If Tuesday at the GOP convention was all about “love” and “respect” Wednesday was all about “leadership “or the perceived lack thereof coming from the White House.
John McCain kicked things off by chastising the president for “leading from behind” on foreign policy. McCain tried to convince a war weary nation that a US military presence is needed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Iran. His words were music to the ears of a crowd that is big on tough talk, guns and things that go boom. McCain has never met a war that he didn’t want to wage or a new weapon that he didn’t want to procure. His comments were little more than a replay of his stump speeches in 2008. McCain would like to see a large US military presence throughout the Middle East. But he doesn’t address the fact that we don’t have the financial resources, the military personnel or the will to wage a war against five different nations. John McCain is a war hero and his sacrifice should be acknowledged by all Americans. But a country struggling to make ends meet has no stomach for another endless war.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took to the podium and gave a stirring speech on American leadership and exceptionalism. Many of us didn’t know what to expect from her as she has shunned the spotlight since her time in the Bush cabinet. But she gave one of the most soaring, presidential speeches we have ever heard. The audience and national pundits were blown away. Chris Mathews, a staunch liberal and no friend of the “W” years called the speech “Churchillian.” If you missed it you should check it out on YouTube.
But the night belonged to Paul Ryan. Ryan accepted the party’s nomination for vice president and then shifted into the mode that has traditionally fallen to the #2 guy on the ticket…attack dog. Ryan did not disappoint. If you read the text of his speech you find it filled with brutally harsh language and searing attacks against the president. But Ryan delivered it with a smile and a boyish charm that had the crowd wanting more. Ryan criticized the president for fiscal policies that added $5 trillion dollars to the national debt. But he conveniently left out the fact that he voted for TARP, for the auto bailout, for the Bush tax cuts, for Medicare Part D and for two costly wars…all of which were unfunded and added $3.6 trillion to our debt. Ryan continued the lie about the president robbing Medicare of $716 billion even though his own budget proposal contains the very same cuts. Ryan is Medicare…and his willingness to place the popular entitlement program at the forefront of the debate may prove to be the focal point for voters in November. But the most important statement that Ryan made is one that will embolden Republicans and should deeply concern all Democrats. He said that having seen what four years under Obama has brought the country: “without a change in leadership why would the next four years be any different than the last four years?” Democrats will have to find a good answer for that question if they intend to win in November.
Noted columnist Peggy Noonan wrote about the mood of the delegates after hearing Ann Romney and Chris Christie speak Tuesday night: “I want to tell you they marched out of the hall on Tuesday night on fire for their side. But I was there and they did not. They walked out like people who weren’t sure what to think or how to feel but were hoping for the best because the love their country. A lot.”
That certainly was not the case on Wednesday. Ryan and Rice left them energized with the very real belief that they can win in November. It was a very good night for Republicans.