By Mark Green
Mary Matalin and Ron Reagan debate who scored and who flubbed at the back-to-back Conventions. Telegenically, it was Ozzie & Harriet vs. Modern Family. My guess -- in a year or generation, folks will remember Gabby Giffords walk and Clint Eastwood's "performance." Here's a side-by-side comparison of the past two weeks and the possible impact this November:
*On Ann and Michelle. There's a consensus that each wife did well at what only they could do -- humanize their guys. But Ron thinks that Michelle used more convincing anecdotes -- Barack's the same person who wants to help young students also in debt -- while Mary is gently skeptical at Mrs. Obama's politically tinged comments (not "how much money you earn [but] the difference you make.")
*On Castro and Christie. Ron's impressed at San Antonio Mayor Castro's eloquence, humor and jabs -- e.g., his metaphor that success is more a "relay" than a sprint. (Eerie: does Limbaugh yet realize that recent Dem keynoters have included a Hussein and a Castro?] Mary scoffs at critics who think that Governor Christie was too negative and angry. "He's a breakthrough governor on public sector budgeting and wasn't discordant coming right after Mrs. Romney. People are tired of platitudes and slick." Slick he's not.
*On Ryan. Bill Maher summed up the reaction to #2: "So many lies - what a great speech!" The Host asks whether Paul Ryan/Bunyon is the next "Reagan" because of his blue-eyed sincerity...or whether he's Lyin' Ryan as described by Democrats and fact-checkers. Mary asserts that "everything he said was true", the GM bailout wasn't successful Simpson Bowles didn't do enough on entitlements.
Ron is withering on Ryan: "He lied his behind off" about a) the Janesville plant closing because of Obama's failure, b) Obama's "cuts" to Medicare and c) his similar opposition to Simpson-Bowles; and then there was that telltale falsehood about doing a marathon in 2:50 when it was over 4 hours. No, it's not as bad as the reported 11 holes-in-one in the first round of golf played by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but still...
*On Rubio and Clinton. These were probably the two most lauded talks of the Conventions. Rubio used his escape-to-freedom story to help explain how Obama was moving us "backwards not forward" - Ron thinks that Rubio could appeal in a future presidential cycle to Hispanics and the young since he's both.
After laying waste to core Republican arguments, is Bubba still the Republicans favorite Democrat now (...wasn't he once impeached by them?). Mary says that "he's everybody's favorite" who astonishingly ad-libbed a third of his talk. "But your party shouldn't want a former president to out-perform the current one," she objects. To which Ron can't resist interjecting, "that's no problem for you guys, with W."
*On the Gender Gap. Did Republicans reduce their disadvantage in polling with women? We hear from Romney talking emotionally about how his parents partnered on their respective campaigns and how many prominent female GOP governors were speaking at their Convention. Mary reminds us of the male gender gap but then adds that focusing on abortion may have been a big deal 30 years ago but "normal women - whose goal in life isn't free birth control -- care far more about their jobs and careers."
Ron pounces. "Republicans will continue to have problems with women with candidates like Todd Akin and Paul Ryan." Heated talk and cross-talk ensues: Mary says that Akin was roundly criticized and Ryan is not for an abortion ban; Ron asks about the GOP platform; "you're talking about the platform?" she says contemptuously; Ron plows ahead -- "if your daughter was raped and got pregnant, would you permit an abortion?"; Mary replies that Romney and Ryan now both permit exceptions in cases of rape and incest; the Host concludes that while the Republican nominees now say that they're not absolutist, they also support a Human Life Constitutional Amendment which would ban all abortions.
*On Flubs. Is it a hill of beans that the Republican nominee didn't mention the troops or Afghanistan war in his acceptance speech or that the Democratic Platform initially lacked the word "God" and failed to reassert that an undivided Jerusalem should always be the capital of Israel? She discounts the troops-war omission but stresses that a Democratic Convention that "cheers an abortionist from NARAL but omits God from its Platform has a problem."
Speaking of flubs, what about Clint Eastwood's unrehearsed and unvetted prime-time "fistful of awesome" (Jon Stewart)? Wasn't it political malpractice to allow Eastwood draw attention away from Mitt Romney on the biggest night of his life and from water coolers everywhere the next day? "No" Mary fairly shouts, concluding that it was just the thing to puncture those who say Conventions are too scripted and boring. "It was fabulous!" "It was... fabulous," Ron cheekily agrees!
*On Romney & Obama. Did they rise to the occasion?
Governor Romney's most quoted line the next day is the one mocking Obama for saying that he'd "slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet" while he instead would "help you and your family." Mary thinks that it effectively highlighted both Obama's grandiosity and Romney's meat-and-potatoes appeal. Ron is disgusted: "OK. But in a 100 years his great grandchildren will say what an idiot their great-grandfather was because he turned global warming into a punch line."
Although Ron notes that "President Obama is a hard act to follow," most commentators agree that his acceptance speech is more soaring, thematic and taunting. He defrocks Romney on comments about Russia and stumbles in London but also lays out his view that "citizenship [mutual obligations] is the essence of democracy" as well as reminding all in the hall and at home that "you are the change... the hope" in terms of what he's accomplished and may yet if rehired.
Mary wraps up the show by graciously saying that both men and Conventions did well BUT that Obama's policies weren't working since there was a bad jobs report the following morning and that the "Obama recovery was weaker than the Reagan recovery."
Before Ron is forced to choose between his father and his party's president, the Host agrees to have a longer conversation about whether we're "better off today than four years ago" and who is better positioned at the post-Labor Day campaign kickoff. Politico's answer: "Advantage Obama. "
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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