At the GOP’s Tampa convention, Paul Ryan said that “our rights come from nature and God, not from government.” This irked the name-deprived MSNBC commentator Touré, who called it “offensive . . . for black people, Hispanic people, and women; our rights do not come from God or nature” but “from legislation that happens in relatively recent history in America.” But the legislation was held to be in fulfillment of the Declaration of Independence — “all men are created equal” — which claimed to be expounding rights “endowed by [the] Creator,” a.k.a. “Nature’s God.” Touré may feel he has only to legislate and all will be well. But men less brilliant look for reasons and reinforcements. As Thomas Jefferson put it: “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?”
Such luminaries in the Democratic brain trust as Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Chris Matthews have decided that criticizing the president for loosening work requirements in welfare programs is an instance of racism. But that isn’t all. Mentioning that Barack Obama began his political career in Chicago, a city whose name is a byword for cronyism and political dysfunction? Racism. Poking fun at his love of golf? Racism. That last one may strike you as a bit odd, but where there’s a will to find racism, there’s a way: Senator Mitch McConnell joked that the president seems more concerned with earning a spot on the PGA Tour than with addressing our national economic concerns, and MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell immediately pounced, arguing that the gentleman from Kentucky was subtly trying to associate the president (who is of mixed racial ancestry) with Tiger Woods (who is of mixed racial ancestry) and what he called the golf champion’s “lifestyle,” which we take to mean his prodigious sexual infidelity. But of course Tiger Woods is perhaps the American whom Barack Obama least resembles: Whatever his vices, Mr. Woods is very good at his job; whatever his virtues, Barack Obama isn’t.
The apparent function of media “fact-checkers” is to reinforce the media’s existing proclivities toward inaccuracy and bias. PolitiFact, perhaps the fact-checker most given to grandiosity (it has an app it calls an “argument ender”), issued a series of tendentious rulings about the candidates’ Medicare arguments. Mitt Romney was faulted for saying that Obama had “robbed Medicare to pay for Obamacare.” What Romney actually did was pile an opinion atop an accurate claim, but PolitiFact dinged him because — to cite the most comic of its arguments — “the money was not robbed in any literal sense of the word.” During the Republican convention, fact-checkers went after Paul Ryan for his alleged misrepresentations. Ryan, for example, denounced Obama for walking away from his own debt-fighting commission’s recommendations and then offering no alternatives. The fact-checkers said Ryan himself had voted against the recommendations. That’s true: But he hadn’t established the commission, and he did follow up his vote with alternative proposals. (You may have heard of them.) Ryan’s facts were right. His critics, to follow truth in labeling, should rename themselves “argument-misunderstanders.”
You would expect a former secretary of state, speaking at a political convention, to talk about foreign policy. Condoleezza Rice did. But she talked about a lot more than that. She said, for example, that “ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement. We have not believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well.” She further said, “We have to have high standards for our kids. Self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise.” She went on to call school choice “the civil-rights struggle of our day.” Our standards for convention speakers are not lax, and our praise for her is entirely sincere.
Clint Eastwood’s leisurely rap to the GOP convention on its final night has been analyzed to death. It took the form it did thanks, in no small part, to Hollywood amour-propre: Sure I can do the spur of the moment for eleven minutes — I’ve won Oscars! For convention geeks, it recalled a time when these airless extravaganzas had some drama — floor fights, credentials challenges, gallery-packing, riots in the streets. Since most Americans probably encountered it in the form of highlights, Eastwood’s strongest lines stood out: “We own this country. . . . Politicians are employees of ours. . . . When somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go.” Spoken like a true producer.