Once the first night of the 2012 Republican National Convention was canceled, the large majority of the speakers I looked forward to landed on Tuesday night, Night #1. As I recapped the speeches of Mia Love, Ted Cruz, Artur Davis, Ann Romney, and Chris Christie in my RNC Night 1 Recap, I realized there were only a handful of speeches left that I was looking forward to. Night 1 was all about the GOP’s rising stars, young political leaders around our country who are the Republican Party of tomorrow. Statesmen and stateswomen of all colors and creeds. Night 1 was about the future of our party.
Night 2 brought us a lot of reflection from past standard-bearers and leaders in our party. But the night belonged to the two people that created the most buzz as potential Vice-Presidential picks.
For most of the night, there were a few highlights here and there. Sen. John McCain did the John McCain thing, straight-talking and hitting the Obama Administration on their foreign policy vision, even if many of the results have been commendable. It came as no surprise that McCain’s legacy as an American hero, veteran, and Republican foreign affairs spokesman that he would cast the GOP vision for a strong America leading the world.
There was the excellent tribute to Ron Paul and his legacy in Congress, America, and the Republican Party.
His son, Senator Rand Paul, followed with a rousing speech appealing to the libertarian, Tea Party-wing of the party.
The next several hours had speeches from other leading surrogates for the Romney campaign and former Presidential candidates. Many of them were on the list as possible Romney Vice-Presidents at one point or another.
Sen. Rob Portman from Ohio. Gov. Tim Pawlenty brought the folksy, hard-hitting, stand-up comedy schtick. Gov. Mike Huckabee brought the southern charm meets hard-hitting truth bombs from a former southern baptist preacher to the convention.
All of these speeches were fine. They had their place. But none of them moved the needle. Sure, I got choked up hearing Barbara Bush and George W. Bush discuss the legacy of George H.W. Bush. History will be kind to Bush 41 and I’ll think he’ll go down in history as one of the best Presidents of the 20th century, a type of statesmen we need more of.
But tonight needed to be about some people who would serve in a Romney Administration, in the highest levels of government, helping to solve the biggest problems facing our nation and the world today. And the final two speeches of the night delivered even more than everyone’s highest expectations imagined. In case you missed it, here’s everything you need to know. But, if I’m honest with you, if you want to see two of the best political speeches in a long, long time, you should watch Condoleezza Rice and Paul Ryan’s speeches in full. Until you can, though, let me break them down for you. Here’s the highlights…
1) Condoleezza Rice – former President of Stanford, National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, and first woman to become a member of Augusta National Golf Club
Condi has popped up on the political radar a few times over the past several months. First, there was the rumors that she gave the most stirring and passionate remarks at a top-tier Romney fundraiser held at Cheney’s ranch in Wyoming. Then, there was the Drudge Report buzz that she might be Romney’s VP. I think she showed tonight in primetime that she would hold a high place in a Romney-Ryan administration (perhaps enough of a reason to vote for them!) and why so many people loved the idea of her as Vice-President or holding some other elected office. To me, Condi’s speech was the best one of the convention – because of what she said, because of who she is, and because of how she said it. I’ve been lucky enough to hear Secretary Rice speak live… and she is just as jaw-droppingly captivating. She’s a scratch golfer. She’s served in the highest realms of government. She’s brilliant. She can’t be put into an ideological box. Her story is America’s story. Watch the entire speech. Do yourself a favor.
Top Quotes (and yes, it’s over half the speech, but her speech was that freakin’ good!):
– “And we have seen — we have seen that the desire for liberty and freedom is, indeed, universal, as men and women in the Middle East rise up to seize it. Yet, the promise of the Arab spring is engulfed in uncertainty, internal strife, and hostile neighbors our challenging the young, fragile democracy of Iraq. Dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their people and threat to regional security. Russia and China prevent a response, and everyone asks, where does America stand?”
– “Indeed — indeed, that is the question of the hour. Where does America stand? You see when the friends or foes alike don’t know the answer to that question, unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place. Since World War II, the United States has had an answer to that question. We stand for free peoples and free markets. We will defend and support them. We will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.”
– “Now, to be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy. I know, as you do, the sacrifice of Americans, especially the sacrifice of many of our bravest in the ultimate sacrifice, but our armed forces are the surest shield and foundation of liberty, and we are so fortunate that we have men and women in uniform who volunteer, they volunteer to defend us at the front lines of freedom, and we owe them our eternal gratitude.”
– “It has been hard to muster the resources to support fledgling democracies and to intervene on behalf of the most desperate. The AIDS orphans in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia. It has been hard, yet this assistance together with the compassionate work of private charities, people of conscience and people of faith, has shown the soul of our country. And I know too — I know too there is a wariness. I know that it feels as if we have carried these burdens long enough. But we can only know that there is no choice, because one of two things will happen if we don’t lead. Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values.”
– “Our military capability and our technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney’s hands. We must work for an open, global economy, and pursue free and fair trade, to grow our exports and our influence abroad. If you are worried about the rise of China, just consider this — the United States has negotiated — the United States has ratified only three trade agreements in the last few years, and those were negotiated in the Bush administration. China has signed 15 free trade agreements and is in the progress of negotiating as many as 18 more. Sadly, we are abandoning the field of free and fair trade and it will come back to haunt us.”
– “When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means. They see an American government that continues to borrow money, that will mortgage the future of generations to come. The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny. That is not the America that has inspired people to follow our lead.“
– “After all, when the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful economic and political experiment in human history. That is the true basis of American exceptionalism. You see, the essence of America, what really unites us, is not nationality or ethnicity or religion. It is an idea. And what an idea it is. That you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things, that it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going.“
– “My fellow Americans, ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement. We have never believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. We have never been jealous of one another and never envious of each others’ successes.”
– “We must continue to welcome the world’s most ambitious people to be a part of us. In that way, we stay young and optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.“
– “We have been successful too because Americans have known that one’s status of birth is not a permanent condition. Americans have believed that you might not be able to control your circumstances but you can control your response to your circumstances.”
– “And your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, today, when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you’re going to get a good education, can I honestly say it does not matter where you came from, it matters where you are going? The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are. […] And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights issue of our day.“
– “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild us at home. And they will help us lead abroad. They will provide an answer to the question, “where does America stand?” The challenge is real and the times are hard. But America has met and overcome hard challenges before.”
– “And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham. The segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants, but they have convinced that even if she cannot have it hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.“
– “Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seemed inevitable in retrospect, but we know it was never inevitable. It took leadership. And it took courage. And it’s a belief that our values. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have the integrity and the experience and the vision to lead us. They know who we are. They know who we want to be. They know who we are in the world and what we offer. That is why — that is why this is a moment and an election of consequence. Because it just has to be that the freest most compassionate country on the face of the earth will continue to be the most powerful and the beacon for prosperity and the party across the world.“
2) Paul Ryan – Congressman from Wisconsin, chair of the House Budget Committee, 2012 GOP Nominee for Vice-President
My general thoughts on Paul Ryan as an American, politician, and Vice-Presidential running mate are summed up quite well in this article I wrote. As you can read there, I’m extremely supportive, ecstatic, and hopeful about what Paul Ryan’s presence on the ticket brings to this election season and to the direction of the Republican Party in general.
With the polls evening up, the Democrats and their supporters have brought the usual attacks against Paul Ryan – claiming his policies are racist, discriminatory towards the poor and elderly, and calling him a heartless Ayn Randian. Not only are all of these things lies, but they work with a good number of people. The right has successfully stayed the course and fought these attacks. But, in his speech introducing himself to America, Paul Ryan needed to lay out a clear, principled case for why the Romney-Ryan approach is what’s best for ALL Americans in the long-term. He needed to lay out his personal journey that has shaped his policies that are actually better for each and every American. He needed to fight the lies coming from the other side and replace them, not with similarly-skewed attacks on them, but with the real solutions to America’s hardest problems that NO ONE ELSE in Washington is thinking about as seriously as him.
I think he succeeded in all of the above. But I’m partial… watch and read below, and decide for yourself.
– “Our nominee is sure ready. His whole life has prepared him for this moment – to meet serious challenges in a serious way, without excuses and idle words. After four years of getting the run-around, America needs a turnaround, and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney.”
– “I’m the newcomer to the campaign, so let me share a first impression. I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power. They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”
– “Right now, 23 million men and women are struggling to find work. Twenty-three million people, unemployed or underemployed. Nearly one in six Americans is living in poverty. Millions of young Americans have graduated from college during the Obama presidency, ready to use their gifts and get moving in life. Half of them can’t find the work they studied for, or any work at all. So here’s the question: Without a change in leadership, why would the next four years be any different from the last four years?”
– “Maybe the greatest waste of all was time. Here we were, faced with a massive job crisis – so deep that if everyone out of work stood in single file, that unemployment line would stretch the length of the entire American continent. You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business. But this president didn’t do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care.”
– “Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours. So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the Left isn’t going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation needs this debate. We want this debate. We will win this debate.”
– “It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.”
– “President Obama was asked not long ago to reflect on any mistakes he might have made. He said, well, “I haven’t communicated enough.” He said his job is to “tell a story to the American people” – as if that’s the whole problem here? He needs to talk more, and we need to be better listeners? Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What’s missing is leadership in the White House. And the story that Barack Obama does tell, forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old. The man assumed office almost four years ago – isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?”
– “They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money we don’t have. My Dad used to say to me: “Son. You have a choice: You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution.” The present administration has made its choices. And Mitt Romney and I have made ours: Before the math and the momentum overwhelm us all, we are going to solve this nation’s economic problems. And I’m going to level with you: We don’t have that much time. But if we are serious, and smart, and we lead, we can do this.”
– “Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere. A lot of heart goes into each one. And if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place. Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them.”
– “In a clean break from the Obama years, and frankly from the years before this president, we will keep federal spending at 20 percent of GDP, or less. That is enough. The choice is whether to put hard limits on economic growth, or hard limits on the size of government, and we choose to limit government.”
– “President Obama is the kind of politician who puts promises on the record, and then calls that the record. But we are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy as Barack Obama inherited it, not the economy as he envisions it, but this economy as we are living it.”
– “College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life. Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.”
– “When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.”
– “Mitt has not only succeeded, but succeeded where others could not. He turned around the Olympics at a time when a great institution was collapsing under the weight of bad management, overspending, and corruption – sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”
– “Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life. We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.“
– “The right that makes all the difference now, is the right to choose our own leaders. And you are entitled to the clearest possible choice, because the time for choosing is drawing near. So here is our pledge. We will not duck the tough issues, we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles. The work ahead will be hard. These times demand the best of us – all of us, but we can do this. Together, we can do this. We can get this country working again. We can get this economy growing again. We can make the safety net safe again. We can do this. Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country. Join Mitt Romney and me. Let’s give this effort everything we have. Let’s see this through all the way. Let’s get this done.“
Tune in tonight for Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance speech. It’s a big night. I’ll be watching tape-delayed tonight and tomorrow… because tonight, football returns to America… right here in Nashville, TN as my Commodores take on the evil Gamecocks! Go Dores! Go Romney! Go America!