Awesome first lady
The pace of the United States elections quickened appreciably within the last two weeks, with the Republican convention in Tampa endorsing Romney/Ryan and the Democratic Charlotte convention Obama/Biden.
For anyone with an interest in politics, as the campaign moves into its most frenetic stage and with the blanket television coverage provided, one can compare both the quality of the respective campaigns and what is being offered by the frontline personalities.
During the Republican Convention two supporting acts, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, stole the spotlight. With both projected to be leading players in the race for the 2016 nomination, everything they said was subjected to intense scrutiny.
The rotund Christie only mentioned Romney after speaking for some 12 minutes, confirming the fact that his priority is 2016. Rookie Senator Rubio, a Cuban American with film star looks, is being banked upon to attract the Hispanic vote. Their popularity with the Grand Ole Party was cemented by their Tampa performances.
Two controversial occurrences severely disfigured their week. One was the introduction by Todd Akin, Republican Senate candidate from Missouri who introduced the new concept of “legitimate rape”. He extrapolated from that, that raw physical violence in the brutal process induces some special secretion to prevent pregnancy.
Shocked by this exercise in what seemed unscientific nonsense, a little research revealed that he was saying rather inelegantly what his Republican Party actually subscribes to. This extremism was particularly unfortunate in that it shifted the emphasis to a social issue, when Romney wanted the main spotlight to be on economic issues.
Akin’s misspeak was surpassed by a “secret guest” appearance on the stage at TV prime time by decorated Hollywood heavyweight Clint Eastwood. In a new dimension to insulting the first African American president, he had an empty chair placed on stage next to him which he addressed a number of times.
This senseless act was not known to the Republican head honchos. Yet to this day no party official has apologized to President Obama or the Democratic Party. I cannot discern how either this or Akin’s folly can influence people and win votes on November 6. All of that grandstanding while not once mentioning the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The platform performances at the Democratic Convention have been at a far higher level. I saw a sure future star in Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. His speech was brilliantly put together and delivered, enhanced by the fact that Mitt Romney was once governor of that state. He spoke eloquently with confidence and authority.
Another young star who shone brightly was San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julian Castro. The Hispanic vote will be critical in the election and his performance would have done the Democratic Party a lot of good.
It was passionate, rooted in his family history and reinforced the fact that the polyethnic make-up of the republic is a significant national strength.
And then there was former President Bill Clinton who systematically unmasked the Republicans’ phony messages. Blessed with the gift of the gab and an avuncular personality, he took the nation to school, building up Obama and showing up the numerous flaws in the Republicans’ economic and social policies. He was outstanding in burying their proliferation of misinformation.
Recalling the rocky relationship between Team Obama and Team Clinton in the run-up to the 2008 election and the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State where she has distinguished herself, it shows that forgiveness and burying the hatchet are critical to successfully moving a political party forward.
But the biggest buzz was created by First Lady Michelle Obama. In the words of former Republican chairman Michael Steele, her speech was simply the best ever. Never shy to remind her audience of Barack and her own journey from Chicago’s lower middle class to the White House, she spoke with cool confidence as a spouse of what motivates the president and why he should get another term.
Her speech demonstrated the value of a good education and the loving care of a close family of which she is proudly “mum in chief”. Charming and well articulated, she stressed that Barack knew the American dream because he had lived it. She made the point which would have resonated with many that time was when they were “so much in love, and so much in debt”.
Stressing the strong relationship between the president and his nuclear family, she made the invaluable point that “being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are”. She then painted a picture of a leader deeply concerned about the plight of his people and committed to doing everything necessary to alleviate it.
Her speech made it clear why she has been voted the most popular personality in this election. She was not simply great, she was awesome.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat. Email [email protected]