Politics & Policy

An “Interior Life,” Some Protesters, The Speech, and More

NEW YORK, N.Y.–Friends, this column will be in no real order–no order of importance–but bear with me, if you will. We’ll get to President Bush toward the end. (I have started to type in advance of the speech.)

I want to quote something from a George Will column, always worth doing: “Just as the Soviet press merited close scrutiny because it was closely controlled to serve the regime’s purposes, today’s conventions give clarity to the parties’ thinking.”

Don’t you wish you had written that? I, for one, am more pro-convention after this season. They are useful jamborees, showcasing politics, providing entertainment–and occasionally shedding light.

‐I also read Richard Cohen’s column, in the Washington Post (titled “Grand Old Prevarication”). He guffawed at “rhetorical affidavits from the president’s own family attesting to his character, his cuteness, and the fact that he has, despite all evidence to the contrary, an interior life.” Because, of course, why should he have an interior life, a man who conquered the bottle, who utterly turned his life around, and who rose, in spectacular style, to president of the United States? The assumption that Bush has no interior life is . . . well, I am trying to avoid saying “dumb.”

Cohen also said something about the possibility that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons to terrorists: “[T]hat didn’t happen . . . and probably wouldn’t have. Hussein was a selfish sort who liked to keep his weapons close. Paranoids usually do.” Oh, really? The columnist assures us that Iraq “probably wouldn’t have” passed weapons to terrorists. How could Bush have gone to war, given that assurance?

More Cohen: “The thinking that links unrelated events or movements into something called worldwide terrorism–this attempt to make events conform to rhetoric–is precisely what led the United States into the quagmire of Vietnam. Now, as then, we are being told that we were attacked or hated or whatever because we are free. Not so. Americans died on Sept. 11 because of what Americans had done: established bases in Saudi Arabia and unambiguously supported Israel. It is the right thing to do, but it comes at a cost.”

Cohen might want to listen to what some of the Qaeda folk themselves say, about the iniquitous West, and its respect for women, and its vile Christianity, atheism, and so on. They’re not necessarily so policy-oriented when they denounce us, you know. They hate our civilization through and through. If Cohen could surf MEMRI.org for just two minutes . . .

But then, even that may not penetrate.

‐I’ve seen a fair number of protesters in this city, and one thing about them galls me (well, more than one thing, but I will emphasize one): their arrogance. They wear T-shirts that say “NYC Says No to the RNC.” Well, it may be true that most New Yorkers are anti-Bush. But would you put on a T-shirt that says that? I mean, if the Democratic convention were in Salt Lake City, and I lived there, I would never think to put on a shirt declaring, “SLC Says No to the DNC.” Manners, independent-mindedness, and judgment would forbid it.

These leftists feel the need to jump into a herd: not, “I Say No to the RNC,” but “NYC Says No . . .” Speak for yourself, Charlie.

‐Have you seen the new Club for Growth ad on Kerry and taxes? Oh, it’s a good’un. It makes one of our core points: that when Democrats talk about raising taxes only on the rich . . . they may just consider you rich, even if you don’t. Go ahead with your bad self, Steve (Moore).

‐I quote from The Hotline’s quotation of the Wall Street Journal: “[Kerry] ‘won applause’ saying he’d have ‘relied more on American troops–not Afghan troops–”when we had bin Laden in our sights.”‘” Well, then: Who’s the unilateralist now?

‐Care to hear the first Bush on Terry McAuliffe? Note the dead-on adjective: “Two years ago, when that dreadful Terry McAuliffe singled out [Jeb] as the number-one target for the Democrats . . .” Perfect, GHWB.

‐You may want to hear a little more from Zell Miller–this is from the Imus radio program: “A 73-year-old man doesn’t have any business coming to New York and getting involved in all this stuff. He ought to stay down in Young Harris with his two yellow labs, Gus and Woodrow, and let the world go by, I guess. I had just been holding one”–just been holding one!–”for Chris Matthews ever since I saw him browbeat Michelle Malkin on his show that night. He wouldn’t let that little 5′2″, 95-pound girl say a word, and I just said to myself, ‘If he ever gets into my face like that, I’m gonna pop him.’”

Ah, Zell. David Gergen (among others) has been saying that Miller gave a “hate” speech. I think it was unvarnished, but free of what could fairly be called hate.

‐Gen. Tommy Franks gave a speech that hit many, many important notes. I’m sorry it was not accorded a choicer slot, and that it will–I’m pretty sure–be ignored in the media. I will refrain from commentary on it, but I’d like to provide a plump excerpt:

The global War on Terrorism will be a long fight. But make no mistake–we are going to fight the terrorists. The question is, Do we fight them over there–or do we fight them here? I choose to fight them over there.

Some argue that we should treat this war as a law-enforcement issue. Some say we should fight a less aggressive war–that we should retreat into a defensive posture and hope that the terrorists don’t attack us again.

Well, my wife Cathy and I are simply not willing to bet our grandchildren’s future on the “good will” of murderers. I learned long ago that hope is not a strategy. In the years ahead, America will be called upon to demonstrate character, consistency, courage, and leadership.

Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Citizens and friends, I’ve been with this president in tough, uncertain times. George W. Bush is “the real thing.”

‐Do you remember that this convention was supposed to exploit 9/11 horribly–that that was why Rove et al. picked New York, and had such a late date (close to the Sept. 11 anniversary)? Do you know how we were supposed to see endless pictures of Ground Zero, and to hear endless, gory, maudlin references to that awful day? Remember how evil Republicans were supposed to be?

What happened?

‐Barbara Bush–the grandmother (the Silver Fox)–was touching in her tribute to her presidential granddaughters, Jenna and Barbara. She told the world that, of all the remarks given at the convention, her favorite were the twins’. Did she lay on a little extra because those remarks were widely criticized? Perhaps. Either way, the grandmotherly approbation was dear and admirable.

‐Speaking of grandchildren, we’ve been talking this week about “the little brown ones”–certainly the phrase. At the 1988 convention, Vice President Bush proudly pointed out to President Reagan his half-Mexican grandkids: “those little brown ones.”

A couple of letters from Impromptus readers:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

I’m as white as buttered bread. I have three sons, two of them adopted from Central America. When the boy plays baseball, we parents introduce each other and ask, “Which is your son?” I’ve always said, “The little brown one.”

And,

We have a dear friend who adopted a boy from the Philippines when he was a missionary there. He affectionately referred to his son as “the brown one.” Later we too adopted a child from the same orphanage while we were serving as missionaries there. After she arrived I took up his phrase and began to point her out to others as “the brown one,” not as a slur, but out of love. We chose that little brown one, wanted her more than anything ever, and so she shall always be beloved, chosen, and–to our and her “pink” sisters’ great delight–a beautiful, marvelous shade of brown.

‐Bill Bennett makes a couple of sterling points, as usual: If 250 of George W. Bush’s fellow members of the National Guard declared him unfit, do you think the media would scorn that declaration, rule it out of bounds? Sterling Point #2: Kerry tells bookstores not to carry the O’Neill book and tells TV stations not to run the vets’ ads, all the while stating, “BRING . . . IT . . . ON!”

Well?

‐Okay, folks, George W. Bush, the Big Kahuna, the Main Event. Let me give you some notes, made as I was watching and listening.

1. That introductory film was superb–maybe the best such film I have seen (although the one for the senior Bush in ‘88 was mighty good–remember the survey of the Salvadoran honor guard, and the hugging of the old Polish woman?). The W. film was soft and hard at the same time, crunchy and soggy (to borrow Mike Barone’s language, I think). The 9/11 material was not treacly, and even the guitar music was fairly non-treacly.

The ending of the film–the story of throwing out the first pitch, at that post-9/11 ballgame–was masterly. It didn’t hurt that Kerry kind of screwed up his Fenway Park toss right before his convention.

2. The crowd’s initial chant of “U.S.A., U.S.A.” was surprisingly not obnoxious.

3. In the first sentence, Bush seemed to screw up the word “accept” (in “I accept your nomination . . .”). Sounded like “assept.” That’s okay–maybe an opening jitter.

4. What a beautiful, beautiful set of opening paragraphs–well-nigh perfect. Go right into 9/11, don’t dilly-dally around. Talk about what has gone on–then move into the future.

5. The mentions of the family: Those transitions are marvelous–from Cheney, to Laura, to the daughters, to the siblings, to the parents . . . and then to Reagan.

6. Okay, that stuff–sort of obligatory prelude–is out of the way. Now we go on–get programmatic.

He makes a mistake when he says “the largest tax relief in a generation.” That does not work. The White House is scared to say “tax cut,” or “tax cuts”–something about focus groups. Just like you can’t say “voucher” or “privatize.” (One talks instead about “choice” and “personal accounts.”) Bush should have said “largest tax cut in a generation”–”the largest tax relief” is borderline ridiculous.

7. I loved this line: “The story of America is the story of expanding liberty.” I loved it mainly because it was true. Insightful.

8. How about W.’s presentation, his sheer performance? You know, I think he gives a speech as well as just about anyone now. I really do. Especially when he’s rested. When he’s tired–that’s when he stumbles.

9. Getting just a little pablumy, in the domestic portion. But it’s “substantive” (a word I normally dislike, but to which I now succumb).

10. He calls the tax code “a complicated mess”–which reminds me of one of Carter’s best lines ever: “a disgrace to the human race” (tax code).

11. The prez botches “accessible”–comes out “assessible” (a lot of people do this).

12. You know, what he’s saying now, in this domestic portion, is basically what he said in the 2000 campaign: same rhetoric, same plans, really. And why not? The rhetoric is still right, and the plans are still right. You can’t do everything in a term–and there’s a war on.

13. Getting a little soccer-mom-ish, but this speech is not designed for hairy-chested ideologues like Jay Nordlinger (I already got mine from Zell)–it’s designed for everybody. I consider this section very Karen Hughesy.

14. Somehow, Bush’s whipping out of Spanish doesn’t seem as offensive or condescending or affected as from other politicians. And the “Viva Bush” chant, which followed in the crowd, was excellent. (Spontaneous? Must have been, I would think.)

15. Man, is Bush relaxed–really relaxed. Having fun. Love his remarks about his website address. Not sure why–just enjoying his relaxation, his confidence.

16. Have rarely heard Bush so funny — “that’s a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts.” Deft. Marvelous.

17. Nice nod (but just a nod) to right-to-life. Gay marriage? He has made it a judicial issue–an activist-judges issue. I thought for sure he would follow up this line with something about respecting gays, and conducting this debate with civility. He always does this, on the stump (so far as I know). Surprised he omitted it here.

18. When he was jabbing Kerry, he didn’t look or sound mean–at all (at least to me–I’m probably not the right one to ask). I’m talking about the “conservative values” section–the section in which Bush mocked Kerry for calling himself the candidate of “conservative values.” Excellent to bring up Kerry’s anti-Reagan rhetoric (“moral darkness”).

19. Okay, the war: “This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism–and you know where I stand.” Superb. Superb. Especially that “continuing danger of terrorism.”

20. Said “nucular”–but he’s supposed to.

21. The disruption from the protester (what turns out to be the first protester). Wish Bush had commented on it–this is what speakers, like actors in the theater, must do. If a chair collapses, you incorporate it somehow. The Madison Square Garden disturbance was too long-lasting not to be commented on. Bush’s rhythm was disrupted; the crowd was distracted. He should have had some prepared remark (maybe he did). I wish he had said, “They’ve already had their convention, now we should have ours.” That would have driven them–you know, them — ape.

22. Can you imagine conservatives disrupting a Democratic nominee’s acceptance speech? I can’t. Am I naïve? Don’t think so.

23. “We must, and we will, confront threats to America before it is too late.” Important. Excellent.

24. “. . . a resounding endorsement for democracy”–wish he had said “of.”

25. “When America gives its word, America must keep its word.” If I may translate: No more April 1975s (Saigon). Would Kerry permit another one (i.e., in Iraq)? Does he want another one? What does he think of the first one?

26. I’ve always had this beef, but no one will listen to me: When you read from a Tele-Promp-Ter, the conceit is you’re reading from nothing, you have no text. But then, you do something like quote a letter from a soldier. Shouldn’t you have the thing written down, in front of you, or in your breast pocket, on paper, to read from? Wouldn’t that be more natural, more sensible? You’re not supposed to have memorized the letter you’re quoting from. I myself think it would be very effective to look down–maybe even putting on reading glasses–and read from a slip of paper.

But ain’t no one listen.

27. Here I think Bush blunders: I don’t think that he, the president, had to go into the Kerry $87 billion thing. We all know about that, by now–umpteen other speakers have handled it. In fact, I feel he’s descending a little.

28. Jabbing Kerry for his comment about our allies: “a coalition of the coerced and the bribed.” So good. So very, very good. That’s one of the worst things Kerry has said.

When listing allied leaders, Bush led with “Prime Minister Howard,” and I almost had a heart attack, thinking he was mistakenly referring to the Tory opposition leader, Michael Howard–but–phew–he meant Prime Minister John Howard of Australia! He got to Blair last.

Oh, and the coalition of the coerced and the bribed? “That would be nations like Great Britain, Poland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, El Salvador, Australia, and others–allies that deserve the respect of all Americans, not the scorn of a politician. I respect every soldier, from every country, who serves beside us in the hard work of history. America is grateful, and America will not forget.”

So very, very good.

29. “During our emotional visit . . .” Don’t like. Wouldn’t write that way. Rather than say “our emotional visit,” show how the visit was emotional.

30. I have to tell you, I’ve never liked the phrase “He gets it” (or “He doesn’t get it,” or whatever). But as Bush was speaking about the Middle East and what it will take to overcome terror, I kept thinking, “He gets it. He gets it.”

31. His shot at the press–quoting the New York Times re post-Nazi Germany and all–was magnificent. Simply delicious.

32. “I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their liberty.” Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes–perfectly true. They can barely utter a peep, in those societies.

33. In the word “kept,” he doesn’t really pronounce the “t”–a lot of people do that (including in my home state of Michigan).

34. “Even when we don’t agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand.” Great: because both true and a shot at Kerry.

35. Some of the best humor I’ve ever heard in a political speech: “People sometimes have to correct my English–I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called ‘walking.’ Now and then I come across as a little too blunt–and for that we can all thank the white-haired lady sitting right up there.”

And the delivery! So good!

36. When the president teared up talking about the families of fallen soldiers, I couldn’t help thinking that those tears reflected the toughness of being the president, putting kids in harm’s way, and then meeting with the families. Brutal. (Reagan said the same–they all say the same.)

37. Three miles from the Garden to Ground Zero? I’m surprised it’s that far. Big city.

38. I don’t like that “greatest nation on earth.” I really don’t. Even if you believe it, I think it should be unsaid. Let others–let foreigners–say it, if they want.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will be blunt: This was easily one of the best political speeches I have ever heard. It was one of the best texts, and one of the best performances. I thought, when it was through, “If America doesn’t want to reelect this man–this measured, proven, smart, brave, canny, compassionate, balanced, inspired man–then America is a country with extremely serious problems.”

‐I’m going away again, and won’t be Impromptusizing, probably, until about–oh, the mid September teens. Think bounce (if you’re a Repub)! I’ll see you.

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