Bob Schwartz

Tag: Republican National Convention

“I Shook The Hand Of The American Dream”: Rick Santorum And The Weirdness Of The Tortured And Overextended Metaphor

This is about Rick Santorum speaking at the Republican National Convention. But it is not about politics.

It is about rhetoric, as in writing and speechifying.

Rick Santorum is a fearless stylist. Some of us love sweater vests, and were happy to see someone so openly and proudly wearing them.

But as a speaker, his RNC speech, while obviously heartfelt and clearly partisan, contained an over-the-top device that all writers and all speakers and just about any communicator needs to avoid: the tortured and overextended metaphor.

To begin with, metaphors are tricky for anybody, even the most seasoned writer. When a metaphor is off by more than a little, the term we use to describe it is “torturned.”

Beyond the tortured metaphor is the extended one. Even an apt metaphor gets its strength from its ability to surprise and hook our imagination. Like all great moments, it is here and should soon be gone. The extended metaphor milks that moment dry.

And so without further ado, this excerpt from Rick Santorum’s speech:

America is still the greatest country in the world – and with God’s help and good leadership we can restore the American Dream.


I held its hand. I shook the hand of the American Dream. And it has a strong grip.

I shook hands of farmers and ranchers who made America the bread basket of the world. Hands weathered and worn. And proud of it.

I grasped dirty hands with scars that come from years of labor in the oil and gas fields, mines and mills. Hands that power and build America and are stewards of the abundant resources that God has given us.

I gripped hands that work in restaurants and hotels, in hospitals, banks, and grocery stores. Hands that serve and care for all of us.

I clasped hands of men and women in uniform and their families. Hands that sacrifice and risk all to protect and keep us free. And hands that pray for their safe return home.

I held hands that are in want. Hands looking for the dignity of a good job, hands growing weary of not finding one but refusing to give up hope.

And finally, I cradled the little, broken hands of the disabled. Hands that struggle and bring pain, hands that ennoble us and bring great joy.

“I shook the hand of the American dream…. Hands looking for the dignity of a good job…And finally, I cradled the little, broken hands of the disabled.”

While Rick Santorum may be wrong on the issues, he has proved himself a man of conscience and conviction (maybe one of the reasons he failed to get his party’s nomination). But as a speaker, the image of those hands with eyes wide open, looking for a good job, may be one that sticks with us.

The Romneys And The Regular People

Wild speculation continues to spin about what the Romneys don’t want to reveal in their tax returns. Low tax rates? Offshore investments? Questionable tax shelters?

Following Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is that they simply don’t want to bolster what we already know: the Romneys are not regular people. We have seen glimpses of that in the little bits of disclosure, but year after year of low-tax ultra-income would just make the point more overwhelming and concrete.

Ann Romney seems to be a good person who has been a good wife and mother. She has suffered from health problems, maybe more than her fair share. Compassion demands that we regard that suffering without criticism and with open-hearted empathy.

But her speech to the Republican National Convention was ridiculous in the literal sense. She talked about the plight of regular people as if she had long-time close relationships with lots of them and had deep, first-hand understanding of their struggles. Anything is possible, but that is far-fetched. There is nothing wrong with the Romneys’ life. People are entitled to their lives and experiences; sometimes it’s not even a matter of choice when those rarefied lives are foist on them by circumstances.

Over the years that Mitt Romney has clumsily been running for President, pundits of both parties have offered a simple solution to him and, presumably, to his wife: just be yourself, whoever that is. America hates phonies. The Republicans ought to know this, given how often they charge President Obama with that crime.

Mitt Romney is not a regular person, and has never been. Neither is Ann. Maybe you can win the Presidency as an openly stratospherically rich and out of touch person, maybe you can’t. But watching someone try so hard to hide that is not only poor politics, it is downright depressing.

Donald Trump, The Birth Certificate And The WMDs

Donald Trump continues to pump up the question of Barack Obama’s birth certificate, even on the eve of the Republican National Convention. In fact, the big “surprise” he has in store for the convention may have something to do with that (publication of the President’s “actual” birth certificate, perhaps?)

There are two sides to the question of Barack Obama’s birth: one small group that seemingly refuses to accept the reality that he was born in the United States, and one very large group—including plenty of Republicans—who can’t understand how there is a small group still denying that reality.

This is all about reality, and the way that politics deals with it.

The underlying truth about the curious stubbornness of “birther” partisans is not that they deny the President was born in Hawaii. It’s that they deny and refuse to accept that he is the President, wherever he was actually born. They will never be satisfied by any proof that Barack Obama wasn’t born outside the United States, because as a necessary political matter, he really was born outside.

We faced a similar issue nine years ago. In the prelude to the Iraq War, two possible realities fought it out, and there were large numbers of both believers and skeptics about the reality of WMDs, which was the casus belli. Some circumstantial evidence was offered for their existence, which didn’t quite satisfy a number of reasonable people. But as a political matter, WMDs had to exist, and since there was no way of definitively answering the question short of invasion, invade we did. All these years later, there is broad consensus that there were no WMDs. But that hasn’t stopped a small but durable band of believers from still insisting that they were there, because as a political matter they have to have been. For them, there will never be enough proof to the contrary.

It may not seem like it in the midst of this election season, but politics actually has some good uses. Denying reality is not one of them. Politics is supposed to serve reality, not the other way around.