After the first real night of the Republican National Convention (the first night having been almost entirely given over to hurricane relief appeals), the nation knows more about John McCain than we knew about Barack Obama after the Democratic Convention was ending in fireworks.
Laura Bush was, as usual, gracious, but to the point. There was not much fluff in her speech; the Republicans treat women as more than cute window dressing. (Case in point: Michelle Obama went on the View and has been doing photo shoots for every women’s magazine on the rack, all to gush about what a great husband she has and how the “fist bump” proves the couple’s hipness. Cindy McCain, in the last eight months, has delivered humanitarian aid to Georgia (and pretty much shooed off the reporters with a, “Get out of my way; I’m actually busy here; this isn’t politics.”), talked to survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, and worked with a charity in Vietnam.)
President Bush’s brief remarks were good, but somewhat unremarkable. As the commentators suggested, the president did mention that McCain had really annoyed him several times by sticking to his convictions, even when they clashed with the administration’s plans.
Former senator Fred Thompson was great. (Well, if you’re a Republican; Democrats would probably roll their eyes and complain that it mentioned McCain’s time as a POW again.) As Academy grads, my husband and I loved the parts about McCain’s father racking up demerits… and John McCain “taking that as a record to be broken.” (I should note that being tops at the Academy is not always a predictor of success in the fleet, as being near the bottom is no predictor of failure. In fact, there have been some truly great leaders who were, as they say, “making the top two thirds of the class possible.” General Robert E. Lee graduated near the bottom of his class at West Point, and General Meade (regarded as an absolutely awful general) graduated near the top.) Thompson covered McCain’s early years, and thoroughly described McCain’s service as an aviator and a POW.
Thompson talked about McCain’s accomplishments in the Senate. I won’t detail it all here, but, unlike the Democrats’ speeches, there actually were details. (Go here for the full text.) And, unlike many of the Democrats’ choices for prime time, he actually worked with McCain. Not family (I don’t care if he’s a great brother-in-law), not just a friend (I don’t care if he’s good at barbeques), but someone who could speak to how McCain works.
Senator Joe Lieberman spoke next. Some of the commentators groused that well, of course the Republicans put him in prime time, because he’s a trophy as a Democrat-turned-Independent who supports McCain. (Hmmm…. I didn’t see any Republicans speaking at the Democratic convention, in or out of prime time. Jealous?) Anyways, I was actually surprised at the strength of the speech. He didn’t yell about Barack Obama or offer canned slogans (remember the right-on-cue chants at the Democratic National Convention?); he gave a reasoned explanation of why McCain is a good candidate and why Obama is a bad choice. He appealed to Independents and Democrats to take a good look at McCain.
THIS is how you run a convention. Mostly, these things are infomercials for the rest of the country, not for the hard-core Republicans. The Republicans needed to make a case for why McCain has the character and experience to lead the country. I’m sure hard-core Democrats (who are probably off reading blogs about the latest rumor that Palin’s cousin’s dog is gay and she tried to cover it up) would disagree, but I think the Republicans successfully made that case.
The question now is, what did all those voters in the middle think?