Considering the Conventions
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • 5:55pm
The 2012 political conventions are over. Much of what was said has been forgotten. This is to remind us of what happened just a couple of weeks ago.
In the final analysis I don't think the conventions will change many votes. I do think some of the things that were said and the demeanor of some of the speakers will cause people to look more deeply into the convictions and
programs of each candidate and contribute to an informed vote. If they accomplish that they are valuable.
We should always remember that the political conventions are part of the peaceful process for the succession of power in our country. They are representative of the democratic process we enjoy as citizens of the U.S.
First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am a Democrat. I once considered voting for a Republican, but the haunting voice of my mother, calling me from the grave like Jacob Marley, warning of dire consequences in the world to come, caused me to change my mind. I am not a mindless Democrat. I consider each candidate before voting; it is just that I have yet to find a Republican whose ideas are consistent with mine.
I also hold no grudge or resentment toward Republicans. I believe that most people vote the way they do because they believe it is best for the city, county, or state and federal government. I also believe that politicians of both parties are more concerned with personal power than public service.
So, here are my comments.
Conventions today are about as necessary to the collective political body as an appendix is to the human body. There was a time when national conventions brought together political leaders who would not ordinarily see one another,
selected nominees, articulated the philosophy of their parties in a platform document and made other decisions in so-called "smoke filled rooms." Not anymore. The candidates are chosen long before the convention begins and the
platforms formulated even before the nominee is selected.
Conventions have become three-day infomercials that provide television channels with relatively inexpensive programming. This year, none of the "news outlets" carried the convention. You couldn't even watch it on CSPAN. The
news outlets cherry-picked what they thought would be the "good stuff" that people would enjoy watching. Most of the time was filled with commentators and so-called experts trying to look smarter and more facile than one another. If you wanted to see the whole convention you had to go to Internet streaming, which sometimes didn't stream so seamlessly.
Coverage was not equivalent from channel to channel. FOXNews carried more of the live speakers in the Republican convention and fewer in the Democratic convention. MSNBC was just the opposite and CNN just had a bunch of people pontificating.
Overall, the Republicans had a double handicap -- a hurricane-shortened agenda and a divided party. The Democrats were well organized, almost to the point of being too slick.
Overall, the Republican convention was so white I was almost snow-blinded by the composition of the crowd. But I will give you this, they were much better dressed than the Democrats. I thought the profusion of funny hats and goofy
outfits among the Democrats made them look un-serious.
The Republicans had several outstanding woman speakers. Though Condoleezza Rice's intellect was impressive, her war-hawkish philosophy made me worried about getting into another war if her outlook were followed in a Republican administration. She was well matched during the Democrat convention by a real war hero, Tammy Duckworth, who made this old soldier's skin tingle when she talked.
I think the Keynote speeches in both conventions were disappointing. Governor Christie of New Jersey was self-serving, and like most of the Republican speakers, vague on specifics a new President would implement, except for repealing Obamacare and "valuing the sacredness of life", which I took to mean repealing Roe v Wade. Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio, who gave the Democratic keynote, appeared so well-groomed and made up that he could have been a cardboard cutout. His delivery was flat and over-scripted too. He made the point about Latinos, but did little else as far as I was concerned.
Each convention had at least one great warm-up speaker who was more effective than some of the featured players. The Republicans trotted out South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who mixed Southern feminine charm with hard-
hitting political bombast to make a compelling and convincing argument for her team. On the other side, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, gave a real stem-winder. His charisma, energy and conviction carried across the ether to my television screen.
Now for the First Ladies. Anne Romney was the archetypal stay-at-home mom. She impressed me as a larger-than-life June Cleaver. I expected her to pass out chocolate chip cookies and milk to the delegates. Her love for her man and her children was without question. But there was something lacking and that was substance. I lost count of how many times she said that she and Mitt met at a high school dance and that he made her laugh. If those are his greatest virtues, perhaps he should look for a different job than President. With each repetition she reminded me more and more of a high school cheerleader who never grew up. And the ironing board story just didn't ring true. How many times did that happen? Was it just once while they were waiting for their new furniture to be delivered?
Michele Obama was very different. She is a large woman; her muscular arms and shoulders reveal someone who pays attention to physical fitness. She had the best dress of the convention. She too loves her husband and children, but unlike Mrs. Romney, it is apparent that there is very strong intellectual power in her personality. I had a mixed reaction to her poverty story too. Did Barak have a hole in his car because he was poor or because he was cheap? All in all, I would like to be invited to Mrs. Romney's home for a dinner party. I would like to be invited to visit with Mrs. Obama to hear her talk about politics, the world and her philosophy.
I really like Clint Eastwood. From Dirty Harry through Heartbreak Ridge to Gran Tourino, he is a man's man! His performance at the Republican convention was a tour de force. Though the Republican leadership may be saying "tsk tsk" about his remarks I bet they are privately high-fiving one another. Clint spoke to the white middle-class man (and more than a few upper-class men who are middle-class wanna-be's) in a compelling, humorous and convincing way. I don't believe he was stumbling over his words. I believe that was the character he was portraying. I also believe that the Republican leadership wanted so badly for him to appear that they let him go on unscripted because he threatened not to appear if they tried to control him. And I bet his appearance sold a few more tickets for his upcoming movie.
I am surprised. The Republicans are usually better at their game than the Democrats but this time they stumbled. I don't think any night was a highlight for the Republican Convention because no one talked for more than a few
minutes about any of the speakers other than Clint Eastwood. All the Republican speakers, except those who stumbled and Clint Eastwood blended into one.
They made their point about women participating in their party but for me, little else.
I think Wednesday night was the highlight of the Democratic Convention. Elizabeth Warren, Bill Clinton and Sister Simone Campbell were fantastic. Sister Simone grabbed my attention when she started out by saying "I am my sister's keeper. I am my brother's keeper." My immediate reaction came straight from Monty Python, "and now for something completely different." And it was.
Michelle was amazing and a stark contrast to Ann Romney. I was impressed with Elizabeth Warren's unpretentious, homespun clothing, makeup and hair. I bet she was wearing sensible shoes too. It made me believe fame had not made her want to be a star. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Her appearance was as carefully crafted as everyone else's.
Then there was the culminating event. All day Wednesday of the Democratic convention was filled with expectation. Bill Clinton was going to speak that night and we knew his talk would be exciting. Around 9 pm, my wife, Harriet, and
I turned on the air conditioning to mid-October temperatures, snuggled down under the covers, turned on the high-definition TV channel and waited for "the speech." Harriet, said "If I fall asleep before the Bill Clinton talk, please wake me up." "No problem" I answered.
Pretty soon, Harriet was sound asleep and I was smugly watching the TV, self-righteous in my superior ability to stay awake. The next thing I remember, Bill Clinton was saying "...and God Bless America." I sat up. "What happened?"
I had fallen asleep! I was left with having to listen to the commentators talking about the juicy portions of the speeches that I had missed! My wife, who had woken up before Bill spoke, enthusiastically told me "That was the best speech I ever heard." And I missed it.
I fell asleep again, vowing to watch the computer feed of the speech the following morning, but woke up around 1:30 am and as I flipped channels, saw Elizabeth Warren giving her address. I watched her and then was amazed to see the entire Clinton speech rebroadcast on FoxNews of all places. I wondered why FoxNews would rebroadcast both speeches in their entirety. Then it dawned on me. They can then say that they were fair and balanced and showed the major speeches of both parties, even though they talked over most of the live talks of the convention and waited till the middle of the night when most of their viewers were asleep to carry the events. (I hate Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes. I think they are scum.)
The next morning I learned that Bill Clinton had been scheduled to speak for 24 minutes, but because of spontaneous ad-libs, he spoke for close to 48 minutes. After hearing this and seeing the speech I had only one thought. "The Democrat ad-libber (Bill Clinton) was much better than the Republican ad-libber (Clint Eastwood)."
Thursday was a letdown. The high point of the night was the first presenter - Gabbie Giffords delivering the Pledge of Allegiance. For me, it went downhill after that. Jennifer Granholm did a Howard Dean by shrieking out job numbers
and I found it revolting and artificial. Caroline Kennedy came across like a character from Night of the Living Dead. Joe Biden tried to do what Bill Clinton did, but Uncle Joe is not Billy Boy.
The headliner of the night, President Obama, READ a well-crafted speech and it lacked the fire and conviction of his homiletics four years ago. I felt he took the safe route by reading the words and not risking a mis-statement, but in doing so he came across as if he were mouthing what others put in his head.
I think the Dems made a horrible strategic blunder. Of course Obama knew the jobs numbers the night before they were released. The speakers made it sound like the U.S. was making a recovery and then disappointing jobs numbers came out that were 20-30 percent lower than the government predictions! They should have prepared us for a disappointment, by saying we have many tough months ahead of us.
I liked that the Democrats invoked the name of FDR. He has been a forgotten man in the last few campaigns. Remember his re-election slogan? "Don't change horses in mid-stream!" That would apply now.
All-in-all, I give the Republicans a "gentleman's "C-" for their Convention and the Democrats a "B++" or "A-". The deciding factor for me rested on two criteria - specifics and truth. I feel the Republicans talked about lowering taxes and filling the budget gap by plugging loopholes, but gave no specifics about which loopholes they would fill. They criticized the Democrats for cutting the military and spending money on recovery, but never acknowledged that they voted for both. They refused to admit that they would have killed GM and the U.S. Auto Industry and they tried to trivialize the fact that Obama got bin Laden. They said they would protect Social Security and Medicare, but their grand plan for Social Security privatization would have broken the bank in 2008, and privatization of Medicare will just transfer costs from all of us to each of us.
But the biggest point of all is Paul Ryan's big lie. Some people may think it is trivial for a guy to lie about his running time in a marathon, but I feel if a guy will lie about his marathon time by an hour then what else will he lie about? Marathon time is so unimportant that it means nothing; what if something were really important, would he also lie about that to make himself look good?
Henry Bassman has written about high-technology and medical technology (biotechnology, medical devices and healthcare issues) for more than 40 years. He retired from AT&T, served in the U.S. Army where he became a captain and worked for ABC News. He is now affiliated with a small investment bank. Articles by Henry can be seen on ABCNews.com and other business Web sites. Henry has lived in Summit, NJ for 37 years and has been married for more than 40 years. He has three daughters who graduated from Summit High School.
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