Tuesday, August 31, 2004

First Night of the Convention

There was no hesitation in bringing 9/11 and Iraq front and center in the event. I mentioned in a comment before that I did not like the location and timing of the convention and thought it was a little too clever. But, I suppose, if you’re going to do that, you might as well go full throttle. Ron Silver’s (a democrat, I think) speech forcefully set the tone: “This was a war against us!”

And later:

“Even though I am a well-recognized liberal on many issues confronting our society today, I find it ironic that many human rights advocates and outspoken members of my own entertainment community are often on the front lines to protest repression, for which I applaud them but they are usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they catalogue repeatedly.”

In my estimate, the words were dead on even if his delivery was a bit too fiery. The crowd liked it. I must admit that it bothers me a bit when the speaker says something about the tragedy of war or the oppressive nature of Saddam’s regime and the people applaud. But aren’t they applauding the sentiment?

The 1-2 punch of John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani was pretty potent. For eye-rolling cynics who thought the GOP was going to put their most moderate foot forward on the first night, they heard, instead, two of the most hawkish politicians out there.

McCain, who was the first to call for Saddam’s head after 9/11, strongly defended and praised the president. I’m not even sure the Daily Show will be able to mock his commitment to Bush, unless they resort to Michael Moore tactics. In describing the president’s choice in deciding to invade, McCain said, “It was between war and a greater threat. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” I agree. McCain was conciliatory and spoke as a senator who cooled his feet in both political pools. Perhaps those few weeks where Kerry flirted with McCain as his VP candidate lent McCain some gravitas when he extended his hand across parties tonight. He was hardly moderate, though, in his defense of the war.

Giuliani was brilliant. He turned the convention into a night with Rudolph. He weaved effortlessly between humor and tragedy. He laid out some vivid accounts of the 9/11 attacks and a personal story about Bush with NYC construction workers a few days later. Giuliani is the first politician that I’ve have heard to go so aggressively at Arafat:

“Terrorist acts became a ticket to the international bargaining table…How else to explain Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize when he was supporting a terrorist plague in the Middle East that undermined any chance of peace?”

And he continued:

“Before September 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of the world much like our observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate ourselves to peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union through mutually assured destruction.

“President Bush decided that we could no longer be just on defense against global terrorism but we must also be on offense.

“On September 20, 2001, President Bush stood before a joint session of Congress, a still grieving and shocked nation and a confused world and he did change the direction of our ship of state.
He dedicated America under his leadership to destroying global terrorism.

The president announced the Bush Doctrine when he said: "Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there.

“It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.
‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’”

And then there was the comical take down of Kerry. All in all, it was an excellent speech.

Lileks, who dismissed McCain, had this to say about the former mayor: “…what Giuliani did was completely typical: aggressive graciousness. It’s why people who disagree with many of his positions admire him greatly, and why he spoke Monday night. And dang: he was good. He was hard: first time I’ve heard someone get up and slam Arafat by name in such a context. A sharp elbow at Germany. A Kerry section played mostly for laughs. An amazing last 10 minutes - dodged nothing."

We’ll see what tomorrow brings….

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