NEW YORK - Almost as if his time here had been less than pleasant Shawn Macomber bolted town yesterday afternoon and left me with TAS’s press credentials, and thus a seat in Madison Square Garden for the President’s acceptance speech last night.
The energy in the air when George W. Bush walks into a stadium packed with Republicans is hard to overstate. It was palpable even in the zone of maximum blasé — or, if you happen to be sitting next to a couple of bitter Village Voicers, outright hostility — known as the periodical press stand.
Just as Democratic delegates’ enthusiasm with the pro-military gestures in Boston often seemed muted, the preferences of the GOP faithful, during the President’s domestic agenda laundry list, was clear: Tax reform, tort reform, health savings accounts — huge cheers. Increased funding for community colleges, a “health center” for every poor county in America — polite applause. (Many in the crowd, no doubt, wondered about the bill as they hesitated to cheer.) Among the loudest cheers came when the social conservative agenda — “mak[ing] “a place for the unborn child” and “the protection of marriage against activists judges” — made a rare primetime appearance.
But the meat of the speech was the suitably long foreign policy passage. Bush defended his foreign policy record, restating his argument on Iraq:
He took pointed shots at John Kerry:
Most importantly, he emphasized his strategic outlook for the future, albeit in softer focus than Rudy Giuliani did on Monday:
It’s not easy to tell, sitting in the hall, how a speech plays on television: I can’t quite gauge how well the speech held the attention of a non-captive audience (it did seem to drag a bit in the middle), and I don’t know how much of a distraction the security disturbances were. (In the hall they were a big distraction— it’s hard to ignore a woman being dragged away next to you wearing an undergarment labeled as a “pink slip” for the president — which was exacerbated by delegates shouting at the infiltrators.) But my sense is that this should leave Republicans relatively optimistic, especially when compared to Kerry’s acceptance speech in Boston: a candidate who can tell a joke (“People sometimes have to correct my English — I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it”) always has a leg up on a candidate who can’t (“I’m not kidding, I was born in the west wing!”). Bush hit all the important points, and hit them well. Is it time to declare certain victory? Not quite. But from where I sat, this certainly looked like a successful end to a successful convention.
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In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
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