Convention Notes 2008: Republican Convention

Four years ago, I wrote up National Election convention notes for my family. Those notes can be found on my blog. This year, I am posting the notes directly to the blog. Last week, I posted concerning the Democratic Convention. This week, I will post concerning the Republican Convention. My on-campus teaching jobs also start this week--Back to School!--so I will not post the same level of coverage as I did last week, but I will attempt to post every night.

September 4, 2008

I've been thinking about the news coverage. It does seem that the coverage of the Republican Convention has been slightly more waspish than the Democratic Convention coverage. I know that sort of comment becomes instantly suspect when I mention that I am, all things considered, more conservative than liberal. However, at this point, I have little personal investment in who wins the National Election.

And I have a theory about why the coverage of the Republican Coverage is somewhat more catty than it has been. My theory is connected to my master's program. I should state that none of my professors were particularly prone towards political-correctness; that is, they rarely made any concerted effort to push the students in any particular direction, and they occasionally seemed downright thankful to my tendency to (indirectly) question geo-social-political assumptions.

Nevertheless, most of the students, including me, were raised with political correctness, and at least one student was actually invested in it. Now, in terms of civility and good manners, I'm all in favor of political correctness. When it comes to limiting dialogue, however, I get testy. And I began to notice a trend in the discussions in my program--students freely criticized Caucasians, males, Americans, and Christians but not other groups. I honestly don't think this was due to any specific prejudice. I think it occurred because those groups, at least, could be talked about--without repercussions or worries about crossing a particular line.

I noticed this partly because, as a Mormon, nobody knew whether I was a minority (deserving special consideration) or whether I was part of the Christian/conservative mainstream. I never enlightened anyone (the answer is "Both"). I think being non-labelly is a good thing.

But the (unstated) question always seemed to be, "Can we talk about these people or not?" One reason I never complained about the anti-Christian comments was I feared the solution would be worse than the problem--what kind of dialoguing occurs when nobody can criticize anyone? I also figured, "Mormons are tough enough to take it."

And Christians, Caucasians, Americans (and Republicans) can take it too. Nevertheless, I've wondered if one reason the press went after Palin so hard was because they could--finally--go after somebody. Without tittle-tattle, the press dies. If the press felt hampered, in any way, by Obama's race, a "freebie" (white, female, young, conservative, presumably Christian, pro-life) would have been thankfully latched on to.

And sure, that's a form of reverse racism, but doesn't it bode well for women that Palin does NOT belong to untouchable territory?

Besides, she can take it.

A number of sports people talk. Sweet unaffected presentations. But what's with all this "spiritual revival" stuff? Sorry, folks, I think secular democracy is the best thing that ever happened to the United States, especially for us religious types. Rodney Stark has written a GREAT book (Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief) where he argues that the moment governments lose their hold on religion, religions proliferate!! It isn't that people begin to become religious when a state religion vanishes; it is that the absence of a state religion allows people to express their existent religious preferences.

I'll admit, I think people who get hyper about government offices posting the Ten Commandments are limited in their understanding (the United States is largely the product of Judeo-Christian thinking--accept this, people), but I prefer my politicians to keep their religious feelings to themselves. Don't tell me how to worship God. I can figure that out for myself, thank you very much. Just fight the United States' wars and balance the budget. Thank you and goodnight.

Senator Lindsey Graham: He is saying some truly intelligent things about Iraq. I get so tired of news coverage that does not appreciate the enormous strides that have been made in Iraq. "I'm not saying Barack Obama doesn't care--he just doesn't get it!" This guy is a pretty good speaker--succinct, strong on his main points, able to summarize and then refute the opposition.

Video of Sarah Palin. She didn't marry her high-school sweetheart immediately out of high school. I find that comforting. She does have an impressive resume. She may have made mistakes, but she sure has done stuff!

Let's see, how many Democratic nominees lately have actually done more than show up in the Senate? Okay, that was rude, but I have a theory about why Democrats have a tendency to go for relatively inexperienced presidential nominees. If Goldberg is right and the Democratic Party (and American liberalism specifically) is heavily influenced by progressivism, then the Democrats have been infused by the cult of youth--the idea that young, inexperienced, unpracticed people (politicians, teenagers, etc.) somehow have an "in" to the right, the perfect, the ideal answers.

They don't (by the way).

A video about Cindy McCain--she is a remarkable person. (I think Gary Sinise is the narrator--you go, Gary!)

Cindy McCain: She comes to the stage surrounded by her family--that is really sweet. She's not a natural speaker; she's more the "lady calling for philanthropic aid," which is what she is. She is gracious and . . . wait . . . "If only the Federal government would get itself under control and out of our way!" You go, girl!

That was a fleeting moment. She's a bit dull. I think Laura Bush has a more energetic style--for all her quiet reserve.

Palin is there, and boy, she is perfectly confident without airs or coy simpering. She carries herself well.

Cindy McCain is still dull. But she's doing her job, and she does have a true International perspective. I'm not sure how (if) she will come across to the great American public though. Oh, well, that's what Palin is for.

John McCain is next! I confess I know almost nothing about John McCain other than what I've heard in this convention. I do know that in 2004 (before he dropped out), he was a media favorite. He seems to be genuinely liked by people who meet him.

The video is good. Yes, we are going to hear more about his service in Vietnam. Still, it is a remarkable story, and if a nominee has such material . . . he should use it.

And the video does go on to other things.

John McCain: Positive comments about President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. His mum is 96! He addresses Obama: "You have my respect and my admiration." He means it. That is very cool. "We'll go at it--that is the nature of this business."

Disruption on the floor--what is it with these protester types? Are they THAT threatened by an opposing point of view?

I hate to tell you . . . McCain's kind of dull. But then I don't demand flash and glam in my presidents.

I will say, I think the floor is a little disconcerted by his willingness to go after anyone from tobacco companies to union bosses. I like it.

What will he do?
Double child tax exemption.
He isn't going to wish away the global economy. I can get behind that.
He's all about education. "Empower parents with choice."
Drill off-shore and other ideas: I've got to tell you, I think hybrid automobiles are kind of silly.
Help Georgia?
"I know how to secure the peace." How? How?
His experience.
In a way, it is to McCain's credit that he hasn't provided some huge list of goals (since I never believe in those goals anyway). And I think he really means what he says about bipartisanship and government transparency.

He tells his story again, only this time he mentions the American soldiers who fed him in his cell, and the men who buoyed him up and helped him--that's very cool.

"If you find faults with this country, make it a better one."

He has a positive, upbeat attitude. He hasn't gone after Obama that much. He does appear to have a clear ideology and purpose for running. He just isn't all that . . . gripping. He has passion, but it doesn't reach me.

And there are my balloons! Hooray!!

The commentators liked the speech! I tell you, the press truly likes McCain. They may not like Republicans, but they like McCain himself.

Out of the PBS pundits, only Mark Shields agrees with me--go figure. He makes the point that McCain does not talk as well about himself as he does about others.

Brooks was disappointed at the lack of a clear policy change. He did think, and I agree, that McCain's sincerity came though. I have been told that McCain is much better as an extempore speaker while Obama is much better at planned speeches (should make the debates interesting).

My summary of both conventions: the Democratic Convention was a more professional, stunning spectacle. The Republican Convention, however, came across as more real and raw (which was helped by the Republicans not moving to a huge football stadium). How will the conventions affect the campaigns? I think Obama will be promoted as smart, eloquent, thoughtful, concerned with the average American, and different with an experienced back-up; McCain will be promoted as gruff, old, experienced, patriotic, and non-Washington-circuit with an able non-Washington-circuit back-up.

Let the games began!

September 3, 2008

Mark Shields just made the exceptionally silly argument that "Republicans" tend to turn on the media when things aren't going well. Oh, that's right, Democrats never, ever do that. (Insert supremely sarcastic tone.)

I think there is a great deal of parochialism in politics. In my master's program, I would get incredibly frustrated by the completely un-ironic comments made by students that everybody they knew voted for Kerry. I found it bizarre in the extreme. There has never been a time in my life (including when I lived in Provo, Utah) when I didn't know people who thought and voted differently from me. To not be aware of that information . . . I would have to be dead.

I think the media suffers from extreme parochialism--both at NBC (see Joe's remarks in the comments) and at FOX. The reporters start thinking that ALL right-thinking people think like THEM.

This is all to say that Mark Shields probably honestly believes that when the Democrats squawk over "bias" in the press, they are raising important issues, but when Republicans squawk, it shows their paranoia. This is natural parochialism.

But he really should know better.

Chairman Michael Williams: "Life begins at conception."

I'm a Mormon, and I don't even like where this argument goes. I think House (House, M.D.) is rather cynical about abortion, but I think he has a valid point. Birth is a really clear line. You start giving the fetus (which resides in a person's body) the same rights and considerations as a baby, and man, talk about government interference.

I'm not saying I think abortion is good or right or anything else. I get incredibly annoyed with so-called feminists who think ALL right-thinking women are pro-choice. I think it is empty-headed and deliberately blind to avoid or ignore possible ethical objections to abortion, but this is one area where I think such objections have to come from the individual plus the individual's religious community, family, and doctor. I don't want the government making decisions about this AT ALL.

Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuno: "This nation will achieve strategic independence by 2025" regarding gas, energy, etc. Oh, groan. Talk about radical isolationism--and both parties are advocating this.

Meg Whitman, former President and CEO of eBay: John McCain is wonderful--rah, rah, rah.

Okay, I really do need more specifics at this point.

Michael Steele: Everybody in both parties is American, rather than Democrat or Republican.

Whatever happened to supporting your party's ideology?

It isn't the Republican's fault that the more the week goes on, the more fed up I get. It's the sheer confluence of political platitudes. How do political analysts do it? I told my students today, "This semester includes a National Election, and the media is all hyped up. But you know, in a 1000 years, all that will be left will be monuments and writing. That makes me happy."

And it does.

"Drill, baby, drill, and drill now." Okay, I like that line. I approve of anyone who says things so far outside the norm.

The hilarious thing is how much liberal acquaintances of mine think they are advocating non-accepted ideologies when in fact, their ideologies are so much taken for granted that I'm probably the most unique, out-of-kilter thinker they've ever met just because I think Bush isn't evil, Palin is interesting, there are more kinds of feminists than Hillary, and JFK maybe wasn't god.

It reminds me of a very funny episode from Coupling when a Labor (liberal) woman discovers that a guy she wants to date is Conservative. She then discovers that a gay friend of theirs is also Conservative. She is appalled. They tell her, "Hey, your party is in power now. You're the establishment."

"No, I'm not!" she says, horrified.

"Yes, you are," they say. "We're the Rebel Alliance. You're the Empire," and they start humming the soundtrack from Star Wars.

It is hilarious and very, very British. American Liberals just can't accept how very, very establishment and accepted they are.

Mitt Romney is coming up next. Since I just mentioned I am Mormon, I need to address Mitt Romney as a nominee. When Mitt Romney was in the primaries, did I think he should be president because he was Mormon?

No. Well, actually, I didn't much care.

Yes, there were Mormons in my local congregation who supported him. And there were Mormons in my local congregation who were completely opposed to him. And there were people like me who said, "Well, I'm sure he's a nice guy, but I really don't think he would have a chance at winning the election" and not just because of his Mormonism.

Interestingly enough, Northern Maine, whose Republicans are about as conservative as Republicans can get, supported Romney in the primaries. I don't doubt his administrative ability, and I know third-hand that he is a very fine and upright individual, but I did question his ability to wow the American people. From a purely "let's win" perspective, the nominee has to be many things to many people. Does that mean that nominees are always the best people for the job? No (look at Kerry). But they do have to be electable (as a negative example, look at Kerry). I was never convinced Romney was that electable.

I will also admit that a little part of me just can't shake the fundamental Libertarian belief that good people don't become politicians, and what does it say about Mormons when one does? Okay, I now apologize to all self-sacrificing politicians from many religions.

Mitt Romney: "Is Washington Liberal or Conservative?" He is speaking directly to the base. And . . . this is why I don't think he could have won the primaries.

He's really going after liberals, and I don't actually disagree with any of it, but it makes me nervous. I tend to respond not so much to what people say, but to the verbiage they use. I've mentioned elsewhere that when I was in my master's program, I got tired of the anti-Christian comments made by a fellow student. The verbiage she used was exactly the same verbiage people used in the early part of the 1900s to argue that Jews were an International/business conspiracy out to get everyone else. Exactly the same types of phrases.

I know she didn't, in her heart of hearts, want a Holocaust against Christians. It was simply acceptable for her to use that language. And I knew enough of history for her verbiage to make me wince.

"Let's keep Al Gore's private jet on the ground--" that is much, much funnier than a reference to McCain's three houses.

But Romney's rabble-rousing still makes me nervous.

The Talking Heads think he is setting himself up for 2012--big mistake, if so. These days, people win elections based on the swing-voters, moderates, and Independents, not the party base (says I).

Mike Huckabee: "I am genuinely delighted to be here tonight for my second choice for the Republican president: John McCain." Now, that is true graciousness. "I have great respect for Senator Obama's ability to become his party's nominee not because of his color but in indifference to it." THAT is a fine line. Me too, Huckabee. And the floor applauded--good for them.

He is a clear, to-the-point speaker. I find him much easier to listen to than Romney. And he's funny. Okay, I confess, I prefer speakers who use humor.

"A government that can do everything for us is a government that can take everything from us." Yes, yes, yes!!! Finally!!!!!! That, to me, is the ultimate point. Yes, people should help each other. Yes, a perfect society would be "of one heart and one mind, and dwell in righteousness [with] no poor among them." But that is only possible if individuals decide to do it. If a government is used to enforce this perfection, it will HAVE to be given the power to do other, less friendly things. And, taking human nature and history into consideration, it will do those things.

"I'm a Republican because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life poor waiting for the government to rescue me."

He then talks about a lot of stuff that makes me think "Do the Republicans really think this will help them win?"

Okay, the teacher story was really great: "You don't have to earn your desks because these [veterans] already did." I also like the way he tied the students' desks to the desk in the Oval Office. I'm all about tying things together coherently!

Not a bad speech, but I'm not the type of person that extreme right stances (middle part of Huckabee's speech) appeal to. Hmm, so maybe I'll be voting Libertarian after all.

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle: Discussion of Palin. Lingle is the right person to defend Sarah Palin's record, and her speech is succinct and to the point. However, I do wish someone would address the issue of Wasilla's debt. She makes the point that Obama and Biden have no executive experience. True.

Rudy Giuliani: I like him. He tells stories. I hope he tells stories this year.

Comparing Obama v. McCain--"Who are you going to hire?"

In terms of showing magnaminity to the other side . . . I don't think either party is going to win that award this year. The convention floor is extremely partisan (but no more than those Democrats who practically spit when they say Bush's name).

Giuliani has made the point that Obama's records in Illinois and Washington aren't that impressive. He is right about that. Obama's lack of leadership is one of his campaign's biggest weaknesses. (And very saavy of Giuliani to use Biden and Hillary Clinton's words on this subject.)

"Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy"--good line but pretty forgettable.

"If I were Joe Biden, I would want to get that VP thing in writing." That's funny. I don't think Obama is quite as waffling as Kerry; I think he is careful and close. However, Giuliani is doing the job of showing how the "other" candidate is not a reliable bet.

"I'm sorry Barack Obama feels her hometown isn't . . . cosmopolitan enough." Giuliani can be downright hilarious in his delivery. He's a fun speaker.

He sure likes to talk though.

When do they ever ask a man, "Will he have enough time to govern and spend time with his children?" Excellent point!! Isn't it hilarious that the people asking that question are Republicans! Take that, NOW!

No stories. I'm disappointed.

FINALLY!! Sarah Palin is up. Okay (deep breath). What do *I* think? (And I'm sure you are holding your breaths in anticipation of my thoughts!)

The floor LOVES her.

She has just declared what her focus will be as Vice President: Special Needs children.

She will now defend her record. She has a clear, non-shrill voice. She is confident and not defensive. She is far more personable than Hillary--sorry, Hillary supporters (personally, I doubt very much that Hillary supporters will switch to Palin, but I think Independent feminists might go for her).

I have to mention that I like the changing slides on the stage's backdrop.

She is making specific references to what she did as governor--I am impressed!

Gas and oil. Gas and oil. Well, I buy Palin's experience here more than anyone else's so far.

She has delivered some fairly funny bon mots regarding Obama. She doesn't rant. She sounds . . . like a PTA mom. It's refreshing.

Okay, I have to admit, it bothers me when Republicans cheer about NOT giving terrorists their rights. I don't have that much investment in the issue, and for all I know, tackling terrorists is more complicated than the ACLU could cope with, but is that really something to get excited about?

She did a good job. She talked a great deal about McCain and ignored a lot of the press's speculations. That shows real strength of character.

So, I like her. I'm even impressed.

But I need to hear McCain before I make any lasting decisions (which I will then feel free to change at any time).

And my request has been answered! John McCain just showed up--I guess it has become de rigeur for the presidential candidate to show up Wednesday instead of Thursday.

He will speak tomorrow--read this blog for my thoughts on that speech!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jo Anne Davidson talks about conservative women. You would think that reasonably intelligent people would already know that many women are deliberately and thoughtfully conservative, but unfortunately, the politically-correct, NOW-like mindset still cannot accept that truly independent and intelligent women do not all come from the liberal camp. Talk about close-mindedness.

Norm Coleman: Reference to Hurricane Gustav. Who says Gustav will hurt the Republican Convention?

"I'm not indecisive, am I? That could be an Obama campaign slogan." Okay, it's the first truly funny thing I've heard in both conventions so far. Democrats can be catty, but Republicans can actually tell jokes. Ann Coulter is nuts, but she is much funnier than Michael Moore.

"John McCain has a face that says, 'Yes' because that's what's in his soul." Excellent line.

Okay, the convention hall is really ugly. I'm disappointed. The Republicans usually do better. I loved the 2000 convention hall which was light with plenty of open spaces and a sand-colored stage. The convention hall this year is just blah. On the other hand, it is simple.

So the Republican Convention is going for the PATRIOTIC/FLAG/WE LOVE AMERICA stuff. Not that I have anything against any of that stuff. I side with O'Rourke who in, I think, Holidays From Hell gets ticked at the lack of patriotism shown by leftists who traveled to Russia and openly criticized the United States. I love the song "I'm Proud to Be an American!" I have no problem with the Pledge of Allegiance remaining part of school programs across the United States. I once got incredibly upset at a neighbor who allowed her kid to throw a little American flag on the ground.

However, I get uncomfortable with the flag waving=good people/Pledge=pure American stuff. When my mom and dad were in school, the Pledge did not include the "God" phrase--that came along later. But these things get sacralized and all my pure liberal conservative instincts go "Yikes!"

David Brooks comes out pretty strong defending Palin and criticizing the media's obsession with her kid. "Look," he says (I'm summarizing), "every politician puts his or her kids on the line, in the limelight. In general, the media has agreed to lay off, but this time, they aren't. Why is that Palin's fault?" Good for Brooks!

The beginning of the Democratic Convention was all "Will Hillary support Obama?" The beginning of the Republican Convention is all about Palin. I think that's one point to the Republicans.

Michele Bachmann: "Government fosters service the best when government binds service the least." She is speaking about John McCain's encouragement of service organizations.

"We must never forget what government is NOT: government is NOT a philanthropic organization. Government is not the family. And government is certainly not the church."

It's about time somebody said it!

She's doing a good job articulating a specific philosophy! Gee, was she ever up for the vice presidential spot?

Wes Gullett with his black daughter, Nicki?: He is talking about Cindy McCain's work. I'm not sure how I feel about the show-n-tell. But those are very sweet girls (who McCain brought home, and Wes Gullett and his wife adopted). The political objective here seems a bit vague: Adoption is a good option? Foster care is positive? The United States is open to immigration?

You know, it is really hard NOT to believe in the bias of the press when you see all this "Ahhh, scandal regarding Palin, look! look! look!" It makes my skin crawl. Where's the civility? Jim Lehrer isn't terribly thrilled with the material; Brooks is getting as annoyed as his moderate soul can allow. Watching Mark Shields justify it is downright distasteful--Palin hasn't even spoken yet!

More discussion of McCain's reaction to Hurricane Gustav and requests for aid (who says Hurricane Gustav hurt the Republicans?)

Fire Capt. Shanna Hanson just got an incredibly warm welcome as did President George Bush (Senior).

These women speakers make me very happy--it's like the Republicans said, "You want feminism--we'll give you feminism!" Good. Nothing ticks me off more than the "oh, you're a woman, you can only think one way, you MUST be a liberal" attitude.

Tommy Espinoza, President & CEO of Raza Development Fund: I finally got it! It's an evening of volunteers and community organizations. As an answer to government control, it's a fairly effective presentation (although I hope someone actually makes the point clear and explains the importance).

So far the convention has appeared less well-coordinated than the Democratic Convention, but the floor is consistently up and the speakers come across as more sincere. (And appearances are deceptive--the Democratic Convention was constantly changing its program which annoyed Jim Lehrer--in his mild-mannered way--to no end. That isn't happening with the Republican Convention. PBS is able to follow its planned arrangements without having to cut to the floor every two seconds.)

Gary Sinise (one of my favorite actors) narrates a film about U.S. Seal Mike Monsoor, Medal of Honor recipient: what a remarkable story! The floor's reactions seem truly warm and spontaneous--it's nice.

The speakers are skipping back and forth from service to military, but the theme is consistent: individual sacrifice.

Laura Bush is up!! I think she is such a fine human being. "I'm proud that the first U.S. female Vice President will be a Republican woman." Yeah, that would be cool.

She says good things about her husband: "Change you can really believe in." She isn't usually so fired up in her sweet, refined way (Fanny Price on a rampage). Good for her!

George W. Bush: I still like him. I know he has made many mistakes, but I've always liked the guy.

"I know the hard choices a president must make." Ye-ah, he does.

It's a pretty normal Bush speech. He praises his wife, like he always does. His praise always comes across as very real and loving. I do like the guy.

Laura praises Cindy McCain--another gracious lady.

Well, nothing really different yet but well-grounded material.

Fred Thompson: He was on Law & Order? I love Law & Order.

He says Washington and the media is all up in arms about a woman who has actually governed rather than hit the "Washington cocktail circuit"--now, that's a great line.

He's a strong speaker: Palin is the only speaker in either party who knows how to properly "field dress a moose." Heh.

Thompson is making the case for McCain as a maverick: so far, it is all "mischievous boyhood" stuff. Instead of George Washington cutting down the tree and then confessing, the story should be that George Washington cut down the tree and then . . . cut down twenty more!

Thompson is going to tell the story of McCain's military record. It is extraordinary--very impressive. Still, it doesn't tell me how his governing will be different from other politicians. But I think it is supposed to be a presentation of McCain's (truly) tough and (truly) noble character. Does the ability to withstand terrible physical torture indicate an ability to withstand emotional and politicking pressure? I don't know.

Still, McCain's history is utterly astonishing. And well-told.

"This is the kind of character that civilizations from the beginning of time have sought in their leaders." Yeah and . . . sometimes, it works. Sometimes . . . it don't. The heroic and charismatic Julius Caesar was an impressive leader, but the bureaucratic Augustus was probably better. Alexander was a great administrator, but he lived hard and died young. Charlemagne was apparently pretty good. Richard the Lionheart stank.

Thompson is a first-hand witness of McCain's behavior in the Senate--this is necessary information. And Thompson is also really fun to listen to. Obama is the "most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president"--ouch! The Democratic-controlled Congress is the "least accomplished" Congress in history. "This is not reform, and it is certainly not change." He's right although from a Libertarian point of view, you could argue that a totally incompetent and ineffectual president and Congress might not be totally terrible for the United States (economically, at least).

Thompson is the only one so far who has pointed out that taxing businesses DOES hurt the average everyday citizen. "They say they aren't going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the other side of the bucket." That is totally funny.

Geez, did McCain consider this guy for VP?

Possibly the best speech so far.

There is a strong reaction from the floor regarding remarks about government corruption and government control. This is the most anti-government crowd of Republicans I've ever seen.

Joe Lieberman is up!! I really like him. He's now an Independent. I didn't know that. (Will Zell Miller show up?)

McCain will put our country first.

*Sigh.* It's not a bad sentiment, but I've been watching over a week's worth of political yaddaya by now. I wonder if I should try speechifying to my students: "You should put your English papers first. You should come together over your peer reviews. You should work on grammar rules that make every American proud."

"God only made one John McCain, and he is his own man." Good line.

"Eloquence is no substitute for a record."

I think the Republican tactic has been set--the old, gruff, independent, experienced guy versus the young buck.

Lieberman can speak to Obama's Senate record. Lieberman argues that Obama's record is less independent than . . . Clinton's--now, THAT is saavy. Lieberman may not completely enchant the floor (although they have been positive in their responses), but he will reach moderate Republicans.

Another good--though loooong--talk. Lieberman said some really blunt things about what's going on in Washington. However, I do think the Republicans' efforts to reach Independents may be somewhat more effective than the Democrats' efforts (I'm not sure leftists amongst the Democratic leadership understand Independents).

I think the evening was a little bewildering, but the speeches were much, much better than the Democratic speeches on the first two nights. (You could probably argue that a three night convention is more effective than a four night convention in any case.)

Palin will speak tomorrow. I'm excited to learn more about her!

Labor Day, Monday, September 1, 2008


A week ago, when I began watching the Democratic Convention, I thought Obama and Biden were a shoo-in for the presidency. I should state here that I am a conservative Libertarian. I don't agree with many of Obama's proposals, and in general, am not a big fan of Democratic economic policies. I also don't have the highest regard for liberal attitudes towards the military and military policies. How much liberalism affects or infects the Democratic party is as debatable a point as how much religious fundamentalism affects or infects the Republican party.

In any case, despite my reservations--and the strong possibility that I will actually vote Libertarian this year (rather than going with a vote that "counts")--I thought Obama was going to win the National Election in November by a wide margin. He is young, black, eloquent, and likable. Plus the economy is reportedly not doing so well. (Some economists somewhere once made the case that the National Election is always decided based on the economy OR, at least, the perception of the economy.)

Additionally, the Republicans have made some pretty bad blunders over the last eight years. I am not one of those Independents that thinks George Bush, Jr. (or Senior for that matter) is the spawn of Satan. I don't even think he was (necessarily) wrong to go into Iraq. But, as I mentioned last week, I do think the Bushes aren't terribly good at communicating their visions. This does not mean that history won't appreciate Bush, Jr.'s hard work; it just means that in the world of short-term politics, he is rather a liability to his party.

So, last week, I thought, "Obama has it. Game over."Then I watched the Democratic Convention. It was a very, very smart convention. It was well-crafted. A convention should be well-crafted. It also needs good speakers. The Democratic Convention had good speakers although none of them were really memorable. (The 2004 Conventions included far more memorable speeches from both parties, but the evenings were also far more inconsistent--bad speaker, bad speaker, great speaker, bad speaker. The Democratic Convention had consistently okay to good speakers.)

A convention also needs to create memories. The truth is nobody but people like me watch the conventions, and I mostly watch them to pick up lessons in good and bad communication. Conventions are for the delegates, the pundits, the news media, and the opposition. BUT the impression made by the convention on those listed groups has, I believe, a huge impact in terms of formulating memory. What are people going to keep talking about? What are people going to be hearkening back to? What image will people carry with them over the next three months?

So what was the Democratic Convention's impact on the memory of the above listed communicators?

"Wow!!!! Uh."

It was well-planned and well-executed. It retained an emotional high over four days. It had great music. It was an impressive spectacle. But that's all. Despite the use of phrases like "we must make a change," nothing new was really said. It was, thankfully, slightly less vindictive than Democratic conventions usually are, but there was nothing truly individualistic about it. Palin is the most individualistic thing that happened that week, and she happened to the Republicans.

That's a problem.


It depends on what McCain does this week. It depends a great deal, I think, on Palin. Mostly, I think it depends on whether the Republicans can convince the delegates, pundits, news media, and opposition that the Republican Convention did offer up something substantial.

I am full of curiosity.

Since my television is still wonky, I will be watching a large portion of the convention on CNN.

The Republican Convention has suspended most of its televised first day speeches, etc. due to Hurricane Gustav. Personally, I think this was a wise decision. I also think it is being handled tastefully (with a request for donations for Hurricane Gustav sufferers). Kudos for grace under pressure.

Which is more than I can say about the protesters. Yes, I know they have been mostly peaceful, and it's their right, etc., but all they do is reinforce my (albeit jaded after two years of graduate school) perspective that liberals (who I associate with protesters more than I do conservatives) love freedom so long as it enables them to say and do what they want but no one else--especially not people they disagree with. (I felt the same way about the protesters outside the Republican Convention in 2004 and about the degree of coverage the regular news media gave them. For all I know, there are protesters at the Democratic conventions, but I never hear about them.) Heaven forbid the Republicans should even MOUNT a campaign in opposition to Obama. How dare they!! Boo! Hiss!

Oh, grow up.

Apparently, there were protesters at the Democratic Convention "protesting everything" (thanks to Carole for the update and the quote). However, my objections still stand. I know protesting is a time-honored element of American society, but I can't say that a protester has every convinced me of anything except that political discourse is sadly in need of fewer political opinions that can fit on a sign or a bumper sticker.

(And why aren't the protesters down in New Orleans helping Gustav victims?)

Speaking of being a grown-up, I am impressed by Obama's statement re: Palin's kid (and why anyone thinks Palin's kid being pregnant will hurt her with average Americans is beyond me):
Sen. Barack Obama said firmly that families are off-limits in the campaign for president, reacting to news that GOP running mate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. "Let me be as clear as possible," Obama said. "I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president." (
Good for him: I hope he and his people stick to it.

Hopefully, Hurricane Gustav will not cause great problems to the people on the Gulf!

Coverage of the Republican Convention will resume here when prime time coverage resumes.


Joe said...

I had no intention of watching either convention. However, we were watching NBC and the interrupted the program we were watching to show some speeches. NOT. They showed yacking heads. They were amongst the worse, most partisan, least incitement talking heads I've seen in a long time. It was awful coverage (yes, we changed the channel.) Was the Democratic convention like this?

Kate Woodbury said...

ALL conventions are like this. It's just a matter of degree.

I do think the Republicans seemed more hyped-up-partisan than usual, but last night was Monday plus Tuesday night rolled into one; many delegates are worried that losing Monday night will hurt the Republican party's chances. Which is, from the average American's point of view, ridiculous (how many people even remembered the Republican Convention was this week?), but politicians--like celebrities--think they are always being chased after and since they are always being chased after by someone, the feeling is reinforced.

Joe said...

To be clear; the NBC talking heads were NBC analysts, all of whom appeared to be rabidly liberal, including the reporter "interviewing" them. (I'm surprised there isn't more dust up today on just how bad NBCs coverage was. Perhaps nobody watched.)

I do wonder why every network bothers covering the convention. PBS, CNN and FOX all do wall-to-wall so why not let them at it?

I hope in vain that the foreshortened convention will give a hint to the RNC leadership that having a short, exciting convention will get more eyeballs than droning on for days. But, like you said, this is insiders rubbing shoulders with insiders all pretending anyone but political wonks care.

Kate Woodbury said...

Well, the talking heads stuff can get annoying. PBS was far more generous to the Democratic Convention in terms of showing the convention versus discussing what was happening in the convention, but I think part of that was due to the Democratic Party switching speakers at the last minute througout the week.

Mostly, PBS talking heads stuff takes place during musical numbers and minor speeches. It has been typical: Mark Shields is generous to the Democrats and waspish about the Republicans; Brooks tries really, really hard NOT to be biased; and the historians just act like the historians.

I'll admit, last night was kind of annoying. I'm not sure I could point to anything definite (on PBS at least), but the coverage regarding Palin has seemed less civil, less generous, less willing to see both sides of the issue than any issue broached during the Democratic Convention. (My theory is that the pundits had all this McCain-Lieberman stuff prepared and had to scrap it.) Even the Hillary coverage was couched in "How is this affecting the floor?" terms while last night, the talking heads kept saying, "Oh, the delegates are way more conservative than people in general--they LIKE Bush."

Uh, guys, the delegates are always more extreme than the public.

In any case, it really felt frenzied. (Sharks! Sharks!)

However, to do PBS credit, their poll analysts are usually from the current convention's party--their poll analysts last night were Republican which made a nice contrast.

Joe said...

And CNN brings us the funniest part of the evening; at one point they whined--and I mean actually whined like when my kids were three and not getting their their way--that they made McCain popular and now he's turned on them. Gee I wonder why.

(I really can't overstate how whiny they sounded. I've rarely seen adults act so childishly.)

a calvinist preacher said...

"what's with all this "spiritual revival" stuff? Sorry, folks, I think secular democracy is the best thing that ever happened to the United States, especially for us religious types."

I am more mixed. On the one hand, I am also convinced that mixing the institutions of religion with those of the state tends to the perversion of both. Instead of being an end in itself, religion become a means. It loses its grip on truth and becomes alterred to suit other ends.

To the extent that the Republican or Democrat parties are institutions of the state, the implied message of such religious statements (and there were plenty among the Dems, too) is that only infidels and heretics disagree with us. The unstated corollary is that one is free to hate infidels. This puts tremendous pressure on people to outwardly conform, stifles free discussion, and, well, perverts both religion and politics, oppressive not only to bodies but to souls.

But the parties are not quite fully identified with the state. They are private institutions as well. Private institutions and private individuals will inevitably be influenced in their political choices by their religious beliefs. It is essential to the maintenance of free and open discussions that not only political beliefs, but the rationale behind those beliefs, be overt. It is necessary both for understanding and for judging the merits of those political beliefs. So it is valuable to have the parties explain the religious basis for their respective views.

Both parties use religion to do both - to stifle debate and dissent, and to justify their own positions. The former is dangerous, the latter welcome.

Like I said, I'm a bit mixed on this one.

Kate Woodbury said...

I do agree that politicians (well, all people) bring their characters to the public forum which characters are formed by religion, personal choices, genes, upbringing, etc., etc. etc.; not only does a politician's character matter, its absence tokens a lack of personality, not to mention the inability to do or be anything.

In fact, the absence of character or individuality is one by-product I dislike intensely about political correctness--in the effort to respect diversity, public schools will have "Holiday" concerts with no religious music. Well, diversity may have been respected, but it certainly wasn't promoted!

Still, I would prefer candidates to make political arguments based on utilitarian/secular reasons--to, for example, present solid secular/utilitarian/communal reasons why abortion should be banned (there are some) or not. It would be such a refreshing change from the usual "God doesn't approve" versus "How dare you question pro-choice" exchange.

However, I realize politicians want to win, and they know that the personal/religious reasons (with which they often agree) have more power (and for many people, more meaning) than the secular/utilitarian ones.

Kate Woodbury said...

I posted last night when I was extremely tired. After some reflection, my feelings regarding Thursday night at the Republican Convention have, if anything, somewhat intensified.

I don't think McCain made such an amazing speech that he changed the dynamics of the election--I think it is still pretty close. I'm afraid I was hoping he would make such an amazing speech, I would be swayed away from my fence-sitting position.

And I do know better.

However, I think McCain & Palin are going to give Obama a serious run. One explanation for the media's shark-like response to Palin could be that she represents a real threat: she could actually move voters into McCain's camp (no, not Hillary supporters--they are way too old-guard).

McCain is sincere. He meant what he said last night. I don't doubt him at all. He also came across as far more centrist, non-political and gentlemanly than the floor.

This brings me to the floor--it was the most partisan set of in-your-face delegates I've ever witnessed at a Republican Convention. Contrary to the stereotype, no, conservatives aren't usually like this. But it turned me off. I'd be far more ready to support McCain if he wasn't backed by such "my way or the highway" Republicans. (I can't say the same for Obama and his "my way or the highway" Democrats since I think Democratic nominees tend to feed off their delegates; you can't really separate them from their supporters--until they get elected.)

I realize McCain wouldn't have had much of a chance on an Independent ticket. Still, I sure wish he was on one.

Carole said...

Huh. And my thought when I watched the convention (though I think this was Wednesday night) was "Gee, I'd love to attend one of those in my lifetime." I guess that answer my question about being partisan. :|

a calvinist preacher said...

I also would prefer they focus on the secular, communal reasons that are available to all rather than the more narrowly focused religious reasons. I still want to know the religious presuppositions that underlie their argument.

jennie w. said...

Good commentary Kate! Funny and smart. Maybe you should run . . . .