Well, Newsweek warned us that George W.’s speech accepting the nomination of the Republican Party for president would be “light on specifics and heavy on heart.” Our hearts were heavy, too, after staying up after 10 o’clock on Thursday night to watch the new nominee say not much of anything. For the preceding hour, we were treated to a shallow, orchestrated pageant with the talent part left out. The whole scene was futuristic and creepy in its precision and lavishness; clearly no one has enough money to pay for something that profligate but the oil multinationals and the Armed Forces.
For openers, we heard the first deaf Miss America introduce a video about Laura Welch Bush. We met the family—again. We heard some weird-looking TV analysts talk about political analysts talking about whether or not the message makers managing the show were getting the message out. We watched people on TV watch a video. We heard Miss Barbara [Bush, that is] talk bravely about her dead son. And then…and then…finally…the man himself: George W.
He seemed to have practiced his jock walk. You know, where you hold your arms out slightly and put a lot of hip in your step. Makes it look like you got big muscles and big business. He looked at the crowd approvingly, but kind of like it smelled bad. He had on too much eye makeup. His tie was really loud; it matched Miss Barbara’s suit. We tried to adjust the color on the set, but it was no use. The tie really was that shade. The word is that this was no accident. Delegates, too, were told to wear this patriotic day-glo red for the big finish—the last night of the convention.
W. narrowed his eyes and, for the first time in such a long time, we heard that phrase in that accent: “Mah fellah Amurrikins.” But though W.’s from Texas, he is no LBJ on domestic issues. He is going to privatize public schools and Social Security. He’s going to cut taxes, and rich people are going to get their money back—if they ever paid up in the first place. W’s keeping some money, though, because he needs it for our brave and under-cherished Armed Forces, and our missile defense against the menacing, war-mongering North Korea. The sweating fans obligingly responded by clanging their cowbells loudly, and banging their brightly colored, phallic noise-makers. When he resumed, W. explained why he’s going to need more money for the military when he takes over: because two entire U.S. divisions are not “combat-ready.” This lack of deployable troops is the fault of the irresponsible current administration that has left the U.S. so unconscionably vulnerable to attack by—who is it? One of those Third World terrorist outlaw states with atom bombs. Although this was one of very few concrete facts mentioned in the speech, not surprisingly, it turned out to be wrong. The two divisions are not deployable because, they are already deployed—in Kosovo. (Even politicians and their poetic speech writers sometimes need to read the whole long memo, W.—or they might miss something important).
We got some crowd shots. We thought we saw Henry the K., but it was hard to tell. He looked dead. W’s abolishing the death tax. And big fat ex-drug czar Bill Bennett, also asleep, comatose or dead. Probably smoked one too many foot-long cigars, but he’s trying to quit.
The speech went on in W’s peculiar cadence. He sounded like a graduating senior reciting a poem. He was reciting a poem. He hit the refrain: “They have not led—We will.” He said this repeatedly because the moldering presidential historians, consulted earlier by the networks, had mentioned a number of times that this speech had to demonstrate that he could lead. So now, he’s going to.
He’s going to get rid of those old-fashioned arms treaties. He’s going to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect. At this, the network maliciously gave us a shot of Phil Gramm, senior senator from Texas, of whom an Austin commentator once said, “Makin’ him look nice is like puttin’ earrings on a hawg.”
In general, W.’s jokes were bad—except for the one about Al Gore inventing the internet. Out in the stands, a saggy George H. W. gave the boy a two-thumbs up for that one. He is so out there.
Speaking of out there, I have a question. Can people in other countries see this? I hope not, but I think they can. Curiously we hear nothing about globalization, free trade, one world, and all that. Maybe because W. and Al both agree on that stuff, even if the rest of us do not. Whichever one of them we get, we’re still getting the IMF and the WTO, so why bring it up?
W. broke into another poem, this one with the refrain, “It won’t be long now.” Praise Jesus. He finally stopped. God bless Amurrika. Fifty-two minutes, including cow bells. They released the balloons. Jim Lehrer thought that was the best part. He said Republicans are very good at the balloons. The presidential historians instantly began blathering about how that bit started with doves back in the 1960s, but the doves got too messy because they dropped dead in the hot lights and pooped on the delegates.