The Wrong Side of History

Like most of America, I missed most of the first night of the Republican National Convention. I did, however, tune in to last night’s events and was quite shocked at the contrast between the DNC and the RNC.

Granted, I am obviously biased, but what I saw on the first night of the RNC was a lot of smoke and mirrors and slight of hand.

The first thing I noticed was that the venue seemed empty. One of the reporters mentioned that the setting was actually noticeably smaller than the DNC one in Denver. And yet, there were so many empty seats. So little energy. The Grand Ol’ Party made a grand attempt to make a small gathering look like a big celebration on television. It didn’t work, at least not from the coverage I viewed last night.

The GOP delegates were clearly much older than most of the Democratic delegates. As the cameras panned across the crowd, I couldn’t help but think that this is a party that time has just passed by. Every key person interviewed by the press was an older white man. There were tributes to Ronald Reagan and Bush 41. Then Dubya’s wife took the stage to introduce her husband, who appeared via satellite from the White House and was projected onto a gigantic screen. It looked like something out of 1984. A giant head on a screen speaking to the enamoured masses. While the speech from Bush 43 was supposedly “live,” I sincerely have my doubts. It seemed like it had been taped ahead of time, proabably to make sure the guy didn’t stray from the script and decide to do some ad-libbing which might result in a “fool me, can’t get fooled again” moment. I would bet real money that his appearance wasn’t live, and that it was taped. His reactions weren’t appropriate for the applause and cheers he got at certain moments of his speech. He paused a couple times for loud cheering, but didn’t start up again at the right moments. Some times he stepped over applause. I thought at first this might be because he wasn’t getting any feedback from the crowd — that perhaps this was a one-way thing. But why would they do that? Why not make it friendlier, so Bush could react to the crowd? So he could laugh when a line got a good cheer? No, I think it was taped ahead of time, scripted tightly to avoid any embarrassment.

Then Fred Thompson spoke and at first I thought he was on something or that he had been drinking because he was slurring his words and didn’t seem to be aware where the microphone was as he talked to the left and right of it. Then I thought perhaps he just didn’t feel great because he cleared his throat and coughed through the entire speech (as did Joe Liebermann, who followed him).

His recounting of McCain’s life in Vietnam was extremely moving and almost hard to listen to. I can’t imagine anyone going through that kind of terror and agony for five years. It’s really unthinkable, and the fact that McCain took the punishment time and again is definitely testament to his character. But as Thompson himself said, being a POW isn’t a qualification for President of the United States. And even though he added, “character is,” that cannot be the only qualification for the position.

Of course, the highlight of the night for liberals like myself was turncoat Joe Liebermann taking his turn at the podium. Joe relished his celebrity and notoriety at this convention, and it was clear he was basking in the attention. After listening to him drone on about non-partisanship and about how he was amazed he was speaking at the RNC, I could barely take any more. I know listening to Joe Liebermann is no comparison to being tortured by the Viet Cong, but damned if I didn’t feel my ears start to bleed after he took several jabs at our candidate and decided to directly address all us misguided Democrats. And, of course, throughout the speech he referred to himself as a Democrat, even though there is actually an (I) after his name.

He pleaded with the television audience to move beyond party and to just vote for the best candidate. But what Joe doesn’t seem to understand is that we truly believe Barak Obama is the best candidate. The height of Liebermann’s arrogance is thinking that he holds any sway with Democratic voters. They apparently didn’t want him in 2000, and they didn’t even want him as their Senator anymore in Connecticut a couple years ago, so why should they listen to him now? When you turn to the other side, when you support the opposing candidate and talking about Bush doing the right thing in Iraq, you have shown a lack of good judgment and have made yourself irrelevant to the voters you’re trying to court.

So when all is said and done, here’s the slight of hand that’s being pulled on the American public by the GOP. The neo-conservative wing of the party is trying to convince America that John McCain is a true maverick who stands for what he believes, even though he has now changed his opinion to match today’s GOP on just about every position he had when he ran for the 2000 election. If there was any doubt of his conservative status, he has chosen Sarah Palin — a true anti-choice, gun-toting creationist — to run with him to satisfy the party’s base. According to Newt Gingrich, she has gobs of executive experience. Gobs of it. The GOP is trying to convince America that even though the last eight years have been a total disaster, the GOP is the one to choose if the country wants real change. “Change,” even though this is the same party that has been in power for the last eight disasterous years. America should trust it yet again because now it’s going to “drain the swamp” of, um, of all the people that it has put there for the past decade or so. Huh?

Is America going to fall for this?

I really don’t know. I suppose it could. I have been so wrong before. When I thought Al Gore just killed George Bush in the debates, the media reaction was that Bush had won, and polls said the public agreed. When I thought the country would never choose George Bush for a second term, it did just that.

But my overall sense in watching the convention is that this party is just done right now. They’re trying to prop up these people with helium, toothpicks, Elmer’s glue and magic tricks. It’s obvious to me, but I don’t know how obvious it is to the rest of America, particularly the independents and conservatives.

The party forced its candidate into a VP pick that he didn’t want to make, and did so without any vetting at all. In fact, so much fallout has occurred since Mrs. Palin was chosen — that she was only interviewed one day before being given the job, that her 17 year old daughter is pregnant (proving the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education), that she is under investigation by local authorities for corruption, that her husband was a member of a political party that supported Alaska seceding from the United States — that the McCain camp has now stated unequivocally that there will be no further comment on how she was (or wasn’t) vetted. This pick was made for purely political reasons, and if McCain allowed himself to be bulldozed into making this decision, it doesn’t bode well for what happens if he actually gets in the office.

If John McCain is such a maverick who is unwavering in his conviction, how come he could stand up to the Viet Cong but he couldn’t stand up to forces within his own party and choose his own candidate?

I have said this before — that the neoconservative wing of the GOP views John McCain as its last grasp on government. It will do anything it can to keep this grasp because it believes it is doing the right thing in the world, no matter how evil the results. The Project for a New American Century has been a dismal failure, but those who wrote it only believe it has been so far incorrectly executed, so they’re trying to paint McCain in any way they can to make sure the American sees whatever it wants to see in a leader.

Again, my overall sense is that this desperation will be clear to the American public. There will always be those who believe the lies, and don’t see the strings behind the puppet — and make no mistake, whatever John McCain’s honorable past, he is allowing himself to be manipulated by a party desperate to stay in control.

But hopefully, a majority of Americans will see through this.

I just have this deep feeling that the oft-used phrase is correct — that the GOP, this time, is just on the wrong side of history.

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