People – mostly the news media – were concerned when the Republican National Convention was trying to get started. It was going to literally rain on their parade. Natural disasters do not consult with political parties for a convenient time to occur. The GOP did what was needed – curtailing events on their opening night, thereby showing us that a four day convention is not necessarily necessary, and helping to raise relief monies and supplies for those affected.
The final night of the convention, as with all political conventions, is meant as the crescendo, the peak – the speech by the top of the ticket. Before I get to thoughts on that, I have to say that I was once again deeply disappointed by coverage on the 24 hours cable news networks. I realize they pay people to comment on what is going on at these political events but they also exerted their “ideas” of what was newsworthy and what was not to have their commentators talk over speakers. Let us listen to the event and then we, as voters and Americans, can decide if we should have listened or not, if it was worth our time.
I am glad that most of both conventions were done without the distraction of having my kids in school. I missed part of last night’s chosen coverage due to getting kids settled into a schedule of homework – yes, there was homework on this night – and other school-related life events. Still, to the best of my knowledge, actual CNN speaker coverage started with Marcia Blackburn – US Senator from Tennessee. I know that Tim Pawlenty – short listed for VP and governor of the hosting state, Minnesota – spoke but I did not see this speech or have the ability to flip to find a channel that was carrying it.
I started watching in earnest with the introduction of Mary Fallin, Congresswoman from Oklahoma who was the lieutenant governor in 1995 when the bombing of the Federal Building took place. Fallin spoke of how Oklahoma and the country rallied after that domestic terror happening. She introduced a video that would quickly become controversial. While she spoke, the huge video screen showed signs of the bombing in OKC, the search, rescue and recovery efforts, and the memorial that is now in OKC.
When Fallin was finished speaking, Robert Davi narrated a video entitled “World Stood Still.” The video was about terrorism and attacks on the US people both home and abroad. It started with images of the Tehran hostages that doomed Jimmy Carter’s presidency. It should images of Beirut, the USS Cole and then, concentrated on the September 11th attacks here at home. The footage was graphic, undoubtedly. The footage was not, in my mind, offensive in any manner. The response to the video by commentators ranged from absolute anger from Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. I caught his apologizing for airing it and saying that it was unthought of that the GOP would envoke the dead and the pain from 9/11 to gain votes. CNN aired a more thoughtful, though time-consuming so additional speakers were not shown, discussion of the video. Jeffery Toobin felt the video was entirely appropriate. On the other hand, Paul Begala felt the video was on public policy but the fact that President Bush ignored warnings and could have prevented the happening and now the GOP is trying to get votes is appalling.
The video was not as disturbing as other things I have seen or heard at the GOP convention. I do agree with David Gergen that the GOP seems to have selective amnesia – a disorder normally experienced by teenagers – as they are trying to spin everything to their advantage and distance themselves from a sitting president. Following Fallin’s discussion of the OKC bombings, the video was a perfect fit for a convention that is trying to show the American people that the GOP will be a better fit on the issue of national security.
Lindsey Graham, sitting US Senator from South Carolina, spoke on winning the war. He discussed the milestones that have been met in Iraq. He discussed where Iraq and the US and the Middle East would be if John McCain had not stood up and convinced Joe Lieberman to vote for the surge. He indicated that Barack Obama’s campaign is built around losing in Iraq and pointed out that Obama let 2 1/2 years lapse between visits to Iraq. While there, Obama never once met with General Petraeus.
When Graham finished with a bit on the VP candidate Sarah Palin, the GOP showed a video on Palin. The video was meant to air prior to her speech on Wednesday night but time prevented it.
Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Pennsylvania, spoke next. He talked a lot about his friend John McCain. As a matter of fact, a lot of the convention seemed to be spent talking about the person John McCain. I am not sure that was necessary as I think most of the US – although, maybe it is just the red US – knows who John McCain is. Ridge made some valid points. He said that we run to win but win to govern. He also said that the campaign is not about who can take a 3 am call – a veiled, or not so veiled, reference to a commercial Hillary Clinton ran against Barack Obama during the primaries – but abut who has answered the call all of his life. He concluded with a quote-worthy statement, “the challenge of this time is not just to change. The challenge of our time is to leave nothing to chance.” That is an outlook I had not really thought about before. Change is important but Ridge is truly correct in that we cannot leave anything to chance in these times.
Cindy McCain nominated and introduced her husband. She came on stage with the children in the McCain family. This was a nice contrast – introducing the family while they were next to her as opposed to them being in seats. I am not sure why she spoke so long. I tuned out. I am not saying that what she was saying was unimportant. A lot of it seemed to be redundant. On top of that, a woman who is worth the amount of money she is standing on the national stage trying to make herself out to be just like you and me was too funny to keep watching.
John McCain took the stage under one spotlight. As the podium rose to its pre-determined height, McCain smiled and waved and, unamplified, thanked the crowd. He took a few minutes to discuss his background before taking a tack not seen earlier in the GOP convention. Many speakers had given McCain’s opponent his due for making history. McCain went further, saying he has respect and admiration for Obama and that they have more in common than different.
There were some disruptions – protesters within the Xcel Center itself, as opposed to the protesting that has been going on outside. McCain handled it on his feet with a quip of “Please don’t be diverted by the gound noise and static.”
To stress his maverick and “watchdog” – my apologies to those who feel this is misused – style, McCain said, to thunderous applause, that he would veto the first big earmark bill that comes over his desk. He would veto it and you – as in us, the American public – would know whose name(s) was on it.
McCain stressed that it matters less that you fight than it does what you fight for. He, then, took a cue from many politicians and started naming specific Americans he was fighting for – a family from Michigan, a family from Pennsylvania, a family from New Hampshire.
This discussion led into telling all listening that the GOP had lost the trust of the American people, that GOP had gone to Washington and let Washington change them. This will not be the case in a McCain administration.
The speech was long. It couldn’t, through no fault of McCain’s but due to personal issues here at home, hold my attention. As I read over the later parts of the speech which I didn’t hear, McCain seemed to touch on a lot of issues. There were not specifics – how parents can help turn around a failing school or get their children out of a failing school – but there were overviews of policy issues.
All in all, this convention did for the GOP what Denver did for the Democrats. The GOP is energized and believes they can win the election. That, other than trying to get the “word” out to others, is what a convention is about. The GOP has done that. Now, the real fight begins. When November 5th dawns – or after the electoral college meets in December, the bigger question is can whoever wins actually pull the country together.