To me, the most interesting thing about the Republican convention is the mainstream media coverage. They are absolutely confounded with this upbeat display of class.
Don't get me wrong, there are networks, such as Fox, outside the monolith, but for the most part, the major players are reacting in lockstep. It is revealing to witness it.
Remember their outrage at Pat Buchanan's culture war speech at the 1992 convention in Houston? When would Republicans ever learn, they wondered in unison, not to showcase their malevolence? When would they ever learn to put Newt and Tom DeLay in the closet and throw away the key -- or at least hide it until the election was over?
Well, here we are in the new millennium with a new candidate and a different kind of convention. Newt is commentating behind the scenes, and Tom DeLay is stuck in that closet with the House managers. So, are the media lauding the GOP for its transformation? You know better.
A typical example was Bernie Shaw's CNN interview with Ronald Reagan's daughter Maureen following the film tribute to her father and the other past GOP presidents. An incredulous Shaw, utterly appalled at the Republicans' audacity at pretending to be anything but ogres, asked Maureen in so many words, "All this is fine, but what about women's rights, abortion, gun control?" Translation: "I'll grant that your father's party is succeeding in looking nicer tonight, but until it renounces its positions on these major issues and others, it will still be the party of hate." Maureen just laughed in disbelief. "So, what's your question, Bernie?"
Columnist E. J. Dionne is having a similar reaction to the convention. He wrote, "If this convention of compassion and empathy reeks of saccharine, it's because Republicans are wagering that risking artificial sweetness beats meanness." Do you see the common theme here? Both Shaw and Dionne, along with all others imprisoned in the liberal groupthink monolith, believe that any sweetness and light among Republicans is calculated and a hoax.
Like everyone else, they tend to look at things through their own lenses. Since their candidates of choice (Democrats) so often arrange things for the sake of appearances, they assume that Republicans must be doing the same.
Generally, Democrats are not turned on by individual achievement among minorities, for example, but a cabinet that "looks like America." So, they assume that George Bush asked Gen. Powell and Dr. Rice to speak because he wanted to appear minority and women-friendly.
Though cynics will be unable to fathom this possibility, I do not believe Bush chose Powell and Rice because of their race. He picked Powell because of his qualifications, skills, stature and universal popularity. He selected Rice because of her qualifications, skills and expertise. Bush didn't scour the countryside for some token minorities to trot out -- these are seasoned advisers who worked with his father and have already proven their brilliance. If anyone is more qualified to assist Bush in foreign policy, I don't know who it would be.
What the media don't understand is that the tone of this Republican convention has not been choreographed to affect a change in the GOP's image. It is not the result of an organized effort to dispel any negative image the party may have among the elite.
The media are making the same mistake with Bush that they made with Ronald Reagan. They are greatly underestimating him. I hope they continue to do so.
This convention is all about George Bush. Bush, both directly and indirectly, has set the tone for Philadelphia. It is all about being positive and forward thinking, not so much because Bush is trying to change the face of the party, but because Bush himself is positive. This is not posturing; it's the real deal.
In the process, Bush is not eschewing conservatism and his Republican colleagues are not ducking substantive issues, or even partisanship, as has been alleged. You cannot have listened to Dr. Rice or Secretary Cheney without understanding their not-so-subtle indictment of the Clinton-Gore administration.
While the media and their Democratic brethren are obsessing about such things as the gender gap or the race gap, Republicans, without using the "I" word ("impeachment"), are demonstrating the character gap. In the final analysis, that's the only gap that's going to matter in November.