TAMPA, Fla. — It’s a rite of every national convention: convincing the party die-hards in attendance and the supporters at home that the party has a chance to win, and that truth is on their side.
As Republicans convene in Tampa this week, the primetime addresses have all sought to cast Republicans as best fit to lead and Democrats as the inept villain — sometimes in more truthful ways than others. Here’s a guide to some of the most wishful thoughts floated so far at this year’s Republican convention.
Obama Doesn’t Think You Built Your Business
The RNC adopted Obama’s famous line as an official convention theme, declaring Tuesday to be “We Built It” night. Speaker after speaker after musician after speaker slammed Obama for the quote, which they claimed denigrated small business owners.
But the notion Obama told entrepreneurs “you didn’t build that” was always a myth. The transcript of his speech, including the sentences directly preceding and directly following the quote used by Republicans, clearly indicated the “that” in question referred to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
Romney has alluded to these criticisms in speeches, saying the full context was “even worse.” If his campaign really thought that was the case, then every video played at the RNC Tuesday night wouldn’t have had to deceptively splice together several quotes from Obama’s speech to trick viewers into thinking it was one full passage.
Chris Christie’s ‘Painful Decisions’
“Our problems are big and the solutions will not be painless,” Chris Christie said in his keynote speech on Tuesday night. “We all must share in the sacrifice. Any leader that tells us differently is simply not telling the truth.”
That was one of the key paragraphs of Christie’s speech, the main thrust of which was that Romney, Christie’s, and other Republican leaders (but mostly Christie), were running on a message that Americans need to make painful decisions to get deficits under control.
Here’s the problem. The Romney campaign hasn’t told voters any of the most relevant painful decisions they intend to ask them to make on budget issues. They propose a major tax cut without explaining how it will be paid for, a balanced budget by 2021 without explaining where the staggering cuts needed to achieve it will come from, and a privatized Medicare system without explaining how much it will save and what kind of benefit cuts it might entail.
This is actually somewhat surprising. After Romney chose Ryan as his running mate, who has proposed a significantly more detailed plan to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and discretionary spending, many observers expected the campaign would shift to a “painful decisions” message along the lines Christie described. Instead, Ryan quickly made clear that Romney wasn’t adopting his proposals and that they wouldn’t give out many new details behind their new ones until after the election.
Oddly enough, the only substantive change since Ryan joined the ticket is a pledge by Romney to reverse $716 billion in Medicare cuts that both Obama and Ryan supported.
Obama Is Slashing The Defense Budget — And Only The GOP Can Stop Him
Echoing the Romney campaign’s own attacks, John McCain lit into Obama for looming defense cuts scheduled to take place in 2013.
“We can’t afford another $500 billion in cuts to our defense budget — on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts that the president is already making,” McCain said. “[Obama’s] own secretary of defense has said that cutting our military by nearly $1 trillion would be ‘devastating.’ And yet, the president is playing no leadership role in preventing this crippling blow to our military.”
You’d have no idea from his comments that McCain voted for those defense cuts. So did Paul Ryan. They were part of an agreement last year crafted to entice Republicans to vote for what had been for years a routine matter: raising the debt ceiling. Since Republicans and Democrats failed to reach an agreement on alternative savings elsewhere, which both sides claim is due to GOP opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy, the cuts are set to take effect.
At the time it was passed, Ryan was instrumental in pitching the bill to skeptical conservatives and the automatic defense cuts — and the difficulty involved in defusing them — were used as a selling point.
The GOP Is Very Diverse And Hispanic-Voter Friendly
As has been the case in several past GOP conventions, organizers in Tampa have put their party’s diversity on display in primetime. Putting the freshest and in some cases least expected faces forward during the televised hours of a political convention is something both parties do, and in recent history is a time-honored part of the scripted quadrennial show.
But audiences at home watching the stage here may be getting the impression that the GOP is far more diverse than it actually is — and that it doesn’t have the problems with Hispanic voters that polling shows it does.The Huffington Post ran the numbers and found the racial diversity on stage is not even close to indicative of the actual, majority Caucasian and male list of elected Republicans in America. And the delegates watching the speeches in the audience couldn’t be much whiter.
Nor has their party offered any new initiative to win over Latino voters by moderating their positions. On Tuesday, the same the day the party adopted a platform with immigration language written by SB 1070 architect Kris Kobach while TV cameras weren’t trained on the floor, Republicans put a number of Hispanic politicians speaking Spanish on stage in primetime when they were. Hispanic Republicans who criticize their party over some of its harsh Kobachian rhetoric say the stagecraft will have the desired effect.
“The platform is the platform and I don’t think we can be wedded to that. Obviously I would have had a different point of view,” former George W. Bush cabinet secretary Mel Martinez said at a panel on Hispanics and the GOP Wednesday. “It’s vastly more important what’s happening on the podium with this convention … and who those people are.”