Friday, August 4, 2000

"He looked great, sounded good." That was the verdict. Not about the speech. It was George W's comment after visiting Gerald Ford in the hospital. And if that's your benchmark, well, W looked fantastic and hardly slurred his words at all.

W's speech may have been somewhat short on details, but commentators tended to agree that what made last night important was not the specifics of W's policies, but that it gave most of America a chance to really look at the candidate for the first time and say, "My god, that man has no lips!"

The speech lasted 52 minutes—the longest continuous time W has ever spent reading anything—and was, frankly, a perfectly decent stump speech, even if the permanent furrow in W's brow betrayed just how hard he was working to pull it off. At one point, W was so determined to pronounce "nuclear" correctly that he covered his bases by saying it two different ways in the same sentence.

The theme of this campaign, as you may have heard, is inclusiveness. In his folksy pre-speech video, George W spoke of the need to let all citizens know that "the American dream is for them, as long as they’re willing to work for it." Or use their father's connections.

In his address, W spoke movingly of visiting young convicts in Marlin, Texas. "All had committed grown-up crimes. Yet when I looked in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys. Toward the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, raised his hand and asked a haunting question: 'What do you think of me?'" To which Bush, demonstrating his compassion, did not answer, "one more year and you'd be old enough for the death penalty in 19 states."

Though it has largely defined him as a governor, W did not actually mention capital punishment once during the convention. This is especially odd given the efforts made to have minorities on display. A photograph of every person put to death in Texas in the last six years would have helped that a lot. And dead people at least stick to the script. The GOP found itself a little embarrassed when the director of the Rainbow Company, the children's theater troupe that served as window dressing for Laura Bush, confessed that he was doing it for the exposure and the money, "certainly not…because I believe in the Republican ideal." Then a fifteen-year-old girl from the company challenged George W's stands on welfare and abortion.

In the end, the balloons fell and the delegates were ready to go home and get some sleep. A member of the Kentucky delegation (which had the unfortunate task of standing under a sign that read "KY for Bush") told the New York Times, "My back hurts. My toenails hurt. My bellybutton hurts." And it’s a long way to November.

Daniel Radosh

[ 100% True ]

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