Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 3, 2004
POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part II
I was back at the convention last night. Thoughts:
*Man, we are so gonna win this thing. I've been holding off on the optimism for much of the spring and summer, but the contrasts between Bush and Kerry, from their personalities to the professionalism and discipline of their campaign operations, is all saying "victory" at this point in the game. I think Kerry needs a major external event to turn around that dynamic.
*Across the street from Penn Station, which runs under Madison Square Garden, is Macy's; Macy's has a big video screen that runs ads. When I arrived for the convention around 7pm, the video screen was running the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad with Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony.
*It occurred to me that Zell Miller missed an opportunity in his riff on the Democrats' war dissent: besides Wendell Willkie, he might also have referred to Bill Clinton not challenging George H.W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq. The contrast would have been sharp, since Kerry opposed that war too and since it would have helped Zell underscore how a 1992 Clinton supporter became a 2004 Bush supporter. Then again, Clinton didn't quite support that war, either, so much as he ignored it because it was a dead issue by 1992.
*There are some things you can't do. You can't beat Democrats by promising to spend money. And you can't beat Republicans by wrapping yourself in the flag.
And yet, in a sense, it's almost beside the point for Bush to wrap himself in the flag. For a lot of Republicans, Bush is the flag - maybe not Old Glory, but at least the battle flag in the War on Terror. Bush has laid out a distinct and aggressive approach to fighting terror, most notably the doctrine of preemption, the "forward strategy of freedom" in the Muslim and Arab worlds, the "axis of evil," and the "Bush Doctrine" (you're with us or against us). Because of the root-and-branch nature of so much of his opponents' criticism of this approach, it has come to be identified worldwide with the person of Bush, and his defeat at the polls this fall would be identified everywhere with a rejection of these cornerstones of American foreign policy. Thus, if Bush goes down, it is very much the fall of the flag in battle - our enemies will exult, and our friends will worry about our commitment. Democrats may regard that as a harsh truth, but it's hard indeed to avoid it.
*The house was packed as it was not on Wednesday, and the delegations on the floor were far better organized in neat circular lines. I don't know if the folks at home could see the group - they had to be Texans - all sitting together with the red, white and blue matching outfits and white cowboy hats.
*The early speakers (former Texas railroad commissioner Michael Williams, Florida Senate candidate Mel Martinez) got more attention froim the crowd than last time, but they didn't have much new to say. During Martinez' speech I saw my first "Jeb '08" sign. It didn't look hand-made, either.
*Pataki's 9/11-heavy opening was cringe-inducing, but he warmed up as he slid into attacks on Kerry. He was wearing too much makeup, I think.
Then, the main event: the president's speech.