Hi, again! This is the Mouse Who Ate Xanax, a ravenous news junkie rodent who lives under The Nittany Turkey’s sofa. I sneaked a peek at the Republican National Convention this evening, and I have an opinion. I always have opinions. (I already described what opinions are worth several posts ago.)
There’s a less raucous air about this Republican convention than last week’s Democratic National Convention. One reason is that there were a lot of last minute changes this week due to Hurricane Gustav. The Monday night program was canceled, and Rudy Giuliani’s keynote speech was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday. That’s why I am calling this Night “0.5.” This Mouse also has to think that the Republican constituency is more heartland and less coastal, more small town and less big city—in other words, not as much fun. Choosing presidential candidates is serious business, so I can’t call this a negative.
Furthermore, were it not for the selection of Governor Sara Palin as VP candidate, the Republican National Convention would lack drama and suspense, which we got with the Democrats and the Clintonian dynamic. Tension inevitably will exist between the Clintons and their adversaries. Accordingly, we did not know in advance how either Bill’s or Hillary’s speeches would turn out. Republicans are more predictable. With the exception of Palin, we pretty much know in advance what they’ll be talking about—unless, of course, we’re the overtly biased NBC family of networks, which I’ll address later.
Palin does introduce a cliffhanging element. How she will handle the limelight, how she will defuse the attacks on her family, and how she will portray herself as an executive, we don’t know. This is the biggest speech of her life, and it is a potential turning point for the election.
Major party political conventions these days seldom function as the vehicle for selecting the party’s candidates for president and vice president. Instead, the primary elections serve the purpose of culling out the so-called presumptive candidates and the convention ballots merely rubber-stamp the results of the primaries. The days of multiple ballots and deadlocks long gone, the conventions have become marketing extravaganzas.
The marketing thrust of these two conventions will seek to convince the broad spectrum of swing voters toward its party’s candidates. These are centrist Democrats, Independents, and liberal Republicans who are sitting on the fence. Obviously, at either pole the closed-minded lunatic left and religious right have no intention of moving toward the other side, in spite of Obama attempting overtures to the evangelicals and the Republicans wooing hard-core feminists. Those people at the extrema are lost causes. What these marketing events are aimed at are those moderate women who were offended by their party shunning Hillary Clinton twice and those working people who were equally offended by Barack Obama’s elitist utterances while on the stump in San Francisco, among many other non-pigeonholed voters. Both major parties continue to woo them. Who will do the better job?
President Bush did not attend the convention, but his wife, Laura, and his parents, George H.W. and Barbara, were there. Laura spoke about women in the administration, about VP selection Palin, and the accomplishments of her husband’s administration. I suppose she needed to do the woman thing in order to convince voters that Democrats do not have a corner on the female market. (They do have a corner on the liberal female vote, but it’s the centrist women who will swing the vote McCain’s way. The devout liberals are a lost cause for the GOP, who will gladly concede their vote.) The First Lady then introduced her husband, who would speak to the convention via satellite.
It is interesting to note that this afternoon NBC was reporting that a featured part of Bush’s speech would be about 9/11. The headline actually read, “Bush to speak about 9/11.” David Gregory and company must have gotten their wires crossed. In any case if that is what they were expecting to pounce on, they had to be disappointed, because there was only one sentence in the actual speech about the attack on the World Trade Center. I was titillated to find that shortly after the President’s speech MSNBC changed the headlines of the same reports to eliminate the 9/11 reference.
Much of President Bush’s speech centered on John McCain’s character, patriotism, and performance. It touched very little on party platform or continuing the policies of the Bush Administration, with the exception of the tax cuts, which Bush said McCain would make permanent. Bush also spoke glowingly about VP candidate Gov. Sara Palin. Essentially, he delivered a one-line endorsement of the ticket. There has never been any love lost between Bush and McCain and it shows. At the end, after introducing his parents, the President turned the floor back over to the First Lady, saying that while he was unable to attend the convention, with Laura speaking the delegates had “traded up.”
I don’t think Bush’s speech helped or hurt McCain’s chances very much.
Laura concluded with a few words about Cindy McCain. That was it for the Bushes. Finito.
The next featured event was a smarmy and forgettable tribute film about Ronald Reagan.
Former Senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson then took the podium. After a brief but rousing tribute to Gov. Palin, Thompson spoke to McCain’s courage, character, and judgment. He said, “If you listen to the Democrats, you’d think we were in the middle of a great depression, that we are down, disrespected and incapable of prevailing against challenges facing us.” He spoke of the “history making Congress—history making because it’s the most unpopular Congress in our nation’s history” and what would happen to us if we had that Congress and a Democrat president. The promised tax increases got a lot of attention. “You don’t make citizens richer by sending all their money to Washington.” Then, he hit upon the largely passe abortion debate (or non-debate, for most of us) with a direct shot at Obama: “…we need a president who doesn’t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.” That line referred to Obama’s waffling response to a direct question about when life begins at a televised event last month and it got the biggest applause of the entire speech. In all, it was a 25-minute speech and one of the best this Mouse has heard from Thompson.
Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut was next on the podium after Chuck Berry serenaded the delegates (pretty hard to do as a dead guy, but possible through the newfangled miracle of recording). A lot of Democrats consider Lieberman a traitor because he does not subscribe to many of the increasingly left-wing intentions of many members of his former party. That earns him points with this Mouse. He is certainly an outcast because of his support for winning the war in Iraq instead of pulling out. And so, he got a huge round of applause when he said, “I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party.” Lieberman introduced McCain’s “Country First” motto, as delegates waved placards containing that slogan. He talked about McCain reaching across the aisle to transcend partisanship, in the past and in the future. “If John McCain is just another partisan Republican, then I’m Michael Moore’s favorite Democrat!” Moreover, speaking about Obama’s smoothly pleasing oratory, Lieberman said, “Eloquence is no substitute for a record.” Turning to Palin, he asserted that she is a leader who we can count on to help John McCain shake up Washington. “That’s why I believe that the true ticket for change in Washington is the McCain-Palin ticket.” Lieberman then addressed the Democrats out there in TV Land. “This is not an ordinary election because these are not ordinary times. And believe me, John McCain is not an ordinary candidate.” He said that McCain is a restless reformer who will clean up Washington. In conclusion he asked Democrats and Independents to vote for “who’s best for the country, not for the party you belong to.”
Of course, this will not sway the hardcore left, who have basically excommunicated Lieberman and who would never move toward the right unless someone held a gun to their head. (When that happens, it will be too late.) As this Mouse mentioned before, the marketing aim of both of these conventions is neither to convert the hardcore nor to preach to the choir. The former aim would be spinning wheels; the latter would be a waste of valuable marketing time. Instead, the focus must be on swinging the swing votes in the respective direction of the party in question.
In this Mouse’s opinion, tonight’s two main speeches were well directed and good, but not great. Still, the talking points were largely effective, and the speeches by Lieberman and Thompson will indeed sway some voters.
I would not expect much of a “bounce” in the polls after tonight, as the nation awaits with bated anticipation tomorrow night’s performance by vice presidential candidate Sara Palin in the face of vicious attacks on her personal life from the far left. I would love to see her step on their mud-slinging faces. That’s the kind of toughness that will shut them up, if she can suck it up and sling it right back at them. The left’s fear of Palin and what she represents is evident in the magnitude of their attacks; a counter attack by her would send them cowering behind their electronic launching pads wearing their tinfoil helmets for protection and drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid. (End of gratuitous, non-objective, anti-liberal extremist rant.)
Tomorrow night will feature Palin’s speech and the rescheduled keynote address by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Nobody will listen to Rudy, but we’re all ears for Palin. This Mouse will return with more blathering drivel soon.