paul Ryan tax plan is predicated on cutting the taxes of the wealthiest and raising them on everybody else.
The 1% would be well advised to reconsider their opposition to Obama. While unemployment and the consumer economy are recovering only sluggishly, the current administration has made a lot of people on Wall Street quite happy, especially in the banking sector. Obama’s financial policy has been beneficial for corporations and less so for individuals still trying to recover from the crash of 2009. Looking ahead, the president’s stated priority to cut the deficit instead of acting to end the jobs crisis—a stand that puts Social Security and Medicare, not even connected to the budget deficit, in jeopardy—should make well-to-do registered Republicans consider returning the incumbent.
Many such voters, however, have a serious problem with the president: he’s not like Us. That “otherness” takes many forms, from his complexion to his crooning, but for Alabama’s Republican Party chairman, it’s that Barack Obama is a Communist by birth.
Bill Armistead was among his own last Wednesday in Fairhope when he told a GOP women’s group to watch a new movie about the president’s so-called “true” origins. It’s a straight-to-DVD release called Dreams from My Real Father, with a plot straight out of a Lifetime movie. According to director Joel Gilbert’s loopy thesis, Obama’s maternal grandfather was a CIA spook in Hawaii who, when his daughter got pregnant out of wedlock in 1960, convinced the Kenyan national Barack Obama Sr. to marry her in order to legitimize the birth. The real father, says Gilbert, was a Communist organizer named Frank Marshall Davis, who “indoctrinated Obama [Jr.] with a political foundation in Marxism and an anti-White world view.”
And we know this is true, why? Because Bill Armistead said so. According to the Mobile Press-Register, the GOP head stated, “I verified that it is factual, all of it.”
We eagerly await Mr. Armistead’s meticulously annotated report. Meanwhile, on the plus side, by proving that the late Frank Davis, a Kansas native, was the president’s real father, Gilbert and Armistead put a definitive end to questions about Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to serve, so thanks for that.
However, not even that is the big story we’d hoped to report. Last week, stunning news emerged from the world of classic rock, when the last surviving member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington, mentioned in a CNN interview that the band would no longer be using the Confederate battle flag as a backdrop for its concerts.
“Through the years, people like the KKK and skinheads kinda kidnapped the Dixie or Southern flag from its tradition and the heritage of the soldiers, that’s what it was about,” he explained. “We didn’t want that to go to our fans or show the image like we agreed with any of the race stuff or any of the bad things.”
This was big stuff. A Lynyrd Skynyrd show without the Stars and Bars would be like a Madonna show without lycra or a KISS show without platform shoes. However, things change, as Lynyrd Skynyrd found out the hard way after the deaths of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, accompanists Steve and Cassie Gaines, and three others in a plane crash 35 years ago next month.
It’s easy to pigeonhole Lynyrd Skynyrd as a straight-up redneck band, but its music was always more complicated than that, and there’s still no good reason why the group’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The band has always been famed for going its own way, so we should not be surprised that, after considerable adverse commentary from the fan base, Rossington decided to make a little less history. On the LS website last Friday he stated, “We still utilize the Confederate (rebel) flag on stage every night in our shows…[it] means something more to us, Heritage not Hate.”
Not to worry. Sooner or later, somebody’s going to stand up for something good, and when that happens, it’ll definitely be a news story of historic proportions.