So, tonight the Liberal Ironist will be trying the live blogging thing again, but I thought I’d take a few moments in advance of tonight’s big speeches–including the man who would be Vice President!–to offer a general appraisal.
I think that the tone and focus of the Republican National Convention is a big improvement over 2008. No, really. Actually, while I’m saying things that might be a surprise to those who read my live-blogging last night, I might as well double-down: From what I recall of the latter, the current Republican National Convention has thus far been less one-note and exploitative than the 2004 Convention. Are those fighting words to use with President George W. Bush, who protected us from terrorism after September 11th? Well, Bush also took responsibility for having the…judgment needed to involve us in an unnecessary, extremely costly and (for those who care) tragic debacle in Iraq. President Obama has made greater strides against terrorism by relying on intelligence rather than misdirected and poorly-executed wars, and he succeeded where W. failed in actually finding the mastermind of the September 11th terrorist attacks and having him killed. Unlike George W. Bush, he won’t carry on about it to the exclusion of other issues in the belief that his party convention and message should dwell entirely on the fact that he appears to be meeting the most-basic obligation of government. So there.
About 2008: There was a tone of genuine nastiness in the 2008 Republican National Convention. I don’t know how many readers watched it or whether they recall this, but I really couldn’t tell at that time what was binding the Republican Party together aside from resentment against educated elites (whether real or imagined), oddly well-developed animosity towards then-Senator Barack Obama as a person, and anger or frustration about…something. One of the big applause lines came from New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani encouraged people to refer to the terrorist threat we face by the term “Islamic terrorism.” “Who are we insulting with the term ‘Islamic terrorism’? We’re insulting–terrorists!” he said, to gasps and loud applause from the audience.
I recall feeling that Fred Thompson’s speech positively assumed the stupidity of the Republican base it was directed towards. Mayor Palin’s acceptance speech as Vice Presidential candidate attacked Senator Obama for serving as a community organizer, then in the next breath celebrated herself for not being a career politician. (We knew better, even if she wasn’t a serious-enough politician to finish a single term as Governor of Alaska.) So, I give Republicans credit for advancing actual politicians who have the decency to admit that they want to lead this year, and for taking issue with the President’s policies (if obtusely) rather than continuing to insinuate on their convention floor that the problem with President Obama is that he is from the inner city. Republicans actually want to talk about what they’re doing out in the States this year, and about their plans for the Federal Government. Those plans may tend towards the catastrophic, but at least they are fed by something other than a vague and expropriated patiotism (as in 2004), or anger and (dare I say it?) hatred (as in 2008). So, after years where Republicans shrank from their own ideas, it’s at least encouraging to see them participate in a debate over principle. Their message in 2008 (“We’re mad as hell, and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”) was both disturbing and sad to see in a party that had engineered all of our troubles at their leisure; this time, they are going on-record, taking responsibility for what they stand for.