Tuesday night was a night of heavy hitters at the Republican convention. Independent – some would say traitor – Democrat Joe Lieberman was the obvious star attraction. Getting a member of the opposing party to stand up and condemn their policies and endorse your candidate is always a winner, even if it’s a mealy-mouthed endorsement from an unappealing stooge like Joe Lieberman. Yet it turned out that the real star, who upstaged Lieberman in every way, was former Senator and Presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
Thompson’s speech was a reminder of why so many of us thought he would make a great presidential candidate, and was a return to form after a campaign in which he disappointed supporters by showing little of the rhetorical brilliance which he exhibited last night. I suspect that Thompson would much rather be making great speeches on behalf of others and talking about issues than promoting himself as a candidate, which he was clearly uncomfortable with during the primaries.
Thompson’s disturbing physical resemblance to the great orator William Jennings Bryan was echoed by a similarly effective command of concise but ringing phrases as he got warmed up about two-thirds of the way through the speech and began hammering the Democrats on the issues and laying out simple and undeniable truths which put the lies and spin of the Obama campaign to shame. Thompson even made the irritating new ‘Country First’ slogan sound authentic and believable, which almost no one else has been able to do.
Consider some of the best points Thompson made. Pay attention. They’ll be among the top Republican talking points for the next eight weeks:
“The Democrats present a history making nominee for president. History making in that he is the most liberal, most inexperience nominee to ever run for president.”
This one was a no-brainer. Obama’s remarkable experience has always been an issue and even more so now that the Democrats have made the double mistake of acknowledging that it’s a problem by putting Biden on the ticket and of attacking Palin on the same issue, opening a door they should have kept closed.
“Apparently they believe that he will match up well with the history making Democrat controlled congress. History making because it’s the least accomplished and most unpopular congress in our nation’s history. Together they would take on these urgent challenges with protectionism, higher taxes and an even bigger bureaucracy. This is not reform and it is not change. It’s basically the same old stuff they’ve been peddling for years.”
This was the first clear sign of what the focus of the campaign is going to be. It’s McCain against the establishment, against Bush and Congress and the status quo of incompetence and big government represented by the Democrats and their candidates. The goal here is to present McCain as the real outsider and the real force for change. That’s why Palin is on the ticket and why they’re going to keep hammering the reform, small government and fiscal conservative angles. This is the classic tactic of taking what the opponent believes is his strength and turning it against him.
“We need a president and a vice president who will take the federal bureaucracy by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shaking.”
Another winner. Single out the self-perpetuating kleptocracy which rules Washington. Why? Because most people know in their hearts that no matter what party is in power, most of those bureaucrats are Democrats and most of the prominent Democrats are part of that culture, and that if you vote for Democrats you’re voting for big government and bureaucracy without accountability.
“We need a president who understands that you don’t make citizens prosperous by making Washington richer and you don’t lift an economic downturn by imposing one of the largest tax increases in American history.”
I know this seems like stating the obvious to most sensible people. Yet it’s not obvious to the left and so it has to be repeated again and again and again. So long as one of the basic cornerstones of the Democratic party’s platform is this lucicrous idea of taxing America into prosperity, it needs to be repeated and kept in the public eye so that the false promises which are their stock and trade will not gain any credibility.
“Now, our opponents tell us not to worry about their tax increases. They tell you they’re not going to tax your family. No, they’re just going to tax businesses. So, unless you buy something from a business like groceries, clothes or gasoline or unless you get a paycheck from a business, a big business or a small business, don’t worry. It’s not going to effect you. They say they’re not going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the other side of the bucket.”
This was the best part of the speech, where he just nails the Democrats on the insanity of their fiscal policy, laying it out in terms so plain and clear that anyone can understand. That seems to be Thompson’s gift, to present ideas in ways which people can relate to on a personal level. The bucket analogy is dead on, and again it’s all just simple common sense, poking some fun at beliefs which are ridiculous, but which the left takes as gospel.
In this speech Thompson has defined the heart of the campaign and presented the truth which the Democrats really don’t want to accept — that McCain’s Republican Party is not the party of Bush or the party of the bureaucrats, but the other part of the Republican party which has been excluded and denied since the Reagan era. Thompson makes it clear that McCain is running not just against Obama’s Democrats, but also against the legacy of the Bush administration and to restore the Republican party to what it once was and could be again, the party of small government, fiscal responsibility and opportunity and prosperity for all. Thompson makes a convincing case that McCain is a reform candidate in an authentic way which the Democrats do-nothing, two-house incumbency, worn out ideas and lackluster candidates cannot match.
In almost two weeks of conventions there has only been one speech to compare to the power and honesty of Thompson’s and that was Sarah Palin’s VP acceptance speech on Wednesday, arguably one of the most effective political speeches of the modern era. It echoes the themes that Thompson raised and also pushes the message of real change and real reform for the country. More on that soon.