Newsweek Asks British Novelist to Trash the White 'Supremacist' GOP Convention

Here’s more proof, as if it were necessary, that Newsweek is a partisan joke under Tina Brown. With both political conventions in the rear-view mirror, the September 17 edition carried three adoring two-page color photos of the Democrat convention – and for "balance," a 2,250-word jeremiad against the Republican convention by British novelist Martin Amis – an old boyfriend of Tina’s who endorsed Obama in 2008.

After many elaborate phrases of disgust at conservatives, Amis found space to praise “Obama’s astonishing self-possession” in office while Romney looked like “he just did a gram of coke.” (Earth to Amis: Obama is the admitted coke user.) Amis also savagely attacked the Romneys for being impossibly white and Mormon, and the Republican convention being "vestigially supremacist" against Obama, while the Democrats were "vestigially abolitionist" in Charlotte:

Now compare Tampa to the decisively more attractive words and mentalities coming out of Charlotte, N.C. It has not been pleasant, during this last term, to watch the desacralizing, the chastening, and some might say the attritional coarsening of the young president. And the populace has not liked watching it either: the approval rating of Congress is 9 percent (whereas the first lady stands at a Colin Powell–like 66).

The violence of Republican rejectionism was vestigially supremacist, just as the love inspired by the Obamas was vestigially abolitionist: the passions that gave rise to 650,000 [Civil War] fratricides do not soon evaporate into nothing. Seeming to confirm this, the audience in Tampa looked practically antebellum, while the audience in Charlotte looked just like the future.

Obama’s least touted virtue is his astonishing self-possession in the face of the planet’s highest office. Think back to the primaries, in which Mitt Romney, at various stages, managed to trail to the likes of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain. Whenever he did notch up a win, Romney reminded me of Dan Quayle in 1988, tapped for the vice presidency in New Orleans: in the words of Stuart Stevens (now Romney’s chief strategist), “he looked like he just did a gram of coke.” In common with George W. Bush, Romney shows little resistance to what Maxim Gorky (onetime friend of Lenin) called “the filthy venom of power.” Now think back to Obama in Chicago in November 2008: the calmest man in America. Perhaps the calmest man in the world.

Those are the last two paragraphs, and just before that, Amis mocked those "indecent" tax cuts as a failed way to save a party "doomed" by only appealing to whites:

Tax cuts ... for the rich? And this plainly indecent policy is already an established failure. According to the Pew Research Center, only 8 percent of ordinary Americans—and only 10 percent of the “upper class”—think the rich are taxed too much. The GOP, moreover, is doomed by demographics. It is simply running out of the white people who form its electoral base; as one of Romney’s strategists conceded, “This is the last time anyone will try to do this.” We know that Republicans refuse to compromise with Democrats. For how long will they refuse to compromise with reality?

Newsweek emphasized in a pull quote how much Amis hated being in Tampa with Republicans, that "By the second day, I felt as sour as Bill Murray [in Groundhog Day] mingling for the thousandth time with the capering revelers ("Pick up your partner and join in the fun") on Gobbler's Knob."

"The grim torpor briefly lifted" for Ann Romney, but she was a fake:

Here was a woman who had submitted, no doubt with qualms, to the inevitable falsity of political display; and you warmed to her warmth, even as you realized that much of her speech, with its emphasis on “working moms,” “the couple who want another child” but can’t afford it, and so on, was plainly disingenuous. The strugglers she claimed to champion (and it was allegedly tough for the basement-dwelling Romneys, back in the day) are the very people that her husband, if elected, will do nothing for. You realized, too, that Ann won’t help the GOP’s desperate quest for diversity: she looks like the worthy winner of Miss Dairy Queen 1970.

To Amis, Paul Ryan was worse. "Many of us thought that Romney would want someone splashier and more populist on the ticket, Christine O’Donnell, say, or Joe the Plumber. But he went instead for a hard-nut wonk who actually 'stands for something.'"

Ryan's speech was a "pack of lies" that will fail because "Who will submit to being lied to with a sneer? The effects of dishonesty are cumulative. Undetectable by focus groups or robocalls, they build in the unconscious mind, creating just the kind of unease that will sway the undecided in November."

Then there was the Mitt-hatred. Amis began by enjoying the Clint Eastwood "excruciation," and how "All we lacked was a live feed to Romney -- to Romney's characteristic smile of pain (that of a man with a very sore shoulder who has just eased his way into a tight tuxedo." That, too, was a Newsweek pull quote. 

Then came a very nasty exhortation on Mitt and his appalling Mormonism:

He never came close to settling the question that all Marica must ask: is Mitt the kind of guy you’d like to have a glass of water with? At this late stage it’s time to remind ourselves of a salient fact. There is only one principle on which Romney has never wavered, and that is his religion.

He is a crystallized and not an accidental believer. You can see it in his lineless face. Awareness of mortality is in itself ageing (it creases the orbits of the eyes, it torments the brow); and Romney has the look of someone who seriously thinks that he will live forever. He is a Mormon—though he doesn’t like talking about it. And if I were a Mormon, I wouldn’t like talking about it either. Whatever you may feel about their doctrines, the great monotheisms are sanctioned by the continuities of time: Islam has 15 centuries behind it, Christianity has 20, Judaism at least 40. One of the dozens of quackeries that sprang up during the Great Revival, Mormonism was founded on April 6, 1830. The vulgarity and venality—the tar and feathers—of its origins are typical of the era. But there are aspects of its history that might still give us pause.

The first Prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, had 87 wives, of whom the youngest was 14. Brigham Young, the second Prophet, was husband to 70; he also incited a series of murders (to quell intra-church rivalries). Mormons suffered persecution, and they retaliated — in 1857, for example, they killed 120 men, women, and children (the Mountain Meadows massacre). During the Civil War, the Mormons’ sympathies lay with the South, and unavoidably so, for they too dealt in human chattels; as one historian, Hugh Brogan, puts it, “Lincoln might as well have said of polygamy what he said of slavery, that if it was not wrong, nothing was wrong.” Not until 1890 did the church renounce the practice (though it persisted well into living memory); not until 1978 did a further “revelation” disclose that black people were the equals of whites—by which time Mitt Romney was 31 years old.

It may be that the heaviest item in the Mormon baggage is not its moral murk or even its intellectual nullity so much as its hopeless parochialism. “A man with a big heart from a small town,” they called him in Tampa. We don’t question the big heart; but we gravely doubt the big mind. The truth is that Romney, who aspires to lead the free world, looks ridiculous when he’s not in America. How can he bestride the oceans—the Latter-Day Saint with the time-proof face, who believes that the Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?

The online headline really captured the spirit of the article: “Mitt is stiff, Ann is phony, and Paul Ryan is a liar. British novelist Martin Amis scoped out the RNC and reports back.”

Elsewhere recently, Amis told Slate's Jacob Weisberg that he sees a “disastrous lack of empathy” in Romney, and he thinks Americans ought to be leery of Romney’s Mormon faith, too.

Tim Graham's picture