Friday, September 05, 2008

He Who Must Not Be Named and Other Observations from the Republican Convention

If I had to sum up the final evening of the Republican National Convention in one word it would be (borrowed from a Republican friend): “snoreville.” Graham was boring, Ridge was boring, Cindy McCain was oh-so boring (and scary), and McCain, as usual, was, well, boring…and long. He didn’t give a speech — he gave a series of soundbites linked together, more attacks than facts.

McCain’s language and ideology last night represented a disconcerting schizophrenia. Up until he began running for president, McCain was an inspirational maverick (that’s maverick with an “e” for the delegate caught on tape last night in need of a spell-check). He was known as a crusader, slashing and burning his way through corruption in both parties. He fought fair, often bucked party orthodoxy, and decried partisan rancor. We truly need more men like John McCain. (Or at least the “old” John McCain. Too bad his Karl Rove-influenced evil twin has taken over the bid for the White House.)

So it should come as no surprise that McCain came to the stage last night, boasting of reform, claiming the country is worse off than it was four years ago (are you listening Fred Thompson?), promising change is coming (one of several new themes he stole from Obama and is trying to make his own) and pledging to drain the swamp of Washington. The phrase “Washington is not working” was tucked into nearly every speech from St. Paul. So far, McCain is true to form.

What’s devilishly ironic — and there’s really no escaping this — is that for six of the last eight years, his own party has been in charge of the executive and legislative branches. As The Times said, the party in power is running as if it weren’t. You can understand why he’s doing it. The Bush administration has been a colossal, gargantuan failure and has garnered some of the worst approval ratings in history. Aside from a short, pre-primetime video, Bush was nowhere to be seen. A 9/11 retrospective didn’t even include the leader whose presidency was shaped by that tragic day. Vice President Cheney was not even in the country. Feeling obligated to at least acknowledge the Commander in Chief, McCain thanked “the president” without ever naming him. Even the word “Republican” was nowhere to be seen this week — not on signs or electronic displays. There seems to be no way McCain can win unless he runs against himself.

Though McCain and Bush cannot be mistaken for friends, their past (and future) are inexorably linked. For all McCain’s talk of reform and change, some simple facts remain. How can McCain cry “change” with a straight face when, according to Congressional Quarterly’s assessment of his record, he voted in line with Bush 95 percent of the time?! From Iraq on down, McCain has been in near lock step with the Bush Administration. Try as he might to escape Bush’s shadow, McCain’s policies, when he obliges to share them, reveal nothing remotely approaching the change he champions.

On the economy, he’s offered no prescription for ending the mortgage-driven crisis or for fixing the massive fiscal problems Mr. Bush is leaving in his wake. On the contrary, the mantra from St. Paul this week is that the economy is fine and Americans are still a bunch of whiners. McCain’s offered no solution for getting us out of Iraq, much less paying for it. His answer to the energy crisis is to smile gleefully while conventioneers enthusiastically wave signs reading “Drill Baby Drill!” Fighting terrorism? As of early Thursday night, NBC did a word search of every speech offered at the convention. Afghanistan, the real front line in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, was not mentioned even once.

How does McCain intend to reform the party when he cannot even reform himself? Even the vibrant, youthful Sarah Palin is the same cynical, caricatured, old-line Republicanism simply wrapped in flashy, new clothes. Facing a stinging presidential defeat, McCain is trying to convince the American people that the Republicans, still engorged with the old guard, somehow transformed overnight. Good luck.

Further observations from the RNC:

• The Republicans appeared far more united than their Democratic counterparts, still trying to heal the rifts of their rancorous primary season, did.

• If you went to an Ivy League university, the preeminent learning institutions on the planet (that, coincidently many Republicans, including the current President attended) you are an elite snob and completely out of touch with the American people.

• Torture is A-OK. Despite McCain’s horrific experiences in a POW camp and a bill he wrote to protect prisoners, basic human rights were mocked in St. Paul. “Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights,” Gov. Palin said of Sen. Obama, in a refrain repeated several times from the stage. In reality, all Obama wants is to give basic human rights to the prisoners incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay — only a handful of whom are Qaeda members — as a way to protect them from torture and realign our national policy with the Constitution and the Geneva Convention.

• Looking out over the crowd in St. Paul, one thing was glaringly obvious. Almost everyone was white. According a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News, 93 percent of the Republican delegates are white (higher than at least the past two conventions), five percent are Hispanic and only two percent are black. In contrast, Democratic Denver was 65 percent white, 23 percent black and 11 percent Hispanic, a Democratic convention norm. While roughly half of the Democratic delegates were men, nearly 70 percent off all Republicans were male. This is the party of change? Given America’s dramatic demographic changes, can the Republicans afford not to broaden their appeal and ranks with people of color?

• Could the videos have been any more saccharine? They made the Democrats’ look positively austere. I also enjoyed the selective memory evidenced in Cindy McCain’s, never mentioning (not that I assumed it would) her father’s many financial, legal and moral indiscretions.

• Last night’s 9/11 tribute was the height of manipulation, one half macabre nostalgia and one half blatant fear mongering. If any news outlet broadcast the graphic amount of footage the Republicans did last night, they would have been vilified for their complete lack of sensitivity. It was the most footage of the fateful day as I’ve seen since then the events took place.

• Note to whomever was running the giant screen during McCain’s speech: could you have found nothing better than bright green or bright blue backdrops?! We’ve been through this before, haven’t we? Sick ‘im Colbert Nation!

• The Republican National Convention was about Sarah Palin, not John McCain. She gobbled up all the accolades and attention. She delivered the better speech. Some Republicans see a danger in this. Why? A vote for her is a vote for him and when all the hoopla settles, he’s still the one ahead. And yet, at the same time, win or lose, Palin represents the next generation. A Republican friend on the Hill wrote me this morning saying: “If she doesn't implode, Sarah is the future. For some reason, the nerd in me thinks of the scene in Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker rushes early out of his training with Yoda, and the ghost of Ben Kenobi says desolately to Yoda, ‘that boy is our only hope.’ Yoda looks off into the distance and says resolutely, ‘No. There is another.’”


Blogger Justin said...

I miss your ranting, mate.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss your mating...rant.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous POD said...

I think you should re-name this blog "The Obama Room."

4:40 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Aren't you glad the campaign season is almost over!? :-)

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Who is the other?

12:02 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...


Attention to detail sailor!

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never understood that. Wasn't Ben Kenobi the one to place Leia and Luke in their prospective places at the end of Episode III.

Thanks for bringing it up!


4:49 PM  

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