01 September 2004

Repos - Days 1 & 2

Sorry - didn't think to write out my notes during day one. Plus, I was flipping over to the Cowboys preseason game a lot. Or was I switching over to the convention a little?

It was interesting, but not terribly engaging. I do think that one of the running themes which has so far been overlooked by the punditocracy is:

"Democrats Endorse Bush"

Ed Koch opened the convention (before normal viewing hours) with his endorsement speech. Ron Silver, Hollywood liberal, strongly endorsed Bush from the podium, excoriating his professional community along the way. Zell Miller is keynoting tomorrow, I think. There are others. The commentariat is noting everybody's message, and the general theme of "Bush is Churchill" but they really seem to be missing "Democrats for Bush." My hunch is that this will not be lost on the voters (if any of them are watching.)

So... the speeches...

Ron Silver - solid. Short speech, narrow topic. He seemed angry, and not just at the terrorists. He seemed angry at his fellow liberals. It was refreshing - and appropriate in the sense that "only Nixon could go to China." Or something like that. Not sure Ron Silver is a big enough star to sway a lot of votes, but that's why I think he is part of the Democrats for Bush theme - they could probably have gotten Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson or Kelsey Grammar, but everybody knows they support Bush already.

McCain. He is often frustrating as a politician, but he is a good ally to have. His speech read better than it was delivered, but it was good. He tries to hard to be conciliatory sometimes, but he stayed on message. The Michael Moore moment was cute.

Giuliani. Not a good speaker, I don't think, but it will be tough for Democrats to say Giuliani shouldn't be talking about 9/11. Thank God he got rid of that comb-over a few years ago.

I think they did sort of begin to set a few themes for the convention on day one, but it was slow and not terribly compelling. It also was not on broadcast TV. What probably made bigger news was Bush's comment to Matt Lauer that we "can't win the war on terror." Okay, it was more nuanced than that - but that was the sound bite, and Edwards took the bait, telling Ted Koppel that he and John Kerry can win the war on terror! He sounded really tough, except that I think his voice cracked a little.

Bush did a few minutes with Rush today, and finally explained why we went to war with Iraq. Refreshingly, he talked a lot about the links with terrorism. He also addressed the argument that he should not "exploit" 9/11 by saying:

"September 11th is a defining moment in our history, and it's certainly a defining moment in my presidency, and the question is whether or not we've learned the lessons. Three quick lessons. I've already given you one lesson that I think is important to remember. We deal with threats before they fully materialize. What that means is that in the old days you could see a threat, and you may deal with it or you may not deal with it, but you never thought a threat would come to harm us. Those days are gone.

"Secondly, if the United States ever says something we better mean it, and I say, "If you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as a terrorist." When you say something you gotta act on it. And by acting on it not only is Afghanistan free, but the world now knows that we mean what we say, which makes the world a more peaceful place in my judgment, and the third thing is that these killers are people you can't negotiate with. You've got to find them."

So... Day two...

I'll skip to prime time. Mark Steyn had a kind of funny column about Republican celebrities - it was a sarcastic column which suggested that most people don't even know who our celebrities are... Well, Mark Steyn, meet Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold rocked. So far, his was easily the best speech of the convention. Only downside - he said Nixon was his inspiration to become a Republican. Minor demerit on that. The rest of his speech was uplifting, funny, humble, patriotic, cheerful and crowd-pleasing.

The Bush girls were much more genuine than the Kerry girls. They were a little awkward, but honestly, they did as good or better than most professional entertainers do when delivering the fake banter on awards shows. My favorite line:

"We had a hamster, too. Let's just say, he didn't make it."

Laura Bush. I still don't like First Ladies giving keynotes, but hers was so far superior to Teresa Heinz-Kerry's it hardly seems fair to compare them. The bar, admittedly, had been set pretty low. As long as Laura didn't come off as a weirdo, she wins the match. By that standard, she won.

What impressed me more (yes, I am easily impressed, because it truly did impress me that she did not seem like a weirdo) was her ability to articulate a worldview, a broad-reaching philosophy of government, and view of history, without ever seeming to step outside her role as wife and mother. She spoke for herself and her husband, and, while impressing her audience, never stole the spotlight, and left them feeling better about George W Bush. This was Teresa's task a few weeks ago, and she failed completely.

A side note on George P, who spoke earlier, so you may have missed him. My theory, when he left teaching a few years ago to go to law school, is that he enjoyed campaigning for Uncle W in 2000, and we will see more of him down the road.

Signing off for tonight...

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