Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Republicans play catch up in St. Paul with "Biography Channel"

Tonight the Republican Convention in St. Paul resumed on PBS, and played catch-up, with a lot of emphasis on “Biography,” like the cable channel. There was much more emphasis in the speeches on the lives and stories of John McCain and Sarah Palin than on issues.

President Bush spoke on a Jumbotron in the Xcel Convention Center, from the White House, rather than travel to St. Paul. His low-key speech was framed by Laura Bush.

Fred Thompson, from Tennessee, gave a long speech, with a lot of one-liners. For example, Thompson praised McCain for not considering the "right to life" as a topic "above his pay grade." But the highlight of the evening was Joe Lieberman’s address. Lieberman is now sill “counted as a Democrat” and says he is an Independent. McCain’s support of him has been controversial. Lieberman said that he supports McCain because he is an “American” first before he is partisan. Lieberman has generally sided with many of Bush policies on the war on Terror, and, like Sam Nunn, is considered very strong in national defense and in areas like removing nuclear weapons from around the world.

One spokesperson for the Party misstated the vice-presidential candidate as Pawlenty (Minnesota Governor) rather than Palin.

The television broadcasts showed protestors, some of whom were arrested, trying to break into the convention hall.

Some people compare this convention to 1968, in that the incumbent party has to run on the biography of a “reform” candidate rather than on its record in war, which has become unpopular. Yet, tonight, speakers repeated said that we have turned the corner in Iraq and did not back out of a mission we started. And we started the conflict for noble purposes (to install democracy) rather than to conquer a country (compare Russia’s invasion of Georgia). Of course, that can be disputed: “we” want control of the oil resources.

Every speaker re-iterated the idea of living in the land of the free, and tended to cast the presentation of individuals at the Democratic convention as an exercise in “whining.”

There were lots of signs reading "Service" and "Country First" among the delegates. That refers to Hurricane Gustav, but Jimmy Carter used to give sermons on the subject.

Also, commentators reviewed the story that John McCain refused to go home from the Hanoi Hilton when he was given the "opportunity" to. Also, commentators have explained that McCain, because of his experiences, opposes torture or overseas "rendition" (as in the movie with Jake Gyllenhaal) as a tool in the War on Terror, and that most more progressive "conservatives" share McCain's position.

It brings back good memories for me to see the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul. I lived in Minneapolis 1997-2003.

Update: Sept. 3

Rudy Giuliani brought the convention hall down when he said that Barack Obama wouldn't call Al Qaeda "terrorists" out of political correctness (?); on the screen behind there was a picture of the New York City skyline without the World Trade Center. His speech started out well, as he said he was like an employer with two resumes, parties crossed out, having interviewed two candidates with very different backgrounds, and having to pick one to hire. Later, though, ne more or less painted Obama as like an amateur blogger (well, OK, "community organizer", five or six times). Remember, it's only fair to add, Obama says he gave up Wall Street for "Community organizing" of middle class working families.

Sarah Palin said that the Democrats say one thing in Scranton and another in San Francisco. She mentioned specifically the dangers to the Saudi oil fields and the idea of a Venezuela shut-off, and then implied that Alaska has a lot of oil (Gull Island, maybe?)

Later there was talk in the media of the "firing" scandal in Palin's administration in Alaska.

Sept. 4

Thursday night John McCain started his speech at 10 PM EDT. He promised a doubling of the per-child tax credit. He talked about drilling and energy alternatives. He did make his message sound "family friendly."

Again, he talked about finding a cause greater than oneself, and how the Vietnam War captivity led to his "opportunity for sacrifice" and how he had to give up his "selfish independence". That sounds a bit like a paradox. Of course, the military forces men to learn interdependence as part of unit cohesion; his fellow prisoners fed him and saved his life, but that was simply part of the military bond. "No man can stand alone" he said. "I wasn't my own man any more. I was my country's". He ended his speech with a call for personal service and emotional connection on person-person levels and said "America never quits." He had started with something like "I've got a message for the 'me first, country second' crowd. Change is coming!" They say that this is the work of "professional" speech-writers, who make a lot more than amateurs.

Philosophically, is McCain repudiating the idea of "individual sovereignty" and calling for socialization and loyalty? Does the individual lose the right to choose his own goals because of circumstances around him that he cannot control? Palin's speech, in contrast, sometimes migrated toward radical individualism, even as she dealt with the implications of sensitive family matters.

First Picture: AIDSwalk in Minneapolis, 2002, while Paul Wellstone spoke.

Second Picture: NYC skyline from Amtrak train in late October, 2001 (my trip).

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