Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We (Kind of) Built That: Five Thoughts from Day One of the RNC

Every night of both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, I am going to do some type of recap of the events that transpired both on the convention floor, as well as in the media surrounding the event. I’m going to try to call out both party’s on any shenanigans that they pull, as well as praise them if they deserve it, but from the word “go”, understand I’m a liberal, so some bias might kick in.

Did You Really “Build That”, GOP?
The theme of the opening night of the Republican National Convention was the term “We built that”, a reference to a speech made by President Barack Obama in Virginia earlier this year. The GOP has seized upon this quote and made it into a rallying cry about how the President believes that the only road to success is paved with government succor (and yes, I deliberately used this metaphor to emphasize the stupidity of the whole thing), and there are a couple of moments tonight that really hammered home the absurdity of the whole spectacle.

The President admittedly misspoke during the speech when he uttered the phrase, but he was pretty clearly referring to the government assisting people in various ways as they set businesses up. Here is his full quote, for those of you who don’t get the reference:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Yes, it sounds bad if you take the context away, but it’s pretty apparent that he meant that help is needed, even if it isn’t direct governmental intervention.

In order to drive home their whole point about “We Built This”, the Republicans not only used the speeches by their officials on Tuesday, they also used several small business owners, including a man named Phil Archuleta, who owns a small business in New Mexico. In his remarks, he assailed the President for insulting his story of growing his business, saying that “President Obama talks like he supports small businesses, but his actions are destroying us. His administration is putting us out of business. It is our turn to put them out of office!”

Lost in the midst of his speech was the fact that he didn’t mention, which is that he has been the beneficiary of government help while he has built his business. He got an $850,000 loan guarantee to build the building for his company, as well as supplying signs to the US Forest Service, meaning that the government gave him business as well.

Factor that in with the fact that the party’s convention is being held at an arena in Tampa Bay that was largely funded by taxpayer money. This brings to my mind something that author Jonathan Franzen, who famously clashed with Oprah Winfrey over the inclusion of his novel “The Corrections” on her book club list, said about a reviewer who he didn’t agree with. He complained bitterly that the author of the piece in the New York Times was “tone-deaf” to irony. If it’s true that those who don’t possess the ability to recognize irony are intellectually deficient, then Republicans should be sitting in the front of the class in this respect.

Michelle Bachmann Says Silly Things; No One Is Surprised

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was one of the speakers at the various events surrounding the convention this afternoon, and she said some very interesting things, including that President Obama should be the one worried about the “gender gap” because he is only leading Romney in “single women” and is trailing in both men and “married women”. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen in polling data, but the fact is that Obama does hold a 16 point lead among women in the latest polling data, and has bigger leads in that demographic in some of the individual states.

In addition to their stupid gender gap comment, Bachmann had one more whopper up her sleeve. Here’s her exact quote from an interview with USA Today:

“President Obama is extremely wealthy. He and his wife have been wealthy for a number of years, and so I think that’s really the issue. President Obama is wealthy – what does he understand about the common man right now?”

Yes, the President isn’t some poor schlub. Factor in his salary from the Presidency, his book advances and royalties from his memoir “Dreams from My Father” and political book “The Audacity of Hope”, and whatever investments he has had, he isn’t hurting for funds. The fact that Bachmann insists on pointing out Obama’s wealth, however, is completely foolish, especially because the question was clearly about Romney, whose wealth is estimated to be north of $250 million, a far superior total to that of Mr. Obama.

Whether Romney is capable of feeling empathy for Americans who are struggling right now is a fairly legitimate question (although that should be based more on policy opinions favoring tax cuts for the wealthy than about his personal fortune), but trying to turn the question into one facing the President based on his wealth is very absurd, but par for the course for the extremist that is the Bachmann.

Ann Romney Kicks Some Major Butt

I didn’t get to watch her speech live, but watching it afterward, it is really apparent that Ann Romney’s speech in praise of her husband was excellent. Tom Brokaw nailed it right on the head that she and Michelle Romney are incredibly gifted campaigners, if for no other reason that they so seldomly grab the mic and really tell their stories.

Mrs. Romney spun a tale of Mitt as no one really sees him, which is as a family man who worked hard for what he has. Sure, he was given some legs up, but even if her speech wasn’t entirely cognizant of that fact, she genuinely believed what she said, and that made her speech all the more compelling.

Truth be told, the only negative thing that can really be said from a liberal perspective about the address was objecting to the media’s coverage of it. Painting it out to be the final chance for Mr. Romney to be painted in a likable light was pretty insulting to voters, and placed way too much pressure on Ann’s plate. It shouldn’t be her job, or Michelle’s job with Barack for that matter, to make their husbands seem more human. They should be able to do that themselves by articulating why their visions are right for the American people, but in today’s era of drive-thru politicking, it’s almost a rite of passage to have the wife come to her husband’s aid.

 In that respect, as well as in the realm of compelling political theater, Mrs. Romney scored an A+ in my book.

Governor Ultrasound Ignorant of Reality, to No One’s Surprise

Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, came into office with his state facing a serious budget shortfall facing his administration. The state had racked up a deficit of $1.8 billion in the final budget before he entered office, and in the span of a few years, the state is now out of the red and actually in the black by an estimated $403 million.

This is obviously an awesome accomplishment, and should rightly be praised, but McDonnell gave all of the credit to his sound fiscal policies and budget cuts, but that simply doesn’t tell the whole story. Much like Mr. Businessman ignored the $850,000 the government helped him get to build his business, McDonnell conveniently left out of his interview with Fox News that his state received $2.5 BILLION in federal aid, including $1 billion for education funding, $200 million in general support, and $1.3 billion in enhanced Medicaid funding.

The fact of the matter is that the Virginia story is the exact narrative that sane-minded liberals have been pushing for years now. Yes, deficits are a huge long-term problem, but simply cutting government programs isn’t going to bring the debt under control, and the federal government is going to need more revenue in order to make it work. Virginia would not have balanced their budget without the boys in Washington helping them out. But then again, that wouldn’t be in tune with “We Built That”, would it?

Chris Christie: Damn, What a Speech

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey landed the keynote speaking spot at this convention (and apparently did so after turning down the Vice Presidential spot on the ticket, according to reports), and he didn’t disappoint, delivering a rousing speech that hit on a ton of themes that Americans have genuinely wanted to hear from Republicans, but increasingly have not as the party has lurched to the right in recent years.
Perhaps his best quote came when he echoed President Obama’s comment about the red and blue factions coming together as the United States of America, saying:

“We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down and work together to take action on the big things facing America.”

In an era where Tea Partiers have seemingly concluded that bipartisanship is something to be despised, Christie expressed his desire to reach across the aisle, and repeatedly alluded to examples of his time as governor of New Jersey to emphasize that point. He brought up negotiations with teachers unions and over fixing the state’s broken pension system, and even though I’m obviously not in agreement with him from a policy standpoint, I feel like he’s the type of Republican that I wish there were more of. Sure he’s bombastic, and he loves to talk about himself, but he feels like a regular guy who happens to be a conservative, and policy trumps party loyalty in his eyes.

The one gripe that I did have with Christie’s speech is that it felt a bit too much like a dry run for a 2016 bid for the presidency. Ever since President Obama nailed his speech at the 2004 DNC, it seems like everyone expects the keynote speaker at a convention to rock the stage and be the talk to the town in political circles for the week following. Christie seemed to focus a lot on his accomplishments and his backstory, and only seemed to get to the matter at hand of convincing America to send Romney and Paul Ryan to Washington toward the end of his address.

To me, it reminded me a lot of how Obama emphasized his own narrative, but according to Buzzfeed and a couple other tweets, the President mentioned Democratic nominee John Kerry 14 times in his keynote address, compared with only seven mentions of Romney in Christie’s speech.

Obviously, those are just numbers, but it seemed to really underscore the entire point of the evening, which was to draw a contrast between the Republican agenda and the agenda of Obama and the Democrats. The “anyone but them” ethos was alive and well, and unfortunately for those who saw this convention as the big opportunity to introduce Romney to the American people as a potential president, the first night didn’t exactly achieve that goal.

No comments:

Post a Comment