Last night my wife Molly and I watched the coverage of the Republican National Convention, in large part to catch the remarks of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. You can read the full text of her speech here, or watch here. To view the full speech you’ll need to click through a few links on YouTube, as the speech is broken in to segments. Below you’re going to find some of my connected, but disjointed highlights from both conventions. I’m not writing an essay here, but I’m presenting snippets I think are important to consider.
As the evening progressed Molly was on Facebook watch, tracking the status updates of a number of friends as they posted reactions to Palin. Some of the more humorous comments included, “is America getting Punk’d right now?” to “I’m waiting for someone to pop up and say, ‘Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!’” My friends’ updates included:
- …has been a supervisor. Can I run for president?
- …is surprised that she really, really likes Palin.
- …WOW Barracuda in the house!
- …wow. what a %$#^&.
- …thinks the GOP has the all-important hockey mom vote locked up.
- …the republican party gives me a headache.
- …is watching the RNC and is sick to her stomach watching this crap! Country First my *%^! What a f@#%ing joke!
- …is astounded by the amount of hate.
- …is quite fond of community organizers.
The Politics of the Sound Bite :: Sarah Snow Machine
Perhaps my disillusionment with the presentation of both parties lies in the fact these events, and the speeches which are given during these events, are tailor made for media coverage and the manipulation of image. Sarah Palin’s speech was a great example of this type of politics. ”Attack-dog” tactics are not new in politics–they are as old as the earth. But in the age of media, pithy statements sway voters. The catchier, the more humorous, the better. Forget actually talking about a proposed plan, strategy while in office, or solutions to actual problems which exist in this country–that is not what political conventions are for. Political conventions are for the delivery of zingers which will carry your campaign. Here are a few of one liners which will be featured in both radio and television reports throughout the day:
- I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a “community organizer,” except that you have actual responsibilities.
- This is a man [Obama] who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word “victory” except when he’s talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed … when the roar of the crowd fades away … when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot – what exactly is our opponent’s plan?
- Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America … he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? Government is too big … he wants to grow it.
- Taxes are too high … he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan, and let me be specific.
- In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.
- But if Senator McCain is elected president, that is the journey he will have made. It’s the journey of an upright and honorable man – the kind of fellow whose name you will find on war memorials in small towns across this country, only he was among those who came home. To the most powerful office on earth, he would bring the compassion that comes from having once been powerless … the wisdom that comes even to the captives, by the grace of God … the special confidence of those who have seen evil, and seen how evil is overcome.
- For a season, a gifted speaker can inspire with his words. For a lifetime, John McCain has inspired with his deeds.
If you read the text version of Palin’s speech, you’ll find that it is sound bite after sound bite, short statement followed by short statement. No topic is treated for more than 60 seconds, many of the issues are given much less. During her speech, it seemed as though no more than 30 seconds would pass before her speech reached a moment calling for applause or the response of the audience.
The sad reality of this format is that it seems to diminish discourse, reducing the basis upon which we nominate and elect our officials to their ability to formulate catchy slogans fit for media consumption and propagation.
I wish I had the confidence in the American public to believe that most people will weigh the issues, research the candidates, and read up on proposed plans and strategies each candidate puts forth before casting their vote. At this stage I don’t have that confidence.
Most Inane Moment of Last Night’s RNC Coverage
The “Drill Baby Drill” chant which emerged during the Guilliani speech drove me nuts. Here is an RNC video addressing the energy issue, particularly drilling in Alaska. I am not necessarily opposed to proposed drilling here in America, but am realistic enough to see that drilling is a short term solution to our energy problem. Oil based industries (such as automobile manufacturing) have worked for years to stall advancement in the area of fuel efficiency. Gasoline prices have forced the American public to demand some type of change. People are driving less, purchasing more fuel efficient vehicles, and raising their voice in support of new energy technologies. We can be proactive now, or face an even greater crisis later. I’m in agreement with Thomas Friedman that energy technology could be our next “man on the moon” type mission for the American people.
DNC :: Obama Will Solve All the World’s (or at least America’s) Problems
Here are a few of my favorite remarks from Barack Obama during his speech at the DNC:
- I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.
- I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
- I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families.
- I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.
- I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.
- I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.
- And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.
- I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less – because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
- As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.
- I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease.
- I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.
What’s left for the American people to do?
By the way, I don’t think the President can restore our moral standing, globally or domestically. That would assume that there is a common morality or a common conception of virtue, which doesn’t exist in America. A common narrative has eroded over the last 50 years as secularism has increased and pluralism has won the day. I would say that our public morality is still being negotiated.
Also, what did Barack Obama mean when he closed his speech with the words, “Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess”?
What exactly is that hope that we confess, as found in the words of Scripture, which applies to the current state of the nation? Thanks for throwing those that read the Bible a bone.
Why herald Barack Obama as Messiah when you can have the Republican Party as Messiah?
I had this question when I heard these words from Rudy Guilliani:
And as we look to the future never let us forget that – when we are at our best – we are the party that expands Freedom. We began as a party dedicated to freeing people from slavery … And we are still the party that is willing to fight for freedom at home and around the world. We are the party that wants to expand individual freedom and economic freedom … because we believe that the secret of America’s success is not central government, it is self-government. We are the party that believes in giving workers the right to work. The party that believes parents should choose where their children go to school.
And we are the party that believes unapologetically in America’s essential greatness – that we are a shining city on the hill, a beacon of freedom that inspires people everywhere to reach for a better world.
Both parties present their candidate as the Savior, Defender, and Protector of “America.”
Lastly, to repeat a Sarah Palin comment:
To the most powerful office on earth, he would bring the compassion that comes from having once been powerless … the wisdom that comes even to the captives, by the grace of God … the special confidence of those who have seen evil, and seen how evil is overcome.
Does it seem as though John McCain is being presented here as…Jesus?