Thursday, August 30, 2012
Beldar reviews Wednesday night's GOP convention speakers
Tonight I recorded, and just now finished watching, the GOP convention speeches given by Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), former Secretary of State Condi Rice, and, of course, the newly official GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). I watched C-Span's coverage because I'm hard-core enough in my politics that I will even sacrifice HD just to avoid interruptions by insipid talking heads and toilet bowl cleaner commercials.
Susana Martinez opened a lot of eyes tonight. I know the Dems will inevitably label as "tokens," "sell-outs," or worse essentially every woman, and certainly every non-white person, who speaks at the GOP convention. But if you're actually listening to these speakers, I can't imagine how you could continue to insist that these non-WASP Republicans are just eye candy and time-fillers. My reaction to Gov. Martinez is like my reaction to U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz: "Stronger'n train smoke!" They are no one's clones, every one of them has a compelling personal story, and they radiate both authenticity and competency. The GOP has developed a deep and talented bench, folks, and it's been on display last night and tonight for anyone who cared to invest the time to look.
I have long been, and remain, among Condi Rice's fans. She is a prodigiously gifted writer and wordsmith, and she is commanding in one-on-ones and small groups, but she is not a career politician, nor a naturally confident public speaker in large venues. When I thought I heard an occasional nervous quiver in her voice tonight, I loved her for it all the more, because it simply highlighted the willpower and determination that have characterized her remarkable life story: she couldn't eliminate her jitters, but she relentlessly mastered them with every line of her speech.
Secretary Rice's critique of the Obama Administration's foreign policy was measured and substantive, if not very deep on details — which is to say, it was appropriately pitched for the audience and purpose at this nominating convention. But what was most noticeable and surprising to me — and this may have been something which came through better on C-Span, I don't know — was how very warmly the convention audience responded to her.
The Bush Presidents, with whom Rice is closely associated, and their spouses appeared only briefly tonight, and that in a brief, pre-recorded, and mostly sentimental video tribute. It was probably focus-grouped within an inch of its life to ensure its complete inoffensiveness. And everyone in the GOP — including the Bush family and all their allies and supporters — understands the decision Gov. Romney made long ago, back during the earliest pre-primary campaigning, to begin writing a new chapter of his own. There was no downside to de-emphasizing either Bush-41 or Bush-43, and no likely net benefit from highlighting them.
But the people in that convention hall are, for the most part, the GOP faithful. Thus, when Condi urged the audience to recall and appreciate "the will to make difficult decisions, heart-wrenching choices in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time," the audience responded powerfully, with authentic affection that I believe was intended not just for her, but also for He Who For Purposes of Political Expediency Must Barely Be Named, the President in whose cabinet she most recently served. Even still, that applause was dwarfed by the approving roar she got from these lines (punctuation mine):
And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America. Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant. But they make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, she can be President of the United States. And she becomes the Secretary of State!
That applause all belonged to Condi — because, as she went on to say, "America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. But of course it has never been inevitable." Many other people and circumstances made her career possible, but she is who actually made it happen. She built that career, one might say. And the audience just adored her, not just because they agreed with what she was saying, but because they approved of the fine and fierce example she has set.
Not a single word in Paul Ryan's acceptance speech surprised me, but that's because I've been listening closely to his public speaking for a couple of years now. I was, for example, utterly unsurprised that he did not back away a millimeter from his dogged commitment to make this election a debate over spending, the debt crisis, and the on-rushing collapse of our national safety net under the Democrats. But there were a few particularly well-crafted lines in this speech that I hadn't previously heard. My personal favorite among them was this:
None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers — a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.
For tonight, I am content.
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