Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, September 04, 2008

  Republicans will regret yesterday's Convention (Part 1)

The content and tone of the speeches at the RNC last night gave the impression that John McCain has no coherent plan to win this election. The speeches by Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani were packed with non-sequiturs and own-goals in addition to the standard lies, exaggeration, self-praise, and strawmen. Even worse, they established a sneering tone toward Democrats that Sarah Palin then embraced.

Rather than enhance her own public image, she damaged it. She also tossed away the best chance she had to introduce and define herself to voters, and to brush aside the growing impression that she has little substance. She offered nothing substantial in this boilerplate speech, most of which could have been delivered by any number of interchangeable GOP attack-dogs. The single issue she seemed to care about was drilling for oil in Alaska. Anyway, Palin told us next to nothing about herself, her political views, her record. More strangely, she didn't try to explain why she'd be qualified to serve as vice president or president. The most she achieved last night was to introduce herself to the nation as unfailingly sarcastic and dismissive of her rivals. Whereas a well-known figure such as Giuliani might conceivably imagine that he could pull off a speech dedicated to belittling a rival politician who's more experienced than himself, how is that remotely credible for somebody who emerged from obscurity just a week ago? She has virtually no achievements to leverage such attacks upon. She has the thinnest of profiles to draw upon for credibility. It was a misfire. And yet by her extreme harshness, Palin invited and legitimized the harsh judgments of herself that have been proving devastating.

In other words, the speakers (and delegates) appear to have given little thought to how they were coming across to voters who aren't hyper-partisan – the people they need to persuade. If the McCain campaign identified what the convention speakers needed to achieve, Sarah Palin in particular, there's little evidence they implemented a strategy to reach those goals.

Sure, there were a few stray bits and bobs of a plan: to build distance between McCain and George Bush, to argue that "Washington is not working", and to cast McCain and Palin as reformers. But that's a very tall order given that McCain spent years cleaving to Bush, and that the mess in need of fixing was created by Republicans. The fitful attempts to reconcile these things were so poorly executed that they invited mockery. Thus Mitt Romney tried pathetically to convince us that all the pressing problems in DC were "liberal" ones that required a conservative to fix.

"Is government spending — excluding inflation — liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? It's liberal! We need change all right -- change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington!"

It was as if Romney thought he could spit into a hurricane; most Americans already know that McCain voted with Bush more than 90% of the time. Republicans are trying to run against themselves, as the New York Times comments.

What's more, the attempts by McCain's surrogates to portray him as a reformer tended to underline the very embarrassments of the Bush years that Republicans want to flee. So for example Romney argued "It's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!" But along with nearly all Congressional Republicans, McCain caved in and supported Bush's illegal spying on Americans after he initially denounced it. How can he gain by raising the specter of "Big Brother"?

Similarly, the attempts by surrogates to build up Sarah Palin get more and more strained by the hour. We're told that Palin proved her abilities as mayor of a town of 5,000 - a job she said in 1996 was not very difficult at all ("not rocket science"). That she has extensive political experience from 20 months of running a state with a population the size of Memphis – wait, make that more experience than Obama, more than Biden! That she has foreign policy cred as commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard – to which Palin has never issued a single order. That she's the bane of lobbyists and earmarks – except her own. Last night, Mike Huckabee added the most ridiculous argument yet, that Palin "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States". In fact, Palin received only 616 votes in her 1996 race and 909 votes in 1999.

Anyone with an ounce of sense will be insulted by this nonsense. Several prominent Republicans have already admitted the obvious.

[Former Minnesota Governor Arne] Carlson flatly panned the Palin pick, saying she simply doesn't have enough experience.

"That's not a person who should have been under anybody's consideration. The politics may be compelling, and the politics may be appealing. But ultimately, do you want that person to be the next president of the United States?"

The longer that speakers at the convention keep trying to tout Palin's thin resume, the more they're revealed to be con-artists. That has been one of the central problems for this week, how to put the best possible face on McCain's bizarre choice of a running-mate. It's not easy to sell pure, unadulterated sham to the public without tipping your hand that you think they're boobs.

The curtain fell open yesterday when Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy admitted on an open microphone that Palin isn't well qualified, her nomination is gimmicky, and it's ruined McCain's campaign. In public however, like good Republicans, they'd been saying the opposite. Yet last evening the speakers carried on as if the GOP talking points had not been exposed as phony. They needed a new plan to replace the one that had just collapsed, but instead just tried to carry on more aggressively than before.

I'll have more to say on this topic shortly in a second post.

>crossposted at

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