GOP’s breathless pace

Maybe it was because they’ve waited for years. Maybe it was because it was delayed by the gravity of a treacherous hurricane. But once it kicked off, the Republicans’ convention has been racing through its key messages. Sometimes faster than they can be processed or appreciated.

First night biggies Anne Romney and Chris Christie were literally back to back. Their message about women and family and sacrifical love was very different from Democrats’ emphasis on womens’ issues.  

Second and middle night was different. And kind of breathtaking in its pace, leaving no time between prime time speakers for pundits to opine or commercial advertisers to advertise or viewers to take even a quick break.

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice gave one of the best speeches of the convention.

After all, when the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful economic and political experiment in human history.  That is the true basis of American exceptionalism. You see, the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion.  It is an idea. And what an idea it is.  That you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things, that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.

My fellow Americans, ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement.  We have never believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. We have never been jealous of one another and never envious of each others’

No, no, ours has been a belief in opportunity.  And it has been a constant struggle, long and hard, up and down, to try to extend the benefits of the American dream to all.  But that American ideal is indeed in danger today.  There is no country, no, not even a rising China that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we do not do the hard work before us here at home.

More than at any other time in history, greatness is built on mobilizing human potential and ambition.  We have always done that better than any country in the world.  People have come here from all over because they have believed our creed of opportunity and limitless horizons.

She knows this deeply and well.

And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham.  The segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced that even if she cannot have it hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.

Before she finished that line the convention hall was on their feet with a rousing standing ovation. It was a soaring moment. I loved it, because I remember those segregated lunch counters of my childhood on a visit to the South that made me indignantly cry out to my father ‘Dad, they can’t treat people this way!’ (My father vividly recalls his activist little daughter’s loud voice in an Alabama drugstore all those years ago.)

But without a moment’s pause for reflection on the fine points of Rice’s outstanding, intellectually engaging speech, the convention moved briskly into Susana Martinez delivering her stirring address about her immigrant background and opportunities America offered for her to seize upon to become a leader and the governor of New Mexico. 

Her story was also inspring.

My parents also taught me about having the courage to stand for something.  So, I went to law school and became a prosecutor. 

I took on a specialty that very few choose to pursue – I prosecuted child abuse and child homicide cases.  Cases that were truly gut-wrenching.

But standing up for those kids, being their voice for justice, was the honor of a lifetime…

When I was a young prosecutor, I got called to testify against my boss. I could have backed down, but I didn’t. I stood up to him.  And he fired me for it.

So I took him on, ran against him for district attorney and beat him by a landslide!

I fear some of our leaders today have lost the courage to stand up.

What we have now are politicians.  They won’t offer real plans, and only stand up when they want to blame someone else.

And I don’t say that just because a Democrat is in the White House.  I was a Democrat for many years.  So were my parents.

This is interesting.

Before I ran for District Attorney, two Republicans invited my husband and me to lunch.  And I knew a party-switch was exactly what they wanted.

So, I told Chuck, we’ll be polite, enjoy a free lunch and then say goodbye.

But we talked about issues-they never used the words Republican, or Democrat, conservative or liberal.

We talked about many issues, like welfare – is it a way of life, or a hand-up? 

Talked about the size of government — how much should it tax families and small businesses?

And when we left that lunch, we got in the car and I looked over at Chuck and said, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans.”

This election should not be about political parties.  Too many Americans are out of work, and our debt is out of control.  This election needs to be about those issues.

And the floor was quickly turned over to the much anticipated address by vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who delivered a stemwinder.

Formally accepting his party’s nomination for vice president Wednesday night in Tampa, Ryan portrayed the Obama administration as one whose sun had already set. The acerbic speech accused the president of leaving his legions of voters with little more than a record of squandered opportunities and broken promises as they stare at “fading Obama posters” and look for work.

“It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new,” Ryan said. “Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.”

…By the end, he drew thunderous cheers and applause from the convention crowd. And as he has in the past, Ryan tried to draw a sharp contrast throughout.

Obama’s term, he said, has been “a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.”

Over and over, he was interrupted with rousing applause.

Ryan’s speech sets the stage for Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance speech Thursday, which will close out the party’s convention and be the GOP’s last word before Democrats convene in Charlotte, N.C., for their nomination gala.

Which will be completely different, reportedly staging a celebration of abortion and contraception and women’s ‘reproductive rights’.

What a stark contrast this election poses. More on that to come…

Romney pick defines the campaign

All of a sudden, it seems the media have noticed what the presidential election is actually all about. Ideas. Competing ideas. Two stark contrasts of opposing worldviews and what should be the proper size and role of government. It’s about time.

What was it about the choice of Congressman Paul Ryan that evoked this swift and sweeping response? His clarity, charity and honesty, seem to be the top answers of both supporters and opponents. I heard a Democratic strategist on a television news panel credit Ryan with being an intellectual, an honest man who clearly articulates and stands for what he believes and represents conservative values with weight and gravity rare at this level of politics. She just doesn’t happen to agree with his beliefs or politics, but she respects the man.

Not everyone who disagrees with Paul Ryan is so charitable, but many who do at least admit  he’s a charitable man and a formidable politician. He’s also consequential, because his elevation made media heavyweights suddenly aware that this election is about a clear choice.

Republican Mitt Romney reset the race for the presidency as a battle over the size and scope of the federal government Saturday, choosing as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the architect of the GOP’s plans to slash spending and overhaul Medicare.

In a risky and surprising move to give his campaign a jolt of momentum, Romney chose the 42-year-old congressman over several contenders considered safer bets. The selection seemed destined to shift the tone of a campaign that has become mired in petty squabbles and force a debate over how to tackle the nation’s fiscal challenges.

That was the tenor in most media stories. Including the Times.

Mitt Romney introduced Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate on Saturday at a spirited rally in Norfolk, Va., bringing to his side one of the party’s young conservative leaders in a move that altered the contours of the campaign and sharpened the choice facing the voters in November…

The decision instantly made the campaign seem bigger and more consequential, with the size and role of the federal government squarely at the center of the debate.

I’ve been saying that for months. That exact thing. So much so that on Monday, my network re-aired my earlier interview with Cong. Ryan and I opened it with the remarks that this election is essentially about the proper size and role of government, whether it is a solution or the problem, and what Catholic social teaching tells us about governing a society.

Now, big media are leading most of their stories with those same question, except for Catholic social teaching, though that’s coming out in some of the reporting on Paul Ryan anyway. Especially when it comes to claims that he’s a disciple of Ayn Rand.

Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, recently called Ryan “an Ayn Rand devotee” who wants to “slash benefits for the poor.” New York magazine once alleged that Ryan “requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged,” Rand’s gospel of capitalism. President Obama has blasted the Ryan budget as Republican “social Darwinism.”

These Rand-related slams, Ryan says, are inaccurate and part of an effort on the left to paint him as a cold-hearted Objectivist. Ryan’s actual philosophy, as reported by my colleague, Brian Bolduc, couldn’t be further from the caricature. As a practicing Roman Catholic, Ryan says, his faith and moral values shape his politics as much as his belief in freedom and capitalism does.

“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

But detractors and especially the Catholic left won’t let him off the hook.

Which brings up a point I’m struck with as these first few days of Ryan’s elevation unfold. Really, truly struck with. People have written to me earnestly asking for answers about this, for either a defense or an indictment of Ryan based on anything he may have found worthwhile in Rand’s economic philosophy in the past, or anything he holds as worthy today in economic policy in advancing a budget that reforms the American economy.

Three things, really.

One, it’s interesting to see how much energy is going into vetting the Republican vice-presidential nominee once again than ever was given to analyzing the Democratic presidential candidate for the second election in four years.

Two, it’s refreshing to see and hear so many people engage in a debate over ideas – about philosophy, politics, the economy, society and the common good – and argue them passionately. If we’re as much about equality as we believe we are, let’s apply the same scrutiny to any major candidate who changes beliefs or positions on issues. What is considered ‘evolving’ for one candidate is ridiculed as ‘flip-flopping’ for another. What’s heralded as enlightened for the one is sharply derided as disingenous for the other. Let’s be serious.

And three, let’s be informed. Instead of relying on media and punditry for interpretations and translations and representations of ‘the Ryan budget plan’, let’s read it for ourselves and see what it says. In the absence of a competing budget plan, it’s something to debate.

As Cong. Ryan told me, “we are facing the most predictable debt crisis in history.” And “the American people want to be talked to like adults,” to “form their own prudential judgments” about competing ideas. “Are we simply treating the symptoms or the root causes of poverty?” The government has a role to play, he added, but one that above all honors the dignity of the human person.

Elections are now under 90 days away, and the campaign has just become more serious and more interesting.