The primary reason I don’t watch party convention speeches is that there are a lot of them and the opportunity cost is too high for me. There have been a few occasions where the opportunity cost was low enough (for instance, I happened to be in my car and the speeches were on public radio) that I’ve given a few minutes to a few lucky speechers, and those speeches generally remind me why I don’t watch the rest of them: I don’t like most of the things they say.
Last week I caught about four minutes of Condoleezza Rice’s speech and it was the most neoconservative thing I’ve heard in a long time – all about how we need to continue our defense of democracy around the globe because if we don’t there will be a power vacuum that will be filled by bad guys. Never mind that much of our global intervention these days has nothing to do with defending democracy (see the previous post’s link about Guatemala), or that our overall strategy seems inconsistent at best (Libya’s rebels got a no-fly zone; Syria’s do not). And then, of course, there’s the whole assumption that the proliferation of peaceful, democratic trading nations in the last hundred years means absolutely nothing for both the demand for our subsidized defense or the ability of those other nations to supply if we actually cut back (I’ve written about this here).
Now I generally agree with the other Republican rhetoric about reducing the size of the government, but whether I agree with the sentiments or not I don’t trust the party’s ability to follow through on their rhetoric based on their record. Meanwhile, the Democrats suffer from a similar but distinct problem. While the Republicans tend to promise government reduction will be awesome and then go about expanding it, the Democrats promise government expansion will be awesome and then go about trying to explain why it wasn’t as awesome as they promised.
I read a lot of tweets yesterday about the ambiguous “fair share,” something about government being a thing we all “belong” to, and the curious persistence that if you don’t force someone to pay for your contraception they are preventing you from having it – typical leftist collectivist talk, or at least typical conservative reactions to apparently typical leftist collectivist talk. But I only actually caught a couple minutes of the speech by Rahm Emmanuel.
He was saying something about an unexpected crisis and how he’d rather have Obama in office to handle it than Romney. I found this amusing because 1) Rahm apparently would rather talk about a hypothetical response to a hypothetical future crisis than discuss the current unemployment crisis that the Obama administration is currently “failing” to “solve,” and 2) I couldn’t help thinking… what if the next crisis is that we run out of buyers willing to let us borrow money, and Obama doesn’t know how to respond to a crisis without throwing borrowed money at it!
Then Rahm actually had the gall to say (and I looked up the transcript to get it right), “The president never changed his views to suit the moment or the audience.” Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. I guess when you’re trying to contrast Obama with Romney’s serial flip-flopping, it’s easy to forget all the things Obama used to say about presidents authorizing military intervention without Congress, or about the need to protect whistleblowers, or about supporting medical marijuana, or about not allowing lobbyists in his administration, or even about raising the debt limit. It’s astonishing how many ways Obama the President looks like the President Bush that Obama the Senator criticized, especially regarding foreign policy and civil liberties. I suppose when Obama did change his views he was just “evolving” within himself, not for “the moment or the audience.” Yeah. OK. You can sell that for gay marriage; not so much for warrantless wiretapping and drone strikes on civilians.
Now see how much I wrote about just those few minutes of political speechmaking that I stumbled upon? I can’t imagine how much I would have to say if I tried to watch or listen to all of them, but I’m sure it would be way more than you would ever want to read…
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