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September 9, 2008

Summer’s Dog Days: Elephant Time – Part 2

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

So, after a cautious decision to postpone the GOP festivities in St. Paul, Gustav's lack of massive destruction allowed a resumption of good old fashioned partisan-bashing.


We were treated to a moment of history on September 2. Following a rousing speech from former Tennessee Senator (and GOP presidential candidate) Fred Thompson, viewers were treated to a defection of historic proportion, as Connecticut Senator – and lifelong Democrat – Joe Lieberman stood before 17,000 Republicans and admonished them – and millions of TV viewers – to see Sen. Barack Obama for what he is, a poorly prepared and weak candidate for the most powerful office in the world.


First came President George W. Bush, with a strong endorsement of his party's candidate, delivered from a podium set up in the main cross hall of the White House. It was sad that Hurricane Gustav and a little leadership paranoia kept the president away from the convention.


The president probably needs a little love right about now. I can't think of many places where he could go to get 17,000 people to stand and cheer for him.


Fred Thompson was in full Hollywood voice and tone, his Law and Order character seemed to sneak through. Acting as a sort of live voice-over for the McCain story, Senator Thompson threw armloads of red meat to the GOP faithful. They seemed to eat it up after a week of Democratic drivel from Denver.


One couldn't help but wonder that if the Fred Thompson standing at that podium had shown up during the Republican primary, maybe he'd be giving an acceptance speech, not a character introduction.


Senator Lieberman was a wonder to behold. The vice presidential standard-bearer for his own party back in 2000, he is now one of the strongest voices advocating for the election of John McCain.


Democratic officeholders and party insiders dismiss Senator Lieberman as suffering from a bad case of sour grapes. That suggests that he still holds a grudge from his last re-election battle in 2006, when a virtual unknown, with party support, dislodged him in the Democratic primary. Senator Lieberman seized a unique opportunity and switched his registration to Independent and won his seat.


Not surprisingly, I don't agree with Democratic Party wisdom (oxymoronic). Joe Lieberman doesn't carry a torch to burn down the donkey party; he still sits as a Senate committee chair thanks to his long support of the party and their need for his votes.


No, Joe Lieberman spoke on behalf of his friend from Arizona simply because Senator Obama will make this nation less safe, using a conciliatory approach to international relations that depends on mutual goodwill, something that Islamic fundamentalists simply don't recognize.


I remain mystified by my liberal Democrat activist friends. By now, it's no longer possible to count the number of them who have questioned the qualifications of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's number two. Democrats seem unable to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that without so much as the chance to prove her point, Ms. Palin's motherhood, municipal and state executive experience denies her the ability to serve as vice president.


Using any yardstick to test Governor Palin's fitness, I am unable to bridge the gap in experience at the top of the Democratic ticket. Senator Obama has served four years of a six-year U. S. Senate term, which equates to about 170 days of actual legislating – given the congressional work calendar – before announcing his candidacy for president. Before that, he served two terms as a state senator in Illinois. One of the most compelling aspects of that story is his documented choice to record a vote of “Present” instead of a Yea or Nay on the most difficult and controversial issues facing him.


That means he's either indecisive or gutless. Neither are characteristics we'd want in the person who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office.


Governor Palin, by comparison, has served in public office since 1992, dealing with a range of local issues in town government, culminating in her service as the governor of Alaska. A governor is the closest office in our national political system for comparison to the demands of the president, since both are chief executives dealing with complex and time critical decisions on a daily basis.


When this relatively unknown public servant walked out on that stage in St. Paul, to suggest she had high expectations would be a major understatement. In national news outlets, especially those with an obvious liberal bias, Gov. Sarah Palin was buried and eulogized before she had even opened her mouth.


Governor Palin must not have been watching those shows, though. She didn't just hit a rhetorical home run; she knocked the ball out of the park, rounded the bases, then stopped at the visitor’s dugout and knocked the teeth out of the opponents.


Sarah Palin described a reformer’s vision of our Nation's Capitol, with lower taxes, less government, and sensitivity to the needs and interests of Americans, not the Washington establishment. Funny, focused, and flashy, Governor Palin did more than just give a good political speech, she showed America something special.


When she mentioned that families of children with special needs would have an advocate in the White House, millions of Americans saw hope and possibility that had seemed so dim in the past.


Last Thursday night, Senator McCain capped off his truncated convention week with a rousing speech focused on the sweeping reforms he and Governor Palin would bring to Washington.


At one point in his remarks, an ugly (not looks, but demeanor; okay, looks too) protester, who had presumably entered the convention under false pretenses, stood and shouted some unintelligible bitter, angry progressive epithets. GOP faithful out-shouted this goofball, drowning out her shrill whining with chants of USA, USA.


I'll bet this frumpy broad is a Michael Moore fan. Come to think of it, she looked like him, too!


For an hour, John McCain reminded Americans how – time after time – he had fought against the status quo and won. He described the one significant difference between he as Change Master and his Democratic opponent, who still thinks that a verbal reference to word change is evidence of the ability to make change.


Senator McCain talked specifically about how he had worked with Republicans and Democrats to accomplish big things. His signature initiatives, campaign reform, strident objection to torture, international relations, and steadfast opposition to budget earmarks, all demonstrate a commitment to his principles.


By comparison, his opponent has not passed a single major piece of legislation. Senator Obama has never demonstrated a consistent ability to work with Republicans to get anything important done.


Finally, the issue of the Obama plan to use taxes to fund a massive increase in federal programs helps make the difference clear and identifiable. Overhauling the tax code was an icing on the cake thing, designed to get the crowd even more revved up.


Upon reflection, the whole speech, from the economy to public education to public safety to national security, Senator McCain didn't just criticize the positions of Senator Obama, he laid out a comprehensive policy agenda designed to draw stark contrasts.


So, we exit the dog days, and roar into the general election season. We'll be treated to debates (can't wait to see Sarah Palin and Joe Biden go at it), commercials, and mailers. Pundits, surrogates, and party insiders will ring in our heads like a bad hangover.


Can we stop this train? I want off!


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