Tuesday, February 21, 2012

'The Trees Are the Right Height'

I don't hang on Mitten's every word so this performance eluded me for a few days. It's only 43 seconds and it is just weird.
It's like some unholy hybrid between the dad from Father Knows Best and Robby the Robot at a Comedy Club open mike night.

First, just watch how he moves, stiffly back and forth, like a Cylon Toaster with a software glitch. Then, and only then, listen to the words. I'll give Romney the benefit of the doubt and assume his "trees" line was intended to be a joke but he rolled right over the line like a monster truck crushing a vintage Mustang.

There are carefully scripted stutters and "ums" inserted to make it sound like he was talking off the cuff (the term is "disfluencies") except there is something unnatural about it - no brief pause, tics, or subtle eye movement suggesting he is searching for the right word. These are just verbal sound effects deliberated imbedded in the speech to make it seem less scripted.

And then there are those five little words at the end, "I want to do well." Where the fuck did they come from and what the fuck do they mean?

Only now can we get to the tone. There is something childish in the speech, like he was trying to invoke The Three Bears. (California redwoods are too tall, Mississippi magnolias too short, but white pines are just the right height.) The speech was childish like Romney's fourth grader recitation of America the Beautiful. This is as if Mitt believes his crowds have poor listening comprehension and must be talked down to like they were little children.

There was mechanical enthusiasm but no passion. Even with the pre-planned disfluencies, you get no sense he is feeling the words. You can see the gears grinding - paste on fake smile, make eye contact with passing glances, use hands, say words as written. No wonder people say Romney is a robot or a Martian or a Martian robot.
You can see the gears grinding.

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