Editor's note: Who wants to watch the Republican National Convention? Not us. Luckily, Jacob Lambert -- the creator of The Philadelphia Turkey and author of PW's recent Craig LaBan noir mystery -- is doing the watching for us. He'll be posting throughout the week, so check back. Part One can be found here.
Do you know what the Republican Party loves? Judging by the first half of last night's GOP hugfest, they love dancing stiffly to AC/DC. They love orphans with cleft palates. They love trying to erase the shame of Katrina with overeager solicitude towards Monday's, um, tropical depression. But above all, they love grinding bold-sounding words into formless palaver. Last night's unlucky noun was "Service" -- and whether it was being mindlessly waved on placards or mouthed onstage by terrifying mannequins, it was ubiquitous enough to melt the brain of even the most Gipper-happy Reagan Democrat.
In those first hours, there were plenty of lighthearted ironies -- the firewoman and farm advocate who lamented calamities (the Minneapolis bridge collapse and the struggles of family farms, respectively) nudged along by Republican policies; the invocations of Lincoln and Roosevelt, who would surely be horrified by the current shape of their party. But beginning with the dazed, Tasered rictus of Laura Bush, the Hooray For Everything vibe gave way to the more tiring, familiar themes: McCain's staggering bravery, Obama's sad unworthiness, and--who'da thunk'd it--"September 11, 2001."
That date came courtesy, naturally, of President Bush, who appeared via Jumbotron for a grinning, lipless pep talk, praising McCain as if the 2000 South Carolina kneecapping had never happened. Predictably, not wanting the man's stench to waft too deeply into the arena, Bush was gone in minutes, no doubt off to "monitor hurricane relief," or at least squeeze in a game of Mickey Mousecapade before bedtime.
While appearing to have a ham hock lodged in his throat, Fred Thompson followed, delivering an interminable speech in which he excoriated Democrats with a gusto unseen since his stirring turn in Aces: Iron Eagle III. Did you know that, despite all empirical evidence, John McCain is sum' kinda maverick? If you didn't, ol' Fred was there to drill it relentlessly into your head: like R. Lee Ermey, but slower and lumpier.
Last up was rapscallion Democrat Joe Lieberman, whose jowly resemblance to David Spade couldn't obscure the baffling nature of his message: vote for McCain, because "party shouldn't matter" -- as if the opposing philosophies of each side were rendered moot by John McCain's supposed independence. It's a heartening prospect, to be sure -- or would be if McCain could keep himself from pandering, misleading, and doubling back on the very stances that formed that gauze-thin straight-talkin' image in the first place. Sorry, Joey, but whatever your motivation, you're wrong on this one. But you were kind of funny on Just Shoot Me!