Skip to comments.G.O.P., Last to Bat, Swings Freely for the Fences
Posted on 09/02/2004 1:19:45 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
By TODD S. PURDUM
n politics, as in baseball, it's better to be up last, and the Republicans have spent their convention in New York this week in a batter-by-batter rebuttal of almost everything the Democrats said and did in Boston last month - a strategic twist on that old Broadway boast: "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better."
So the Democrats had Max Cleland and a bevy of decorated Vietnam veterans, former admirals and generals? The Republicans have John McCain, that gritty Vietnam P.O.W., and Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the American march to Baghdad.
The donkeys had a political rock star in Bill Clinton? "Hasta la vista, baby!" - the elephants have a political movie star in Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Democrats had a young black hope in Barack Obama, their Illinois Senate nominee? The Republicans' answer is Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the first African-American elected to statewide office in Maryland.
got grounded for riding his bicycle into the Soviet sector of postwar Berlin? Mr. Schwarzenegger got scared that his father or uncle might be plucked from their car in a Soviet zone in Austria.
Above all, if the Democrats had a man who wants to be president, the Republicans have the man who already is, and when George W. Bush takes the stage in Madison Square Garden tonight he is all but certain to provide his own ringing riposte to Mr. Kerry's challenge.
"Our team has been working on the convention program for a long time before the Democratic convention," said Nicolle Devenish, the Bush campaign communications director, who could not suppress a chuckle or two when a reporter called to ask about the right-back-at-you riffs. "But certainly there's always a benefit to going second, and of course we watched them intently. You always learn some lessons."
John P. Feehery, the spokesman for Representative J. Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, acknowledged as much. "It soaks in, what the Democrats did," he said. "And instinctively, you have a chance to respond to that now."
Some of the similarities in language were subtle, and sounded subtly barbed.
The outspoken Teresa Heinz Kerry began her remarks about her husband by declaring, "By now I hope it will come as no surprise that I have something to say." The usually reticent Laura Bush started her rationale for her husband's re-election by explaining, "As you might imagine, I have a lot to say about that."
Others tried to convey common dreams.
Mr. Obama spoke of himself as a "skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too," while Mr. Schwarzenegger said, "To think that a once-scrawny boy from Austria could grow up to become governor of California and stand in Madison Square Garden to speak on behalf of the president of the United States, that is an immigrant dream."
Still other attempts produced sharp contrasts.
Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry praised their father's rescue of a drowning pet hamster with the sisterly poise of a PBS special. The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, younger and just out of college, razzed their old man with a splash of "Saturday Night Live," as Barbara deadpanned: "We had a hamster, too. Let's just say, ours didn't make it."
At least two of the parallel speakers had the same name, but made totally different points. Ron Reagan urged the Democrats to "cast a vote for embryonic stem cell research" that might hold hope for people with Alzheimer's and other diseases. By contrast, his brother, Michael, introduced a videotaped tribute to their father last night, declaring that his parents, including the birth mother who gave him up for adoption, "were pro-life," and added, "I've come here tonight to honor my father, not to politicize his name."
And some speakers simply reflected the real and big differences between the two tickets.
John Edwards's pledge to "lift people up," found some echo in Vice President Dick Cheney's declaration last night that, "It is the story of this country that people have been able to dream big dreams with confidence they would come true." But Mr. Cheney's grizzled, grandfatherly air of worldly experience also contrasted sharply with Mr. Edwards's fresh-faced, less-seasoned debut in the big-time.
In such a closely divided political environment, both parties steal pages from each other's past playbooks and borrow cans from each other's oratorical cupboards. Republicans love to invoke Franklin D. Roosevelt's sheltering strengths and bond with ordinary people, as Mr. Cheney did last night.
Democrats are not embarrassed about praising what they see as the best qualities of Ronald Reagan, as Mr. Kerry did last month when he seconded Ron Reagan's description of his father's faith, asserting: "I don't wear my religion on my sleeve, but faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side."
But the specificity, and directness, of the Republicans' rejoinders this week have been both striking - and no accident.
Ms. Devenish said the Bush team had also sought to avoid what it saw as some obvious flaws in the Democrats' Boston operation, working to dole out daily surprises in the lineup and stage other events throughout the day that would keep the cable television networks supplied with fresh grist until the evening sessions started, and to make a more concerted effort to build toward the finale on Thursday with a series of more closely coordinated thematic days, like Tuesday's focus on compassion.
"The goals were different," she said. "They were seeking to convey 'strong leader' feelings about their nominee. We have a wider objective. We set out to renew the country's unity around the compassionate conservative agenda, and to pay tribute to the courage of the nation during 9/11. Each day is building a platform which the president will speak to on Thursday, laying out his vision for a second term."
One speaker offered a walking one-man contrast: Senator Zell Miller, the Georgia Democrat who delivered the keynote address at the convention that nominated Bill Clinton in Madison Square Garden 12 years ago, is now so disaffected with his party's stands on defense and other issues that he performed the same job for Mr. Bush, with flinty, folksy relish.
"They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy," he said of his fellow Democrats in remarks that seemed a kind of rejoinder to Mr. Kerry's assertion in his acceptance speech that "there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong."
There is at least one element of the Boston convention that the Republicans clearly hope not to repeat: The botched balloon drop at the finale, in which red, white and blue decorations drifted down in halting clumps instead of the cascade for which the Republicans are famous.
But Mr. Kerry's spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, making it clear that she was speaking in the spirit of reciprocal one-upmanship, tongue firmly in cheek, held out some hope all the same.
"If they are going to continue mimicking us, then I guess this means that George Bush is going to get up there Thursday and say, "I'm George Bush, and I'm finally reporting for duty" and then the balloons won't drop."
I've been getting the distinct impression that the dems are whining for a "do over" convention.
The Times printed this?
The copy of the NYT here today had this story, but the only picture on the front page above the fold, was the AIDS activast being hauled off the floor yesterday afternoon. No pictures of Miller or Cheney.
I Like the baseball analogy, and would add:
I was expecting Zell Miller to belt the ball out of the park. What he did instead was hit the ball so hard, it still has NOT landed...
G.O.P., Last to Bat, Swings Freely for the Fences
--The first thing that came to mind was paraphrasing the scene from Signs.
(Cheney watches as a Dem invader (Kerry) holds a voter in his creepy grasp in a last attempt at control. He looks to his right and say, Swing away Zell, swing away!!)
I hope the GOP and true Americans continue to swing at the Dems illusions of entitlement. Batter Up!
Hey Stephanie, thanks for reminding everyone of two of the finest moments of the DNC...
Perhaps they can appeal to the Florida Supreme Court?????
He ripped the cover off the ball. Just like in the movie "The Natural"
Don't give them any ideas, please!
I've always wondered why the incombent party holds its convention second?
What a dopey remark. It's not only unfunny, it doesn't even make sense!
GOP scores so many runs, the DemocRATs call for the "mercy rule".
Guess which one put folks to sleep and lost votes, and which one kicked ass and gained votes?
Sheesh. They must have smoked dope all through high school in the 1990s, these feckless toddlers. Almost sad, and embarrassing, to hear them talk publicly.
A solid review of the convention.
I haven't read any of this//// just had breakfast...don't want to lose it!