Watching the Republican convention tonight, I was struck by a number of things, most notably how the prime-time star speakers whipped up the audience to a frenzy. It's a pity they didn't care to do so with facts.
First, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a controversial municipal chief executive who, were it not for the events that transfixed the world in 2001, would be known more for the divisive way he had governed. Were it not for being thrust onto center stage in a situation most leaders would have performed likewise, he would be remembered more for police brutality in his efforts to bring order to the city. He has marketed himself as Mayor of America due to an enormous tragedy, earning millions in the process and then has the cheek to mock Barack Obama for being too cosmopolitan. All this to defend the paucity of significant achievements in Sarah Palin's resume as he derided those who look down at her stewardship of a tiny town. He tried to make us believe that even as a lifelong New Yorker he wasn't more at home at "21" than in IHop. That he was in fact apparently a bucolic old soul, who wished he'd been raised in a small hamlet or on a farm in the mid west plains. If it had been the Mayor of Omaha putting down Obama this way I might have believed it, just a little. With the former Big Apple chieftain it rang pretty hollow.
Most of what Giuliani said was bull, starting with his belittling Obama's credentials, smirking at his ivy league education, as opposed to McCain's legacy status at Annapolis as the son and grandson of distinguished admirals. He fails to mention that Obama, the son of a single mother and raised by middle class grandparents, went to school on a scholarship and with the help of costly loans. How much financial debt did McCain have to pay?
It was red meat for a friendly crowd and it played well in that hall, but the lies and distortions outweighed the truths, and it was thus disappointing that Governor Sarah Palin, the new star of the Republican Party, was so anxious to prove her mettle she went right along, sacrificing substance for the desire to prove she was tough enough to lead our nation.
Except the effort no doubt backfired in any thinking man's household, and one would hope it didn't resonate with Americans who've been troubled by our economy, the war in Iraq, health insurance difficulties and education. It may have excited the party faithful and those at the top of the economic ladder, with its derision of a man who spent his formative professional years as a community organizer. That she got a lot of laughs by emphasizing this worthwhile occupation, which helps rally folks at the lower levels of society speaks volumes about her insensitivity to the plight of her fellow countrymen.
Giuliani and Palin ignored the failures of the past eight years by emphasizing ad nausea McCain's military record. Yes, he was a fighter pilot, but so were many, many others. Yes, he was a POW, but that in itself does not make him a hero. They fail to state that he "confessed" to get better medical treatment, which is well documented, and former Senator Fred Thompson left that out as well in his address the other night, as did every other speaker including Governor Palin, who made it appear that Senator McCain was somehow Audie Murphy and Sergeant York rolled into one.
He suffered, there's no doubt, but enough is enough. Others suffered as well if not more so. But the Republican Party is so bereft of legitimate reasons to stay in power that they have made this the hallmark of the campaign. Then, to draw attention away from their failures, they prey upon our fears of Obama by making fun of his unlikely rise to the top.
But first, Sarah Palin tried to make us like her by parading her family before us, including her young adult son, who volunteered to go to Iraq, then tugged at our hearts with the image of her disabled infant son -- not to mention shamelessly dragging the boyfriend and apparent father of Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol's unborn child to St. Paul to sit in the VIP Family Box. Having won us over as a Super Mom, she then ripped into Barack Obama, more to get guffaws and applause than to tell the truth.
Both she and Giuliani accused the Democrats of wanting to raise taxes for all Americans, when it's been stated time and again Obama wants to cut taxes for 80% of Americans and install a hike only for the truly wealthy. Through it all, Palin smiled a lot, clearly wanting us to identify with this tough hockey mom, and had the temerity to deride Obama's and most decent Americans' concern about the erosion of our constitutional liberties. She played it for yuks, declaring the rights of a fair trial as folly when dealing with terrorist extremists. How could anyone disagree with her? Perhaps Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
There was little of her own qualifications, except some overstated claims about presumed accomplishments, and in such a litany it would seem hard to believe for someone in office for such a small time. She didn't mention the state investigation of her ethical behavior involving her firing of a police official, who refused to fire her former brother-in-law. She didn't reveal as she crowed that she was against the so-called bridge to nowhere that she was originally in favor. Nor that she was zealous in getting the very earmarks for her town in Wasilla, Alaska which her running-mate John McCain was so much against.
What she displayed was a woman very out of touch with the real world, insulated in her parochial thoughts by a small-minded society, where it is quite common to put down those who come from big cities such as San Francisco and New York. As if most of the people in those communities don't work hard in ordinary jobs, struggling to make ends meet as they raise their families to be good citizens.
It's always fun when the farmer gets the better of the big city dude, but life is not a sitcom or a silly motion picture, and things are horribly wrong with our country, both in an economic, social and moral way. Sarah Palin revealed herself as someone who is better than average in giving a prepared speech written by a Republican operative, but if she subscribes to the contents, and she apparently does, then she is just an aging Gidget, who never grew up.
Is this a leader we want for our nation's future?