When Lou Reed wrote “Things go from bad to weird” 30 years ago, he might well have been thinking of this week in politics. Amazingly, it’s only been in the space of a few days that news junkies’ attention has been drawn from the ongoing clusterf**k of the Republican presidential campaign to advertisers pouring fuel on Rush Limbaugh’s self-immolation, and then to whatever you call this zombie-Breitbart manufactured controversy.
So I guess it’s only natural that the GOP candidates for the White House seem to recognize that they’re not keeping up in the race to be the most ridiculous things in the political world. And that’s how you get things like this:
“Mornin’ y’all. Good to be with you,” said [Mitt] Romney as he kicked off his town hall at the Mississippi Farmer’s Market Friday morning. “I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits. I’ll tell you! Delicious.”
During an event in Pascagoula Thursday evening, Romney explained to the crowd that he feels like an “unofficial southerner” after spending so much time with his personal aide, Garrett Jackson, who is from the state.
“He is now turning me into, I don’t know, an unofficial Southerner, and I’m learning to say y’all and I like grits. Things…strange things are happening to me,” said Romney.
A perfect strategy for a guy who’s already got people doubting his authenticity, wouldn’t you say? But of course, Romney is still the odds-on Republican nominee, because his opponents can’t stand to let him corner the market on off-message gaffes. Cue Newt Gingrich (as tweeted by an ABC reporter):
Gingrich: Romney tried grits for 1st time. “I’ve had some acquaintance with grits, with shrimp, with cheese, with gravy.“
Yeah, and I’ll bet you’ve tried them with caviar and foie gras, too, huh? I mean, a hectoring know-it-all (with famously expensive tastes) like Newt is probably one of the few guys on Earth who might lose a good-ol’-boy contest to Mitt Romney… well, him and Rick Santorum. Which I guess tells you a lot about how the GOP nomination contest has turned out this way.
Since I would bet that very few Republican voters in Mississippi are fans of Laurie Anderson’s work, perhaps Mitt or someone should have tried the gambit of stealing the performance artist’s humorous routine on the topic (recorded in a piece called New Jersey Turnpike):
I know this English guy who was driving around in the South. And he stopped for breakfast one morning somewhere in southeast Georgia. He saw “grits” on the menu. He’d never heard of grits so he asked the waitress, “What are grits, anyway?” She said, “Grits are fifty cents.” He said, “Yes, but what are they?” She said, “They’re extra.” He said, “Yes, I’ll have the grits, please.”
Actually, in my long-ago memory of seeing her perform this story, she told the story about herself, but whatever. In any event, I’d like to think that someone who might actually wind up governing this country (if unemployment goes back up) would have the self-deprecating wit to try something like this instead of blatantly false pandering.
But then again, maybe southern Republicans are so paranoid and tribal that they’d rather have the pandering. Maybe the humiliating phoniness of it somehow strikes them as the respect they demand.