- Craig Unger
the author of Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power, which hits bookshelves September 4. Unger’s other books include the New York Times bestselling House of Bush, House of Saud and The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America’s Future.
- Arun Gupta
independent journalist and regular contributor for AlterNet, Truthout and The Guardian. He is a co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal and The Indypendent.
Republican Mitt Romney accepted the GOP presidential nomination Thursday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. We air an excerpt of Romney’s speech and get reaction from two guests: Craig Unger, author of the new book, "Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power," and Arun Gupta, an independent journalist reporting from the convention. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention." I’m Amy Goodman. We are broadcasting from the PBS station WEDU here in Tampa, Florida. This is "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," Democracy Now!’s special daily two hours of coverage from the Republican National Convention, inside and out.
Republican Mitt Romney accepted the presidential nomination Thursday at the convention here in Tampa. Romney took to the stage after being introduced by Florida Senator Marco Rubio. On his way to the podium, Romney shook hands with numerous delegates, including, as he passed the New York delegation, billionaire backer David Koch. He and his brother have promised to give hundreds of millions of dollars to the tea party and other right-wing causes as well as attack ads against the Obama administration.
During Romney’s speech, he directly reached out to voters who backed President Obama four years ago. Romney forcefully defended his work at the private equity firm Bain Capital. He pledged to create 12 million new jobs. On foreign policy, Mitt Romney accused Obama of throwing Israel under the bus. We begin today’s broadcast with an excerpt of Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech.
MITT ROMNEY: As president, I’ll protect the sanctity of life. I’ll honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America’s first liberty, the freedom of religion.
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.
I will begin my presidency with a jobs tour. President Obama began his presidency with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President, America has freed other nations from dictators.
CROWD: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
MITT ROMNEY: Every American—
CROWD: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
MITT ROMNEY: Every American was relieved the day President Obama gave the order, and SEAL Team 6 took out Osama bin Laden. On another front, every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat. In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning. President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba. He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but he’s eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone. We will honor America’s democratic ideals, because a free world is a more peaceful world. This is the bipartisan foreign policy legacy of Truman and Reagan. And under my presidency, we will return to it once again.
You might have asked yourself if these last years are really the America we want—
MITT ROMNEY: —the America that was won for us by the greatest generation. Does the America we want borrow a trillion dollars from China?
MITT ROMNEY: Does it fail to find the jobs that are needed for 23 million people and for half the kids graduating from college?
MITT ROMNEY: Are those schools lagging behind the rest of the developed world?
MITT ROMNEY: And does America that we want succumb to resentment and division among Americans?
MITT ROMNEY: The America we all know has been a story of the many becoming one, uniting to preserve liberty, uniting to build the greatest economy in the world, uniting to save the world from unspeakable darkness. Everywhere I go in America, there are monuments that list those who have given their lives for America. There’s no mention of their race, their party affiliation or what they did for a living. They lived and died under a single flag, fighting for a single purpose. They pledged allegiance to the United States of America.
AMY GOODMAN: Mitt Romney, speaking at the Republican National Convention, giving his acceptance address for his nomination.
We’re joined now by two guests: Craig Unger, author of the new book Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power; Arun Gupta is with us, regular contributor for AlterNet, Truthout and The Guardian, co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal and The Indypendent.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Craig Unger, you’ve been here all through the week. You have the very clear, in-front-of-the-scenes party, and then you’ve got the parties behind the scenes and what has been happening. The significance of this meeting?
CRAIG UNGER: Absolutely. We are force-fed a really extravagant spectacle, a narrative, and there are 15,000 reporters lapping it up. But I think the real story is less visible. And you can see there’s—in Tampa Bay, there’s a boat called the Cracker Bay, and there were—a 150-foot yacht, and there were dozens of millionaires who—a party to entertain them for—because they were giving to Romney. You saw Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to give $100 million to the Republican cause. And, of course, David Koch was a member of the New York delegation and said he may give as much as $400 million.
AMY GOODMAN: And their meetings, celebrations were going on behind the scenes.
CRAIG UNGER: Absolutely. It was not part of the narrative that was on screen, for the most part.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Arun Gupta, you were covering not only what was happening inside the convention, but outside, as well.
ARUN GUPTA: Yeah, it was—essentially, it was a military zone, a war zone, outside the convention. That was certainly part of the strategy. The protests were extremely limited. They were spirited, but maybe 500 to a thousand people at most. And it was really quite remarkable. They were—when you were moving with the protesters, they were blanketed by media, but then it was moving in this police bubble and surrounded by this surveillance state. And I think that was the intention. At one point, I happened upon the Westboro Baptists. These are the "God hates fags" bunch. And then, coming down—
AMY GOODMAN: Wait. Explain what you mean by that.
ARUN GUPTA: Well, this is this extremist religious group. It’s basically one family, the Phelps family, and they show up at high-profile events with these signs that literally say "God hates fags." They’ve also shown up—they regularly show up at the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in foreign wars, saying that this is a good thing because of gay marriage, that this—God is punishing us. And they’re really right-wing extremists.
And as I’m standing there watching this, you know, handful of protesters, down the street comes a couple hundred anarchists chanting, "We’re here! We’re queer! We’re anarchists! We’re going to mess you up!" And that, to me, kind of encapsulated what the strategy is, that the only people who are practicing democracy—and this is supposed to be a great exercise in democracy—are right-wing fanatics and left-wing militants, because everyone else has been scared off by this militarized spectacle.
AMY GOODMAN: It was quite something to see, and it will happen again in the Democratic convention—$50 million at each convention given for security. As of yesterday afternoon, what, two arrests?
ARUN GUPTA: Yeah, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: They have been talking about protesters would be having IEDs?
ARUN GUPTA: Yeah, I mean, it’s absurd. We hear all these scare stories, and what it really does is it scares the public away from exercising any sort of dissent. But I think, given that we also saw the Olympics, we should understand what one of their strategies are here. The Olympics are about pushing the poor out through these massive gentrification and infrastructure projects. What these conventions do, both political conventions, NATO, G8, they leave behind this massive security matrix to then police the poor. So ,there is very much a conscious strategy.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about, Craig Unger, what Mitt Romney did address in his speech and what he didn’t.
CRAIG UNGER: Well, earlier in the week, Karl Rove had been guest of honor at a breakfast, and—excuse me—he asked what presidential election this reminded him of, and he said 1980, Reagan versus Carter. And what I saw is Mitt Romney being—making a very deliberate attempt to be Reaganesque and to frame Barack Obama as a failed president, as another Jimmy Carter, to do so in what seemed to be gentle language—he tried, but he failed—and then to project from himself a sort of sunny view of the future—he used the word "future" at least six times in his speech—and that he was going to help people’s personal lives in a very real way.
AMY GOODMAN: Arun?
ARUN GUPTA: Yeah, this is definitely a strategy. And I think what’s interesting is that it’s warmed-over Reaganism. We still hear the same supply-side economics, that we’re going to cut taxes, cut federal spending, and this is going to magically stimulate the economy. And when Ryan said, you know, we’re going to get federal spending down below 20 percent, this is going to be absolutely disastrous. What he’s saying is—right now it’s at 24.3 percent, so we’re going to essentially cut the economy, and this is somehow going to revive it. And it’s the same voodoo economics that didn’t work 30 years ago and is certainly not going to work today.
AMY GOODMAN: Mitt Romney said the country was in a worse state now than when President Obama took office.
MITT ROMNEY: We weren’t always successful at Bain, but no one ever is in the real world of business. That’s what this president doesn’t seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risks, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It’s about dreams. Usually it doesn’t work out exactly as you might have imagined. Steve Jobs was fired at Apple, and then he came back and changed the world. It’s the genius of the American free enterprise system to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that’s dedicated to creating tomorrow’s prosperity, not trying to redistribute today’s.
That’s why—that’s why every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction, "You’re better off than you were four years ago," except Jimmy Carter and except this president. This president can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault. This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you’re better off today than when he took office.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Mitt Romney in his presidential nomination address. Arun Gupta, he invoked Steve Jobs. You have written extensively about the company that makes Apple products in China, Foxconn.
ARUN GUPTA: Yeah, both parties trip over themselves to praise Steve Jobs and Apple, the largest corporation in the world by stock market capitalization.
AMY GOODMAN: You think, because when people often do those number counts in speeches, they often say, "How many times did the person mention 'jobs'?"
ARUN GUPTA: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And so they like to say "Steve Jobs"?
ARUN GUPTA: Exactly. But, you know, I think, you know, this is supposed to be the model for the 21st century. And yet, so what is the Apple economy? There isn’t a massive workforce. It’s essentially—much of it is based in China or other third-world countries in these Dickensian factories. The jobs that are in the U.S., it’s not all these engineering or creative jobs; it’s basically this contingent, overwork workforce with no benefits—they’re guilded Walmarts—that work at these Apple—the Apple Stores. And so, this is not any sort of economic model that’s going to address the severe structural economic crises afflicting this country.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, and then we’re going to come back. Arun Gupta is regular contributor for AlterNet, Truthout and The Guardian. And Craig Unger has just published a new book; it’s called Boss Rove. And when we come back, we’re going to hear one of Craig Unger’s interactions with Karl Rove this week here in Tampa at the Republican National Convention. Stay with us.