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Republican National Convention, Day 3, Part One

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Republican National Convention, Day 3, Part One

Okay, so here’s how the later hours of Day 3 of the Republican National Convention went down from inside the Xcel Center.

Click to enlarge

I arrived just as the Texas Railroad Commission Chairman, Michael Williams, was giving his speech (linked here to his re-election website). “I am here with you in St. Paul,” he said, “rather than being in Denver last week, because I believe values and ideas take precedence over the politics of demography and identity. And, because I know John McCain is ready to lead.”

Following him were the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno, and Meg Whitman, former President and CEO of eBay. The video about McCain’s economic plan that followed led into a recorded version of “Everyday People”—another key arrow in the Republican quiver is that it’s the party of everyday folks and between now and the election they’ll be playing that card for everything it’s worth.

Carly Fiorina, former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, spoke next, though nobody on the floor seemed to be paying much attention to her. The general hubbub pretty much made her remarks inaudible up where I was sitting. Still, you get the picture: women and people of color in positions of great responsibility endorsing the McCain-Palin ticket.

Ironically, the Bishop of Orlando’s prayer to wrap up that hour’s proceedings included the same quotation from Romans 8:28 that is on the card an elderly Obama supporter gave me several months back at a rally in Oakland, California: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

The first speaker in the 8 o’clock hour introduced another theme that will be predominant in the Republican campaign. GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele, got the crowd to shout “Drill, baby, drill!” when he spoke about America’s need for energy independence. One of the delegates taking the same bus home as me later in the evening held a glossy pamphlet about drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge along with his “McCain” and “Prosperity” placards. The chant was later repeated during primetime speeches by more prominent Republicans.

Such as Mitt Romney, who followed Steele. He also said, “It’s time to stop the spread of government dependency and fight it like the poison that it is,” blithely ignoring the fact that as many Republican-voting landlords are dependent on the federal government’s Section 8 housing relief funds as are Democratic-voting tenants. The pharmaceutical and health insurance industries would collapse were it not for the lock-in they’ve got to state and federal funds through Medicaid and Medicare. Not to mention the government bailouts of the financial and airline industries in recent months. During his speech, Romney referred to the U.S. as “the Hope of the Earth,” and overall, he came across as a warmed-over Ronald Reagan.

In contrast, Mike Huckabee came over as a warmed-over Mike Huckabee. He looked very tired and unenthusiastic. There were flashes of his witty, ironic self occasionally, but they were nothing compared to how he’d come across when he was a presidential candidate during the primaries. However, he did reuse a couple of stories from that campaign, stories I’d first heard when he spoke to the National Rifle Association convention in Washington, DC, last year.

There was the one about how he thought showers should always hurt because Lava was the only soap available in his home as a child on account of his father being a working man. The Lava story sticks in my craw—and I have to wonder how it goes down here—because I too grew up in a household where the Antipodean equivalent, Solvol, was used, but my mother wasn’t idiotic enough not to buy some Lifebuoy as well. And I doubt Huckabee’s was either. (Sorry, didn’t mean to get on a soapbox.)

His other repeat story was about the teacher who took all the desks out of her classroom and told the students they’d get them back once they’d figured out how to earn them. By the end of the day, no one had and she opened the door to the classroom and motioned in the war vets who were waiting out there with the desks. “You don’t have to earn them,” she told her students, “because these people already earned them for you.”

The emphasis on being grateful to the military will be another theme of the Republican campaign, and it has a very unsettling aspect to it, in that it’s considered un-American to question whether McCain’s military experience qualifies him to be Commander in Chief. “When his country called, John McCain did not take the easy path,” said Huckabee. But from my many discussions with veterans of the wars the U.S. have been involved in, being a flyboy in the Navy IS the easy path. The hard pat—then, as today—is to be a grunt in the U.S. Army.

Click to enlarge

Among those seated in the second blue row from the bottom are Mike Huckabee , Rudy Giuliani, and Hawaii’s Governor Linda Lingle (in the grey suit, partly obscured by the speaker bank). The lowermost blue row seats Sarah Palin’s family and Cindy McCain (in the green dress).

Part Two will be the primetime speakers and the controversial roll call count.



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