Blaise Pascal, PenseĆ© 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Speeches, Republican National Convention Night 3

Some of the speeches from the last night of the convention. I thought the reaction of PBS's Shields and Brooks to the first two was interesting. Brooks and then Shields said that not airing these kinds of testimonials before the convention, as a rejoinder to Democratic attacks on Romney's character, was "campaign malpractice." That showed to me just how far out of touch the media is with a Mid-West sensibility like Romney's. 

There are plenty of reasons why someone would be reluctant to make political capital out of private acts of decency. Helping people for the purposes of self-aggrandizement virtually nullifies the moral content of good acts, and publicizing them has the potential to humiliate the very people they are meant to help. The stories below, at least, refer to events so far in the past that those dangers seem minimal, but not altogether absent. Politics is usually known for its capacity to bring people's past mistakes into the open, but it can be as big a problem to bring the good deeds too.

Of course, the assumption that Brooks and Shields made is that winning trumps these excessively punctilious considerations. It doesn't.

(Ted and Pat Oparowski)

(Pam Finlayson)

(Olympians Rhodes, Erruzione, Parra)

(Jane Edmonds, Democrat, Mass. Sec. of Workforce under Gov. Romney)

(Clint Eastwood)

(Senator Marco Rubio)

(Mitt Romney's Acceptance Speech)

(Closing Benediction: Cardinal Timothy Dolan)

Shields and Brooks immediately noted that Romney's speech was short on policy content. Even the Wall Street Journal made that criticism the day after. True enough. But he's got two months yet and the debates to take care of policy. I think the strategy for the whole night was to introduce Romney as a good man. He reminds me of Gerald Ford, another rather boring presidential candidate, but a truly decent person. I see this convention night as a rebuttal to attacks on Romney as a heartless capitalist and even a "felon." As rhetoricians back to the Greeks have known, the advocate's character is always part of the argument, or to paraphrase some personal injury lawyers I knew, you have to sell your client and yourself to the jury.

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