There were three major storylines at the RNC today that had nothing to do with Sarah Palin. The first was the ceremonial end of the Bush era. The second was Fred’s red meat speech and his stirring account of McCain’s military service. The third — Joe Lieberman incinerating those bridges between himself and the Democrats once and for all with his direct attacks on Barack Obama.
The Republicans need to do more to emphasize the differences between Bush and McCain, but they need to do this without completely abandoning Dubya. There are those in the party who still love the guy, and we need all the votes we can get to defeat Barack Obama. That’s why the President had to speak at the RNC, no matter how brief the speech would have to be. I’m not sure that the President did much to advance McCain’s candidacy, but it was nice to give him one last hurrah in front of an appreciative crowd. We also saw a video tribute to Bush Sr. It was fitting that they gave all the Bushes their due at the last convention they will have with a Bush in the White House. (Unless Jeb surprises us all someday…)
Fred Thompson’s speeches will never approach the eloquence of Senator Obama’s, but he was on fire tonight.
Here’s some of what he said about McCain:
Now, being a POW certainly doesn’t qualify anyone to be President. But it does reveal character. This is the kind of character that civilizations from the beginning of history have sought in their leaders. Strength. Courage. Humility. Wisdom. Duty. Honor. It’s pretty clear there are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves, ‘Who is this man?’ and ‘Can we trust this man with the Presidency?’ He has been to Iraq eight times since 2003. He went seeking truth, not publicity. When he travels abroad, he prefers quietly speaking to the troops amidst the heat and hardship of their daily lives. And the same character that marked John McCain’s military career has also marked his political career. This man, John McCain is not intimidated by what the polls say or by what is politically safe or popular. At a point when the war in Iraq was going badly and the public lost confidence, John stood up and called for more troops. And now we are winning. Ronald Reagan was John McCain’s hero. And President Reagan admired John tremendously. But when the President proposed putting U.S. troops in Beirut, John McCain, a freshman Congressman, stood up and cast a vote against his hero because he thought the deployment was a mistake. My friends … that is character you can believe in.
Zing. Character matters, at least it does for Republicans. That’s the main question we have been asking about Barack Obama from the beginning — who is this guy and can we trust him with the Presidency? Love or hate John McCain — you know where he stands.
John McCain sure likes yanking the conservatives’ chain doesn’t he? The popular names we are hearing for McCain’s VP choice are Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge. Dick Morris continues to push the choice of Lieberman, who has an undeserved reputation as a possible game-changer for McCain. What does Joe Lieberman bring to the table? Well…he agrees with McCain on the war in Iraq. And…he’s a Democrat — which may not be as big of an advantage as Morris and his ilk seem to believe. For one thing, he wouldn’t necessarily bring in Democrats and independents to the McCain column. He’s not exactly the most popular Democrat right now for supporting Bush and McCain on the war, and for ticking off local Connecticut Dems to the point that they almost turned to Ned Lamont. Even if Lieberman does manage to pick off a few Dems and independents, they won’t be enough to prevent the mass exodus of conservatives who might just find this pander to the other side of the aisle one step too far. And addition to that, Dick Morris doesn’t want us to pick another boring white guy, which theoretically rules out Lieberman.
It would also pick off another flavor of the month, Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge. Frankly, I don’t see the appeal here. He is pro-choice, and social conservatives would have a serious objection to that. He has a nice resume of accomplishments, but that’s it. McCain’s advisors may believe that conservatives have already made their peace with McCain as the Republican nominee and as our possible next President. But how far does McCain want to push us before we say “enough is enough”? How far can he go before conservatives decide to sit this election out, regardless of the consequences of electing Barack Obama by default? If he doesn’t pick someone who is much more conservative than these two, there will be a rather loud protest by conservatives. I would have a tough decision to make — because I can’t sit this out and let Obama become President. That’s how strongly I feel about this election. But McCain should know how conservatives feel about this and we should hold him accountable here while we still have the influence to do it.
Here’s Dan Balz from the Washington Post’s “The Trail” blog:
The competitiveness of the Obama-McCain contest now argues for safe vice presidential choices. Neither is in a position to risk — nor does either need — a running mate whose selection dramatically changes perceptions of their candidacies.
The “first, do no harm” rule is especially important for Obama, given the question marks he is still dealing with. But it is similarly significant for McCain, whose still-tenuous relationship with his party’s conservative base may check his instincts to use his pick to send a message to swing voters that he is not a George W. Bush Republican. Some Republicans believe he will send that message with his acceptance speech, rather than his vice presidential pick.
As if to test how much leeway he has in picking a running mate, McCain gave an interview to the Weekly Standard in which he floated out the idea of choosing someone who favors abortion rights, someone like former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. The reaction from social conservatives has been highly negative.
That should be the expected reaction to this suggestion. McCain needs to remember that he can’t win a general election if conservatives sit this race out…and the vice presidential pick can send a strong message to us that conservatives will have a seat at the table in a McCain administration.