“I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.” Wait…John McCain was a POW? Who knew? (And how big of him to run the first completely selfless and ego-free presidential campaign in American History. A true patriot, he.)
I suppose I should’ve gotten my post up about McCain’s speech some time yesterday…but, really, what’s the rush? However well-watched, John McCain’s nomination address to the nation on Thursday night felt like a virtual political non-event. [Transcript.] I mean, c’mon now: I sat through three days of mind-numbing inanity and blatant falsehoods, distasteful 9/11 videos and endless surge talk, for this? (By the way, memo to Lindsey Graham, Tom Ridge, and anyone who happens to buy into the oft-repeated line of argument that “McCain was right in Iraq because of the surge.” Our recent involvement there began several years earlier, with McCain cheering on Dubya’s idiotic invasion and boasting of an easy victory. Remember that?)
Now I don’t think the speech was as woefully terrible as some — it was probably better than his last greenscreen speech, for example. (I am struck by the fact that today’s decaying GOP is so sickly it can’t even manage to exploit veterans for political gain properly anymore. What happened to you guys?) But, to my mind, Sen. McCain’s remarks definitely didn’t get the job done, unless — like me — you think the job that needs doing right now is getting Barack Obama elected to the Oval Office.
The most affecting moments of McCain’s speech were, naturally, in his discussion of his POW experience, and if the Republicans hadn’t beaten this point into the ground over the past few days, his retelling of those dark days might’ve packed a real emotional wollop. (“After I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me. “) But, after all the reveling of late in McCain’s horrible stay in the Hanoi Hilton, and all the attendant plaudits to military heroism and sacrifice, country first etc. etc. served up as sides by the GOP during thus, McCain’s humdrum delivery of an otherwise subpar nomination address reminded me of nothing so much as another praiseworthy war hero wounded in his nation’s service: Bob Dole.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a nomination address in today’s GOP without some highly dubious propositions therein:
And so on. I’d spend more time picking McCain’s address apart if I thought it had been in any way effective. But, the POW-section notwithstanding, it felt rote as written and rote as delivered, and — in opposition just as in support — it was a hard speech to get all that fired up about. With Sen. Obama up in the states he needs and Dems mobilizing new voters all across the board, McCain needed a real gamechanger Thursday night. (Imho, the automatic dispenser of lousy headlines that is Sarah Palin is just going to keep backfiring, and the party of Lincoln continues to toy with the disgusting “Uppity Sambo” card at their peril.) In short, he didn’t get it.
There’ll be a bump — there always is. But, to my mind, John McCain’s climb just got a whole a lot steeper. Barring some monumental revelation, egregious debate flub, or international incident over the next two months, it’s hard to see McCain getting any closer to victory in 2008 than he is right now. And over the next eight weeks, I would nevertheless expect a lot of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, perhaps momentarily flush with good feeling for McCain, to think it over, remember the past seven years, look over at Sarah Palin in the veep slot, and decide to put their country first…by voting for Sen. Barack Obama for president.
Y’know, after watching Wednesday’s RNC festivities, I’m rather annoyed with myself that I titled the post about Tuesday night “Chimps on Parade.” I mean, the dismayingly chimpy Dubya notwithstanding, at least Fred Thompson can sometimes muster up the ornery menace of an aging silverback. But it was last night’s warm-up act, with also-rans Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani sneering and snarling with abandon at Obama, “liberals,” the “elite media,” the home television audience, and just about everything else that crossed their path, that felt like the real flying monkey attack.
Now, I can’t say I have my finger on the pulse of the nation or anything, but, in terms of the sheer quantity of vitriol, last night’s flurry of bad mojo felt quite a bit to me like Pat Buchanan’s disastrous 1992 “Culture War” speech all over again. (The fur flew so thick last night that even the AP felt compelled to mention the blatant untruths today.) We’ll see how it plays over the next few days and weeks, of course, but I get a strong sense that the Republicans didn’t help their cause much at all last night. (And, if you were to happen to infer that, by calling that ridiculous trio of GOP Pep Boys “flying monkeys,” I was implicitly comparing Gov. Palin, who later dripped with similar derision and contempt from her unfortunate sea of black, to Margaret Hamilton, well, that’s all on you…sexist.)
At any rate, to, take ‘em in their miniboss order…
Mitt Romney: “Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with Constitutional rights?” This one’s easy…Douchebag. [Transcript.] Is there anything else one needs to say about the man? It wasn’t so long ago even the GOP was united in their dislike of the guy’s patent insincerity. But last night, of course, Republicans hooted and hollered through his manifestly idiotic remarks about a “liberal Washington” like he was Don Rickles killing at the Palms. “Is government spending — excluding inflation — liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? — It’s liberal!” Of course, self-proclaimed conservatives, and darlings of everybody in that room last night, have run the White House for twenty of those twenty-eight years…but you already knew that. “It’s time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!” Uh…I guess Mitt hasn’t been following the news all that much of late, nor did he seem to pre-read his own speech. (See the first quoted sentence above.) I could go on, but you get the point: Douchebag. Let’s move on.
Mike Huckabee: “John McCain will follow the fanatics to their caves in Pakistan or to the gates of hell. What Obama wants to do is give them a place setting at the table.” Alright, I feel a bit bad for lumping in Huckaboom with the rest of the night’s speakers. [Transcript.] He’s clearly a smarter, abler politician than 95% of the Republicans out there (even if his weird anecdote about veterans and desks barely made a lick of sense), and his remarks wisely eschewed most of the angry invective that marked all of the other speeches. (His early nod to Obama’s candidacy — “Party or politics aside, we celebrate this milestone because it elevates our country” — went over like a lead balloon in the auditorium last night.) Still, even with his friendly, aw-shucks demeanor, Huckabee laid on the finger-pointing pretty thick at times, particularly once he set his sights upon the “elite media, whose “reporting of the past few days has proven tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert.“
Governor Huck probably trod onto the thinnest ice last night when he tried to portray the GOP as the “real” party of poor folk and ordinary working joes. This is wildly implausible for many reasons, not the least because Huckabee himself deemed the Republicans “a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the corporations” only a few short months ago. Plus, it’s really hard to buy into this sort of “broke-like-us” tripe when Cindy McCain is wearing $300,000 of bling to the big show.
Rudy Giuliani: “For four days in Denver and for the past 18 months, Democrats have been afraid to use the words ‘Islamic terrorism.’ During their convention, the Democrats rarely mentioned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” 9/11, 9/11, 9/11? Mayor Rudy 9iu11iani, it seems, is not above living down to his caricature. Of the three Pep Boy speeches, this is the one that will probably be remembered as the biggest misfire for the GOP. [Transcript.] Even if Romney’s was more intellectually dishonest as written, Giuliani’s shrill anti-Obama screed was emphatically the most poorly delivered. (Not that Giuliani scrimped on the intellectual dishonesty. See, for example, his resurrection of the hoary “present vote” meme.) For whatever reason — some say pique at his speech being moved — Giuliani came across as even more weaselly and intemperate than usual last night, and — I say this as someone who, despite everything since, gave him much credit for his original handling of 9/11 — Rudy seems weaselly and intemperate on the best of days. In any case, however much it may have fired up the faithful, Hizzoner’s rant didn’t play at all on TV. (While I’m linking TPM, Josh Marshall got off a great zinger last night: “I think I preferred this speech in the original German.“)
Over the past few days, I’ve refrained from posting every single revelation about the seemingly un-vetted Palin here, partly because I think little is gained by poring over the details of the awkward baby-momma story (even if the hypocrisy of the family values crowd has been stunning), and partly because keeping up with every facet of her creepy-craziness would’ve consumed the entire week. (If the Enquirer affair story gets locked down next week, that might well get a post here, tho’ — as did Edwards’ indiscretions. Also, a PSA for any kids who happen to stop by — watch what you write on your MySpace page, y’all. That’s one to grow on.)
So, how did Palin attempt to distract us, however briefly, from the fact that she’s an unqualified, uninformed, scandal-ridden, pro-life, creationist, secessionist, wolf-massacring, book-banning Buchananite fundie? Well, mainly by channeling Rush Limbaugh for forty minutes: “When the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot. When that happens, what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer — the answer is to make government bigger and take more of your money and give you more orders from Washington and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.” Uh, yeah. 1988 called…they want their talking points back.
I wish there was more to Palin’s coming-out address to recommend it, but 99.44% of her speech was just this sort of smarmy, deeply-negative, over-the-top ridicule for Obama-Biden, delivered for the sole purpose of firing up the tired remnants of the fringe right. (Another case in point: “My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery.“) Even elements of her biography that I somewhat respect were grossly mismanaged. True, being the cleanest Republican politician in Alaska is kinda like being the world’s tallest pygmy — and, as noted above, Palin’s hands aren’t all that clean anyway. But, still, I’d have respected the Governor more this morning if she hadn’t openly lied to us last night about her reform credentials. (“I told the Congress ‘thanks, but no thanks’ on that bridge to nowhere.” — I believe Peggy Noonan has an apt phrase for this kind of blatant falsifcation. For shame.)
Update: “Obama was working for a group of churches that were concerned about their parishioners…They hired Obama to help those stunned people recover and get the services they needed –job training, help with housing and so forth –from the local government. It was, dare I say it, the Lord’s work — the sort of mission Jesus preached (as opposed to the war in Iraq, which Palin described as a ‘task from God.’) This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man’s decision ‘to serve a cause greater than himself,’ in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate’s favorite messages.” By way of DYFL, TIME‘s Joe Klein angrily rallies to the defense of community organizers.
“You know what’s really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.” Oops. When they’re on the air, of course, most right-leaning pundits have very little criticism — indeed, judicious praise — of the Palin pick. Meanwhile, the media talking heads just nod along and pretend there might possibly some merit to such a ludicrous choice by the mythical maverick. Off the air, however, it’s a different story. Just listen to Chuck Todd, Peggy Noonan, and Mike Murphy discuss their real feelings about Palin in-between segments on MSNBC. (They got busted by an open mic.) Says Noonan of the election (when she’s not shilling for the right): “It’s over.” Update: In print this morning, Noonan scrambles.
Well, my original intention was to blog about the RNC speeches here at home in much the same fashion as I did in Denver last week. But, after slogging through last night’s ridiculousness on C-SPAN…sorry, y’all. These posts will have to be abbreviated, because I just can’t take these fools at all seriously.
For one, it’s abundantly clear that the cheering Republican faithful in Minnesota have, by sheer force of denial, somehow crossed over into a bizarro alternate universe, one where Dubya wasn’t the worst president this country has ever seen and Sarah Palin is the reincarnated hybrid of Queen Elizabeth and Joan of Arc. (No wonder they couldn’t fill the seats: It takes a not-insignificant amount of crazy to think thus these days.)
For another, the strenuous doublethink required to buy into last night’s program — Dubya is wonderful, but change is necessary, for example — is just beyond my capacity to embrace contradiction…pending more reeducation at the nearest Ministry of Love, of course.
For yet another, it’s hard to take the Gustav-related preambles to every speech at face value, given that — when the writing was on the wall three years ago — the Republicans’ grotesque incompetence and indifference to hurricane prep was on full display, much to the continued woe of New Orleans.
Finally, there was so much kneejerk demonizing of “the angry left” and their tax-and-spend, America-hating ways, particularly by Law & Order actor turned laconic buffoon Fred Thompson, that I just don’t feel much inclination to extend the olive branch to these jokers. It’d be nice to say that we just view the world differently and can agree to disagree, patriots on both sides of the issue yadda yadda yadda. But, given last night’s performances, these fellows are either unfathomably stupid or just venal, corrupt, and propagandistic liars. To be honest, i’d bet the BOTH line.
At any rate, the main events of the evening started out decently enough with an introduction by First Lady Laura Bush, who’s consistently been one of the only grace notes in the conservative governance of the past eight years. But, then her husband popped up, and the night took a significant downturn. [Transcript.] “Fellow citizens,” our president chimp-smirked as usual, “if the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.” Of course, John McCain’s habitual tendency to fold like an accordion whenever right-wing pressure is applied was in full evidence just this past weekend, when the stark-raving Rovians forced Palin on him. So this, like most Dubyaic pronouncements, should be taken with a few grains of salt.
Next up was Sen. Fred Thompson, who absolutely epitomized, in my friend Dr. Vendre‘s inimitable phrasing, the central “get off my damn lawn, you crazy kids” nature of the Republicans’ appeal this year. [Transcript.] Now, despite his cranky old neighbor act, this was considered a good speech by the media powers-that-be, mainly because Fred managed to wallow in P-O-Wisms for twenty minutes and close by calling Obama a godless babykiller. So, Mission Accomplished, I suppose.
Finally, the GOP wound up and unveiled the Zellout 2.0: “Holy Joe” Lieberman, to tell us that “eloquence is no substitute for a record ” and, that — basically — John McCain is the honorable maverick the nation needs and Barack Obama a brie-eating surrender monkey. [Transcript.] Now, I suppose this might’ve played if “Joementum” was an actual honest-to-goodness phenomenon among Democrats. But given that our party has pretty much always been underwhelmed with the guy, and now even his own state of Connecticut has soured on him, he may as well have dropped the bipartisan act and put that all-but-official “R” next to his name. (Today’s nonpartisan Fact Checker already has his number: “If Obama voted against funding the troops, so did Lieberman.“)
So…to sum up: Country First, a Lifetime of Service, POW POW POW, Liberals hate America, 9/11, 9/11. 9/11. Add several brazen untruths, a smattering of smears, and some healthy dollops of sheer idiocy, and then simmer until Gov. Palin shows up. All in a day’s work for the sad and embarrassing conservative wingnuttery that passes for today’s irreparably broken Republican party.
Now that I’m back from Denver and am finally all caught up with my Invesco posts, I may just have to take it easier during the GOP convention. In fact, perhaps I’ll procure some choice spirits and play everyone’s favorite RNC party game, McCain Bingo…