An Unconvenional Convention

There’s no definitive word yet on how many Americans were paying any attention to this week’s Republican National Convention, but to whatever extent people were watching the GOP probably helped itself with the proceedings.

Those Americans who have already made up their minds that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are evil incarnate simply won’t be convinced otherwise, but anyone still willing take an objective look at the candidate likely came away with a favorable impression. Several strong speeches by a diverse group of impressive speakers made a compelling case against the current administration, offered a reasonable argument for the opposition’s credentials and policies, got in a few good lines, and unless you’ve got one of those secret decoder rings that allows you to discern the nefarious racist intent of such terms as “Chicago” and “golf” they did so without resorting to ad hominen attacks or uncivil rhetoric.

The speeches by Romney and Ryan were especially good. Ryan’s address was a masterpiece, full of the cold, hard facts that had previously made him famous and the hot passion and soft friendliness that have emerged since his selection as the vice-presidential candidate. In addition to cataloguing the various failures of the Obama administration, outlining a free-market alternative, and issuing a stern and believable warning that “We don’t have much time,” the speech also shrewdly acknowledged the appealing squareness of Mitt Romney and demonstrated an appealing personality. There was also a nice line about the young people staring up at the fading Obama posters in the parental basements that a bad economy has forced them to live in, and the image has played so well that the Republicans are already building an advertising campaign around it.

The only objection to Ryan’s speech was that it was so very strong it threatened to overshadow the top of ticket’s acceptance speech, but Romney followed it with a very strong oration of his own. Critics are quibbling that the speech was short on specifics, but there’s no point to specificity about plans that are going to be run through too many committees and compromises to emerge in anything like their original form. What’s needed, rather, is a statement of the underlying principles and political and economic philosophies that will apply throughout the legislative process, and Romney made it clear that he will tack a far more capitalistic and libertarian course than the present administration.

More importantly, as far as winning over those persuadable voters who might have tuned it, Romney came off as a nice guy. The mere absence of horns and a pitchfork did much to rebut the Democrats’ caricature of him, but he also managed the difficult feat of making a strong case for himself without seeming egotistical. There were no Greek columns or talk of turning back the tides, and the contrast to his opposition was striking.

The contrast to the hateful response of various media commentators, political activists, and Democratic politicians was also stark. That response also suggests that the Republicans did pretty well, and it will be interesting to see if the Democrats can keep their temper through their convention.

— Bud Norman

Feeling the Hate

Being so darned loveable, and hewing so faithfully to a live-and-let-live philosophy of life, we’re always surprised to be reminded how very much some people hate us. Perhaps we shouldn’t take it personally, as many of the people who loudly proclaim their hate for us don’t actually know us at all, but it’s rather disconcerting nonetheless.

Just as the tropical storm Isaac has unleashed a flood of water on many an unfortunate fortunate soul in Louisiana, the Republican National Convention in Florida seems to have caused a torrent of vile emotion among the left that has breached the metaphorical levees of civility and threatens to drown the proceedings in hatred. As registered members of the Grand Old Party, who have consistently voted in its primaries and usually wind up voting for its members, we can’t help feeling a bit offended.

The actress Ellen Barkin, for instance, is hoping that some act of God or another will smite us. She reportedly “tweeted,” in reference to the Republican conventioneers, “C’mon #Isaac! Wash every pro-life, anti-education, anti-woman, xenophobic, gay-bashing, racist SOB right into the ocean!” We’ll admit that we’re not the least bit anti-life, but we very much favor an educational system that will teach people to communicate without resort to numeral signs, we have no quarrel with womankind — only certain women — and we’re not irrationally fearful of foreigners, we haven’t bashed any gays, and we can’t think of anything racist we’ve done lately, but we expect that we’re still Republican enough that she’d like us to see come to hurricane-related harm.

Our pain is slightly alleviated by the realization that we have only vaguest idea of who Ellen Barkin is, and that she’s apparently not the Hollywood hottie such used to be, but we’re stung by the similarly angry death wishes of the somewhat more familiar Samuel L. Jackson. The actor, who specializes in playing angry criminals, took to his “Twitter” account to lament that God had spared the Republicans His angry wrath. Littering his vengeful theology with numerous profanities, Jackson declared the lack of carnage at the convention “unfair shit,” although he later apologized to “God, Tampa, da GOP & Isaac(sp)!,” adding the equally illiterate “Who played the Race card?!”

Racist and sexist though we may be, we were quite taken with the convention speech delivered by Mia Love, a small town mayor and congressional candidate who looked to be both African-American and female. Because Love was speaking at a Republican convention, however, we found that some disapproving on-line vandals had altered a Wikipedia page about her to describe her as a “nigger” and a “whore.” Such language apparently proves one’s anti-racist and anti-sexist bona fides on the modern left, but it struck us as rather rude.

Love wasn’t the only proud black woman being abused at the convention, as no less an impressive person as Condoleezza Rice was subjected to an attempted citizens’ arrest by the radical leftist Code Pink organization, which had already found her guilty of war crimes. Groups such as Code Pink never seem to attempt citizens arrests of dictators such as Saddam Hussein, who killed more Iraqis than Rice ever did, but we suspect that’s because it would entail more risk and less self-righteous satisfaction.

There numerous other examples of such hateful rhetoric, coming from sources ranging from journalists to anonymous “Twitter” account-holders, and little of it bears repeating here. We think it worth noting, though, that the convention which inspired such fevered language was strikingly free of racial slurs, sexist epithets, and wishes for the deaths of others. Republicans are devious that way.

— Bud Norman

About Those Speeches

The art of political oratory has become so degraded in America that Barack Obama was able to pass himself off as a silver-tongued speaker just four years ago, but we still enjoy hearing what passes for speechifying these days. What we heard on the radio Tuesday from the Republican National Convention was mostly pretty good, at least by contemporary standards, and likely to compare well with next week’s efforts by the Democrats.

We missed most of the address by Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, candidate for congress, and a rising star of the conservative movement, but saw that her address won plaudits from the right-wing commentators and by all accounts “electrified” the crowd. The portion we did hear was indeed rousing, stressing the traditional Republican values of self-reliance and personal responsibility with a convincingly personal touch, and we expect we’ll be hearing more from her in the comings months. Those watching the convention on MSNBC apparently missed all of the speech, as the left-wing network simply cut away from all of the black and Latino speakers lest their audience be confused about why a crowd full of racists were cheering so loudly for a black woman such as Love.

Former Pennsylvania senator and failed presidential contender Rick Santorum also spoke, and while he probably managed to get his many supporters enthused about the Romney candidacy we don’t expect the speech had much appeal beyond his fans. The speech was a strange extended metaphor about hands, starting with the gnarled but strong hands of his coal-mining father and running through the various sorts of hands he shook while campaigning, and although it had some kind words for traditional Judeo-Christian values it was light on the hellfire-and-brimstone stuff that scared the children and the secular reporters during the campaign.

Even the ABC reporters who kept interrupting the speakers on the radio were hard-pressed to find much fault with a rousing speech by the nominee’s wife, Ann Romney, who gave an endearingly personal account of her husband’s career. The main chore facing the Romney campaign, which has been besieged by the most extravagant sort of negative advertising, seems to be convincing the public that he’s not a top-hatted villain who ties damsels to railroad tracks for cackling laughs, and the speech was probably effective at countering that cartoonish image. By hearing it on the radio we missed out on the full effect of her classy good looks, but even so we found it very compelling and just the sort of thing that should have particular appeal to the kind of women who are susceptible to the Democrats’ most outrageous slanders.

Keynote speaker Chris Christie gave a good speech, but that was disappointing because we’d been expecting a great one. The famously burly governor of New Jersey has some heretical views typical of his region, especially on gun rights and radical Islamist jurists, but on the crucial issue of fiscal sanity he’s been heroic, and he’s achieved great things in a stubbornly liberal state by stating the cold, hard facts of life with his legendary bluntness, so it seemed certain that he’d lay it on with extra gusto in a prime time spot. Alas, although he talked about being blunt he failed to do so, and left us wanting more.

Perhaps we’ll get it when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan make their acceptance speeches. Both will probably attempt to be at their most likeable, but they’re genuinely likeable guys if you don’t happen to hate successful people, so the effort shouldn’t prevent them from laying out the difficult truths that Christie spoke of. We don’t anticipate anything along the lines of Patrick Henry’s “The War Inevitable” or Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, but it should be pretty good.

— Bud Norman

Conventional Wisdom

There was no Republican convention on Monday, with the day’s scheduled proceedings blown away by the same tropical storm system that is now threatening New Orleans with another hurricane, but it’s likely that few noticed.

Young people will find it hard to believe, but the two major party’s quadrennial get-togethers used to be the best shows on television. They were the only shows on television at this time of the leap year back in the days of three networks, another fact of the dark ages that will astonish the youngsters, but the conventions would have fared well against any competition. Conventions used to have drama, suspense, intrigue, convoluted sub-plots, and people in funny hats, all with the added rooting interest of a big time sports event.

That all changed after the Democrats’ debacle of a convention in Chicago in ’68, when the hippies rioted and Mayor Daley’s cops knocked enough hairy heads together that the parties were shocked into adopting a more small-d democratic system that took the power away from smoke-filled rooms full of party bosses and handed it over to the sorts of ideological voters who actually show up for primaries and party caucuses. The debate still rages about the relative advantages of the two systems, and of course the rooms would be non-smoking now, but it’s worth noting that exactly half of the old-time conventions picked losing candidates and even the winning tickets often fell short of the ideal. Whatever the political merits of the current system, though, there’s no denying that the old way provided far more satisfying television viewing.

With the sole exception of the ’76 Republican gathering in Kansas City, where Ronald Reagan still had an outside chance at unseating the incumbent Gerald Ford as the delegates convened, every convention since ’68 has been a foregone conclusion and a rather boring affair. The networks continued to provide “gavel-to-gavel” coverage for several election cycles, apparently out of habit, but as the conventions degenerated into ever more slickly produced infomercials for the campaigns the networks began losing viewers to the cable competition and started cutting back on the hours of airtime devoted to the speeches and other machinations. Now the day-long coverage is relegated to the cable networks, with the networks interrupting their usual fare only for an hour or so a night, and it’s probable that the only people tuned in are the political enthusiasts who have long since made up their minds about who they’ll be voting for.

Those few hours of prime-time network coverage are still considered important, however, and we read that some savvy political operatives even regard Mitt Romney’s upcoming acceptance speech “the most important moment of his campaign.” If so, we except that he’ll make the best of it, not just because he’s a capable orator with a strong argument for his candidacy but also because the Democrats have gone so far over the top in their attempts at character assassination that he’ll allay many fears just by showing up without horns, a tail, and a pitchfork. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should also draw a few persuadable voters during his keynote address, and we expect that his famously blunt style of oratory should be successful in laying out the dire facts of life that justify the Republican’s hard medicine.

Thus far it seems unlikely that the loony left will be able to mount any protests that rival the newsworthiness of the ’68 fiasco, which is disappointing. We had hoped that the remains of the Occupy Wall Street or some other fringe movement would provoke the same disgusted reaction that helped propel Richard Nixon to victory of Hubert Humphrey, but on Monday the best the left could do was a couple of hundred protestors, a few vagina costumes, and one measly arrest. The protestors are blaming the bad weather for the meager effort, but in fact they’re just far lazier than the hippies ever were, and that’s a pretty damning indictment

Our cable subscription was cancelled long ago, so we’ll miss out on much of the blah-blah-blah that’s been planned by both parties, but we’ll do our best to keep apprised through the miracles of the internet and talk radio. Something interesting might well develop, but in the meantime we’re offering enticing odds that Romney will be the nominee.

— Bud Norman