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September 3, 2008
It's a Start
House Republican Leader John Boehner opened Tuesday's session of the RNC with a clumsy speech that confirmed my mother's warning: Republicans talk a lot about reform in these conventions -- but never get around to it. In fact, he almost admitted it.
Boehner talked about being elected in the early 90s. He asserted that Republicans at the time were all gung-ho for finally getting the federal government under control. Hey folks, he yammered, we still are the party of reform -- and this time we really, really, really mean it! Is this the best leadership Republicans can find in the House?
Boehner was followed by what seemed like about an hour and a half of fluffy public service announcements. This opening homage to "country first" and "service" was tolerable for about fifteen minutes and then it became dull. The applause went from lukewarm to nonexistent. (The last speaker was clearly mortified to be on the stage.)
These initial speakers supported great causes (all of them privately funded) so the underlying message was one of individual sacrifice for a worthy project -- not nanny state "compassion." Nevertheless, it was dreary.
Videos were presented between the speeches that featured the lives and accomplishments of former Republican presidents. It was obvious that a John McCain=Teddy Roosevelt analogy was the intention. That fell flat as well.
Then Fred Thompson took the stage. It is a pity that Thompson was such a half-hearted campaigner because he is a full bodied orator. His speech brought back memories of reading Aristotle's Rhetoric and Cicero's Orations. Thompson has his rhetorical chops down.
His job was to make John McCain seem presidential. Thompson more than succeeded. The only shortcomings in his speech were the obligatory references (no doubt inserted by convention handlers) of, you guessed it, "country first" and "service." Thompson just couldn't deliver the canned slogans.
I disagree with Kyle-Anne Shiver's assessment that Lieberman rocked. I thought he was okay.
I was sitting in the nose-bleed section looking directly down on Lieberman as he spoke. He was sincere, no doubt about it, but he was uncomfortable. He kept his left hand either at his side or in his pocket for most of the speech. This physical contact with his own person told me that he was not secure.
Obviously, I don't know if his insecurity was anticipation of a negative reaction from the crowd, or if he doubted his own oratorical skills (following Fred Thompson -- who wouldn't), or if Lieberman had had a bad tuna-fish sandwich. But something about Lieberman's stage presence wasn't right.
Nevertheless, he is a courageous and honest man. His plea to independents and Democrats that McCain was the only choice played well.
(Note to Republican delegates: When someone tells you that they are not addressing you, don't interrupt that person with applause. The delegates' enthusiastic reaction to Lieberman's appeal to non-Republicans made him look like a partisan.)
The "Country First" speakers' fiasco: D+ (The plus is for good intentions.)
Tuesday's Session: C+
But I don't believe in grading on a curve.
(Shout out to Jared Iverson, University of Minnesota law school student, who sat with me in the cheap seats and kept me from screaming, "Read my lips!" when Bush 41 was introduced.)
Larrey Anderson is covering the RNC in Minneapolis for American Thinker. His latest award winning novel is The Order of the Beloved.
Update -- Alan Fraser disagrees:
I'm hardly a disinterested observer but I thought today's "day one" of the R Convention was outstanding. Everything about it.
* The signs with the slogans "Country First" and "Service". Just the right message and tone.
* the extraordinary emphasis on our military... on celebrating and honoring it, e.g., the powerful tribute to Mike Monsoor, honoring the former POWs, homage to Medal of Honor Winners, George H.W. Bush, Orson Swindell, McCain's bio as told by Fred Thompson...the theme of the military infused the entire evening!
* Aggressiveness -- the way they proudly celebrated the "pro-life" cause, attacked Obama, and unapologetic way in which the conventioneers and speakers displayed their pro-American-we-are-the-best-country-in-the-history-of-world attitude.
* Robert Espinoza's speech - "I'm CATHOLIC...HISPANIC...and a DEMOCRAT...and I'm proud to call John McCain my friend." This guy is good.
* Fred Thompson - Wow...I hope he will be used in other parts of the campaign... on the stump...i n ads. What style and delivery!
* Joe Lieberman -- a prince of a man. Loyal. Country first. Only complaint: Joe, don't refer to 9/11/01 as a "great unnatural disaster caused by terrorists"...please! As FDR said when referring to 12/7/41...it was a "dastardly attack"...at a minimum.
I sense that we may have benefited from the "compaction" in the convention caused by the hurricane. The effect tonight and for the rest of the convention will be to intensify the message and the imagery. A
And tonight the contrast was stark so that even cretins like me could pick it up. And so is the choice. One party loves their country and is proud of it and this was on vivid display this evening. The others love only themselves.