It was the political convention that almost wasn’t. In the run-up to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Democrats and their fellow travelers in the so-called mainstream media claimed that the GOP was waging a “war against women,” depicted Mitt Romney as a heartless felon responsible for the death of a woman who lost her health insurance and blasted Romney for choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate. They then tried to define Ryan as a heartless ideologue who would eliminate Medicare and throw grandmothers off a cliff. And then a tropical storm-turned-hurricane named Isaac threatened to blow the entire convention away.
As Isaac churned through the Gulf of Mexico, Republican leaders and the Romney campaign revised the entire convention schedule and postponed the proceedings by 24 hours. That wasn’t good enough for the potentates of the press. The GOP was castigated for going ahead with its convention while “a terrible storm” was “causing so much death and destruction.” We were reminded repeatedly that Isaac had hit the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines on “the seventh anniversary of Katrina.” One commentator, a former ABC and PBS political director, reporting for Yahoo News from the convention hall, said Republicans “are happy to have a party with black people drowning.”
It was a perfect storm of media hostility coupled with breathless live reports of wind, rain and flooding, all timed to disrupt and distract attention from the events in Tampa. Yet when it was all said and done, the Republicans provided a remarkably effective introduction of the GOP candidates for the tens of millions of Americans who tuned in.
Big media present national political conventions as little more than expansive entertainment on the margins of expensive prepackaged political theater. But these quadrennial events, unique to the United States, are better-described as multi-day job interviews. They provide an opportunity for employers to assess whether an aspirant for a public service position should be hired or rehired. A convention provides an opportunity for job applicants to present their credentials and provide references who affirm their qualifications. Then, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, “We the People” — the employers — decide which candidate gets the job.
By that measure, the RNC in Tampa was as effective as any of the seven national conventions I attended — but that’s not how it’s been depicted by the media elites. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was criticized by some as self-serving. But his explanation of how Republican chief executives have effectively reined in runaway spending and reduced deficits is a telling message when contrasted with the Obama record.
And then Ann Romney stole the show. She described her husband as “humble” and “compassionate,” as a “loving, faithful husband” and “wonderful father and grandfather” and as an “honest, hardworking businessman.” Her remarks were as powerful as any words I have heard from a political spouse.
On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, the man who lost to Barack Obama four years ago, described the national security challenges confronting our nation — and thanked those who serve in uniform to protect us all. His words that “we cannot afford to substitute a political timetable for a military strategy” were a damning indictment of the Obama administration. So, too, was his critique that “we cannot afford to have the security of our nation and the lives of those who bravely defend it endangered because their government leaks the secrets of their heroic operations to the media.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — in one of the shortest presentations of the convention — posed what she called “the question of the moment.” She asked, “Where does America stand? When our friends and our foes alike do not know the answer to that question — clearly and unambiguously — the world is a chaotic and dangerous place.”
Paul Ryan — who could become the youngest vice president in a quarter-century — put the lie to how he has been defined by the opposition. His personal story, grasp of the issues, self-deprecating humor and emotional “to this day, my mom is my role model” were nothing short of uplifting. Ryan’s optimism for the future, his stand on the sanctity of life and traditional marriage as matters of faith, and his commitment that “we will not try to replace our founding principles (but) reapply our founding principles” make me look forward to the Ryan-Biden debate in October.
By Thursday evening, when Clint Eastwood — master of the line, “Go ahead, make my day” — and Sen. Marco Rubio introduced Romney, tens of millions of people were watching. Romney’s inspiring, upbeat presentation and his acknowledgment that we really are an exceptional nation were Reaganesque.
Will the Tampa convention be enough to have the GOP prevail in November? It might be if “We the People” don’t give up on “hope and change.” I still hope we change — and hire Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.