Paul Ryan visits the Shenandoah Valley
GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan paid a visit to the Shenandoah Valley today, and I just couldn't resist the opportunity to see him in person. About two thousand people showed up to welcome the congressman, at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds just south of Harrisonburg. I got my e-tickets (free) online, as we were supposed to do, but folks could also obtain tickets on site. Then we passed through a security checkpoint, which was done fairly efficiently.
The setting was less than ideal, with people standing on an uphill slope, making it hard to see the speakers' platform. In the distance, near a corn field, was a semi-trailer with the slogan "America's Comeback Team," flanked by two green (John Deere!) tractors hitched to hay wagons. The weather was good, but the sun got rather warm during the long wait. About 45 minutes after the scheduled start, a loud fanfare blared from the public address speakers, abruptly cutting off the country music, and a caravan of State Police cars, SUVs, and a big campaign bus rolled up to the fairgrounds. Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced his colleague from Wisconsin, who brought his mother along.
In his speech, Rep. Ryan called attention to the recent bleak unemployment statistics, noting that four times as many people gave up looking for work in August as the number of new jobs that were created. "That is not what a recovery looks like." Referring to the announcement of "QE-3" monetary injection announced by the Federal Reserve yesterday, he derided the "sugar high" artificial stimulus approach of the Obama administration, in contrast to the pro-growth, business-oriented economic policies which he and Mitt Romney advocate. After praising the natural beauty of the Shenandoah Valley countryside (no feedlot stench today, fortunately), he made a point about what is beautiful about communities in small-town America is that people look out for each other. That was clearly a response to the accusation by many Democrats that Ryan advocates the kind of harsh dog-eat-dog social Darwinism of Ayn Rand.
Ryan then praised the man who tapped him to be Veep, Mitt Romney. Rebutting all the negative things said about him, Ryan declared, "Being a successful businessman is a good thing in this country." It's just too bad that that even needed to be said. Ryan pointed to Romney's past record of public service in fixing up the mess in Salt Lake City and assuring that the 2002 Winter Olympics were a success. He concluded by promising that, if elected, he and Mitt Romney would not duck the tough issues, would not kick the can down the road, and would not blame their predecessors when things go wrong. Instead, they would lead, and take responsibility for their decisions. What a wonderful world that would be compared to the stagnation we now find ourselves in. I just hope the voters of America are paying close attention. Some polls suggest that the presidential race in Virginia is very tight, and Romney almost has to win the Old Dominion if he is to have any chance at beating Obama.
After Ryan finished speaking, I raced back to my car so as to beat the traffic. Ryan was interviewed by the local TV station, WHSV, and then left town.
That photo, and others I took at the rally, will soon appear on the Autumn 2012 photo gallery page.
Republicans convene in Tampa
The Republican National Convention in Tampa went fairly well, aside from the threat of Hurricane Isaac forcing the cancellation of a few events such as a Lynyrd Skynyrd show. (That's a shame.) I was not pleased that the Republican platform had such rigid position on abortion, but that's hardly a surprise. The surprise appearance by movie legend Clint Eastwood didn't go over too well, from my perspective, but that may be because I wasn't paying close enough attention. With regard to Paul Ryan's speech (see complete text at politico.com), I wrote on Facebook,
I'm really looking forward to Paul Ryan's big speech tonight. Here's the big challenge he faces: Can he win over the independent-minded voters who went for Obama four years ago? To do so, he'll need to acknowledge the fiscal and social policy mistakes that were made between 2001 and 2008.
So, did he meet that challenge? Not really. He obliquely alluded to the fact that fiscal problems predated the Obama administration, but he was less than candid about it. Along those lines, I was recently asked by a Facebook friend whether I thought that Republicans have faced up to the big policy mistakes of the George W. Bush administration. I replied:
I'm pretty sure that most Republicans are truly aware that Bush Jr. messed up, but they're not sure exactly what went wrong, and they find themselves trapped in a party structure (largely built by Bush's "brain," Karl Rove) which makes a fetish out of loyalty and severely punishes anyone who dares to speak his or her own mind. Being unable to share thoughts openly, they remain confused. Very sad.
For the most part, I was pleased by Mitt Romney's choice of Ryan to be his running mate. Ryan is a budget hawk, which ranks very high on my list of criteria, and he is smart and articulate, as well. He reminds me a lot of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was House Budget Committee Chairman during the late 1990s. Ryan has the potential to reach out to independent voters while appealing to the Republican Party's right-wing "Base." But that is what I initially thought about Sarah Palin four years ago, so I ought to be more cautious about expressing opinions prematurely.
From the point of view of many Democrats, Ryan came across as a liar; see washingtonpost.com. That reaction surprised me, but perhaps it shouldn't have.
Democrats convene in Charlotte
The Democrats also had to change their plans due to adverse weather conditions, or at least that's what they said. President Obama was going to give his acceptance speech outdoors at Bank of America Stadium, just like he did four years ago at Invesco Field/Mile High in Denver, but they apparently couldn't get enough people to commit to going, and nothing looks worse than a half-empty stadium. Anyway, the star of the show was former President Bill Clinton, who gave a rousing speech on Wednesday night. (His prominent role in Charlotte was quite a contrast to the absence of former President George W. Bush; a cartoon in the Washington Post by Tom Toles poked fun at this by a "Geo. W. Who?" label on the GOP convention podium. Sigh...) Clinton's speech contained a number of exaggerations and distortions, as recounted by the Washington Post. Thank goodness for the scrutiny of professionals such as Glenn Kessler.
Perhaps the most revealing moment of the Democrats' convention was when the party leaders changed the party platform, which originally had omitted any mention of God or the status of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. After Republican critics seized on that issue, the Democrats tried to fix it, but when they called a voice vote, the Nays were clearly louder than the Yeas, even after repeated attempts. So the chairman simply declared the Yeas to have won, and moved on to the next issue. Talk about railroading!
My column on polarization
After a hiatus of about 14 months, I have resumed writing opinion-editorial columns for the News Leader, based here in Staunton. My first column appeared two Sundays ago, and focused on the menace of political polarization in this country. See newsleader.com.
My next column will deal with the issue of lying by politicians, which -- as noted above -- became a hot issue after Paul Ryan's speech at the Republican convention two weeks ago.
Obviously, I'll also have to resume blogging on a regular basis as this campaign season moves forward.