I remember Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural Address. He had reached the climax of the speech when he stopped for what seemed like a dramatic pause. He looked over at his new chief-of-staff, smiled, and said, “Line?” Meese whispered, “God bless you. God bless America.” And Reagan, The Great Communicator even then, put his hand over the mike and said to Meese, “God bless me or God bless them?” “Just say the line!” Meese spat in a harsh whisper. “God bless you. God bless America,” intoned Reagan and the speech went into the annals of inaugural address history as having the greatest dramatic pause of all time.
The Republicans don’t have statesmen like these anymore Ronald Reagan knew how to pick up a cue but Romney and Gingrich are cueless. Gingrich keeps talking on and on because he’s afraid that if he stops he won’t remember what comes next. Romney spent $250,000 to replace his corneas with artificial ones that have his campaign speeches and debate talking points etched on the insides. You can tell when he’s reading off his corneas because he gets that soulful, inward look in his eyes.
Both of these men stand as pygmies in the shadow of Reagan. George W. Bush stood as Pygmalion in Karl Rove’s ‘enry ‘iggins shadow as he would read his speeches off of Rove’s capacious belly. When there was a passage Rove wanted Bush to emphasize, he would just expand his belly at that particular line, typically right over the belly button. This system worked beautifully until one night in Tennessee in 2002, Bush was giving his speech, and looked over at Rove’s belly in horror. Rove was eating a chili corndog and had spilled chili on his belly, obscuring Bush’s next line. Bush hadn’t a clue what he was supposed to say next so he ad-libbed, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee…”
Neither Romney nor Gingrich are naturally endowed with this quickness of mind. And neither are endowed with a whispering Meese or a capacious-bellied Rove. How can either man ever expect to be President?