Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
A feisty (and crafty) President Obama blasted the House GOP budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and embraced by Mitt Romney as “social Darwinism” in a news-dominating speech Tuesday – and set the tone for Romney’s victory party in Wisconsin that night. Romney also won Maryland and Washington, D.C., but Wisconsin was the only state where Rick Santorum was challenging him, and so it was the only state that mattered.
Ryan wound up front and center at the Wisconsin festivities, introducing Romney’s victory speech in Milwaukee. It was a big moment for the rising Wisconsin GOP star, but he kind of botched it. Still smarting from Obama’s barbs today – I remember him seething, red-cheeked and sullen, when the president shot back at his budget last year – he charged that Obama’s only reelection plan was “to divide us in order to distract us.” Then he harked back to Obama saying he wanted to be “a uniter, not a divider” – but Obama never said that, it was George W. Bush’s cliché.
Even Romney seemed a little knocked off his game by Ryan’s uneven opening, joking, “He’s not going to take Ann’s place!” (What?) The victor gave a simplistic Colorforms speech (to continue with the ’60s toy metaphors kicked off by the Etch A Sketch gaffe), mixing and matching lines and images from old speeches with new ones. He attacked Obama’s community organizing work, insisting it proved that the president turns to government, not business, when times are tough. In fact, Obama worked for a Catholic organizing project – exactly the sort of voluntary religious response to poverty conservatives claim to respect. (It’s still stunning how little Republicans have bothered to get to know about Obama’s actual history as opposed to the Sarah Palin-Andrew Breitbart cartoon version, isn’t it?)
Mainly the speech was a tired reframing of the theme he unveiled last week, accusing the president of wanting to create a “government-centered society,” as opposed to the opportunity society he stands for. He borrowed the Jim De Mint analysis, that Obama’s out to create a dependent electorate, “willing to vote for anyone who’s going to give them more.” Will those slackers and moochers on Social Security and Medicare realize Romney’s talking about them?
Putting aside the mediocre speechifying by Ryan and Romney, the former Massachusetts governor had a good night, winning all three contests. And in Wisconsin, he showed signs of being able to win over some GOP voters who’ve proved hostile to him so far. He beat Santorum among non-college grads, and tied with him among voters who made less than $100,000 a year (that’s how MSNBC broke it down; I haven’t seen data for those who make under $50,000).
For his part, Rick Santorum gave the kind of rambling speech Newt Gingrich has become known for in his waning weeks, though I enjoyed his reference to the “clear, contrasting colors” visible in the campaign. We know he said “blah people,” not black people, and he didn’t use the N-word in a speech last week (he actually didn’t). And I’m sure he meant nothing by his use of “contrasting colors” to describe his race with Obama. But it sure is interesting how often imagery like that just surfaces when Santorum’s around.
There was lots of talk about the way Ryan and Romney had bonded all weekend, since Ryan (a little belatedly) endorsed him. Lots of people seemed to see in the political bromance “a running mate is born” kind of moment. NBC’s Chuck Todd referred to “the fascinating ticket preview we got tonight.”
I don’t see it, yet. Ryan is popular with the party’s base, and he also has his admirers among the Beltway Villagers, as a “Serious” young man who’s at least trying to craft grand policy visions (even if, as the president says, they reflect a shocking Social Darwinism). But he’s prone to sulks as well as gloating. The real issue is going to be whether the state of Wisconsin is in play come the late summer and early fall.
Obama was trailing various GOP candidates badly last year; now he’s way ahead of Romney in every poll. That could change, and the success of the movement to recall Gov. Scott Walker could play a big role. If it energizes Democrats, disillusioned independents and even working-class Republicans, then not even Paul Ryan helps Romney carry Wisconsin. I don’t think the Tea Partyers having the hots for him would trump the fact that he couldn’t help Romney carry his own state.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)