Politics & Policy

Jeremiah & The Veep

Night 3, RNC.

This is hard to say, so I’d better just take a deep breath and say it: About two-thirds of Dick Cheney’s speech just wasn’t much good. His mode of delivery? Gulp, utter two sentences, then wait for some reaction from the crowd. Thirty minutes of that was about twenty too much. And the writing in, roughly, the first and last ten minutes proved flat and pedestrian. Even when the speech reached for sentiment and poetry toward the end, it did so only in hackneyed terms.

#ad#That said, though, the middle ten minutes or so were more than okay. When Cheney spoke about the “moments of decision” every nation must face, and about our need, after September, to face up to war, he became suddenly engaged with his material, authentic and steely. And then, when he went on the attack–and, Lord, had he ever kept us all waiting for that–he proved effective because he left no doubt that he believed every word. Cheney even worked in an effective touch of humor, saying, “Senator Kerry’s liveliest disagreement is with himself.”

On the campaign trail, Cheney needs to stick with that middle ten minutes and drop the other twenty.

Zell Miller? What a speech. Genuine emotion is rare enough in politics, but anger? Righteous anger? Zell Miller stands in a line that runs all the way back to Jeremiah–but of which we see almost nothing in today’s Oprahfied context. And once again, the contrast with the Democratic convention could hardly have proven any sharper: Whereas the Democrats suppressed any display of anger in Boston, the Republicans, the milquetoasts of American politics, went right ahead and cut loose in New York, cheering Miller with gorgeous abandon. And take a look at Miller’s text. Political prose just doesn’t get any hotter–or more memorable–than this:

[I]t is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest.

It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.

No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn’t believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home.

But don’t waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution.

I suppose I’d have to grant that at least Dick Cheney did his job, conveying a sobriety and maturity that contrast with the boyishness and, well, lightness of John Edwards. But Zell Miller? Mine eyes have seen the glory.

Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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