Thoughts on the Republican Convention

  1. Ann Romney’s introduction came across as ridiculous. She said, “Well, I want to talk to you tonight not about politics and not about party.” Seriously? Was the purpose of her speech really not to encourage people to vote for Mitt Romney? Did she just get up there on national television to tell her life story?
  2. Chris Christie was definitely trying to appeal to women. During his speech, the New Jersey governor said, “My Mom, who I lost eight years ago, was the enforcer. She made sure we all knew who set the rules. In the automobile of life, Dad was just a passenger. Mom was the driver.” Not only was this not really relevant to the subject at hand, but his father was sitting in the audience. There are just some family matters that should not aired on national television. Unlike the show, Family Matters, which really should. I will be curious to see how the Christian Right feels about the speech. After all, a major tenet of conservative Christianity is that the man should be the head of the household. Michelle Bachmann and Mike Huckabee, the latter of whom also spoke at the convention, have both expressed support for this sexist idea. On another note, there was a general feeling that the speech was less about drumming up support for Mitt Romney than it was about laying the groundwork for Chris Christie himself to run for president in 2016. People who think this point out that Christie said the word “I” thirty-seven times and “Romney” seven times. If indeed that was Christie’s intention, he will face an uphill battle. There have been obese presidents before—William Taft being the heaviest, probably followed by Grover Cleveland. But these men were elected to office before an era in which most Americans watched television. The same, by the way, can be said of short presidents. No man under 5’9” has been elected president since television has become commonplace. By contrast, in the time of print media, men like Ulysses S. Grant (5’8”) and James Madison (5’4”) served as president. The heaviest president ever, William Howard Taft, stood six feet tall and ballooned up to three hundred fifty pounds during his presidency. Christie stands an inch shorter than Taft and may actually weigh more than him. If he wants to win the presidency, Christie will have to find some method of losing at least 100 pounds, possibly quite a bit more, by 2016. Also, I was very surprised when Christie said that it was necessary to “make America great again.” The implication of this, of course, is that America is not currently great. If conservatives are not just as critical of this remark as they were of Michelle Obama’s “first time in my adult life I’m really proud of my country” comment, they will be guilty of perpetuating a double standard.
  3. Condoleeza Rice’s speech was easily the best speech of the convention. She addressed the country’s history of slavery and segregation and how she overcame racial and gender barriers to become one of the most powerful people in the country. While I wish she would be empathetic toward the discrimination that gay people have faced, her quote, “And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham.  The segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have her convinced that even if she cannot have it hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state,” was probably the most powerful in any of the speeches and definitely the most heartwarming.
  4. Mike Huckabee’s speech came across as self contradictory and mean spirited. Just like in his 2008 convention speech—which sounded a lot like his 2012 one—he talked about the need for limited government while also wanting to have the government use its power to divide people into different categories of rights based on sexual orientation and tell gay people who they can and can’t marry. He also said that the Founding Fathers believed in meritocracy, not aristocracy. Um, O.K. So the Founding Fathers set up a system where everybody was born free and had an equal chance to prosper? Tell that to the slaves. Huckabee needs to crack open a history textbook written after 1940. Another thing that puzzled me, just like in his 2008 speech, was his story about growing up poor combined with his claims about not waiting for the government to bail him out of poverty. So if, according to Huckabee, anyone can succeed and get rich if they work hard enough, why were his parents poor? Is he implying that they were lazy or stupid? That’s the problem with the American Dream. People say they believe in it but don’t want to examine the logical conclusions. Oh, and one other thing. Huckabee felt the need to make fun of DNC Chairwoman. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s voice. Now, while I wasn’t thrilled with her mischaracterization of Mitt Romney’s views on abortion recently, I like and respect Schultz a lot. She overcame the sexism of our society to become an important political figure, and she has not only supported equal rights for gay people but also advocated making it a plank in the Democratic Party platform. Huckabee does not deserve to tie her shoes. So, I’m going to give the former Arkansas governor a taste of his own medicine. Mike, remember all that weight you lost? It must be like Lassie, because it seems to be finding its way home.
  5. I won’t spend much time on Newt and Callista Gingrich’s speech, except to say that I really wish Newt had included the line, “Sorry about the whole Bain Capital thing.”
  6. As with the Gingriches, I won’t spend much time talking about Paul Ryan’s speech. Let me just say that I bet five bucks we have to listen for the next two months to people arguing about whether Bush or Obama was actually to blame for the auto plant closing down.
  7. Marco Rubio’s speech was a good one to have immediately preceding Romney’s, because it really fell flat in my view and was not a hard act to follow. Rubio quoted the Bible to say that, “for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.” There are over 30,000 verses in the Bible. I would have really suggested Rubio not pick that particular one for his speech. While I see the verse as promoting charity by the rich, President Obama used it earlier this year to argue for higher taxes on the rich, and from the way the passage is worded, it is not hard to see why. By far the biggest mistake in Rubio’s speech was repeating the tired cliché about the Founding Fathers. Rubio said, “America was founded on the idea that every person had God given rights.” Now I do not doubt that the Founding Fathers believed in this idea, they just failed dismally to live up to it. They chose not to live up to it. Leaving that part of the story out is really pretty insulting to all of the people who have struggled to make sure that every American is given the rights that he or she is entitled to. I’m sure we’ll hear similar tripe at the Democratic Convention.
  8. It is no secret that I am an Obama supporter and that I do not like Mitt Romney. But I will admit that his speech was four out of five stars. He did a good job getting most of his points across and of appealing to women. My biggest criticism was that he felt compelled to throw in something about being opposed to gay marriage. Not only was it reprehensible and bigoted, it was bad strategy. Momentum is shifting in favor of gay marriage, and most people are more interested in hearing about Romney’s plans to fix the economy. I also found it interesting when he said that Obama and Carter were the only presidents since the Great Depression who, when running for reelection, had been unable to tell the public that they were better off than they had been four years ago. I assume he included the part about running for reelection to let Bush 43 off of the hook, since he definitely could not have made such a claim to the public when he left office. Thirdly, with the obvious attempts to make the GOP appear more cosmopolitan, I cannot help but wonder why Mitt made no reference to his father’s strong support for the rights of African Americans. Was it because he was afraid of alienating racist voters? Did he not think it was relevant? Hard to say, but it seemed a strange omission.

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