R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT

RNC: Day 2 (Character and confabulation)

Note: Here I continue with my thoughts on the primetime goings-on, this time at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

A sea of signs, LEDs and massive video screens all had one thing to say: “COUNTRY FIRST.” It looked something like a huge VFW convention, and the “tribute” videos seemed to confirm it. There was a lengthy tribute to President George H.W. Bush (made more interesting by the fact that his son, President George W. Bush, “couldn’t make it” — a “Daily Show” interview later in the night confirmed that plenty there didn’t want Dubya anywhere near), as well as a tribute (of course) to Ronald Reagan.

A message from current Bush followed, via satellite (the first time in decades, so I’m told, that a sitting president hasn’t attended his party’s convention). It was an awkward thing, to see the president doing his best to spread enthusiasm about longtime gadfly John McCain. (This NYTimes Magazine profile of Bush features some interesting revelations about their strained relationship.) He got some applause for a line about the “far left,” and a LOT of applause anytime he mentioned the real star of this convention, “The next vice president” Sarah Palin. All in all, though, it was awkward, mostly because he wasn’t there.

That was just a warm-up, though, to the real star of the show: Fred “Law & Order” Thompson (who died a quick death in the election after being urged to run by conservatives — many of whom worried that someone like John McCain might win!). He gave a very sobering, very matter-of-fact account of McCain’s time in the Hanoi Hilton… it may be cliché, but no one can question the guy’s character and the honor of his five years there. Thompson even put words to a thought I had, which was that “being a POW doesn’t qualify a man to be president”; his reply to his own rhetorical question was that it did show his CHARACTER. In the midst of it all, he roused the party faithful with energetic (if entirely simplistic) urgings against Democrats/liberals on the basis of taxes and war generally, and took a hard dig at Obama near the end by saying that we can “know” and “trust” John McCain, as opposed to his opponent. (Choice portion of speech VodPodded at left.)

All in all, Thompson strongly surprised me, given the utterly unremarkable nature of his performances in the debates. But how was this “red meat” (as commentators afterward called it) followed? By a self-proclaimed Democrat, of course!

Joe Lieberman (called “Loserman” by the same crowd just a while back) used his time to appeal to Democrats and independents, and made a lot up front of how party loyalty isn’t very important, how we’re all Americans and how what Washington really needs is “Compromise.” Of course, this wasn’t greeted all that enthusiastically by the GOP crowd. He even talked about all the accomplishments of the Clinton White House — even less applause here, and much more awkward. (Full speech VodPodded at left.)

More interesting than the speech was this interview immediately afterward with Andrea Mitchell:

Expect more of this parsing in the weeks ahead.


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