Here's what I learned in 10 years of writing songs in Nashville: When somebody says they have something they want to play for you, and it's obvious that time, money, and emotion have been invested in the project, even if the tune is infested with monkey pox, it does no harm to praise the result. Usually, a small group of cynical guys will listen without making eye contact, and when the song is over, they'll say, "Nothin' wrong with that," giving the positive affirmation that the interested party seeks, without really venturing an opinion. So, when Mitt Romney is asked what he thinks of Olympic preparedness while in London on the eve of the games, is it so hard to say, "Everything looks great and I'm sure we'll have a swell time," instead of launching into a six-tiered critique of British security? Romney's one of those guys that if you show him a new watch that you bought, he'll say, "You should have talked to me first."
The bad press did not prevent Romney from staging his fund-raiser with the heads of all the European banks currently embroiled in the LIBOR scandal, but that's another topic. In a televised press interview, Mitt wore his frozen-smile face while deflecting questions about his dressage horse participating in the Olympics to his wife, Anne. Mitt claimed he wasn't even going to watch the event and didn't know what day it was scheduled. Imagine the number of handlers and groomsmen required to prepare and ship a horse overseas for an international competition. You can't say Romney's not a job creator, at least in the horse arena. But if he's paying the tab, don't tell me he won't find a television somewhere to see how splendidly his pony dances.
The most exciting horse-related news for Memphians is that Congressman Steve Cohen's brother, Martin, has invented a new type of stirrup that is being used in the Olympics by the U.S. riding team. I suppose I'm allowed to promote Cohen Stirrups if everybody attached to these games is already plugging something. The only controversy I can imagine is if some Cohen stirrups wind up on a Romney horse.
Michelle Obama headed up the official American delegation, although she had to share camera time with the Romneys while waving to the entering athletes in preparation for the opening ceremonies, which were very light-hearted when compared with China's martial approach. There was a lot of drumming, but the British drummers were looser and more relaxed than the sea of synchronized drummers the Chinese used four years ago. That's because the jolly Brits were all volunteers in the production, while the Chinese conscripted young boys from their families and forced them into Olympic drum schools, nailed their feet to the floor and beat them with bamboo rods until they got it perfect. But, the British know how to do whimsy and the Queen showed such a marvelous sense of humor, she nearly smiled. In director Danny Boyle's opening film, when Daniel Craig appeared at Buckingham Palace as James Bond, I suppose I wasn't the only one to ask, "Did Sean Connery die?" The only other request that I might have had for the Royals is, would it be too much to ask Prince Harry to bring Pippa?
The journey through four decades of British music was great to a point, but I would like to take this opportunity to apologise, on behalf of the so-called baby boomers, for my generation's obsession with the song "Hey Jude." Even in Beatles history, this one was late in the game when the band was breaking up and everyone believed Paul had written an anthem that would last. Except, after the first 10,000 listenings I began to hate the freaking song and would be horrified if young listeners judged the Beatles' musical catalog by this stinker.
Meanwhile, the Romney circus had moved on to Israel, where the campaign had arranged a major fund-raiser starring the Vegas Zionist, Sheldon Adelson. Only it was the holiday of Tisha B'av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the first two temples and fast for the night, so the Romney staff quickly arranged a $50,000-per-plate fund-raising breakfast. I'm certain the pot was sweetened by the remarks of Romney advisor Dan Senor, the partisan hack hired by the Bush government to give press conferences from Iraq. Senor hinted that a Romney presidency would give tacit approval for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, creating another international flap.
In an interview with ABC News, Romney's face froze into a twisted contortion resembling a grin and said that everything must be done to prevent Iran from becoming a "nuclear capability state." Well, every nation on earth is a "nuclear capability state." I tremble at the thought of Romney invading Poland, his next stop. With his distaste for trade unions, he might insult Lech Walesa.
The traveling Bush 2.0 caravan couldn't sour the celebration of the London games, however, so after a glorious public celebration of socialized medicine, the competition finally began. We settled in only to see Michael Phelps' fall from glory. Let that be a lesson to you kids not to stay too long on the bong. It makes your legs rubbery.
While new American stars were being born, I've already become addicted to women's weightlifting. It's the single opportunity for an announcer to say, "Her snatch looked better than her clean and jerk," and not get censored. With Mitt Romney gone until the equestrian events begin, the competition can proceed without sniping from the Savior of Salt Lake City. After the Fleet Street press scolding he received, I'd stay clear of the dressage myself.
Want to know why the British media reacted so furiously over Romney's seemingly inane pre-Olympic comments? Because he displayed bad manners, and in England, manners count. From my admittedly limited interactions, the British people are simply nicer than they are here. That's why they call it civilization.
Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.