The 2012 Republican National Convention Recap
One could easily argue that the conventions meant more to Mitt Romney than they do to Barack Obama. For one thing, Obama is — for better or worse — more of a known quantity. Obama has also never delivered a speech that didn’t stand out as an example of soaring oratory and his ability to inspire with mere words has reached that stage beyond legend where it is both praised and mocked. Romney — on the other hand — is not a showman and while some might perceive that to be a weakness, the Republicans surely sought to draw a clear line of distinction during their convention, going back to the old McCain campaign strategy of painting Obama as little more than a celebrity while trying to cast Romney as the candidate of substance.
Strike up the chorus.
“Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say ‘yes,’ rather than to say no when ‘no’ is what’s required.” said New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie as he worked to sound tough while speaking about unpopular austerity measures while delivering an overlong address that seemed to fixate on his own record while putting Romney’s on the back-burner. An error that distracted from the point of his speech, which was that in his eyes President Obama is the coddler in chief and a man who loves to be loved and deified. Now, the message, like the man, was rough around the edges but it resonated with those in attendance and it played up another big theme of the convention: times are hard and Obama isn’t the man for the job.
Speaker John Boehner helped set that tone when he compared Obama to a raucous bar patron whose mouth and claims would get him “thrown out” of the bar where he worked as a boy. A hokey, homespun story that delivered some of that red meat that convention goers on both sides crave, Boehners tone was the one most often echoed but not everyone went in that direction.
John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for President and self-described maverick, delivered a different speech that was light on zingers and such stories when it was his time to speak. Lauding America’s past actions on the world stage and showing a deep concern for the way that President Obama has handled foreign conflicts in Syria and Iran and diplomatic relations with Russia, China, and Israel, McCain delivered a well thought out case against Obama as Commander in Chief while mostly side-stepping domestic issues.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio more than made up for McCain’s lack of appraisal on Obama’s performance during the economic war at home, speaking of the struggles that his family had endured and how he had risen and fulfilled his American dream. The Senator also repeatedly praised Mitt Romney, America, and God in his speech calling the United States “The American Miracle” while speaking out against President Obama’s economic policies.
“Mitt Romney knows America’s prosperity didn’t happen because our government simply spent more. It happened because our people used their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who then invest or spend their money in the economy, helping others start a business and create jobs.”
Said Rubio, swiping at the stimulus bill and the debt burden that has grown since President Obama was elected. Prior to Rubio’s speech — which served as an introduction to Candidate Romney and his speech accepting the nomination — Romney VP choice Paul Ryan occupied the prime time slop the night before, introducing himself to America.
When the truth lives in the shadow of a lie, does anyone ever really know it’s there?
Photogenic and vital in appearance, Ryan morphed from the affable every-man to hatchet-man during his speech, taking some of the harshest swings at Obama. This is a typical role for a VP nominee but Ryan delivered his speech with passion and zeal, an effective speech but one that was slightly undone the next day when people began to check his facts and hold him to his statements. Indeed, while Ryan had not delivered a speech that lived up to his reputation for candor and honesty, it did get the message across to a much larger audience than likely will ever become aware that his speech was littered with sins of omission.
What does it matter, after-all, that Ryan was seen by millions chastising the President for the US credit downgrade when he was one of the people vocally opposed to raising the debt ceiling, an argument that helped convince Standard and Poor that — due to our volatile political climate — we were a less than completely safe risk? What does it matter that Ryan blasts the President for failing to act on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission’s report despite the fact that he (Ryan) was one of the people who helped kill it in committee before it got to the Senate? Hell, what does it matter that he did all that while standing in an arena that covered with banners that said “We built this!” a retort to remarks that President Obama made about the value of infrastructure that were woefully taken out of context, remarks that were cut up and played over loudspeakers in the hall according to CNN.
Ryan’s objective was to put these fears, these charges into the minds of voters and to stir up the base — in that regard it was “Mission Accomplished” for the campaign but really, the value of these omissions and the questions regarding if these half truths matter will be decided by the voters, the voters who are aware of them.
With that said though, I’m sure the optimal result would have a speech that took the President to task and which didn’t suffer any blowback and no matter how smoothly Ryan evaded taking on too many bruises in the afterglow, his need to defend his speech afterward served as yet another distraction that loomed over the Republican National Convention.
By the time that Mitt Romney had taken the stage to close out the convention his party had delivered a series of stirring recommendations, heart warming stories, partisan attacks, and needless embarrassments like Christie’s self involved ditty, Ryan’s half truths, and the infamous Clint Eastwood chair incident.
As I said before, this moment and this convention belonged to Romney and stood out as an opportunity, now not just to introduce himself and define his vision for an America under his leadership, but to salvage a party wide bump and make irrelevant those distractions and the detractors.
As he came to the stage, following Rubio’s strong introduction, the possible next President of the United States gave the speech of his life, but in my view he failed to accomplish his goals. Sure, we could relate to Romney even feel a connection with him when he talked about his mom and the women of accomplishment like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who had been prominently featured during the convention while courting female voters, or when he nearly teared up while talking about his family. Sure he deserves to be commended for mostly keeping the gloves on when mentioning Obama, standing above the fray while others happily did the dirty work for him. I even got a clear concept of where he wanted to take this country but we didn’t get a road map and we got few facts and set-in-stone promises on where this country can go and how he can take us there.
That’s the problem with these conventions and that’s what makes people write them off as commercials — there is rarely any real substance. I expect to levy the same criticism on the Democrats as well because in times such as these, when all of our futures are intrinsically linked to the decision we collectively make in November, we deserve to be fully informed and that is the last thing politicians seemingly want. Remember, the devil is in the details but the deviousness is in keeping those details as far away from our ears and eyes as possible. I think it’s great that Romney and the Republicans believe in America, that they think this country can be a “shining city on a hill” again, but I want to know how they plan on doing that and I want to know more about what that term actually means to them because I sure know what that means to me.
Overall Grade: C. The Republicans energized their base but poor organization, lackluster vetting, distractions, and hollow rhetoric didn’t likely do much to sway independent voters, something that has been evidenced by the absence of any kind of uptick in the polls following the convention.Sources: ABC News, The Washington Times