Notes from the second night of the convention:
— What follows will be in more or less chronological order, except that I want to say upfront that Condi Rice gave one of the greatest political speeches in American history, and if you didn’t see it, you should scroll most of the way down this post and watch the video right now. (And no, that does not mean I agree with everything she said.)
— It took Cathy McMorris Rodgers less than 30 seconds to segue from “We will send every American to college” to “We will shrink the role of government”. This is the kind of thing that makes people hold Republicans in well-deserved contempt.
— Rand Paul lived up to my almost impossibly high expectations. He was superb:
— Rob Portman was good, on both substance and presentation. He did commit the sin of defending free trade as a boon to producers, as if consumers were nothing more than potted plants, but that’s only a sin of omission, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect too much depth in a ten minute convention speech. What he did say was spot on:
— There were far far too many musical interludes.
— Did I mention far too many musical interludes?
— Unlike Paul and Portman, Tim Pawlenty relies almost entirely on substance-free one-liners. He leaves me feeling dirty.
— Mike Huckabee, like Pawlenty, starts off largely substance-free and often negative, but pulls it off better because he’s more likable. Then he moves on to big themes, hits them well, and comes off lofty. He’s one of the best orators in American politics:
— I keep hearing, from speaker after speaker, that if you’ve been successful through study, hard work and risk-taking, then “you built it”, and therefore deserve your success. Okay. But it’s also true that if you’ve been successful through study, hard work and risk-taking, you probably had the good fortune of being born into a family that encouraged study, hard work and risk-taking. Not everyone has that good fortune, and it would be nice to hear that acknowledged.
— It would also be nice to hear the Republicans at least try to make the case that Republican policies would be good for those without such good fortune.
— Condi Rice was magnificent, and I wish I could think of a more powerful adjective:
— Wait a minute. Paul Ryan faults Obama for not making “job creation” his number one economic priority. In other words, Ryan thinks Obama was insufficiently focused on the short run? Here I’d thought that an unhealthy obsession with the short run was what got us into this whole fiscal mess in the first place. I’d also thought that a longer policy horizon was supposed to be the very essence of Ryanism.
— I happen to be reading Macaulay’s History of England, and I happen just this morning to have read the hilarious passage in which Macaulay surveys the long history of predictions that “if government debt ever exceeds $X, the nation will collapse”, followed, ten years later, when the debt exceeds $X, by a new prediction that “if the government debt ever exceeds $y, the nation will collapse”. Macaulay was writing in the 19th century, but if he were writing today, I’m sure a Paul Ryan quote would have found its way into that passage.
— “We will keep government spending at 20% of GDP or less” is a pretty big promise, and a pretty specific one. And a pretty good reason to vote for these guys if you believe it.
— Hrmm. Ryan says that Romney balanced the Mass. budget without raising taxes. I wonder if he heard the earlier speakers who were so keen to remind us that an individual health insurance mandate is a tax.
— It is damn troubling to hear Ryan criticize Obama for trimming funds from Medicare, as if trimming funds from Medicare were an unpardonable sin. If Republican rhetoric declares all entitlements untouchable, then there will be no room in American political discourse for genuine fiscal conservatism. If Romney/Ryan are elected, then any position to the right of Romney/Ryan will be considered beyond the pale. If Ryan can’t say flat-out that Medicare is too big, that’s a good reason to hope this ticket loses.
— Numerous additional quibbles (and more-than-quibbles) aside, Ryan gave a terrific speech, long on both specifics and vision, and with a stirring close. I’d feel a lot better about this ticket if he were at the top of it.