Sadness over the loss of life in Beslan as the Russian hostage crisis turned into a wrenching tragedy and concern over Hurricane Frances plowing into Florida dampened my enthusiasm for coming up with wisecracks about the revolting tenor of the RNC in my home town, New York. But the New York Times did it for me; these are doozies from the "gee I wish I'd written that" collection:
The Show Is Over. Now for the Awards.
By JOHN TIERNEY and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
The Walter Mondale Where's-the-Beef Award: George W. Bush, who told the conventioneers, "Anyone who wants more details on my agenda can find them online." Ever the wonks, we followed the directions to georgewbush.com, seeking the details of the crowd-pleasing promise in his speech to "lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code." Here's all we found: "President Bush will work with Congress to make the tax code simpler for taxpayers, encourage saving and investment, and improve the economy's ability to create jobs and raise wages."
Most overanalyzed gimmick: The round stage for President Bush's acceptance speech. Was it designed so he would look like a pitcher all alone on the mound, or a man of the people in the center of the hall? After the Democrats projected strength with a stage looking like a battleship, was Mr. Bush trying to soften his image by standing on a platform without any hard edges? With the spotlight on him, would he come off as Teddy Roosevelt, "the man in the arena," or more like Thomas E. Dewey, derided as "the little man on the wedding cake"?
Sometimes a stage is just a stage.
Most awkward sight: Republican delegates dancing to "Soul Man.''
Best euphemism: Marvin Scott, the Republican Senate candidate from Indiana, an African-American, for calling his ancestors "involuntary immigrants.'' [actually that is an historically correct term-Ed.]
Greatest gift to Republicans: John Kerry windsurfing off Nantucket. No one looks presidential in a bathing suit, especially when the rest of the news features Republican guys in suits talking tough about defending the country. Jay Leno delivered the coup de grâce: "I mean, even his hobby depends on which way the wind blows."
Greatest gift to Mr. Bush's speechwriters: Mr. Kerry's description of himself as having "conservative values." It enabled Mr. Bush to declare, "If you gave a speech, as my opponent did, calling the Reagan presidency eight years of 'moral darkness,' then you may be a lot of things, but the candidate of conservative values is not one of them."
Greatest gift to Democrats (runner-up): The Band-Aids with purple hearts worn by conventioneers. The Republican leadership quickly ordered them removed, but not before indignant Democrats cut into the Republicans' air time.
Greatest gift to Democrats: Mr. Bush's declaration on Monday that the war on terror could not be won, followed by a retraction a day later. If you're going to put on a meticulously scripted show, don't blow the opening night with an ad-lib.
Free Speech Award: The Republican National Committee, which, unlike its Democratic counterpart, permitted the Arab network Al Jazeera to post its sign inside the convention hall all week. It also let in a certain filmmaker. [Michael Moore-Ed.]
Missing in action: Jeb Bush. For the clubby Bush clan, the convention was a family affair; some 90 Bush relatives spent the week in New York. But there was a notable exception: the president's brother Jeb, the Florida governor. He skipped the quadrennial family reunion, saying he needed to tend to victims of Hurricane Charley at home. But his absence was convenient for Republicans, allowing the president to avoid all those unpleasant memories of Florida in 2000, as well as predictions that a third Bush would seek the presidency in 2008.[for a savage opinion piece predicting how the Florida elections will be compromised in November, see Stealing Home in The Moscow Times.-Ed.]
Stupid pet trick: The White House staff's home video of President Bush's dog, Barney. The sketch featured Karl Rove, the White House political adviser, doing an impression of Howard Dean's scream; Andrew H. Card Jr., the chief of staff, scampering across the White House lawn; and Karen P. Hughes, Mr. Bush's longtime communications aide, feeding the Scottish terrier red meat and telling him to "stay on message.'' [How did I miss this? - Ed.]
Note to Karl: Don't give up your day job.
Least expected political rehabilitation: Richard Nixon, who inspired Arnold Schwarzenegger to become a Republican. "Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air,'' Governor Schwarzenegger told the convention. "I said to my friend, I said, 'What party is he?' My friend said, 'He's a Republican.' I said, 'Then I am a Republican.' ''[My choice for the best one of all - Ed.]
Best line of the convention: "Don't be economic girlie men!'' No attribution necessary.
Most succinct attack on the legal profession: Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts. After complaining about the costs of lawsuits and malpractice insurance, he said, "And Senator Edwards, if you don't like hearing that, sue me."
Best line by the Bush twins: The excuse they borrowed from their father's standard response to questions about his youth. Alluding to their well-publicized adventures in under-age drinking, Jenna Bush said, "We kept trying to explain to my dad that when we were young and irresponsible, well, we were young and irresponsible."
Worst line by the Bush twins: "I know it's hard to believe, but our parents' favorite term of endearment for each other is actually 'Bushie.' " Too much information. [Blogged here a few days ago - Ed.]
Ambien Award: Senator Bill Frist, the doctor who offered a new prescription for insomniacs in the hall. He combined a plodding, emotion-free speaking style with flights of rhetoric like, "Prescription drugs and Medicare, tax-free Health Savings Accounts, an ethical framework for scientific discovery: these will be part of our future. Tax credits for the uninsured; electronic medical records; a just, fair and fast medical liability system'' - he went on, but we won't.
Most strategic electoral use of Sept. 11: Gov. George E. Pataki of New York. In his remarks last night, he told of people from three states who helped New York after Sept. 11, and then asked their delegations to rise. All three - Oregon, Iowa and Pennsylvania - just happen to be battleground states.
The My-General-Can-Beat-Up-Your-Band-of-Brothers Award: Tommy Franks, the retired general who directed the Iraq war and endorsed Mr. Bush last night. Unfortunately, he also departed from military protocol by announcing, "Wow, this convention rocks!"
English as a Second Language Award: Mr. Bush, who said: "People sometimes have to correct my English. I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it."[runner-up for the best one-Ed]
Lamest Democratic response: The "Thousand Points of Hope" rallies across the country last night, at which people held candles and flashlights. If you're going to steal a Republican idea - the "thousand points of light" that became a signature line of the first President Bush - at least change the number.[Actually, I thought that was a fair shot-Ed.]
Teresa Heinz Kerry Shove It Award: Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia and convention keynote speaker, for telling Chris Matthews, the host of the MSNBC program "Hardball'' to "get out of my face.''
Mr. Miller's hellfire and brimstone address, which included a riff on Senator Kerry's votes on defense spending - "This is the man who wants to be commander in chief of our U.S. armed forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?'' - was a huge hit in the hall. But even some conventiongoers were left scratching their heads when the smooth-talking Southerner took on Mr. Matthews.
"You know, I wish, I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel,'' he said at one point. Mr. Matthews, a man not known for letting his guests get a word in edgewise, tried desperately to reclaim his ground, but the senator would not give. We think Mr. Miller, who will retire from the Senate in January, has a television future show in his future: "Spitball.''
Best rationale for having Zell Miller deliver the keynote address: He made Dick Cheney look moderate.
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