Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Watched McCain and Giuliani on C-SPAN last night in the humidity and heat. McCain didn't really set the roof on fire, although the draft-McCain undercurrents at the convention kind of came to the surface in the midst of his speech. Hand-lettered "Bush-McCain" signs appeared on the convention floor, some of them even held right-side-up. But McCain's speech had a section lauding Cheney, and mentioning him specifically as the vice-presidential candidate. I think that ship has sunk, sadly. The high-light of the speech was probably his incidental calling-out of Michael Moore, who was there for one of the media outlets. The hall rang to angry shouts of "four more years!" from the irate delegates. C-SPAN caught the fat "documentarian" waving to the crowd as if to his fans. Say one thing to Moore - he certainly thrives on the hate of his victims. The rest of McCain's speech was a paean to Bush's leadership, and a heart-felt expression of McCain's hawkish determination that the country not flinch from its duties and obligations. Not a great speech, but straight-forward.

The Giuliani speech, on the other hand, was a grand old stemwinder. Giuliani is a real ball of fire on the stump - the first time I've ever seen him speak at length. He was fierce, funny, animated and warm. I can see why he was elected twice as Mayor in a majority-Democratic city like New York City - he's immensely likable. He raged against anti-Semitism, and what he called the perverters of a great world religion. He essentially made the neo-con argument for the war on terror, and thundered in favor of the offense.

He also tore into Kerry, hitting every non-historical major argument against Kerry, except my favorite "secret plans/Nixon II" line of attack, which perhaps is a bit extreme for a national audience. He tied Edwards' lame "Two Americas" theme into Kerry's inconstancy, speculating that the Democratic ticket needed two countries - one in which to vote for the exact thing Kerry would vote against in the other. If this is negativity, let's see more of it. The press sometimes seems unable to distinguish between honest doubts and distinctions and mud-slinging. Pointing out Kerry's misunderstandings and straddling isn't mud-slinging - it's an honest description of his policies and political history. The press in general ought perhaps to look into the habit. It seems to be something they're generally loathe to do. Giuliani wrapped up his speech by returning to his central theme, which is that the Republican Party's special charge is the expansion of freedom, citing as exemplars Lincoln, Churchill, and Reagan, and tying their stubbornness and determination to Bush's stubbornness and constancy. Of course, Churchill was by no means a Republican, but the neocons and other engagement-minded Republicans regard him as a saint of conservative values, so let it go, let it go. It compared strikingly with McCain's interesting, if rhetorically less deft co-option of FDR's "Rendezvous with Destiny" speech. Between the two of them, they seemed to say, "Keep your JFK and your imaginary Camelots- we'll take FDR, Reagan, and Lincoln - the warriors and their realities of good fights well fought".

Some folks say Giuliani's speech was an audition for the presidential candidacy in 2008. That would make more sense if the old networks had bothered to cover the speech. Giuliani's audience was political activists on the floor, and political junkies on the news networks and C-SPAN. Of course, Lincoln's own Cooper's Union speech in the same city was before activists to whom he had been something of a cipher - that long-ago introduction of a regionally popular Mid-Westerner before a doubtful crowd of New York Republican echoed today by a New York Republican speaking before red-state delegates. A lot of fuss has been made in the press about the distance between the conservative base in the crowd and the moderate Republicans on the stage, but it strikes me as a sort of conciliation - an essayed union between the two arms of the party, the base and the mainstream. Last night, at least, it worked. We'll see.

Update: added links to the transcripts on Command Post, above.

No comments: