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31
In the end the Republican Convention came down to two lines: Clint Eastwood saying, “When somebody doesn’t do the job, you gotta let ‘em go.”
 
And Mitt Romney saying, “Obama wants to save the planet – I want to help your family.”
 
All the rest – the political rhetoric – was window dressing. The bottom line was Obama hasn’t done his job, the country’s paid the price, and it’s time to replace him.
 
That leaves President Obama in a hard spot. Next week at the Democratic Convention he can argue the last four years could have been worse. And he can argue Mitt Romney will make the next four years worse. But he can’t argue with the fact that, after four years in office, his Presidency is a failure.
 

 

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31
It’s odd: Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio didn’t fret the liberal pundits much at all but in twelve minutes Clint Eastwood sent them into orbit. After Eastwood’s speech Andrea Mitchell at NBC looked so shocked it seemed she was about to have a stroke.
 
Twitter and the e-world exploded with people calling Eastwood ‘kooky,’ ‘weird,’ ‘absurd,’ and a reporter at The Los Angeles Times wrote, Clint Eastwood has apparently lost his mind.
 
After the salvos started flying even Romney’s staff ran for cover.
 
Clint Eastwood didn’t give a political speech (which I guess is what the pundits expected) and, maybe, all the hollering is because he made his case not as a politician but as edgy, blunt Clint Eastwood, concluding with the most memorable line of the convention:
 
When somebody doesn’t do the job, you gotta let ‘em go.”
 

 

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31
Most of the politicians at the Republican Convention stood up talked about what ails America: Too much government. Too much spending. Too much debt.
 
Except Chris Christie.
 
Instead of what’s wrong, Christie talked about why it’s wrong.
 
He began with a story of his Sicilian mother, who’d been raised by her own single mother, telling him, One day, you’ll have to choose between love and respect. Choose respect. Then he got right to the point: Our country, he said, is paralyzed by the desire to be loved. Our leaders want to be popular and say Yes rather than No and the rest of us have chosen the same easy path and let them get away with it.
 
Next Christie drew a line in the sand – a line that, let’s hope, doesn’t prove to be imaginary – between Republicans and Democrats, saying, We believe in telling working families the truth about our nation’s fiscal realities…that we have no other option but to make the hard choices…They believe the American people don’t want to hear the truth…that the American people are content to live the lie with them.
 
The pundits didn’t have much love to offer Christie after his speech. Ann Coulter said she was disappointed. Another pundit complained Christie didn’t mention Mitt Romney enough. But every other speaker talked about the symptoms of the disease, like too much spending and too much debt – while Governor Christie talked about the cure.

 

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31
The first night of the convention the Romney campaign set out to ‘humanize’ Mitt and after living with Mitt Romney for thirty years Ann Romney surely knew his virtues but by the same measure also knew his warts – which created a conundrum for Romney’s campaign staff.
 
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a campaign staff – Mitt Romney’s or Barack Obama’s or anyone else’s – sitting down in a room and saying, Well, let’s tell the whole truth. Instead, campaign staffs prefer to tell the part of the truth that will help elect Mitt Romney (or Barack Obama or whoever). So, naturally, Mitt Romney’s campaign didn’t want to talk about his warts – which left Mrs. Romney in an awkward spot. Because how on earth could she ‘humanize’ her husband without discussing the flaws that make him human?
 
Mrs. Romney tried with grace and humor but when she finished explaining her husband’s virtues I expect most women listening, who’d been through the experience of being married to one man for thirty years, thought, Yes, well, that’s fine. But that’s not the whole story – is it?
 

 

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30
A friend asked if I’m going to the convention next week. No way. I’ve been to two national conventions – one in New York and one in San Francisco. And I’ve been to Charlotte.
 
I’m staying home like any sensible person and watching it on TV.

 

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30
They may be the Republican nominees, but Mitt Romney and Pat McCrory seem out of tune with the party in Tampa. That party loves the hard-edged, right-wing rhetoric of Paul Ryan and – before his bellyflop Tuesday night – Chris Christie.
 
The conventioneers celebrate Romney, but their hearts don’t seem to be in it. When he was there the other night, he didn’t seem to be in it either. Can he carry the tune tonight?
 
At bottom, Romney is a George H.W. Bush Republican. That’s where he’s from, that’s how he ran and governed in Massachusetts and that’s what he was until he realized he had to shed all that all skin to slither his way to the nomination.
 
McCrory seems to be a conventional North Carolina Jim Holshouser-Jim Martin-Richard Vinroot Republican. He kept his distance from Tampa. He occasionally makes moderate noises.
 
I know one prominent Republican conservative (not Carter) who scouted last year for a more conservative candidate for Governor.
 
Which raises the question: If they win, and if their party controls their respective legislative branches, how will they govern?
 

 

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29
One minute you’re standing on solid ground and the next the trap door springs open and you’re falling through mid-air.
 
Last week, the New York Times reported Republican political consultants made a startling discovery: They discovered swing voters have a stubborn affinity for Barack Obama and President Obama’s economic failure is not enough to elect Mitt Romney.
 
That is earth-shattering news – for months Republican strategists have been shrugging off Obama’s attacks on Romney, saying, It’s the economy, stupid. That’s all there is. Nothing else matters – but now they’re saying the economy’s not enough.
 
Can it be the bedrock beneath our feet just turned to quicksand?
 

 

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29
Political junkies like me and you pay attention to what convention speakers say. We get into the issues, the rhetoric, the charges, claims and counterclaims. But that’s not what matters.
 
Voters watch conventions for what they say about the candidates and the party. They watch it like just another TV show, and they look at the candidates and speakers as just more characters on TV.
 
That’s not superficial. It’s actually a very deep and searching judgment: Do I like this person – or these people? Do I feel comfortable with them in my life? Do I trust them?
 
That’s the ultimate measure of whether the Republican convention is a success – or a disaster that would have been better off if Isaac had hit Tampa.
 
Did Ann Romney make Mitt seem warm or likable? Or did people just think: “Rich”?
 
Was Chris Christie warm and personable? Or just mean and angry?
 
My hunch: Rich, mean and angry.

 

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28
Isaac busted up the Republican convention schedule. It’s competing for TV coverage. Therein lies another danger to the GOP: Is it good to bash government when a lot of people may need government help?
 
One story said the federal government spent $10 billion building levees to protect New Orleans. Did Governor Bobby Jindal reject that “stimulus”?
 
How fast will those Southern Republican governors ask Washington for help? How quick will they blame Washington when their constituents start griping?
 
What would the Ron Paul/Ayn Rand/anti-government crowd say to those people? “You’re on your own”? “Pick yourself up by your soggy bootstraps”?  “Rebuild that yourself”?
 
How will Romney handle the messaging: “We need government to let us alone”? Or, “we need government to help us”

 

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28
Unless you happen to be one of the half-dozen people in Raleigh who do not own a television you’ve figured out by now that both sides in the Presidential race mean to do whatever it takes to win. This virulent outbreak of no holds barred politics has some folks worried we’ve stumbled into a kind of moral swamp, but no holds barred politics isn’t our biggest national vice by a long shot.
 
Yesterday, the newspaper reported two American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
 
Why were they there? We long ago gave up on winning the war – so why haven’t we done what democracies usually do when they get in this kind of fix: Declare victory, tuck tail, and run?
 
Venal politics is one thing. But senseless wars are a lot deeper swamp than getting gulled by politicians.
 

 

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