It was going to be hard to top the Republican National Convention's next-to-last major day with the extraordinary speeches -- both in delivery and substance -- of Condoleezza Rice and Paul Ryan still in everyone's mind, and Mitt Romney was frankly not quite up to that Herculean task. Not quite, but good enough.
O.K., neither quite was Florida Senator Marco Rubio and, sad to say, Clint Eastwood gave Democrats another piece of non-substantive evidence to change the subject.
No matter. Gov. Romney gave a fine speech and hit a triple (and no, late Ann Richards aficionados, he was not conceded third base) to conclude an excellent, rousing convention with a head of steam which, it says here, will be part of the rhetorical gestalt which will propel Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan into the presidency and vice presidency, as votes from the unsure trend Romney’s way in the final weeks of the campaign, as people realize that four more years of the last four years isn’t good enough for America.
A few words about the speakers on the last night of Republican speeches:
Clint Eastwood: charisma gets you a pass in your very senior years, but most of us thought that judgment was the last thing to go. The profane implication of President Barack Obama’s alleged disposition didn’t work at all. The president’s weaknesses are not tasteless profanity, and Eastwood’s entire presentation seemed to be constructed mostly extemporaneously. Biden is appropriate for a “grin with a body behind it,” but the rest fell flat. Still, Clint Eastwood is Clint Eastwood, and he’s a good symbol to have on the Republicans’side. The main problem is there is no little Hollywood bench to speak of: Jon Voight, Bruce Willis and there must be one or two more.
Marco Rubio would have seemed better without the great speeches by great speakers Ryan and Rice the day before. His was a good introduction to Gov. Romney, and as a successful, attractive, articulate Cuban survivor, his symbolism was excellent. Fair hits on Obama, but, as with all the main speakers, nothing ugly: “Hope and Change becomes Divide and Conquer” – fair enough. The best, most resonating line was that Obama is not a bad person, just a bad president. Faith in our Creator and Rubio’s personal story go well in this convention. Overall: B+ speech with a small bump.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney began by accepting the Republican nomination – whew! He didn’t try to out-speechify his vice presidential candidate, because, unlike some past presidential nominees, he is not threatened by excellence in that position. His address was moving, appropriate, presidential and substantive.
Many memorable and ingenuous lines: he wished President Obama had succeeded because he (Romney) wants America to succeed. All previous presidents, said Romney, had brought America forward but for Jimmy Carter (reminds, of course, of the Gipper’s 1980 presidential debate great question regarding President Carter’s tenure as president, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”). And the sub-text is that this is 1980 all over again. All Obama knows of success is that he doesn’t appreciate it and wants to attack it. America is built on risk, not (and I wish he had used this phrase) “prevent defense” – in domestic and foreign policy. About Obama’s presidency: “You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.”
Romney detailed his own impressive success story and expressed incredulity that Democrats thought he should apologize for it.
He debunked the fraudulent charge that Republicans conduct a “War on Women:” “My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?’
“I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
As Governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman Lt. Governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.”
Romney included a five-step entrepreneurial-rich, success-oriented policy to get the country’s economic fix in order – there’s the beef. He complimented Obama on getting bin Laden, but wondered why he has fallen asleep on foreign policy in general: Iran, Israel, China, Poland, China, etc.
Gov. Romney came across as a secure, knowledgeable man ready to take the reins of the presidency with determination, but with malice towards none.
Overall, a great convention for the likely next president and vice president of the United States.
Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University