By Steven Wishnia
Like a septic-tank explosion, the Republican National Convention had to be seen to be believed.
These people are not just mad corporate-imperial cowboys and religious fanatics obsessed with policing other people’s sex lives. In hours of prime-time TV, they offered scarcely a single idea or policy to the American people. Instead they endlessly repeated the story of John McCain’s imprisonment by the Vietnamese and slung junior-high-school insults at the Democrats. Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin — her pregnant teenage daughter and shotgun-affianced son-in-law-to-be kept safely offscreen — spoke for half an hour before she mentioned a single actual issue.
In their world, it’s unpatriotic to say the country’s in a recession. There’s no such thing as global warming. We’re winning the Iraq war. And you call someone a “community organizer” in the same sneering tones a sexually insecure seventh-grade boy would use to say “interior decorator.”
The only problems the country has are terrorism and high gas prices, which can be easily cured with military force and drilling. Delegates chanted “Drill, baby, drill.” One group raised a “BUILD THE FENCE” banner. And the largest cheers came when speakers insulted Barack Obama or praised McCain’s opposition to abortion.
No one praised the Bush administration. Nero may have played the lyre while Rome burned, but he did more to feed and house Romans left homeless by the great fire of 64 than George W. Bush did for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And Nero also rebuilt Rome with wider streets and more fireproof houses-even though he commandeered a huge chunk of downtown for his personal estate.
The level of chutzpah was amazing. Prattle about “freedom” when SWAT teams were raiding protest organizers’ houses and riot cops dressed like teenage mutant Nazi turtles were rounding up demonstrators in the streets. Arguing that it’s elitist and insulting to mayors and small towns to suggest that Sarah Palin’s tenure as executive of a city of less than 10,000 people that doesn’t run its public schools and contracts out its garbage collection may not exactly be adequate experience for the vice-presidency. Endless rants about “special interests” and how “Washington is broken,” as if the GOP hadn’t controlled Washington for most of the last three decades and didn’t run government primarily for the benefit of the rich. Double-speak about how we need a government that’s not Republican or Democratic, just American … followed by denunciations of the Democrats as traitors.
Perhaps the high point came when Rudy Giuliani fumed that it was sexist to question whether Palin could find time to take care of her five children as Vice President. This from someone who alienated his own kids by ditching their mother and flaunting his mistress—though as right-wing politicians go, at least he wasn’t as bad a father as John Schmitz. (Schmitz, a Congressman and state legislator from L.A.’s lunatic-fringe suburbs, ran for President on a racist third-party ticket in 1972 and once put out a press release titled “Senator Schmitz and His Committee Survive Attack of the Bulldykes.” His political career crashed in the early 1980s after his mistress brought their baby son to the emergency room with hair tied around his penis so tightly that it was almost severed. One of his daughters was the Seattle teacher jailed in the ’90s for having sex with a 12-year-old boy, and one of his sons now works for Blackwater.)
The New York Times reported that the delegates were 93 percent white. The actual number was probably more like 99.3 percent. One had to look long and hard at the TV images to see anyone black, Asian, or Latino.
Oh yeah, and from the Vietnamese point of view, John McCain was a state-sponsored terrorist.