Live-Blogging the Republican National Convention, Night 2

Note: Tonight, after 2 mentions by readers last night, all updates will be submitted on top.

11:02 pm: “The work ahead will be hard.  These times demand the best of us – all of us, but we can do this.  Together, we can do this!  We can get this country working again.  We can get this economy growing again.  We can make the safety net safe again.  We can do this!  Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country.  Join Mitt Romney and me.  Let’s give this effort everything we have!  Let’s see this through all the way!  Let’s get this done!”

This Convention, I think, will have a bounce.  The Republicans have held to their message.  They are playing to win.  They will attack the President for a lack of results, even if they are using the wrong metrics or are a part of the problem themselves.  But this is the most-substantive Republican appeal I have seen since the 2000 Convention–and unlike that year, rank-and-file Republicans between the Ranges have a platform they want rather than one crafted by political consultants mindful of our country’s changing demographics.  This is not an agenda I can get behind, and I think the public will come off of this high in time for the Democratic National Convention, but Republicans control a lot of State governments and have a substantial House majority and a lot of young Senators.  They have new lights communicating old ideas; some of them, like their Presidential running mates, even communicate those ideas well.  Thus far, this Convention has gone the Republicans’ way.  Tomorrow night, we will hear from the man himself; I’m already convinced the Republicans have a strong ticket.

Base and establishment are coming together.

10:59 pm: Congressman Ryan, who is a Catholic, defends the top of his party’s ticket, who is a Mormon.  He says “we share a common moral creed.”  We share a common moral creed…No, he has invoked “the Lord of Life.”  I thought he was going to go in the direction of civil religion, which is essentially secular in character, but no, it’s non-denominational.  As Stephen Colbert put it, “I believe in countless paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.”

10:53 pm: Congressman Ryan condemns the Obama Administration for not fixing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression in under 4 years.  I’d like to take this time to refer again to a broad opinion among economists that the Stimulus actually spared us a depression, turning a profound economic contraction into a “mere” multi-year anemic economy.

10:50 pm: “–and yes, you did build that!”  Even the Republican Convention’s signature half-quote sounds more-rousing in Ryan’s words.  It fits better into his speech–which also moves at a faster clip.

10:47 pm: “Mitt Romney and I have made (a choice): Before the math, and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems.”  The President has effectively balanced an extraordinary number of contending issues and handled them with competence and grace.  And the Republicans are going to try to take him down for borrowing money at negative interest–at a profit to the Federal Government–in order to pay for it.  Our deficits are actually small compared to some we ran during the Roosevelt years.

10:42 pm: Congressman Ryan mocked the President for saying, post-Midterms, that his problem was that he “didn’t get (his) message out.”  In fairness, at the time I thought that was a pretty silly thing for the President to say.  The Republicans had just had their best election night in generations; maybe it would have taken a while to come up with a statement about that, but the problem was not communication.  The problem was that people wanted a change of course on policy.  Oh, and they wanted more action on the economy.  He had some good ideas for stimulus since that election–the payroll tax cut, renewal of the highway bill, revenue-sharing for cash-strapped States–some of which have even passed through the Republican Congress.  But President Obama essentially gave this issue to the Republicans from June 2009 until September 2011.

10:37 pm: Ryan is talking about Medicare.  He has decried President Obama’s $716 billion in 10-year spending cuts to Medicare to help pay for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  There is loud booing from the audience.  My theory is that these Republicans haven’t heard about the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare benefits with vouchers for seniors to buy health insurance would result in Medicare benefits having about 38% of their projected value by 2032.  That, or maybe the Republican National Convention is basically a pep rally.  Thanks for tuning-in!

10:34 pm: Ryan said “Our 1st warning sign (about President Obama) was the Stimulus.”  Congressman Ryan joined a virtually-unanimous Republican Conference in Congress in voting against the Stimulus.  There was a lot that the Conservative rump party in Congress really didn’t like.  Ryan calls it the “biggest 1-time expense in our history.  “But about 30% of the Stimulus was tax cuts, principally for small businesses.  Really.  So there.

10:32 pm: Ryan notes that President Obama won his State of Wisconsin in 2008.  It is certainly a swing State this year, though an ultimate Romney win is highly unlikely.  What he didn’t mention was that President Obama won his home district that year; that said, Congressman Ryan was re-elected, and it wasn’t close.

10:31 pm: There’s something about his piercing blue eyes.  I prefer to talk substance and try to stay away from campaign optics like this, but I frankly can’t tell if his direct gaze helps him or not.  It certainly looks confident.

10:29 pm: 14 years ago, Paul Ryan was 28 and running for the House of Representatives from southeastern Wisconsin for the 1st time.  That’s pretty impressive.  He could be a fixture or a candidate in Republican Presidential politics for the next 30 years if he plays his cards right, and he wants it.

10:26 pm: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Governor Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential pick, is on.  Here we go…

10:22 pm: Governor Martinez attacks President Obama for failing to tackle immigration reform, failing to pass a budget, and failing to halve the deficit.  Charges 1 and 2 are wilfully-deceptive bunk: We don’t have immigration reform and the Democrats haven’t passed their own budget in 3 years because the Senate’s minority Republicans filibustered those measures and then said the Democrats couldn’t get their act together.  On charge #3–President Obama’s pledge to halve the deficit in his 1st term–the President does have to take some of the blame.  He turned his back on his own 2010 Bowles-Simpson Commission and farmed-out the 2011 Budget Control Act to Congress.  He hasn’t proposed a clear deficit-reduction plan since that controversial but binding compromise, which met half of the deficit reduction called for under Bowles-Simpson.

10:20 pm: Governor Martinez’ accent has alternated between thickly-Hispanic and a sort of a generic drawl.  It’s pretty hokey.

10:15 pm: “En America, iTodo es posible!”  New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez informs us that “Success is not built on resentment and fear!”  This is a durable Republican ideological trick: If you aren’t making out well for yourself, you should just keep trying.  If you think you need public assistance, that’s resentment and fear–resentment of those who can afford to provide for that public assistance through their taxes, and fear of your own future.  You don’t want to be resentful and fearful (like those currently on public assistance), do you?  It’s like taking a difficult and unpleasant job in sales, finding you feel miserable in that job, and once bringing your misgivings about your job to your boss, being told you “don’t want it enough.”  You aren’t cut out for sales (pushing undesired product) because you have a bad attitude, you see.

10:12 pm: Rice notes the securing on the homeland since September 11th, when “everyone thought” a further terrorist attack “foreordained.”  Fair point; a quick scramble by 2 Presidencies dealt with some very real security and strategic challenges.  We shouldn’t take the peace we have enjoyed since that atrocity for granted.  Both Presidents deserve credit for an accomplishment that seems smaller because it is felt only by the absence of disaster.

10:09 pm: Ms. Rice notes that “I can read your ZIP code and tell whether you’re going to get a good education.”  This is almost too good to be true!–but the problem, it turns out, is failing schools, not entrenched wealth or sprinting inequality in income.

Oh, Rice already warned us against resenting the wealth of others–you know, the people who benefit the most from Republican economic policies.

10:04 pm: “The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it loses control of its destiny.”  The last budget deficit George W. Bush left us with was as large as the ones we’re facing now; furthermore, when times were good George W. Bush voluntarily introduced multiple hundreds of billions of dollars in annual budget deficits.  His tax cuts cost us $1.7 trillion over a decade; the Iraq War cost us about $1.9 trillion.  What a strange messenger for the importance of setting priorities.  It’s as though the Republican Party chose her specifically in the hope that it would introduce enough confusion to obscure the Bush Administration’s enormous policy failures.

10:02 pm: Ms. Rice assures us that “Peace really does come through strength.”  The World was a much more-violent place towards the end of the Bush Presidency; strength is something you amass, not something you expend frivolously.  That much is clear to me; why does a former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State not see the difference between having power and using it?

9:58 pm: The Secretary of State who presided over W.’s hasty retreat in international politics in the midst of multiple boiling cauldrons has taken President Obama to task for not taking a principled stand in international politics.  Oh, and she has assured our war veterans that they have “our eternal gratitude.”  Thanks to her boss’s frenzied attempts at cost-cutting after the Iraq War went on for over 8 1/2 years rather than a few weeks, they also have a $250 co-pay.

9:55 pm: Former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who recalled the August 2001 President’s Daily Brief “Osama bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside US” a bit late, who was an architect of President W. Bush’s foreign policy, and who has an oil tanker named after her, strolls out.

She starts-up with September 11th.  Ugh, I guess they had to do this at some point, but what an inauspicious spokesperson for this message.

9:50 pm: Governor Huckabee has attacked “the Democrats” for not passing a budget in 3 years.  Well, that’s factually untrue, since the Federal Government currently has a budget, but he’s really referring to the Republican hogwash about how Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in their chamber since 2010.  That’s because, since Scott Brown won the special election in Massachusetts in January 2010, the 41 Senate Republicans have filibustered every attempt by Senate Democrats to pass a budget through their chamber.  41 Senate Republicans have prevented 59 Senate Democrats from passing any budget, and since January 2011 47 Senate Republicans have done the same to 53 Senate Democrats!  So, Republicans block any Democratic attempt to pass a budget in the Senate, then from the House they call the Democrats there ineffectual.  If you apply this dynamic to the current Presidential contest, you should notice something strange…

9:48 pm: Governor Huckabee are insisting that Evangelicals can support Governor Romney, a Mormon, for President.  He calls President Obama a professed Evangelical Christian who is pro-gay rights, pro-choice on abortion, and inclined to violate the rights of religious organizations in attempting to require them to provide contraceptives for their employees.  So, apparently religious affiliation isn’t such a big deal for Republicans anymore!  “I care far less about where Mitt Romney takes his family to church than about where he takes this country!”

9:41 pm: Governor Huckabee is taking his turn swiping at the President Obama the Republicans would rather run against rather than the one we have: “President Obama says, ‘If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build it…'”  No, that’s not what he said, but go on.  “Translation: ‘You don’t own it!'”  President Obama isn’t a Socialist.  It’s weird that Republicans base their contemporary rhetoric on the premise that there is no difference between favoring a tax increase on anyone and holding all private property functionally forfeit.  Really, I think they have pretty-much abandoned any such distinction.

9:40 pm: Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is on.  Kevin Spacey could play him in a movie; he just needs to get the Baptist minister part down.

9:37 pm: Governor Pawlenty says that Mitt Romney’s “lifetime of service” convinced him to support the latter’s candidacy.  Actually, Pawlenty’s bad fizzle in the Presidential Primary, the fact that he is a Republican, and Romney’s obvious preferability as a candidate for the general election is the reason he is supporting Romney’s candidacy.

9:35 pm: “Just get the government…off…my…back!”  I feel suspicious of where politicians are going when they have to slow down for emphasis.  Do they think we’re having trouble following what they’re saying, or are they trying to fill-up the time?  This speech is a bit hammy, something I haven’t noticed since the Attorneys General of Florida and Georgia spoke.

9:33 pm: “Sorry, Mr. President–You’re out of time, and we’re out of money!”  Question from a friend: “How ’bout that Iraq?”

9:31 pm: Governor Pawlenty just said “The President takes more vacations than the guy on that bizarre food show!”  Wow.  Just…Wow.  This is the party that defended George W. Bush’s literal summer vacation, more or less on the grounds that governing is stressful…

9:29 pm: Tim Pawlenty, Governor of the Collapsing Bridge, has come to tell us about reducing government spending.

9:06 pm: Senator Portman has called for more free trade agreements.  President Obama concluded 3 free trade agreements about 10 months ago, with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.  The holdup on those 3 free trade agreements were over disagreements on labor relations requirements for Colombia (where some labor organizers have been killed–conditions that rightly have no place in a free trade agreement) and compensatory job-retraining programs for displaced workers in our country.  Senate Republicans didn’t think that was important.

9:02 pm: Senator Portman tells us of how we’ve supposedly suffered due to 4 years of President Obama.  He says we won World War II in 4 years.  That’s funny, not too long ago Senator McCain was decrying President Obama’s “political timetables” for President W. Bush’s wars.  President W. Bush initiated 2 wars (3 if you count the “War on Terrorism”) without concluding any, while President Obama has concluded 3 wars and has done far more damage to al-Qaeda than W. did.  So, if I were a Republican rhetorician I’d want to stay away from war as a talking point right now, especially where President Obama is concerned.

Senator Portman has told us that we can’t spend our way out of our current economic morass.  Actually, that’s what we did to get out of most recessions since the Great Depression.  On-balance, it has worked.  Unemployment declined significantly in 2010, but economic gains sputtered significantly in 2011 in the face of Federal and State budget cuts.  Senator Portman’s solution is to liberate business.

OK, business, it’s all on you.  You can thank the Republicans for all the attention.

9:00 pm: Senator Rob Portman, of the All-Important State of Ohio, is on.  The Senator introduced himself the same way I just did to a friend–as a factor in Governor Romney’s Vice Presidential short-list.  Hah!

The Senator has a bit of a Captain Zapp Brannigan thing going on.

8:45 pm: A Wyoming oilman asks, “Mr. President, where is the Keystone Pipeline?”  Seriously, take it up with the State of Nebraska.  Very-Republican Nebraska wants the Keystone Pipeline re-routed in its territory because of the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a crucial water source for the entire State.  It sounds like the pipeline could be approved outside of Nebraska 1st, with a re-route in that State to come later, but Congressional Republicans have tried to force approval of the entire project without modifications–again, against the wishes of Republicans in Nebraska.

Oh, the speaker also said that the Keystone Pipeline would allow us to exploit American oil.  Actually, the Keystone Pipeline would import oil from Canada.  That’s no quibble, considering Republican wishful-thinking about “American energy independence.”  Again, every time Republican Governors talk-up all the great oil and natural gas drilling going on back in their States, just remember that the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of the Interior must have approved that.

8:42 pm: An Indian-American civil engineer on the Convention floor has been given the mic.  He is excited to be a Wisconsinite, given Governor Romney’s pick of Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate.  He hijacks the interview for a bit, talking about Ronald Reagan when he was asked to talk-up small business.  The crowd is supportive.

All these off-point attacks on the President as somehow alien to the Framers’ dreams for America aside, I really do appreciate seeing the consistency in the Republicans’ message.  I even kind of appreciate the greater attention given to the Republicans’ Congressmen, Senators, and Governors and their policy achievements.  It really is more-serious than their past 2 Conventions.

8:35 pm: Senator John Thune (R-SD) opens with a basketball joke: “People ask: ‘Do you think you’d be able to take him 1-on-1?’  I say, ‘I don’t really know, I’ve never played him.  But you know he’d be easy to defend, because President Obama always goes to the left!'”

Oh, Senator Thune’s grandparents did build their farm.  That’s great–but they didn’t build Interstates 90 and 29, which pass through South Dakota, so this quip is also irrelevant.  Oh, and a celebration of the family farm against the statism of the Federal Government is especially strange now, since it’s mostly Democrats who are fighting farm subsidies today, and mostly Republicans who are trying to maintain them.  Farm subsidies and redundant Defense weapons procurement: the secret socialism of rural Republicans.

8:29 pm: Attorney Generals Bondi and Olens are so obviously perfunctorily offering partisan rhetoric to an eager base that they sound like ready-made characters for Saturday Night Live.  Really, the odd combination of melodrama and dullness in their lines sounds like self-parody.  Ugh, every time Attorney General Bondi quips “That’s right!” to her rhetorical partner, I grimace involuntarily.  These 2 were not right for the prime time.  Their hearts are not in this; the party of individualism have offered us 2 office-holders who are literally acting on orders.

8:28 pm: Attorney Generals Pam Bondi (R-FL) and Sam Olens (R-GA) talk of defending the Constitution against our supposedly power-hungry President, and of the latter’s refusal to come clean with buckle under the naked partisanship of Congressional Republicans about the disastrous ATF Operation “Fast and Furious.”

8:26 pm: “Small businesses are the fuel our economy needs!”  Well, before those small businesses can hire, they are going to need purchasing orders–either by employed consumers, corporations, or by government.  We’ll all lose a lot of time if we continue to wait for the 1st of those.  What troubles me about current Republican economic policy is that it seems to be based on the idea that small businesses that are primarily hobbled by a lack of consumer demand because of high unemployment are going to save us by hiring all those unemployed people in an absence of both capital and demand.

8:24 pm: Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers asked the assembled Conventiongoers to spare a thought for residents of the Gulf Coast currently being belted by Tropical Storm Isaac.  She sounds much more-serious than Mrs. Romney did last night.

8:23 pm: Republicans are rocking-out to “Green Onions.”  What can I say?  It has a groove to it.

8:15 pm: Governor Romney has made his speech in support of Israel.  I want to take this musical interlude to clarify that both candidates support Israel; every US President since Harry Truman has supported Israel, though to varying extents.  Republicans have cynically tried to “clean up” with the American Jewish vote by promising to offer unqualified support to every security, foreign policy, or military action of the Israeli Government.  Today, this means unqualified support for Likud, whose leading lights in reality neither want to grant citizenship to Palestinians living under occupation nor to allow them to emerge from IDF occupation to forge their own state in the Occupied Territories.  What Republicans are promising in US foreign policy towards Israel is simply, “Israel, right or wrong”–an abdication of any strategic or moral distinction in the policies any Israeli government–any Likud government–may elect to take.  George W. Bush’s benign neglect of Israel and the Palestinians following the Palestinian elections was vastly-preferable to this proffered blank check.

8:12 pm: “People don’t want less of America; they want more!”  Actually, I’d say President Obama’s foreign policy has mostly been a big success.  True, I wanted us to intervene in Libya faster and I have long hoped we would take a role in Syria, but we are probably giving clandestine aid to the Free Syrian Army already.  Our thaw in relations with Russia and China has only been partial, but tough talk isn’t going to bowl these powers over.  Improved relations with Europe, with Brazil and other Latin American allies, with our old allies in East Asia, and with beleaguered Middle Eastern allies are a positive improvement after the tyrannical revanchism of the 2nd Bush term.  President Obama’s foreign policy hasn’t been full of gimmicks; it is a foreign policy based on enduring partnerships, and it has done far more good than President Bush’s foreign policy.  On the latter subject, one might be able to say quite a lot without much trouble, but so much of it would be bad, a story of conceits, violence and failure.

8:09 pm: Senator McCain has decried our inaction against regime violence in Syria and Iran.  In the case of Syria I sympathize; in the case of Iran no Republican has presented a serious plan for how we could have aided the 2009 uprising in that country.  Our sanctions against Iran (for their continued pursuit of weapons-grade uranium) are clearly working; George W. Bush was prepared to do no more, years after his tough talk led to disaster in Iraq.  This vacuous bluster is not encouraging.

8:07 pm: Senator McCain has attacked President Obama for subjecting our operations in Afghanistan to a “political timetable;” that timetable was set by President George W. Bush.  It’s been 4 years, but Republicans are still mostly attacking President Obama either for things no one did, or for things President W. did.

8:04 pm: “We face a consequential choice–and make no mistake, it is a choice.”  Senator McCain gives us more talk about a trajectory of economic decline vs. renewal of American values.  I find it interesting that Republicans talk of the economy in material terms as all grim portents, while when they talk of what they have to offer, they more-often promise a “renewal of values” rather than actual economic progress.  So, material threat on the one hand versus values in a vacuum on the other; more on that later, maybe.

8:00 pm: Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican candidate for President in 2008, takes the stage–to audible booing.  I’m not sure whether the Conventioners are angry with McCain for his (relative) moderation or his poor electoral performance in 2008.  His was a Republican Presidential candidate’s most-embarrassing performance since Barry Goldwater’s in 1964.

7:57 pm: “We need a leader who won’t play chicken with our nation’s defense!” a veteran says.  Sounds good to me–but then why did Congressional Republicans force the President to cut Federal spending by an equivalent amount to the increase in the debt limit he was requesting?  Their demand was entirely arbitrary, based upon picking some large number rather than an amount demanded by the Bowles-Simpson Commission.  The only reason the emergency “sequester” cut so much Defense spending was because Congressional Republicans agreed to cut Defense before they agreed to raise taxes on the rich.  No, that’s literally the reason.  The President didn’t want the sequester at all–but he also didn’t want to cut food stamps.  Since Congressional Republicans took it upon themselves to hold-up what should have been a routine increase in the Federal debt limit (since they had already passed the budget that necessitated that increase in the debt limit), they were the ones playing chicken.

Note on Rand Paul’s speech: I missed the initial opportunity to note his attack on the Supreme Court.  Considering the scope of the response an attack by an unqualified ideologue on the majority on the Supreme Court was probably unnecessary.  Why exactly should Senator Paul muddy the waters, anyway?  He was elected on a platform of restricting Federal power; fair-enough; he can vote with his party for the umpteenth time in an unsuccessful and irrelevant gesture for the repeal of Health Care Reform!  To take an issue with National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius during the Convention is good red meat for the party base, sure, but it shows a telling lack of regard for the separation of powers and a rather hard-headed attitude towards the role and thinking of Justices.  But then, who knows more about the Constitution–the majority of Justices on the United States Supreme Court, or a doctor who got elected to the Senate by default by attacking the establishment Republican Senate hopeful for his lack of ideological purity?

7:46 pm: Touchy subject time: A video featuring Bush Sr. and W. Bush.  Amusingly, it’s focusing on the fact that father and son were both President.  I would think this would evoke a sense of dynastic reinforcement between wealth and power that the Republican Party would seek to avoid, but there you are.  W.’s recollections are surprisingly-poetic–not that this sense of poetry helped us while he was President.

7:32 pm: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has referred to the President’s “…you didn’t build that” quote in context, noting that the President was talking about infrastructure, not business.  Senator Paul then claimed that the business success of Americans is what made our infrastructure possible, not vice versa.  Actually, if the Senator were being serious he would have to acknowledge that private enterprise and government-built infrastructure are mutually-reinforcing…but I’m not expecting Senator Paul to think about anything very seriously.

He also said that “Anyone who so fundamentally misunderstands American greatness is uniquely unqualified to lead it!”  This is coming from a man who wants us to go back on the gold standard, and who, while being a wealthy doctor, thinks that mandates for service-provision under Medicare and Medicaid makes him a slave.  He sounds uniquely-unqualified to be a Senator to me.


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