September 1, 2004

Final Thoughts From Day 2

HOTEL PENN, 12:16 AM -- It doesn't take much imagination to know on what subject tongues will wag tonight and tomorrow, and it won't be an analysis of Arnold's speech. Instead, talking heads will focus on the performance of the Bush twins, introducing their mother's keynote speech for Day Two at the RNC. Inevitably, the girls will be compared to John Kerry's children and stepson, and just as surely they will suffer in the comparison ... and it's unfair.

True, I would have held them back a bit from treating the introduction as a wedding toast, which was one criticism I heard (sotto voce) in the Garden on the way out. But that would mean having them put on an act, which would have seemed a lot more phony. The one quality that strikes people most about the Bushes is their genuine nature, in that they don't pretend to be people they're not. Clearly, as we have been reminded on several occasions, the Bush twins are -- as they said in their speech -- young, irrepressible, and a little immature. Personally, I found their humor a little charming, if overdone. I noticed Rudy Giuliani laughing his butt off at the Sex In The City joke, doubled over in his seat.

Apart from that, no one had any reason to be disappointed in the featured speakers. While I think that Laura did a fine job, though, after further consideration I think her placement was a mistake. Last night the Republicans made a better choice by having Giuliani go last rather than John McCain, who technically outranks him and should have been given the featured spot. The same principle should have applied tonight, for two reasons. One is that the delegates would have gone out fired up, not just filled with a detached admiration. The second is that it would have been kinder to Laura, who is a fine speaker but could not bring the thunder the way Arnold did. And make no mistake, having Arnold come before the Bush twins will allow the mainstream media analysts to give short shrift to his speech tonight.

I got one comment asking me to compare Arnold's speech tonight with Giuliani's on Monday. Actually, they were quite similar in structure, if not so much in style. Both men spoke from painful personal experience about the goodness of America and the darkness of tyranny, although in Giuliani's case it was a single attack while Schwarzenegger lived for years under the fear of the "Soviet boot," a wonderful phrase. They both spoke about the power of freedom that causes men and women to throw off the yoke of oppression.

However, I think style makes a difference, and in this case, I give the bare edge to Giuliani. Both men used humor, but while in Arnold's case it was biting and satirical -- and devastatingly funny -- Giuliani's was a mix between that and more self-deprecating humor, a choice which Arnold discarded after his opening. It gave the crowd more of Giuliani the man, rather than Hizzoner the public figure. But I have to also say that both men fired up the crowd just about equally, and Arnold's speech seemed shorter and punchier than Giuliani's. I'd call it a draw between two champions.

Lastly, after informally polling the bloggers at Bloggers Corner (which we abandoned for the arena during the speeches), we all agreed that Michael Steele looks like a man on whom the Republicans can count. I'll try to get an interview with him if he remains at the Garden.


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