1. I was a total sucker for the film about the Bush twins. Showing the home movies is a little exploitative, but they are so damn cute! I like that one of things they love about their dad is that he didn't come around to politics until fairly late in life. That is usually held against him--proof he's a lightweight. But I like the other side of the argument: the best person to trust with power is someone whose psychological makeup does not contain a needy urge toward power. Kerry, of course, is usually portrayed in a positive light for rising into the limelight of leadership early in life, but obviously there is a negative way to portray that history.
2. After all the bad music, they have a really great singer doing "Dancing in the Streets," but the camera can only show her from a distance. She's standing down with the band and is not identified.
3. Seeing the arrival of President Bush's motorcade, I stop and think how good it has been that both conventions (and the Olympics) took place without a terrorist attack.
4. Now Donnie McClure is singing, along with a bunch of really cute kids. He's great!
5. Pataki gives a decent speech. Somebody seems to have coached him in how to use that passionate whipering effect like a cornball actor. Did he say "With supreme guts and rightness"? That's a rather awkward turn of phrase.
6. The short film. The in-person narration--by the sublimely resonant and folksy-sounding voice of Fred Thompson--is very effective. The framework of the film is a series of vignettes about Bush and another man : Bush and the firefighter (he put his arm around him as he did the megaphone speech); Bush and the dead police officer whose badge was given him (and whose mother remains Bush's friend), Bush's invitation of a man who'd lost his leg in the war (the two "ran the track three times, three laps on the White House lawn, and then they just hung out for a while"); Bush and Derek Jeter (Jeter goads him into pitching from the mound, and Bush took up the challenge, not mentioning that he was wearing a heavy bulletproof vest and could "hardly move his arms"). These vignettes convey the message that Bush is a man that admirable, manly men relate to in a very natural way. Bush comes across as modest, compassionate, and manly.
7. After the film two flag panels move across the stage from opposite sides, and after they overlap and pass by each other, Bush is there standing in the center. It looked like a magic trick. Kind of comical.
8. The speech itself is quite good. He is forceful and clear and with almost no flubs--and no embarrassingly funny flubs. Nothing makes me laugh out loud, like Kerry's "senators and menators." That still makes me laugh.
Bush has lots of specific details, making it seem as though he has a well-thought-out plan. Biggest applause line (it seemed to me): "We must make a place for the unborn child." A couple complaints about too many lawsuits. The amendment banning gay marriage is characterized as protecting marriage "from activist judges."
A woman protester is dragged out kicking--we see Bush's face: he winks. I love that calm, subtle confidence, like the time during the debate with Gore, when Gore was weirdly invading his space and he turned to Gore and gave a little friendly-style nod.
His main theme, woven through the domestic and foreign policy: freedom. "Free" or "freedom" appears 23 times in the speech. [And "liberty" appears 11 times.]
I liked this line:
So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear. We will help new leaders to train their armies, and move toward elections, and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.
That contains a subtle slap at Kerry, who is attacked for playing a leading role in depriving Vietnam vets of honor when they returned home. I cannot help but think of the Swift Boat Vets criticisms of Kerry, though Bush says nothing against Kerry's war record. The implication seems plain: if Kerry is President, somehow he will arrange things so that Iraq war vets will come home, after all of that effort, and be seen as the bad guys. Bush never says anything like that. But enough was said to make me think that, and I don't believe I'm alone. This passage, somewhat later, made a similar impression:
I've met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers and to offer encouragement to me.
Where does that strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost.
Funniest line: "Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called 'walking.'"
9. Minimal balloonage. I think the idea was let's not show off that we can do balloons so much better than they can. Confetti! Upward shooting streamers: the crowd loves them. Bush pays a lot of attention to how Laura feels, I think. It's a big moment, and they all know they really only have to make this look right, and maybe pretending to care about whether she feels okay is part of making it look right, and maybe I'm a chump, but I think he really cares.