ST. PAUL – God bless the good people of the Twin Cities, but this isn’t the kind of party that’s worth a plane ticket and a motel room. The first full night of the GOP Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul was A Modern History Of White People In America. Say what you will about the occasional loons that gravitate to the Democratic functions, but every four years, every Republican convention shows up like the most sterile, homegenized Assembly of God mixer that most of us, God-fearing or not, would rather have an hour or two of prostate exams than be caught attending.
Our economy is fine, we aren’t disrespected in the world for our bull-in-a-china-shop diplomacy, and Sarah Palin’s twelve years running a city that’s smaller than the attendance at a John Tesh concert is all the qualification she needs to be one heartbeat away from the Presidency of the United States. Foreclosures, gas prices, a withering dollar, a pointless war that is still grinding on years after what was supposed to be a two-week sweep with a leaf-blower, rising unemployment and declining wages, and 45 million Americans without health care, it’s ironic that the party of the pachyderm would be the so adept at ignoring the elephant in the room.
Credit where credit is due, at least Democratic party exile Joe Lieberman cited some of the aforementioned ills afflicting averaging Americans, though his tepid exhortations to put our house in order elicited little more than a polite golf clap from the assembled pod persons, and in the end he blamed our failures to tackle these ills on partisan bickering, vaguely laid at the hands of the Democrats who have their boot poised to kick him out of his of seat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
This charade is all so unseemly. If the man from Connecticut had any spine at all, he’d end this disingenous dance with his former party and just jump off the stern. If he had the guts to take a stand, the Republicans would pick him up from the drink and he could take his seat on the other side of the aisle and let Richard Shelby teach him the secret handshake.
The biggest astonishment of the night was Fred Thompson, who seemed to awaken from a months-long coma to speak of John McCain’s travails in the Hanoi Hilton (marked as his speech was, though, by what appeared to be the gurgling eruptions of acid reflux and what Keith Olbermann’s team counted at 70 clearings of his throat). Thompson’s speech was fine, and often moving, in his recitation of John McCain’s POW narrative, but at the risk of being insensitive, it’s not a new story. It happened over three and a half decades ago and it’s the go-to story whenever McCain is challenged about any of his missteps (witness its rollout by his spokesmen two weeks ago when he inserted foot in mouth on his home ownership confusion).
Worse, and this was a problem all evening, they had the talking points a bit forced, as Thompson segued awkwardly from McCain’s Vietnam horrors into his manning the ramparts against earmarks and pork. Anyone who noticed that also surely noted his–and Lieberman’s–awkward repetition of McCain’s signature colloquialism, “my friends.”
President Bush appeared from a safe distance via video feed–the first incumbent President in decades not to address his own party’s convention live–and noted John McCain’s ability to lead this country from Day One, and cited, by point of empathy, his own struggles standing among “buildings knocked down by killers” and how he “promised the survivors I wouldn’t let them down” (His actual words were later that he would capture Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive” until he ultimately lost interest in the one person who took down the only destroyed buildings George Bush actually stood amongst).
But that was our first real night in the Twin Cities. If Sarah Palin is still on the ticket tomorrow–and it’s looking very good for her, if the fauning of MSNBC is any indication–she’ll get her moment in the sun on Wednesday night, and the spin machine will rally to applaud her pluck in the face of a withering press onslaught in the last four days. The rumors of the Republican party’s demise have been greatly exagerrated. Anyone who underestimates their resilliency does so at their own peril.
But God if these people still don’t know how to throw a party.