Elephants in NYC I: Mighty Morphin' Mavericks for BushAugust 30, 2004
Tonight was the first evening of the Republican National Convention in New York, featuring speeches by John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. As I watched both men speak, I wondered why there are so few truly powerful Republican orators. Any number of people can give terrific, moving speeches, and I thought both men did just that tonight, but I'm referring more to the captivating style that actually leads you from one place to another, in the style of a Clinton, Cuomo, or Reagan. The one person who comes to mind is Colin Powell, who is a fantastic speaker, but is strangely absent from the entire convention. Under normal circumstances, I would expect the party to highlight Powell in much the same way as the other moderates are being celebrated. He is not only not speaking in prime time, I don't believe he is even present.
I find it interesting that in the weeks leading up to the convention, we were told that the Republicans were placing McCain, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, and Pataki in prime time to give the party a more moderate, kinder and gentler face. Instead, McCain and Giuliani, who both do indeed appeal to independents and some Democrats, spoke entirely on foreign policy and the war and terror, and emphasized leadership, resoluteness, and strength above all else. The language was dominated by military references and sports analogies. I found both speeches highly effective, and would not be surprised to learn that some undecided voters were persuaded, but they were certainly directed more at men than the proverbial soccer moms or moderate, recycling suburbanites.
Lastly, let me join those who believe the Giuliani was also using his moment to reintroduce himself to the Republican Party and put himself in a better position for a future race, statewide or nationally. There were two moments in the first 15 minutes that convinced me of that. First, when he talked about how he was not used to seeing so many Republicans in New York City and used the line, "I finally feel at home." What a great way to connect with a party he is often at odds with and say by inference, "I am one of you."
The second moment came when he told the story of turning to his police commissioner soon after September 11th and saying, "Thank God George Bush is our President." This line shows loyalty to and respect for the president, but it also connects well with social conservatives who would not expect that sort of rhetoric from Giuliani.
Overall, a very well done night that, unfortunately, was largely unseen by most of the country. Each evening only increases in importance from here forward.