What Did You Build?
“We Built It. We Built It. We Built It.” That has been the mantra and or rally cry for the past two days at this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. While that one-liner is overly pretentious and downright arrogant, it has shown that the Republican Party still doesn’t understand how this country really works. This country has been built through what I call a collective suffering on the backs of many. So when I hear “We Built It,” my mind instantly takes me back to the suffering of those black slaves, who crossed oceans unwillingly and then worked on plantations day and night amidst intense brutality. “We Built It” makes me think of Chinese men being forced to build transcontinental railroads so that America could finally complete its manifest destiny. “We Built It” makes me think of women marching down the streets of Washington declaring vociferously that they deserve the ballot too. “We Built It” makes me think of men, women and children being hosed, beaten with clubs and attacked by vicious police dogs just so that America might be fulfill its original intent of all men being created equal. So to hear the cacophonous cries of “We Built It” coming from Tampa so boldly is a bit disconcerting. And, I am still waiting to hear what exactly those at the GOP convention would like to take sole ownership of having built. The rest of America will wait.
Rice the Rhetorician
My feelings for Condoleezza Rice have been nothing short of seesaw-ish since 2003. Let’s not forget that she was one of the chief architects of our colossal misjudgment with regards to Iraq. She defended and promoted our involvement in that nation as both National Security Advisor (2003-05) and then later as Secretary of State (2005-09). However, last night I can say was one of the moments that allowed me to remember some of the reasons that I truly admire Dr. Rice. That being because she exerts grace, poise, intelligence and articulation that is just simply amazing. She’s living proof of the American dream, and none of us can deny that no matter how much we differ politically with her.
I must admit that Dr. Rice delivered the speech of the night. Her address was one that truly galvanized a somewhat dull convention full of empty and inflammatory rhetoric. In fact it was so good that I felt it would be almost impossible for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to follow her and deliver his acceptance speech. The aspect that I liked so much about Dr. Rice’s address to the convention was that it was truly genuine from beginning to end and effective. In fact so much so that if I had known nothing about politics or this election I would have thought she was the person running to replace President Barack Obama. Her commanding presence showed strength and her words provided comfort it seems for many in the room and across the nation alike. She sought to heal some of the wounds that her party has seemingly inflicted with their vitriolic rhetoric and policies over the years when she mentioned immigration stating that:
“We must continue to welcome the world’s most ambitious people to be a part of us. In that way, we stay young and optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.”
With that statement, Dr. Rice showed signs of true compassionate conservatism, one that her party has lacked since the election of Ronald Reagan. She also spoke to the educational woes that our nation faces when she passionately stated:
“And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights issue of our day.”
While I am not a huge proponent of charter schools taking away from our public schools systems of which I am product, I do believe that she was right when about this being the major civil rights issue of our day. A society that produces great thinkers and skilled workers leads the way; this is the way America reached the top and is the way she shall stay at the top.
Overall, Dr. Rice had a unifying tone in her remarks. While she did contrast the differences between President Obama and Governor Romney, she did so humanely and in a way that is becoming of a statesman. She spoke to ALL Americans last night, which should be the goal of every person who comes to that microphone. However, we know that is not the case. These conventions as a good friend put it are all “over hyped pageantry.” She accomplished what Paul Ryan should have sought to, had the voice and sounding board to, but chose not to do.
Stand Down Mr. Ryan, Stand Down
Paul Ryan was formally anointed as the Republican Party’s nominee last night as he accepted their nomination to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. Now, Paul Ryan pretty much fits the bill for everything you’d want from your parties Vice Presidential nominee. He’s young, intelligent, likeable and most importantly he’s the future of the party. I can almost undoubtedly say that should Mitt Romney lose this election to President Barack Obama in November that the mantle will be quickly passed to Rep. Ryan to lead the party back to victory in 2016.
However, for all the good the Rep. Ryan possesses, there is something worth pointing out as a fault and that is his inability to tell the truth. He lied on a few issues, specifically the Health Care Act (ObamaCare) as well as on Medicare. He claims that government runs the Health Care system when in fact that is false. President Obama’s plan provided subsidies to private insurance companies. That portion is what caused a lot of members of the President’s own party to scoff at the law because they wanted a public option since they couldn’t get the single-payer option that they so desperately wanted and rightfully so.
Rep. Ryan also lied on Medicare. I felt this was his woefully wrong to play politics with people, especially when he claims that the President does too much of that already. Ryan stated: “The biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.” Here he is unfairly trying to paint the picture that the President has taken money out of Medicare to pay for his Healthcare plan, when this isn’t true. In fact, what Ryan should have said and what would have been true is that President Obama has cut all NEW spending on Medicare, which means that spending will remain at its current levels. However, this is what Ryan must do to paint the picture of President Obama as this evil socialist who doesn’t care about the plight of the elderly, when that is the furthest thing from the truth.
In his role as attack dog, Ryan embraced it openly in his address to his party last night. I say address to his party because that is exactly what it was, an address to his party. In that effort it was a good speech. It was effective in painting the picture of President Obama that Team Romney wants to paint. It was effective in galvanizing the party. It was effective in showing that he is a much more formidable candidate to go head to head with Vice President Joe Biden in any debate. Lastly, it was effective in really introducing Paul Ryan to all those that he had been relatively obscure to before last night. In all of this it was a good speech. However, Paul Ryan had the opportunity to do something much more and he balked terribly. He had the chance to speak in a more unifying voice that he is sometimes known for. He didn’t take the high road and allowed party politics to dictate the outcome. This was a time to heal the wounds that Mr. Ryan claims President Obama has inflicted on this nation, but he simply chose to use divisive and inflammatory rhetoric to further drive a wedge between those who wear blue and those who were red. By doing that he most certainly in my humble opinion alienated those who are stuck in the middle. Was he effective in bringing in independents is what we should base the merits of this speech on? And, if I were an independent I’d still be undecided after hearing Mr. Ryan attempt to make the case.
As a final thought, something that made me cringe was the fact that all of the speakers consistently claimed that somehow others are jealous of Mitt Romney’s success. Dr. Rice and Rep. Ryan both tried to make it seem as this is what the Obama campaign is doing when in fact that is NOT true either. What troubles many Americans and what I believe President Obama is alluding to when speaks of Governor Romney’s business background is that he is speaking in a way in which he wants to protect his wealth and those who have wealth already virtually leaving everyone out. This goes against the basic fabric of everything that America stands for. We all seek upward mobility and if the man who wants to be the leader of our nation speaks in a way in which seems he wants to block then yeah, a lot of Americans have the right to be jealous and angry. We can do better. We must do better.