In the Arena

About Last Night: Chris Christie on a No-Red-Meat Diet

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Christopher Morris / VII for TIME

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 28, 2012.

The consensus Wednesday morning was that while Chris Christie didn’t hit a home run with his keynote speech last night, it was a solid stand-up double. I’d agree with that, but the sport is slightly off for the analogy. Convention speeches aren’t like a regular baseball game; they’re like a home-run derby. If you don’t hit a home run, you’re out, forgotten, doomed to the mists of history along with Bill Bradley (1992) and Guy Vander Jagt (1980). An exception was Bill Clinton, whose 1988 keynote was so dreadful that it became memorable, especially after he joked about it on The Tonight Show.

Christie wasn’t as bad as all that. He was O.K. I missed his mouth. The big ol’ Jersey boy simply isn’t built for the spouting of platitudes like, “Our problems are big, and the solutions will not be painless.” I mean, tell me more: Painful how? For whom? This Republican trope of saying “We’re going to tell you the hard truths” and then not telling them underestimates the American public’s ability to discern blather when they hear it.

But there was a larger question about Christie’s speech: Why no red meat? The truly memorable keynotes, like Ann Richards’ in 1988, zing the opposition: “Poor George [Bush] … he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Rudy Giuliani’s disdainful attack on Barack Obama as a community organizer in 2008 was a notable, if less memorable, version of the same. (Obama’s soaring 2004 keynote was the exception that proves the rule.) Christie tried a modified-limited Obama, minus the poetry. Was it because he wanted to shed his lovely loudmouth image and appear … presidential? Or was this a conscious decision on the part of the Romney campaign that the public was sick of ugliness and ready for a high-road convention? If it were the former, it failed. If it were the latter, it didn’t succeed.

(PHOTOS: The RNC’s Kickoff in Pictures)

Ann Romney’s effort was better. She seemed a palpable human being, especially when her cadence launched beyond standard teleprompter-speak into unscripted exclamations: “I love you, women!” and “I know a lot of you [convention delegates] myself!” Although about the time she got to the line, “I don’t think there’s a women in America who thinks life is going to be easy,” the THIS IS THE MESSAGE light was blinking as red as her dress. Message: Mitt likes women, even if his party has gone slightly loony on abortion and contraception.

Another quibble: Ann Romney said at several points in the speech that her husband makes her laugh. But she gave no examples. We didn’t hear a single Mitt Romney anecdote — at least, none that I recall. We had to take his humanity on faith. I’m willing to do that. I’m sure he’s a great husband and dad. But that tells you nothing about the kind of leader, the kind of national father figure, he might be … and delivering bad news, in a fatherly way, is one of the jobs of a President.

Finally, let me congratulate Wolf Blitzer for a fine bit of journalism last night. He was interviewing Rand Paul, who said, “If Obama is re-elected, I don’t know that this country survives.” It was the sort of apocalyptic trash that Republicans have been routinely slinging this year, and Wolf called him on it, saying, “Wait a minute. You don’t think the United States of America will be the United States of America in four years” if Obama is re-elected? Paul beat a hasty retreat into libertarian inflation and currency folderol.

It should be an easy thing for journalists to call out politicians on their rhetorical nonsense, but in the heat of the moment — and the mainstream desire for comity, and the flood of distracting instructions coming through the earpiece — American television journalists often let it slide. The great ones, like Bob Schieffer, do it effortlessly and ecumenically, with a puckish smile. It was good to see Wolf doing it too.

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allthingsinaname
allthingsinaname

It should be an easy thing for journalists to call out politicians on

their rhetorical nonsense, but in the heat of the moment — and the

mainstream desire for comity, and the flood of distracting instructions

coming through the earpiece — American television journalists often let

it slide.

Hmmm. did you see the piece by Lowery right here at TIME? It would seem that the print media is in bed with those rhetorical nonsense spewers.

I find the problem is the Press in general.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

The Rebub's so called "big (CIRCUS) tent" holds a ONE TRICK PONY on its LAST LEG and, lots of CLOWNS.

SCP
SCP

Joe-why isn't Time.com reporting on the racist attack on a CNN camerawoman last night? This seems like an incident that should be highlighted by every major news agency. Romney's campaign has fostered an atmosphere where racists feel comfortable behaving in such a manner because of his race baiting campaign.

Kimmee Sun Woo
Kimmee Sun Woo

Ann and I have that in common. Willard makes me laugh also. I laugh that Gordon Gecko-lite wants to be President. I laugh that his arrogance and entitlement are the only visible traits that he has. I laugh that he doesn't run on his record as Governor of MA. I laugh that he even runs from his record as a corporate raider for Vain..oops I meant Bain. I laugh that Ann said that her and the silver spoons baby Willard actually could say with a straight face that they "struggled". What? He had to put on his own pants for awhile. What gall to even make a comical statement like that, but being the most gullible electorate in any democracy,  American conservatives probably actually believe that lie. I laugh, and laugh, and laugh. 

superlogi
superlogi

Romney is a fellow who wouldn't say $h!t if his mouth was full of it.  Comparing that to the self absorbed buffoon living in the White House, the same fellow whose vocabulary would be cut in half if he didn't use first person personal pronouns, he's absolutely self-deprecating.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

I laugh when Mittsy "accidentally" pushes the wrong button and the royal blue-colored Caddilac comes-up the elevator, when I'm sure that I asked for the cash-green one.  He's such a merry prankster!

superlogi
superlogi

If you can't quit sniffing glue, at least change brands. But I doubt that will make a difference.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Wow, good one! Guess I'll just shut up 'till the drugs wear off. Of course then I won't understand a word you say.

SCP
SCP

I laugh when a bunch of Romney donors are caught on a yacht in Tampa that flies the Caymans flag and scurry off the boat like rats covering up their nametags!

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

FWIW pretty much ALL yachts fly the Cayman Flag.....

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

You beat me to it.  In defense of Ann, it seems self-evident what the laughs are about, from Mitt and all Republicans, and from Ann herself, what worrying over gas prices and what a regular common life she lives. 

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

As Joe Klein who once said "Americans are STUPID", now tries to quote Ann Romney's speech.

Joey says, Message: Mitt likes women, even if his party has gone slightly loony on abortion and contraception.

Only slightly Joe?  My how we have toned down our words and become so civil.

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

More Joe Klein all time favorites...

Let Me Clarify: Americans Aren't Stupid, Just Lazy and Uneducated  In what doesn't quite pass for de-escalation, Klein adds in a second post that "I don't think Americans are stupider than other people...though we may be stupider than we used to be." The U.S. has generally hosted intelligent people--notably immigrants--he argues, but in the post-war peace the country has gotten "lazy ... clearly, education reform is absolutely essential ... The gap between the numbers who watch American Idol and those who watch the Lehrer News Hour will always be massive--but the number of people who don't pay any attention to the news at all continues to grow."

That's not sustainable in a democracy, he says.'Arrogant Ignoramus Joe Klein,' returns Bluto at The Jawa Report, who takes it upon himself to explain the stimulus in terms even "a sheltered ultra-liberal media parasite ... can understand." He calls the stimulus a "zero-sum" endeavor: "If the government, which produces nothing, decides to spend however many tens of billions of dollars on 'shovel-ready' boondoggles and buy-the-vote projects, that money comes from taxpayers, the people who are actually producing things." He concludes with some explicit excremental metaphors directed at the ex-Clintonite columnist.

A Nation of Dodos'  Calling Americans "flagrantly ill-informed" and Fox News viewers "misinformed," 

Klein points out that the stimulus money respondents declare wasted was, in fact, "wasted on them" in the form of tax breaks and state grants ("this is why your child's teacher wasn't laid off"). The Obama administration may have "done a terrible job explaining the stimulus package," he writes, but "it is very difficult to have a democracy without citizens," and it is "impossible to be a citizen if you don't make an effort to understand the most basic activities of your government." He concludes by suggesting America's competitive edge in the world is being undermined by its citizens' stupidity.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com...

dunedweller
dunedweller

Noted last night... "real" women, "real" marriage, "real" leader.  

They're obviously working "real" hard to be inclusive.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Phyllis Diller would've died over all that.

 

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

I'm sure that they were going to use the word "legitimate", but had to rethink a bit.