29 August 2012

RNC Day One review..am I the only one completely unimpressed with the headliners?

Well, Day One is in the books, so it's time to review. Actually, this was Virtual Day One, as Monday's festivities were cancelled. Presumably, Governor Christie had ordered Republicans to "get the hell off the beach" in advance of the Tampa hurricane that never materialized.

If you wanted to see all of the speeches, your only televised option was C-SPAN, but, at least on my cable, they have no HD feed. (I know, I know - "first world problems.") I saw some criticism that MSNBC did not show any of the minority speakers. I was watching on Fox and didn't see most of them, either. Who cares? Most Americans won't ever see most of any of this. One reason is that even those who try will be subjected to hour after hour of commentary that interests exactly nobody while the candidates and office-holders silently prowl the stage behind them, heard only by the party faithful present in the hall.

The party's standard-bearers have become, these days, merely a silent backdrop for the well-coiffed talking heads of cable TV.

But let's talk about the two headliners: Ann Romney and Chris Christie.

The candidate's wife was poised, attractive and convincing in her speech. Really, her speech had only one drawback: she is the candidate's wife. I'm not sure when this tradition started, to be honest with you, and I don't see what it adds. If his wife's endorsement is a surprise to you, or if you find it insightful to learn that she sees endearing, admirable and human qualities in her husband, then you are not just out of touch with politics, you are a little out of touch with reality. I guess that never stopped anybody from voting, though.

None of this is a criticism of the speech, per se, only of this silly tradition established over the last twenty years or so. We talk about how financial disclosure and gotcha politics scares off good people from seeking office - how many don't run because their wives simply don't want to be forced into a candidacy of their own?

The keynote was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and his speech was a pretty big disappointment to me (no, that's not a fat joke.) We talk about Romney's "well-oiled machine," his great organization - did nobody vet these speeches? There must have been 10,000 people on Twitter who immediately picked up on the contradiction in the opening lines of these two speeches: Ann Romney wanted to "talk about love," while Christie basically said "love is b*** s***."

Christie was quite enthusiastic, and it seemed the crowd enjoyed him, but his speech was not helpful to the cause - and not only because he barely mentioned Romney; not only because of how long he regaled us with stories of the New Jersey Miracle. I think the problem was a much more fundamental messaging problem.

"We'll tell you the hard truths" is dangerously close to "he won't tell you. I just did."

It didn't work for Mondale, and it won't work for Romney. Has it been that long since the "hope and change" theme we mocked won? Your top line has to be "we can do better," not "things are really crappy." People know that already. And when you don't even tie the crappiness to the incumbent (another failing of Christie's speech,) then why on earth would I "stand up" and "fight with you?" Against what? For what? Fight to tell everybody how crappy things are?

I admit I did not know exactly what to expect from Christie. I know him from the many very entertaining YouTube clips where he berates rude and stupid questioners at townhall meetings. As a keynote speaker, though, and as a party leader, he was a disappointment.

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