“A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes, it rains.’ Think about that.”
—Tim Robbins as Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLouche in Bull Durham
I confess I’m having to go a little on what I’ve gotten from the media and friends, because I didn’t catch every bit of all three days of the GOP convention. But I think I got the gist of the highlights. Here are some thoughts on the losers and winners:
Good heavens, I didn’t think anyone could make me long for the return of Michael Steele as chairman of the RNC. Now, I don’t know. I’ll make some allowances for Hurricane Isaac disrupting some of the plans, but there seemed to be serious gaps in the flow of the convention during prime time, and decided difficulty in establishing and maintaining energy. Professional political rallies should be highly scripted affairs; everyone should be massed in front of the camera and know what to chant and when. This week, not so much. When Preibus spoke he was incoherent. And some of the speaker lineup decisions—giving John Boehner two prime time spots, including unpracticed lay people on live national TV, the Clint Eastwood quirkiness—seemed really questionable when you had people like Allen West, Herman Cain, and yes even Sarah Palin out there who would have brought down the house, yet they weren’t on the roster.
The Republican Establishment
You saw everything you needed to see when Rand Paul followed Mitch McConnell on Wednesday night. If the GOP is to survive, there’s not just going to have to be a passing of the torch, but a clean break. The trips to the cryptkeeper—McConnell, Boehner, John McCain, The Bushes (especially Bush 41)—weren’t the sort of tributary nods to respected elder statesmen that they’ve been in the past. The Democrats can do that; for reasons that pass understanding, former President and serial adulterer/perjurer/disbarred lawyer Bill Clinton remains hugely popular. Not so with either Bush–one a one term President, the other whose unpopularity was a major factor in the election of Barack Obama. The old guard appearances were uncomfortable, stilted, and did nothing but demonstrate that those who’ve been entrenched for too long are now simply in the way. They hurt the cause this week . . . a lot.
Look, if you’re going to cover something, cover it. But when you not only cherry-pick the speakers but you—I have to assume deliberately—consistently cut away from almost every minority speaker it really begs the question why? Are you racists? Or are you deliberately trying to avoid what were not only some of the very best speakers of the convention, but also the evidence that belies your Republicans-and-the-Tea-Party-are-a-bunch-of-racists narrative? It spoke volumes when Yahoo! was forced to fire Washington DC News Bureau Chief David Chalian after an unexpected hot mic caught him saying the Romneys would love to have a party “with black people drowning.”
It’s amazing what the people on the Left say when they think no one but them is listening.
Wow. As always, Dr. Rice was intelligent, articulate, and classy. What I didn’t expect, really, was the charisma and energy she brought to the stage. Nor did I expect the level of popularity she’d carry. On a night that was largely otherwise dead, she lit it up. She may choose not to do anything with it—she’s consistently said she’s not interested in politics in her own right—but I think she can probably write her ticket within the GOP if she wants to.
The Young Guns
The natural flip side to the Establishment being among the losers, and the need for a clean passing of the torch, is that the up-and-comers were the political stars of the convention. By far the best performances outside of Dr. Rice were from the rising stars of the new guard: Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Mia Love. Add to this list some of the others who weren’t at the convention like Allen West and Mike Lee (I’d like to include Scott Walker and Ted Cruz in this group, too, but as I said after Day 1, I don’t think they helped themselves this week), and there’s a deep bench; but they’re going to have to stand up and boot the old guard out the door.
Of course, the whole point of the convention exercise was the official nomination of the Romney/Ryan ticket, and it remains to be seen whether they are winners or losers coming out of this. I don’t think either did anything to hurt themselves this week, but I don’t think the convention planners and a lot of the lineup did them any favors. I expect the post-convention boost we’ll see will be less than hoped-for, meaning the ticket will effectively have to make up some ground on its own. Three things I’d like to see from them over the next 70 days:
1. Turn Paul Ryan loose and put him on the attack. This guy has an honesty, and a no-nonsense plain language way about him that lends itself to making people understand the truth about Obama. And he can handle the national spotlight. Can’t wait for October 11; Ryan will destroy Joe Biden. Even money the White House cancels that debate.
2. Be more specific about the plan. Romney had a nice start in his acceptance speech, when he outlined a simple five point broad-brush plan. They need to flesh that out to complement what should be the attack narrative that Obama has no plan.
3. Stay on message, and stay on offense. Stop responding, stop defending, and start driving the discussion. This shouldn’t be about tax returns, bank accounts, and Bain Capital. This should be about spending, jobs, and an executive that’s come completely unmoored from the Constitution.
There’s a lot of time left, and a lot can happen. Syria could spill over. Iran/Israel could explode. Gasoline prices could continue to rise. And there’s always the dreaded October surprise. Stay tuned.
This would be a lot of fun if it weren’t so danged dangerous.