1. Observation #1: My first observation last night was about the look of the set, and there's one other thing I've been wanting to say about the set, so I'll begin with this. Look at that humble wooden lectern! What is that all about? It's like a pulpit in a Protestant church that puts great stock in avoiding ornamentation. I can't remember what the Democratic Convention lectern/pulpit looked like--I tried to find a picture--but I think it was extravagant and florid and flag-oriented. The Republican lectern is aggressively plain, perhaps to avoid upstaging the speaker or perhaps to avoid upstaging the dramatic video screen behind the speaker. Maybe they considered using one of those almost-invisible plexiglass lecterns used in Hollywood awards shows, then rejected that as too reminiscent of Hollywood awards shows, and plain, plain wood was the fallback alternative. [ADDED: Here are some shots of the Democrat's lectern.][ADDED 9/4: I finally got a good look at a photograph of the Democrat's lectern. It has a large medallion right under the speaker's microphone that says "America 2004" on top and "A Stronger America" at the bottom. In the center is is a waving American flag, and there are little stars circling the whole arrangement.]
2. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson introduces the singer of the national anthem, Gracie Rosenberger, and my initial reaction is: what is this saccharine, sentimental, mawkish glop? But twenty seconds into it, tears are rolling down my cheeks. Damn! Stop that! The undulating flag on the giant video and the C-Span closeups of guys in VFW hats complete the effect.
3. A Christian minister does the invocation tonight and doesn't stop at just praying in Jesus' name (which I can understand might be necessary for some ministers in order to make the words a prayer), he goes on at some length about the crucifixion and the need to believe in Christ. Afterwards the colors are retired, and on the big screen we see the Statue of Liberty, with the words "Live--Statue of Liberty." Chris says, "Why do we need live footage of the Statue of Liberty? It's not going to do anything."
4. Princella Smith, a young black woman, winner of an MTV essay contest, talks about rejecting the label Generation X, which seems to have a lot to do with inspiration provided by George W. Bush. She posits "Generation EXample." Immediately afterwards (unlike any of the other speakers), Smith is interviewed backstage. The interview is projected onto the big screen for the whole hall to see. Smith effuses about her wonderful experience, and in there amongst the effusion is the stray line "I certainly didn't think I'd be twenty years old." She's informed she gave "a fabulous speech."
5. Roll call. The TiVo fastforward function is employed to good effect.
6. Uh! Wisconsin! Stop! The official icon of Wisconsin: a cow. The chairman of the Wisconsin party invokes the names of the "beloved" former Governor, Tommy Thompson, the Badgers (yay, Badgers), and the Green Bay Packers. Wisconsin is the pioneer of school choice and welfare reform, he tells us. Forty votes cast for George W. Bush.
7. Elizabeth Dole offers up a stilted peroration: "blue skies of freedom ... we believe in life ... marriage is important ... between a man and a woman ... those not yet born ... Republicans will defend ... the treasured life of faith ... two thousand years ago ... I have the freedom to call that man Lord, and I do ... activist judges ... freedom of religion, not freedom from religion ... values ... virtues ... truths ... the shared truths of the American people ... " As the speech progresses, she warms up, not like Giuliani last night, of course, but she essentially fills her role of expressing the night's "compassion" theme in terms that are particularly appealing to the social conservative sector of the party that is not to be heard in prime time this evening.
8. George P. Bush: wooden ... something about immigrants and entrepreneurs. He's cute though. Then, "God Bless America," sung by Dana Glover. She's okay, like someone who'd be voted off "American Idol." She's pretty and quite dolled up. Next, Miss America. What is this? The good-looking-people section of the show? The screen banner says "People of Compassion." It's horribly dull. Yes, yes, good people are good. And pretty people are pretty. My TiVo has caught up with the live feed and I can't fast forward. Aaaah! [ADDED: An emailer quips: "What you need is one of those hi-tech TiVos like Lewis Lapham's. "]
9. Dr. Frist: he's tedious and ignored by the convention crowd until suddenly he says the phrase "trial lawyer" and the audience erupts. The name John Edwards comes up. Now he's airing the stem cell research issue. This section of the convention is terribly slow. Oh, good lord, they're bringing out Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the nonentity component of "The View." She's talking about breast cancer. What does this have to do with Republicans? Health care policy is important, but she's not talking about that. She's doing a public service announcement: do self-examinations, get check-ups. I don't get it. Is it just the idea that Bush cares? Because they assert he cares? Compassion night is not proceeding along the confident arc that security night (last night) swept us along.
10. Finally, Schwarzenegger. He starts off with some bad jokes, then the story of immigrating. Amazingly, he praises Nixon. How strange! He heard Humphrey and Nixon debate in 1968 and decided right then, what that man is, I am. Startling! Best press for Nixon in decades. Like Giuliani last night, he stresses that you don't need to agree with all of the party's positions. Giuliani emphasized supporting Bush, despite some disagreement. Schwarzenegger stresses supporting the Republican Party. The core of the party, as portrayed by Schwarzenegger is none of the things Elizabeth Dole spoke about a while ago.
"If you believe that this nation and not the United Nations is the best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican. And ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican. Now, there's another way you can tell you're Republican: your faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people, and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don't be economic girlie men!"
11. Jenna and Barbara Bush: They have nice comic delivery. They are fun and self-effacing. They razz their parents. "We had a hamster too. Let's just say, ours didn't make it." They introduce their dad, on the big screen, and he introduces his wife. Laura walks out to the tune of "Isn't She Lovely."
12. The actual speech given by Laura Bush? She seems sweet and pleasant, but there was no content that struck me in particular. She loves her husband.