Friday, September 05, 2008
The Republican National Convention
A few preliminary thoughts now that the RNCC is over.
Last night, there were glimmers of the John McCain that many of us once respected, and who often pissed off and confounded his own party. For the most part, he stayed above the fray and didn't engage in misleading, middle-school name calling. (Perhaps because Palin, Giuliani, and Romney had handled that for him.)
And to be fair, his retelling of his experience as a POW was genuinely moving.
However, if you listened carefully, there really was not much that he offered in the way of an economic plan. Mostly, he was promising that government would "not get in the way". Well, that's been the problem, hasn't it? Government did "not get in the way" of the subprime mortgage madness and rampant, largely unregulated, Byzantine, and fantastical flights of financial gimmickry that have put us on a death spiral into a massive economic downturn.
Instead, McCain was trying to sell us on his character and honor. He's been tried and tested. Isn't that how Bush got elected? Wasn't Bush's campaign all about "restoring honor and dignity" to the White House? Hasn't John McCain, oddly enough, turned his campaign into one, famously, not about issues, but about personality and biography? Examine the policy prescriptions put forward by Obama and McCain; look at their platforms. Which campaign offers specifics, and which offers platitudes about honor, strength, and courage?
Also, McCain took a risk in so explicitly condemning his own party for the failures of the past eight years. But can he really pull off the mind-bending feat of casting his campaign as the "outsider" ticket, bent on "changing" Washington? Does he really think he can convince Americans that his G.O.P. ticket is the one that offers a true break from the miserable failure of the past eight years under a G.O.P. administration? In other words, is his message really going to be, we're the party that f*cked everything up, and we're the only party that can put everything back together?
About Sarah Palin: her speech may have been a hit among the rabid delegates in St. Paul, but my sense is that the seventh-grade mudslinging, the cheap "zingers" that would be perfectly at home on a VH1 special or "Judge Judy" don't sit so well with the rest of the country after few days (acknowledging the irony of citing the NYT to support my sense of "the rest of the country). Do we really want a name-calling, hectoring V.P. with a history of holding grudges, abusing her power, and who offers no specific ideas and minimal relevant experience? My sense is that, beyond McCain's base, few Americans will be attracted by what Governor Palin offers. (And I'll just note here that while Obama, Biden, and McCain will all be making themselves available for interviews this weekend and on the Sunday talk shows, the McCain campaign is keeping Palin under wraps, indefinitely. They certainly don't want her anywhere where she is answering questions and not able to read words written for her on a teleprompter.)
And I'm sure he has it ready for the vice presidential debate, but when Governor Palin makes the inevitable appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters at that debate, Joe Biden should simply turn to Palin and say, "Governor, I know Hillary Clinton. I've served with Hillary Clinton. I've worked side-by-side with her in the Senate for eight years. I've seen what she's accomplished. I know what she stands for. You, Governor Palin, are no Hillary Clinton."
Sixty days to the election. Buckle up. Donate to the Obama campaign. Volunteer. Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors. Get everyone registered to vote. If we work for it, we will win this year.
UPDATE: For the first time in the history of the world, Charles Krauthammer and I are in substantial agreement.