Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Convention Night Two

So who exactly got to choose which night of the convention other than the final night the big networks were going to cover?

If it was the Mainstream Networks themselves, Ah-HA! More evidence of media bias!

But I have a sneaking suspicion this one was left to the GOP. And if so, lookout folks, this race may end up closer than we think.

After McCain and Giuliani (and especially the latter) batted it out of the park last night, hitting the Democrats where they're weakest and setting a campaign tone on the most favorable ground the Republicans could run on, tonight we got Ahhh-nold, a couple of giggly presidential daughters, and the first lady.

Now, truth be told, I am NOT the target demographic for that line-up. And further truth be-told, I missed the first half of Ahhh-nold's speech, and the last half was pretty darn good.

But any momentum gained, was immediately spiked by Bush's lovely daughters giggling through an obviously scripted comedy routine. These things are painful enough to sit through at wedding rehearsal dinners. And in fact, that was sort of the tone. A mild roast, basically never challenging anything important, and never getting very funny either, delivered by someone not used to public speaking.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the Bush twins. It certainly wasn't their fault they were even on stage. And having been on stage myself, I realize public speaking isn't as easy as it looks. Especially delivering someone else's lines and trying to seem natural.

But anyway, they did their schtick, got polite laughter and applause from the GOP faithful on the floor, and kept it decently short.

The First Lady was lovely and gracious and not a bad speaker. But here's where I realized I am SO not the target audience for this. I sort of prefer hearing Theresa Heinz-Kerry.

GACK.... back-up, back-up... not like you might think!!! Wait!!!

I VASTLY prefer Laura Bush as First Lady. But when I see someone on that podium on national television, I want a character. I want someone who seems compelling unto themself. Hillary was compelling because you heard songs from "Evita" in your head whenever she spoke, and you wondered when she would drop all pretense and announce that she was the one truly running the country and Bill was just a front.

No offense to Laura Bush, because it's not her fault, but that's really not the role of a First Lady, who is best measured in how well she supports and in a sense, humanizes her husband. And that makes for BORING stage presense. As I said.. lovely and gracious. And she truly is both, that's not just boilerplate in this case. But why do I need to know about the personal details of the way George and Laura met at a backyard barbeque in Midland, Texas, and married three months later?

I'll tell you why. It's because people care about the details of Brittany Spears wedding, and J-Lo's divorce. We care about every personal detail about our celebrities. It makes us feel close to them. And to love them. And we expect - nay demand - the same in a president.

But, and perhaps this is the basis for my weird aversion to this, I think back to the convention last night. Sure, it was full of slogans, and rhetorical tricks, and appeals to emotion. But at its heart it was an appeal to an adult electorate. It called upon voters to think about the overall fate of the nation. To remember where our nation was on 9/11, and to put wherever we are now into that context.

Tonight (Arnold aside) felt like we were trying to get votes from people who vote irresponsibly. People who will vote on the basis of a First Lady's clothing style, or on smarmy appeals to what a great marriage the Bush's have (like we would ever truly know that from a convention speech).

And what most bothers me is that I know this stuff is studied intensely by campaign managers, and put in there for a reason. Tonight really was important, because it really did win votes. And I guess I can only hope they were won on Arnold's message of inclusiveness and optimism, and not the later stuff.

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