Peter Lawler wonders below, whether the GOP convention achieved anything in having Lieberman and Thompson speak last night. He thinks they were somewhat ineffective and his friendly critic and NLT reader, as well as our own Steve Hayward and Peter Schramm have good counter-arguments about the way things are going. I would argue that there is room for both Lawler and his friendly critics to be correct in their assessments--at least right now. Lieberman and Thompson both gave excellent speeches that did exactly what they were designed to do. The problem is that they may not have the impact they were meant to have because almost no one (who wasn’t working to do it) heard them.
The good news (and I choose to be optimistic here) is that there is no way Palin’s speech tonight will not get widespread coverage. It is almost a kind of twisted serendipity that she has inspired so much prurient interest. Because of this, the coverage will certainly be filled with distracting and pointless (and some fair) speculation and biting commentary about her daughter, her choice to pursue a high powered career, etc. But I think she will do well. Further, the coverage will also have to take into account some of the great lines from Thompson’s speech (McCain can’t salute the flag he has defended, etc.) and Lieberman’s great line about Obama being "an eloquent young man" and that is all to the good.
Of course, the mere fact of Lieberman’s presence at the RNC (no matter what he said--though what he said was fine) is a powerful reminder to people that the last two VP candidates from the Dems were NOT at THEIR convention. Doesn’t that say volumes in and of itself? (Admittedly, this joke is tasteless, but it’s still telling: What would have been the best way for Palin to keep her daughter’s pregnacy out of the headlines? Insinuate that Edwards was the father . . .)
But all of this leads me to another point: I am not terribly concerned about the apparent lack of enthusiasm you see at the GOP convention because I think it’s less an absence of enthusiasm than an absence of spectacle. The GOP Convention is smaller, more subdued and not as much of a spectacle as the Dem Convention, true. But I think the voters we need to convince are not the sort who are inclined to be swayed by spectacle. Spectacle campaigning is (oddly because it’s being employed so forcefully by Obama who purports to be something new under the sun and the candidate of Youth) a very old-fashioned way to go. Today in advertising and marketing, it’s not considered very "authentic" as Peter Lawler likes to say. As a brand, McCain and Palin are looking very real and very authentic to me. I think that if they can break through with their message across the Maginot line that is the MSM reporting machine, there are a good number (and, quite possibly, a sufficient number) of voters in the key electoral states who will cleave to them because of that authenticity and because of their exhaustion with the frenzied BS from the other side.
Jonah Goldberg noted on the Corner the contrast between people who, during the Olympics chanted "U-S-A" and people who, during the DNC chanted "O-ba-ma!" Only an idiot with a hyper imagination inclined to fret about "Nationalism" is irritated by the former. And only a dyed-in-the-wool ideologue is happy to participate in the latter or inspired by it when they see it. Most real people find such ravings more than a little over-the-top and, frankly, even a bit frightening and mind-numbing. If there’s such a thing as "too sober," I don’t think this GOP convention has found it yet.
On the other hand, I might say a bit against the whole over-reaction to the hurricane . . . even as I think it (like Palin) serendipitously assisted McCain and I get the necessity for the--still annoying--earnestness it brought with it.