Country, and Republicans, First

It was Day 2 of the Republican National Convention and The Rake
was seated proudly in the "minor local media" section. With CityPages at
our side, God as our witness and no actual view of the stage, the event was underway. It was quickly apparent that, in solidarity with the folks
displaced by Hurricane Gustav, the Republicans had blown their announced agenda
to hell and back, with only two of the originally planned speakers on tap for
the night. The abbreviated convention also blew a sucking chest wound in the
plans to highlight a different theme each night – forcing the party planners to
focus instead on the Convention’s overall theme of "Country First." They
proceeded to offer up that happily vague phrase, and variations thereof, ad

Starting off the night to set the "Country First" tone was John Boehner’s speech on the Great
Satan that is the Democratic party, conveniently neglecting to mention that the
pluperfect singularity of economic, diplomatic and social upheaval facing the
country was engendered just as much by Republican as it was Democrat. Of
course, much like at last week’s DNC, the delegations thoroughly enjoyed any
and all mocking of the opposition, offering raucous applause and never once
wishing they could hear a proper
taunting as only the French can provide

After Boehner’s speech, the epic notes of "Don’t Stop Believin’" by
glam rock legends Journey filled the dead air and, as McCain’s theme song, was
likely intended to fire up delegates and remind them that a year ago their
presidential nominee’s campaign was dead in the water and beaten by Giuliani in
the polls like a bad bad donkey. But judging by the choked off laughter, the
assembled media took it as a reminder to the delegation to keep on drinking the

Further compounding attempts to take the proceedings
seriously was a short montage that truly set the tone for a night consisting of
speeches by the Democrat who wasn’t, Joe Lieberman, and the only Minnesotan to ever
hump the leg of a commander-in-chief
– Michelle Bachmann. Perhaps history
will someday regard the ill-considered words announced with gravitas against
the backdrop of a stylized Constitution as something other than a phrase taking
us to a horrific place – "You can’t really see your country. You can’t really
touch your country. But you can love it." However, it’s all too likely the
robots will have assumed primacy by then, consigning us to the dark corners of
the earth, too busy scraping for sustenance to remember the disturbing imagery
called forth by a gathering of the old world order. And besides, there are far
too many places in the country that would likely require a visit to Planned
Parenthood for testing if one was touched by them.

Sen. Norm Coleman, former mayor of St. Paul, was prevented from making his
"really good speech" on Monday and took the opportunity to welcome the
delegates to Pig’s Eye, confusing the hell out of the octogenarian attendees.
He went on to give a treatise on St. Paul’s history, discussing how
conservative values built the Xcel center, but stopping just short of launching
into a heartfelt rendition of Starship’s, "We Built This City".
Coleman is, of course, in a rather heated battle for one of Minnesota’s Senate seats, so grandstanding
is to be expected. He also was the first of a long parade of speakers to wax
rhapsodic about the many sterling qualities of John McCain, culminating in a
story about Thomas Jefferson’s face and a vagrant on the banks of a river.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t actually a euphemism for oral sex, but rather a long winded and folksy way of saying McCain would face any challenge put in front of him.

Unfortunately, the "positive spirit of Pig’s Eye" only
extended to those blessed with the wisdom to join the Republican party. When
speakers weren’t praying or touting the many wonders of the McCain and Palin
story, they were blaming the opposition for everything from the national
deficit to Lindsay Lohan’s recent forays into girl on girl action and punditry.
Though given how much sense she makes in her political commentary, maybe Ms.
Lohan is on to something.

Throughout the rest of the night, speakers took every
opportunity to point out how John McCain has put country first. That
conservative values are the only possible way forward for this country. That,
by the way, John McCain was once a resident at the Hanoi Hilton, and that it’s
okay for conservatives to love him now that he’s the only option for a Republican
president. Michelle Bachmann, the insane light of zealotry burning brightly in
her eyes and clad in a dress that could only be described as Cadbury Mini-Egg
yellow, delivered her speech as if she thought she was addressing a romper room
audience. She devoted most of her time on stage to serving as a GOP attack dog,
telling the arena that good Christian values will guide the country, not the
government. Sadly, any good points she
may have made on the importance of avoiding a nanny-state paled in comparison
to her painful pleas for delegates to come back and visit. "Because we’re nice.
Really nice. Fucking. Unbelievably. Nice. We’re nice, goddamnit! Why won’t you
love me?"

Tellingly, none of the MN delegates would discuss their
feelings about Rep. Bachmann when asked.

From then until the keynote speakers for the night – President
George Bush, Sen. Fred Thompson and Sen. Joe Lieberman – were ready to go, a
parade of heart wrenching tales and presidential retrospectives rained forth
from the sound system. The obligatory deification of Ronald Reagan, tales of
Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, a crass attempt at co-opting the story of
a Navy SEAL who threw himself on a grenade to save the rest of his team in Iraq
and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor – these were the most offensive
moments of the night. Country First may be the theme of the convention, but
when politics trump the country’s history and American heroes are used to
strengthen a political agenda, it’s obvious the country isn’t foremost in
anyone’s thoughts.

Oh, and by the way, has anyone ever told you that John
McCain was a POW?

Following these crass examples of political opportunism, our
fearless leader made an appearance via satellite, emphasizing the disagreements
he’s had through the years with John McCain, conveniently neglecting to mention
the smear campaign in 2000 that left the esteemed maverick senator from Arizona feeling like so
much roadkill. Roadkill with an illegitimate
black baby

Fred Thompson was up next, his experience as an actor
shining through as he flowed easily from jowl-shaking recrimination against
liberals and their media lapdogs to holding Sen. McCain aloft on a pedestal and
thanking him for not only serving his country, but also for forgiving the sins
of man, starring in a Tony-award winning Broadway musical that convinced
homosexuals that they didn’t have the right to marry after all, and was the man
who gave the reverse
to the world. The
former New York prosecutor
owned that crowd. Not only were his words treated
as if they were carved in stone and handed down by Moses, but whispers of "He’s
not so cute, but I’d totally do him" drifted down like so much J.Lo-branded
perfume from the assembled group of MILFs and Stepford Wives in the gallery
behind the press stand.

Which made it all the more sad that Sen. Joe Lieberman had
to follow that act. Not only did it seem as if the Xcel Center had suddenly
been transported into an alternate dimension in which Lieberman wasn’t the VP
nominee for one of the Republican party’s
ultimate evils
back in 2000, the senator from CT has never displayed a
knack for oratory, and being the only Democrat on the speaking agenda brought
him nothing but wary stares and baffled looks as he proceeded to name check
Clinton and not curse Obama’s name to the heavens while lavishing praise upon
his good friend John McCain. Sen. McCain certainly wouldn’t think of providing Sen. Lieberman with
a cabinet position, thus providing a method to his madness, right?

And throughout the show, while speaker after speaker
thundered and railed against "the angry left" and positioned the GOP ticket as
the second coming of Buddha, Christ, and P.T. Barnum in one neat little package
with a moose-hunting cherry on top, they failed to note one interesting fact –
they somehow managed to take the Xcel Energy Center, a nearly brand new arena
with some of the best acoustics in the nation, and make it sound stunningly
crappy. If that’s not an intriguing metaphor for the events of the last eight
years, I’m not sure what is.






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