Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Elephants in NYC II: Blessed Assurance

This evening's Republican Convention belonged to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the First Lady. I thought the evening went very well. Both speeches were designed to assure undecided voters all of kinds, particularly, women, immigrants, and those not passionately aligned with either political party.

The first night emphasized why this is a moment of history that deserves your political attention. You may not have considered voting for Bush, but once you understand the danger we are in, his leadership in these extraordinary times, and his determination to defend the country and defeat terrorism, you will give Bush and the convention a brief opportunity to win your vote. For these voters, it is a great thing that this message is being delivered by Giuliani instead of Ashcroft.

Night one leads directly into the second night. You've allowed yourself to at least consider voting for Bush, but you're still uncomfortable with the idea. You've heard so many persistent claims about the President and his party; the rush to war, the cowboy approach to the military, the relentless effort to serve and benefit the wealthy. Who is this man? Can he be trusted? Does he have a cavalier approach to matters of life and death? What do Republicans believe in and stand for? And how does that differ from Democrats?

The second night was meant to assure you that Bush is a safe and reasonable choice. Laura Bush attempted to answer the first three questions be painting a picture of a loving, caring man who agonized over the decision to go to war. Arnold addressed the last two by appealing to our patriotism. His speech allowed us to see America through the eyes of immigrants. He also gave a passionate view of what it means to be a Republican in clear, uncompromising language. I thought his speech was the best delivered of the convention so far. Why? He showed a unique ability (by being at once charming and forceful) to appeal to both the unconvinced and convinced.

The worst moment of the night? The speech by the Bush daughters. First, they came across as a bit rough and immature. They are 22-year old college graduates whose father is the President of the United States in what we are constantly told is a pivotal, dangerous time in history, and they happily admit to being uninterested in politics and world affairs. How can the president convince the country of the urgency of this moment and the critical role of politics if his own daughters are unsure?

Second, in their flippant comments about their out-of-touch grandmother, Barbara (including the line, "We love you, but you're just not hip") they reminded me way too much of the parking lot girls in Fried Green Tomatoes. If you recall, two over-dressed girls steal a parking space from the middle-aged Kathy Bates and then taunt her with "Face it, we're just younger and faster!"

Bates later drives into their car multiple times with glee and responds, "Face it girls, I'm older and have more insurance."