11:06 p.m. August 3, 2012

Romney Approves Self-immolation

With Obama’s gaffe about businesses not being built by their founders still ringing in the public conscious, the rhetoric of the Romney campaign has rapidly turned into a simple split: you’re either a worker who goes out and earns his paycheck, or you’re a threatening other leaching off the state and assuming the government will build your company for you.

So it was that we two, Stakhanovite and sturdy, got up early during our corporate retreat in Sin City, leaving the left wing of NSFWCORP still in bed, to get to a Romney campaign stop in North Las Vegas. The scene was pretty much as you’d expect: a factory in amongst light industry, Secret Service discreetly controlling the scene, and on the other side of the road a few Planned Parenthood protestors being heckled by the Republican faithful.

“Get a job. Go to work,” yelled a middle-aged woman who wasn't at work, sporting a Romney “Believe in America” button.

To our great journalistic disappointment, the speech itself contained no obvious gaffes. Romney did, however, provide a few awkward historical examples of individuals standing up to oppressive authorities.

“I think of Rosa Parks who was on that bus when the bus driver said, 'Give up your seat for this white man' and she said, 'No,'” he said to the cheering, mostly white crowd, all hoping that America’s black president will soon give up his seat to this white man.

Romney then cited “that fellow in Tunisia who was told by a government bureaucrat that he couldn’t open up his fruit stand and took away his fruit stand wares, and he in protest committed suicide by self-immolation. And from that became a revolution throughout the Middle East that continues to roll.” The crowd had no reaction this endorsement, perhaps never having considered the efficacy of self-immolation as a response to bureaucratic fruit-stand-ware confiscation. Romney, it seems, has an uncommon appreciation for the common self-immolator.

He next told the story of how a Romanian crowd turned on Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu during one of his speeches: “[An] older woman looked up and said, ‘Liar’ and shouted again, ‘Liar,’ and then people around her began saying it and then it spread throughout the entire crowd and he had to turn to try and flee and a solider grabbed him and held him. Ultimately he was executed.” Judging by its muted response, the crowd’s view on mob uprisings was as ill-defined as its view on burning oneself alive. Or perhaps they wanted Romney to be confident they weren’t about to detain and execute him after a two-hour televised trial.

“I love this country because of the freedom of our people here,” Romney said, “[because] of our ability to change the world.” Never mind that his examples either weren’t Americans, or sought to change the world specifically because they were not free. “I love this country!” Romney cried, and the crowd was cheering again.

Mark Ames was physically and mentally present for this story.