Robert Scott, a local Republican leader, is introducing this crowd of around 200 at the Newport Recreation Department to presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. At least, that's what he says he's doing.
Scott begins by misquoting the Concord Sage, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his moderate New England accent. “‘Opportunity is just another name for America,’” he says. “But I have to tell you, we have a diminishing amount of opportunity in America today, and a declining quality of life.”
He has a few theories why. “Our thinking has become gridlocked,” he explains. “A lack of civility. Inability to have compromise. Inability to have consensus. Inability to cooperate, to effectively communicate, to be able to get it done.” Huntsman, wearing tan corduroys instead of his usual blue jeans, is standing off to the side and smiles.
“But the core of that gridlock finds its genesis in the cultures of Washington, D.C. and Wall Street,” Scott continues. He calls the whole lot of them—“the president of the United States, the United States Congress, the special interest lobbyists, the consultants, the investment bankers and their minions in Wall Street”—the “gridlocked one percent.”
It might sound a little too much like an Occupy Wall Street rant for a Republican crowd, but Scott keeps going:
They are ineffective. They are insignificant. And yet, at the same time, they are so harmful to the quality of American life, toxic to our strategic direction. While they have gotten rich the last three years, we have struggled and we have suffered. We’ve produced an America where one in four individuals are unemployed, underemployed, underutilized, or live in poverty. Eighty million people. Unbelievable. Eighty million people is as many people as live in the country of Germany.
We’re invisible. We’re the invisible elephant in the room. I have to tell you, the gridlock thinking has to change, or we’re going to continue to be a declining culture.
Scott says that of all the presidential candidates, Huntsman was the only one to get back in touch and “show [him] respect.” Huntsman nods.
“I called the campaign managers,” Scott says. “I know most of them. They never returned my phone calls, friends, because, see, the gridlock one percent, they don’t talk to average Americans.” His voice nearly trails off in sadness. After a brief pause, Scott then proceeds to actually introduce Huntsman to this crowd of patient voters.
“Governor, I have to say, you’re a scholar, you’re a diplomat, elected official, businessman, family man,” Scott intones. “You understand virtue. You understand values…We look forward to people like yourself who, with strength, will bring trust and will join us, hand in hand, to make a difference. God bless you.”
The audience erupts in applause, perhaps only to celebrate the end of our long, 3-minute nightmare. At long last, here is the candidate, the one they’ve actually come out to see and hear.
Huntsman takes the microphone and looks out into the crowd. “Robert, thank you,” he says. “That was the best introduction I’ve ever had.”