Thursday, September 02, 2004

crow for breakfast--and other things

First, I must start tonight by--grudgingly, mind you--taking a little softer edge on my earlier criticism of Juan Williams. He appeared on FoxNews' wrap-up of the night from the RNC last night as a floor reporter. His style as a reporter is rather appealing, and he made two good points, one of which I will comment on at length later. I still don't like him as a panel member, but last night, if you hadn't known before the fact that he was a stranger in a strange land (a liberal at a Republican Convention), you also wouldn't have known it after the fact. And I'm not above admitting my mistakes. . .well, actually, that's another issue. . .

Speaking of strangers in a strange land, I'm sure that a lot of talk today is going to be on Sen. Miller. Now I won't dispute that he had an effective speech LAST NIGHT (talking about both the time of the speech and the length that it was effective) This morning I awoke with a slightly different take. Now I don't think he came off as a raving-mad lunatic that the Dems were happy to be free from, which might be the spin coming from the left today--but I do think that his tone diminished the long-term effectiveness of his speech. Don't get me wrong, last night I was screaming "hallelujah" to the TV, and the crowd's enthusiasm led me to believe that I wasn't the only one being so energized. But he put the tone of last night on "hate", and not only is that not a quality that the Republicans should highlight in their keynote address, but it is also a quality that could have been easily avoided. Give me a little leeway here:

Here was a conservative Democrat talking about how there was no space for him or his type in the new Democratic party. That message would have played directly to the "big-tent" theme of the night before, and Miller would have won some converts simply on merit. Here's a guy who, for the length of his 70-odd years on the earth, has been a Democrat--but has a real issue with the direction of the party he has loved so dearly for so long. So go back and look at the speech, and ask yourself: if he plays down the fire-and-brimstone-invoking anger act, does the overall message become clearer? Obviously, there are some points that still needed to be stressed (such as "what has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?", and "nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers", and stressing all the "they were wrongs" when talking about Democrat's past foreign policy mistakes), but to me I think the overall play would have been better if he had toned it down right up until he started speaking about his personal like for the President. That is the place where his "from the podium"-style would have played like choir music, and since it was the end of the speech, he likely still would have left the stump with the crowd in a frenzy. (It also helps that the pulpit-like demeanor would have been highlighting the "soul" and the "steely spine" of Bush--two traits that you just might actually hear about from a preacher on a Sunday morn) Overall, I think the message of the speech gets more "use" if Miller appears reasonable and logical, rather than hateful. And not to say that he appeared "hateful"--but he was definitely more negative than anything we've seen so far.

And on to Vice President Cheney: okay, so he's not going to get people falling-down excited by his stump style. But three things strike me about his speech:

a) he is the essence of control in public-- perhaps too much so for last night. (Which is too bad, because looking at the text of his speech, free from interruptions and Cheney's delivery, it is a really good speech!!!) He appeared not so much uncomfortable as "workmanlike", and this speech required something slightly more "pizzazz-y". But underneath it all, you can tell he is a bulldog that doesn't allow for things to spin away from him. That, I think, is why Edwards won't be as effective in the VP debates as some others believe. I won't be surprised if Edwards "wins" on appearance--that's what the left is all about, apparently--but I would be very surprised if he scored any points at all about "policy" on Cheney. I could be wrong, but I just don't see Cheney giving Edwards' "let me tell you how I see it" style the chance to get warmed up.;

b) some real good lines, my favorite of which is "the President always casts the deciding vote" after pointing out some of Kerry's past votes on important national defense issues and preceeding the the telling of the records that led those in the hall to chant "flip-flop". As Mr. Williams' pointed out later, that is a line that I think the GOP should play up a little more--the office of President doesn't allow for indecision or "nuance". Governing is prioritizing and deciding, and Kerry, despite his long record of public service, hasn't been called on to do those types of activities in 30-plus years. And as I've written before: it shows!; and

3) Was Cheney's speech a little light on domestic policy issues? Yes, it was. A brief bounce around the issues of education, personal taxes and health care, almost all of it put in the context of what had already been done (he actually highlighted a future tactic in the fight for more affordable health care). It was not at all what I expected, but by the same token, I can see a little wisdom to it: Cheney wouldn't excite anybody talking about those issues. They are issues that require compassion to relate well to the audience, and last night wasn't about compassion and Cheney's strong suit isn't compassion. Tonight, however, the President has the floor all to himself. His stump speeches tend to be fairly good, and one thing that he has in spades over Cheney is that Bush talks WITH a crowd. That kind of style is the proper style with which to address the issues of education, health care and the economy. As some observers last night pointed out, by leaving a domestic agenda for the next four years primarily out of the spotlight so far, the Republicans put an awful big order on Bush's plate. But he is the best man in the GOP to pull it off, and I am confident that he will.


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