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Tonight, Tonight…won’t be just any night.

We are mere hours away from Governor Mitt Romney taking the stage at the Republican National Convention to, finally, accept their nomination for President of the United States.  Regardless of your political stripes, it is sure to be a memorable and exciting moment.  Think about it for a minute.  This is a man who has a dream of being President.  Worked hard, did well and, when his time came, poured himself into a campaign.  It was a divisive, ugly and combative primary that Romney emerged from.  Yet, tonight, there won’t be a revolution led by one of the losing candidates.  There won’t be accusations of cheating or threats of violence against those who supported him.  Rather, his party will, together, celebrate the primary season that was and listen to the new leader of the party.  It’s a special moment and I congratulate Romney on making it to this point.

Leading up to tonight, we had two packed days of convention activities that are worth reflecting on.  The blog is called sportypolitics, so let’s do this winner/loser style.

WINNERS:

  • Ann Romney

Ann Romney has been called her husband’s secret weapon on the trail and, on Tuesday night, she proved why.  Her primary job as a speaker was to humanize her husband and introduce the country to who he really is.   She did that swimmingly, but didn’t stop there.  Her speech was also an effective political one, in which she attacked the Obama Administration for their failures, but did it in such a way that built her husband up.   In addition, in a departure from many other speakers, she didn’t use lies to make her point – instead she grounded her ideas and key messages in facts and her own personal experiences.  The more we see her on the trail, the better it will be for her husband’s prospects in November.

  • Social Conservatives

From Rick Santorum getting a prime-time speaking slot, to the official party platform, social conservatives could not possibly be happier with what they got from the RNC this year.  It remains to be seen if these issues (abortion, gay marriage etc…) will play a large role in the election but, for now, it’s clear the power that this group has in the party.

  • The 2016 or 2020 Republican Candidates for President

I can’t remember a convention where so many of the speakers seemed, so clearly, to be setting themselves up for their own future run.  As weak a field as the Republicans had this time around, if Romney is unable to prevail, the 2016 field will be one of the strongest we have ever seen.  Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Susan Martinez and Pam Bondi all delivered stirring speeches that, at the very least, made themselves more well-known and will stoke talk of the next election.

  • Bobby Jindal

Had he been in Tampa he would, no doubt, have been included in the previous paragraph.  However, Hurricane Isaac’s assault on his state meant that he decided to skip the festivities and return home to deal with the storm.  Assuming all goes well with the clean-up and recovery, he’ll come off looking like a leader who put his state before his party – something people want in their leaders.  It’ll make him a very compelling candidate in 2016 or 2020 and, in fact, sets him apart from the other contenders.

LOSERS

  • Mitt Romney

Watching the speeches, one couldn’t help but wonder how excited the leaders in the party are about the Romney/Ryan ticket.  And how confident they are in a potential victory.  The convention keynote speaker, Chris Christie, took a full 16 minutes to mention Romney by name (in a 24 minute speech) and spent most of the time talking about himself.  To have that in your keynote speaker, doesn’t say good things about you.   Plus, one of Christie’s signature lines implied that people didn’t have to love Romney, they just have to respect him.   It’s often said that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line.  Rarely, however, do you hear that sentiment expressed so publicly and so obviously in a high-profile speech.

  • Party organizers

I’m not sure who had the idea of having Christie follow Ann Romney, but it didn’t work.  The fact that her speech was all about her love for her husband made Christie’s remarks about love not not being important seem callous and out-of-place.  At best it was a distraction and, at worst, it lessens the power of Ann Romney’s words.  Given that the Romney camp knew what Christie was going to say, spacing out the speeches would have made more sense.

  • The truth

Look, politicians have been lying, misleading, distorting and distracting since the beginning of time.  It’s nothing new and, sadly, it’s unlikely to change.  However, it’s been taken to a new low throughout this campaign and, the past two days, have taken us lower still.  Speeches by Senator John Thune, Governor Chris Christie and, especially, Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan have been notable for their misleading statements and downright lies.  But don’t take my word for it.  Fox News, in an opinion piece, called Paul Ryan’s speech “dazzling, deceiving and distracting” and commented that “The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.”

Among the many inaccuracies (and you can see a larger list in the Fox article) is around Medicare.  Ryan derided Obama for cutting more than $700b from Medicare as part of the Affordable Care Act and he said “A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.”  The fact is, however, that Ryan’s own budget assumes the EXACT SAME cost savings from Medicare and he spends that money elsewhere.  Finally, the reduction in funding actually, according to non-partisan experts, strengthened the program and, in fact, lowered the out-of-pocket payments that retirees had.   Why is it that even when they agree, they lie to create fake disagreements?

In addition, the theme of the first day of the convention was “We did build that,” a reference to President Obama’s statement about who should get credit for small business growth.  The accusation, repeated by speaker after speaker, is that, essentially, Obama doesn’t believe that innovators and entrepreneurs deserve credit for their success, because the Government did it for them.  Here, however, is the full quote they are attacking.

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Now, I will be the first to acknowledge that Obama could have phrased his statement more artfully.  But, if you actually read the full quote (and not the truncated, carefully edited versions we are seeing in campaign ads), you see a very different message from what the Republican Party wants to you see.   And, in fact, the speakers they are trotting out there to help make their point, are proving Obama right.  Take Steven Cohen, president of Ohio-based manufacturing company Screen Machine Industries, who spoke at the convention last night.  In his speech, Cohen told delegates that he did build his company – problem is, his company received over $200K in Government stimulus money on top of the $2M+ in Government contracts they have claimed.  I don’t fault them for being successful – I fault them for lying.

So, all-in-all, it’s been quite the couple of days.  Looking forward to tonight and to seeing Mitt Romney’s vision for the future.  Here’s hoping he decides to give us more than Obama bashing and generalities.  Here’s hoping the fact checkers can take the night off!

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An inspirational girl

Look, we know there is a lot of stupid in the world.  And, over the past few weeks, the stupid has really been coming out to play.  I was all set to do a post today about two such idiotic comments, but I’m not.  I’m not going to spend much time on Tom Smith or Rush Limbaugh.  Instead I want to tell you about Alice, a 16 year old girl who has been living with cancer for the past 4 years.

But before we get to Alice, let’s touch on two people who could learn a thing or two from her.

Tom Smith – Mr. Smith is a Republican running for the United States Senate in Pennsylvania.  In an interview with a local reporter he compared the difficulty a woman faces when she is raped to when she has a pregnancy out of wedlock.   He now claims he never intended to make that comparison, but it is clear to me from the transcript that it was a deliberate comparison.  The fact that Smith has now joined the rowing chorus of men (mostly) on the right trying to minimize rape and take decisions out of the hands of the victims is horrifying to me.

Rush Limbaugh – We’ve talked about Rush once or twice on here before.  In the category of “you can’t possibly believe what you are saying, Rush” comes this latest gem.   Essentially he believes (or claims to believe) that, somehow, President Obama manipulated the weather forecast to make it look like Hurricane Isaac was going to hit Tampa.  Then, once the Republicans canceled the first day of their convention, he redirected the forecast to what was actually going on.  It would be hilarious, if there aren’t so many people who are ready to believe anything this man says.  It’s dishonest and it’s shameful.

Now, on the flip side, let’s meet Alice Pyne.   Alice is 16 and has terminal cancer.  Last year, when faced with her prognosis, she made a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do and experience.  A couple of weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of total strangers and those in her community, she completed the last item on her list.   I hope you’ll all take the time to read through her blog.  As someone who lives with a chronic medical condition – Marfan Syndrome – I have so much appreciation for how she has chosen to live her life and approached her medical challenges.  I could write volumes on Alice an others like her – people who have taken a diagnosis as an opportunity to make a difference through their deeds. Alice has gotten thousands of people to give blood, join bone marrow registries and, I’ll bet, re-evaluate how they look at life.   I’ll admit to having tears in my eyes reading about Alice and I think we call learn something from this remarkable young woman.

So why did I include her in this post?  Alice didn’t start this blog for fame or to bring attention to herself.   She and her family weren’t thinking about personal gain or their own ambitions.  She started her blog as a way to chronicle her progress towards her bucket list.  Once it went viral, however, they could have used it to promote themselves the way Rush Limbaugh loves to do.  Instead, they used it to raise awareness about bone marrow registries and have, no doubt, saved many lives through their efforts.  Reading through it, it is refreshingly honest and genuine.  Alice demonstrates a remarkable ability to care for other people, even she battles her own cancer.  An ability to care that so many, like Tom Smith, don’t seem to have.

Finally, I read about Alice’s experiences, her doctor appointments and her health struggles and I can’t help but wonder.  What if Alice lived in America and was born to a poor family who didn’t have health insurance? What if she lived in America and her family had similar policies to what many middle-class families have today? What then?  Alice’s parents never had to worry about choosing between medical care for their daughter and paying their mortgage.  They never had to worry about being dropped from coverage because Alice is a fighter and isn’t going to give in easily to this disease.  Survival doesn’t bring financial stress, rather it breeds an opportunity for this girl to inspire millions with her attitude, perspectives and accomplishments.  Would that have happened here to a poor or middle-class family?  If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, like Governor Romney and Congressman Paul want, will it ever?