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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Future is not Welcome at the RNC

One of the measures of how well the Republican National Convention went last night is whether it knocked the Sarah Palin stories off the front page. Or, at least, changed the tone from scandalous to... I don't know, something other than scandalous.

So the first thing I did when I logged on this morning was check the top headlines at Google News. Headline #1; "High-profile teen pregnancies in spotlight." The first sentence; "The revelation that Bristol Palin, the 17-year-old daughter of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is five months pregnant puts teen pregnancy squarely in the spotlight again this summer."

Mission most definitely not accomplished. Despite Fred Thompson's assertion that "the selection of Governor Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic," blind panic isn't the vibe I'm getting. I think the word Fred was searching for here is "glee."

George W. Bush managed to accomplish what most of the party preferred -- to both be there and not be there, giving a relatively short address via video. I don't know that having GWB on a giant screen, distributing talking points like Big Brother was all that great an idea, but what's done is done.

And making the headliner Joe Lieberman was almost inarguably a mistake. He's about as exciting as reading a dictionary. Worse, he topped off a night of "Yay for Sarah Palin!" with a weak endorsement. Newsweek's Adam Kushner calls Lieberman's address "languid," "pleading," and "placid." The guy is famous for being boring. The RNC seemed to recognize this fact by making Lieberman's speech as short as Bush's.

A few high-profile personalities were entirely absent last night. The economy wasn't there, health care wasn't there, foreign policy wasn't there. In fact, to a very large part, the future was absent. Thompson's speech, though well delivered, was mostly about John McCain as a POW and what an awful mistake it would be to elect Obama. No real specifics, but that was really to be expected -- Thompson's speech was basically a McCain bio. It skipped over a few unfortunate facts -- no mention of the Keating Five. But no one expected there to be.

In the relaying of how awful his treatment as a POW in Vietnam was, Thompson also skipped over the fact that he appeared in propaganda films for the Vietnamese where he "confessed" to war crimes. I don't blame him at all, I would've done the same thing. But when Thompson said, "John McCain's bones may have been broken but his spirit never was," he wasn't exactly telling the truth. McCain broke under torture. But only terr'ists are supposed to break under torture, because they're cowardly, so history must be revised. American heroes are supermen -- torture doesn't work on them. That this isn't true is beside the point.

Throughout all of this, there was a sort of funereal vibe. As I said, it was almost all about the past, things that have been done. Not things that will be done. The future made a few appearances in the form of all the drilling we're going to do, the glorious victory for the Homeland in Iraq, and the way that McCain-Palin is going to be the winning ticket, but otherwise, the future tense was largley banished from the hall. This gave the proceedings a sort of backwards-looking feel which, combined with all the militarism, gave everything the feel of a military funeral. A eulogy for John McCain.

I'm looking through headlines and the sad fact is that the Republican National Convention didn't make much news. They needed a rallying cry, they delivered an infomercial. If they're going to get some action in the polls, they're going to have to stop playing it safe. They're going to have to talk about the future. It doesn't look like it's going to go that way. The Palin pick has forced the GOP into damage control mode, which in turn forces them to focus on the past. They need to find some way to get past Sarah Palin and McCain as POW and start talking about what they want to do and why it's a good idea. So far, they haven't.

Some are speculating that Palin will be replaced. From the sound of things last night, I have deep doubts over whether that will happen (yeah, I realize I'm disagreeing with Rachel Maddow here. I'm as surprised as you are). At any rate, it'd have to happen today, before she gives her acceptance speech tonight. Once she accepts the nomination, it's a done deal.

Getting rid of Sarah Palin would be a bigger scandal than selecting her was and I don't see McCain making another disastrous mistake so soon. Even if he's just making these decisions using a Magic 8-Ball, the odds are against it.

Maybe the GOP is in denial and that's why the future is an unwelcome guest at the convention. After all, when your future looks like this, it's difficult to stick your hand into that fire. It just goes against human instinct.