A Review Of The GOP Convention: Day 4

by John Hawkins | September 5, 2008 9:12 am

After a rousing Night 3 of the convention, Night 4 didn’t look to have the most promising array of speakers. Let’s see: Mike Huckabee, Linda Lingle, Rudy Guiliani, and Sarah Palin vs. Lindsey Graham, Tom Ridge, Cindy McCain, and John McCain. That’s not exactly the crew of speakers, besides McCain, that you want to end a convention on.

Still, the first speaker, Lindsey Graham, was better than I expected him to be. He came out and gave a solid, unapologetic “B” speech about how we’re winning the war in Iraq, how McCain contributed to that, and how Obama would have lost it. I thought it was a nice start to the night.

“Barack Obama went 2 and a half years between visits to Iraq and never once sat down with General Petraeus. If Barack Obama cannot appreciate that our troops are winning in Iraq, he should not be their Commander in Chief.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Barack Obama doesn’t care.

I’m just saying – he doesn’t get it.

Not once was Barack Obama’s eloquent voice ever raised in support of Victory in Iraq. Not once was it used to rally our troops in battle. Instead, he inspired those who supported retreat and would have accepted our defeat.

We should all be grateful that Barack Obama was unable to defeat the surge. The surge was a test for Barack Obama.

He failed miserably.” — Lindsey Graham

Next up was Tom Ridge, a man who was thought to have been on John McCain’s VP short list. Ridge looks the part and he had a decent little bio builder speech to read, but his delivery was awful. It was a real wasted opportunity and a “C-” speech.

“Now more than ever we need a leader who fits the times – not a candidate who merely thinks it’s his time to lead. For the consideration before us is not about who can take a 3 a.m. call. It’s about who has answered the call throughout his life. It’s not about building a record. It’s about having one. It’s not about talking pretty. It’s about talking straight. The challenge of our times is not simply to change. The challenge of our time is to leave nothing to chance.” — Tom Ridge

After an extraordinarily effective intro video that made you feel like Cindy McCain is practically a saint, she came up to give a full speech similar to the one Michelle Obama gave (talking up her husband and convincing people she’s a wonderful person). Quite frankly, they’d have been better off just sticking with the video because the speech wasn’t very good and Cindy had a really dull delivery. It was probably the single, worst speech of either convention. Happily, that “D” speech was at least fairly short.

“John has picked a reform-minded … hockey-mommin’ … basketball shootin’ … moose huntin’ … fly-fishin’ … pistol-packing … mother of five for vice president. And as a fellow hockey mom myself and a western conservative mother, I couldn’t be prouder that John has shaken things up as he usually does!” — Cindy McCain

Last but not least, John McCain closed out the evening. The speech he gave was overly long, McCain took a little while to get into a rhythm, and he was interrupted by protesters early on. Moreover, there was very little red meat in the speech because it wasn’t really a speech designed to tear down Barack Obama or fire up conservatives. No, the purpose of the speech was to make a case for John McCain to undecided voters — and on that level, it worked well. The last five minutes of the speech in particular were really good.

“A lot of prisoners had it worse than I did. I’d been mistreated before, but not as badly as others. I always liked to strut a little after I’d been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it. But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.

When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn’t know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me. Through taps on a wall he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for our country and for the men I had the honor to serve with. Because every day they fought for me.

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore. I was my country’s.

I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.” — John McCain

Summary: This is a tough night to grade because it feels like this should have been Night 3 and Wednesday, which was much more exciting to conservatives, should have been the close. However, that probably would have been a little too “mavericky” even for John McCain.

On the other hand, Ridge and Cindy McCain might not have added much, but like on the last night of the Democratic Convention, the main man’s speech was what everybody came to see — and McCain succeeded in what he wanted to do, which was reach out to undecided voters who are sick of acrimony and want more bipartisanship. It’s not the speech I would have given in his place, but it was a fitting speech for John McCain. So, on the night, they get a “B-.”

PS: The easiest way to get a round of applause last night? Mention Sarah Palin, whom conservatives seem much, much more excited about than John McCain.

Furthermore, what we saw last night may be the beginning of a strategy that may last through the election. Palin attacks Obama, draws liberal fire, and pumps up conservatives, while McCain plays the bipartisan reformer and appeals directly to the voters still up for grabs.

PS #2: All in all, I think the GOP convention vs. the Democratic convention gave the GOP a slight edge at best or was a wash at worst. In a few days, after the polls finish sorting all this out, I expect to see most polls putting the race back to a tie or perhaps giving a small lead to John McCain. We’ll see if that prediction is born out.

PS #3: There were two things I did not like about the convention.

#1) There was too much emphasis on John McCain’s time as a POW. Yes, it should have been brought up, but just about every speaker hit on it. I think that’s because McCain is such a “maverick” and a lot of his “greatest hits” are left-of-center bills that most Republicans aren’t going to get excited about.

#2) They did not spend enough time attacking Barack Obama. Yes, Obama did get hit — and some of the speakers, Palin and Giuliani to name two, pounded him into jelly, but I still would have liked to have seen more.

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