That’s always been the central theme of political conventions. And this year’s were no exception, what with the same pageantry, and stage-management being as well choreographed as the closing ceremonies were at the Olympics in London.
And the speechmaking-intended to excite their party’s base to a fervor pitch going down the homestretch-accomplsh little more than with speakers competing over who can heap the most praise on their nominee, while also furthering their own political ambitions.
A case in point was Governor Christie’s keynote speech, in which he dwelled mostly on his accomplishments, that sounded more like the acceptance speech he’d be giving at the party’s convention in 2016, while only mentioning in passing his backing of Romney by name towards the end.
Were, hypothetically, he ended up in the White House in the next presidential race, he’d have the dubious honor of his gargantuan size rivaling that of President Taft, who had a super-sized bathtub installed to accommodate his bulk. (Hope it wasn’t discarded, on the off-chance a future blimp of a president may need it.)
On the subject of keynote speeches, the most stirring, memorable ones I can recall were:
- Former congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, the first of her gender to give one at either party’s convention.
- Mario Cuomo, at DNC in 1984, the then New York governor, who became nationally known after his rousing committment to liberal values and traditions.
- Ann Richards, at DNC in 1988, the former Texas governor, who delivered a humorous yet biting speech criticizing President H.W. Bush (a la saying he was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth”), garnered national attention and loads of laughter.
- Mary Fisher, at RNC in 1992, whose groundbreaking speech about AIDS prevention and education, and for the compassionate treatment of those with HIV and AIDS has been hailed as “one of the best American speeches of the 20th century.”
But turning back the pages of history to the DNC in 1896, no keynote address had such impact on the major issue of the day-that was whether silver as well as gold should be minted as U.S. currency-as did former Rep. William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska (an avowed bimetallist) passionate plea, “…you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, and crucify mankind upon a cross of gold….”
That emotional appeal came the closest, in my mind, to matching Marc Anthony’s oratory at Caesar’s funeral, which aroused the crowd to riot against those who slayed him, including his most beloved, trusted friend Brutus.
Personally, I only watch all the hoopla at conventions when there’s nothing more entertaining and suspenseful to be found on the history or old movies channels. And then just long enough for me to fortify myself by making a sandwich with other goodies before the ordeal begins.
And I’m waiting with bated breath for ultra conservative, religious TV personalities, like Pat Robertson, host of the 700 club, to claim that God spared the RNC in Tampa from the full force of hurricane Issac (giving it only a glancing blow), due to it echoing in their platform and speeches his beliefs to a tee, especially in expressing his abhorrence to the fiendish act of aborting a live child, irrespective of whether it was conceived as a result of rape or incest, and even if the mother’s life was at stake.
To illustrate his point as to how God can, on the other hand, be a wrathful god, Robertson would surely refer to the devastating effects to lives and property, he said at the time of Hurricane Katrina, that was brought about by God unleashing the full fury of his anger against Americans as punishment for their sinful ways, singling out legalized abortions as the worst of the worse.
Quote of the week: “A political convention is not a place where you can come away with any trace of faith in human nature.” -- Murray Kempton