Time has a funny way of filtering out initially misguided thoughts, and putting things in perspective. As the news cycle speeds up, and opinions come hot n heavy, I wanted to take a little bit of time before jumping headfirst into my thoughts from these 4 days of Republican-Mania.
To put the week into the right context, I should make clear how skeptical I was coming into the Convention. Despite numerous invites, I consciously decided against going because of (ultimately misguided) thoughts I had on how the Convention would turnout (and to a lesser extent out of fear of some sort of terror stuff - Ya, when it's my time, God's gonna let me know...but why press the issue?).
C’mon now though, as a member of the McClintock/Toomey wing of the Party, and having just been put thru the passing of the Gipper, to see the Party put forward John McCain, Rudy Guliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a Democrat – Zell Miller, as the bearers of conservative values, of course I was going to be starting the week assuming the worst.
Boy was I wrong. As Bush would say, I misunderestimated things...a lot.
Night One - Damn McCain and Damned Yankees
For the first few hours of the Convention on Monday I was just confused. The first speech I saw was Democrat activist and actor Ron Silver. He came out and with what seemed genuine, but over-the-top passion gave a speech of which my favorite lines were, “We will never forget. We will never forgive. We will never excuse.” Quite powerful, especially considering the source.
So, I went on for a bit, doing some work before John McCain was going on. Now, I’m no McCain-iac by any stretch of the definition. I opposed him in 2000, and do now. His Campaign Finance bill is catastrophic, and a he should be embarrassed that it bears his name. But, I’d heard Peggy Noonan helped with a lot of the writing, so I was intrigued to say the least. It sucked. It wasn’t the writing, which goes almost without saying. It’s just that it was written to be very deep and profound. It would’ve been very powerful coming from someone like McCain, but he botched the delivery. He was either uninspired to be there, or just falling asleep. Either way, I thought – “Wow, that was a missed opportunity.” The way the speech was written, I thought Silver and McCain must have mixed up their speeches.
I really thought McCain was being sent out to give some of his “Straight Talk,” and rip apart Kerry’s Senate Testimony where he accused American troops of War Crimes. I think that is one of the most under-reported parts of Kerry’s record, and McCain would be such a great guy to beat that point home. Instead, he bored me to death. However, what amazed me was that afterwards, the talking heads were beside themselves, anointing him GOP nominee in 2008. Thank God Chris Matthews does not get to pick Republican candidates.
But anyway, Guliani was up next. I expected a lot from Rudy. No one, not a single person in the world, can give his perspective on 9-11. That was the day Rudy became not just New York hero, but an American legend. His little fireside chat started off slowly. At first I didn’t get what he was doing. When I caught on, I loved every second of it.
In a way only Rudy could pull off, he magnificently wove first-person storytelling from 9-11, with the macro view of what President Bush’s leadership means, and how Bush won’t let 9-11 happen again.
He dropped many a great one-liner, and they really stung.
President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is. John Kerry has no such clear, precise and consistent vision.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, John Kerry voted against the Persian Gulf War. Later he said he actually supported the war.
Then in 2002, as he was calculating his run for President, he voted for the war in Iraq.
And then just 9 months later, he voted against an $87 billion supplemental budget to fund the war and support our troops.
He even, at one point, declared himself an anti-war candidate. Now, he says he's pro-war. At this rate, with 64 days left, he still has time to change his position at least three or four more times.
My point about John Kerry being inconsistent is best described in his own words when he said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
Maybe this explains John Edwards' need for two Americas - - one where John Kerry can vote for something and another where he can vote against the same thing.
He said Saddam “himself was a weapon of mass destruction.”
Interestingly, Guliani also made a strong pitch for the Jewish vote. He criticized the fact that Arafat had received a Nobel Peace Prize. He used the wall in Israel as an example of Kerry’s inconsistency, and he made repeated references to promoting Democracies in the Middle East. (Mr. Guliani, your plane to Florida leaves in twenty minutes.)
Rudy has discovered this great way to be conversational during his speeches. It hardly looks like he’s using a prepared text at all. His storytelling seems spontaneous, and when he ripped on Kerry, he had this little shoulder-shrug and smirk that was awesome, “Who me?”
All in all, the first day of the Convention was quite good. I thought McCain could’ve delivered better, but it’s McCain and he sucks, so who cares?
Night Two - Girly Man Goes National
Night two was Arnold’s stage. After reports of Arnie’s speech having gone thru 19 drafts, I was expecting the most focused-grouped piece of talk-without-saying-anything garbage I’d ever heard. Much to my surprise and delight, I was wrong. One passage in particular summed up Arnold’s message:
They come because their hearts say to them, as mine did, "If only I can get to America." Someone once wrote -"There are those who say that freedom is nothing but a dream." They are right. It's the American dream.
Arnold reached out to moderates, conservatives, undecided voters, and immigrants all in one speech. Quite impressive.
Now if we could just get him to start acting that way at home!
Also, reports have started surfacing that Arnold will start stumping nationwide for Bush. If that’s all he’s good for...that’s good enough.
Night Three - Give 'em Zell
Night three had me perplexed leading up to the Convention. Dick Cheney was the only actual conservative lined up to speak in Prime Time. However, he never has been, nor will he ever be a powerful speaker. He’s a cerebral guy, and is the guy who we all know does our work behind closed doors. He is a lot of great things, but a Prime Time speaker isn’t one of them. Zell Miller, the Democrat Senator who endorsed the President, was also speaking. Zell had talked a lot about how his Party had abandoned him over the years (he even wrote a book about it!), but leading up until the Convention hadn’t had too many bad things to say about Kerry. I figured that had to change, but was curious how far he’d go after Kerry.
Turns out, Zell’s got balls like few people in politics. His speech was a blistering indictment of John Kerry. Not only was is very well written, but clarified certain arguments that I think had previously been lost on voters.
He started off talking about his family and how much they mean to him. He said that his family means more to him than petty politics ever will. He said that the only man he’d entrust to protect them is George W Bush – so far so good.
Zell then went into what was some obscure history for most people watching, how Wendell Wilkie was the Republican nominee against FDR, and how he would rather lose than make national security a partisan issue. It made his point, but to eat up that much of the body of his speech for that was questionable.
But then he got on a roll:
Now, while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief.
Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator... And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.
For it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.
He also made clearer a series of criticisms that’d been used before – a listing of all the weapons systems Kerry had voted against, the B-1, B-2, F-14, F-15, etc. However, Zell made a point of mentioning their significance. Too often, military guys will just list these programs off, assuming their impressive sounding names will convince Americans that it is bad that Kerry voted against them. Compare that though, with what Zell said:
Listing all the weapon systems that Senator Kerry tried his best to shut down sounds like an auctioneer selling off our national security but Americans need to know the facts.
The B-1 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, dropped 40% of the bombs in the first six months of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The B-2 bomber, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hussein's command post in Iraq.
The F-14A Tomcats, that Senator Kerry opposed, shot down Khadifi's Libyan MIGs over the Gulf of Sidra. The modernized F-14D, that Senator Kerry opposed, delivered missile strikes against Tora Bora.
The Apache helicopter, that Senator Kerry opposed, took out those Republican Guard tanks in Kuwait in the Gulf War. The F-15 Eagles, that Senator Kerry opposed, flew cover over our Nation's Capital and this very city after 9/11.
I could go on and on and on: Against the Patriot Missile that shot down Saddam Hussein's scud missiles over Israel, Against the Aegis air-defense cruiser, Against the Strategic Defense Initiative, Against the Trident missile, against, against, against.
And then he delivered my favorite line of the night:
This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces?
U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?
He continued to drop some more good lines like:
As a Senator, he voted to weaken our military. And nothing shows that more sadly and more clearly than his vote this year to deny protective armor for our troops in harms way, far-away.
And, “George Bush wants to grab terrorists by the throat and not let them go to get a better grip.
From John Kerry, they get a "yes-no-maybe" bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies and confuse our friends.”
He then went full circle talking about that these reasons are why he believes Bush is the right man to protect his family. Great speech.
I do admit being a little worried initially that Miller’s obvious anger while delivering his speech would chip away at what he was saying. While that might be true among the talking heads, after watching the speech twice more, it becomes clear that the moments of “unhinged” anger come while delivering lines and talking of things that one could reasonably become “unhinged” because of. We’ve seen what anger pointed towards Bush looks like, and it’s had some resonance with voters. This was the first we saw of someone who knows John Kerry and is genuinely pissed off at the prospect of him becoming President. It will have legs, especially among old Reagan Democrats.
I still have to digest the President’s speech a little more. I thought it was awesome – easily the best speech of his life. I was one of those “Bush is a squish” guys before. Now, I’m solidly marching in lockstep. We gotta re-elect this guy...More on the Bush speech, and my overall convention thoughts later...