Amid a chorus of hoots, hollers and the occasional jeer, Rudy Giuliani gave the keynote speech on Wednesday night, Day 3 of the Republican National Convention. Giuliani set the tone for the evening, aggressively launching criticisms at the Democratic ticket. Giuliani’s claims ranged from the slightly offensive (derisively laughing at Barack Obama’s roots as a community organizer -- in a city, Chicago, that has roughly 1,800 times the population of Wasilla, AK, the city where Sarah Palin served as mayor) to the unbelievable (asserting that Palin has more experience than Barack Obama and Joseph Biden combined). Giuliani’s incredulous "What??" at Obama’s background was met with a round of cackles that later turned to a rousing chant of "Drill, baby, drill" as the former New York City mayor discussed off-shore drilling as a method of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Against the image of the current New York City skyline, Giuliani pointed out, in a moment verging on self-parody, that, at the Democratic National Convention, the key players "didn’t even mention September 11th," strongly implying that Obama and Biden are "afraid" to discuss Islamic terrorists. Giuliani did not acknowledge that the concerns of September 2008 are perhaps not quite the concerns of September 2001 -- that while the terrorist acts of 9/11 have altered our political and cultural landscape forever, we are a country weary of the use of September 11th as a tool for politicking.

But the coup de grace came when Giuliani attempted to brand Obama a "flip flopper" (a technique that proved effective for Republicans in 2004) stating that Joe Biden should get his Vice Presidential nomination in writing. This is a direct shot, not at Obama’s policies, but his character -- a disheartening development in an election where both candidates positioned themselves as willing to run "clean" campaigns. 

This merely set the stage for the Vice Presidential nominee and media fixation, Sarah Palin, to hammer away at Obama’s experience while touting her own record. Unfortunately, "Sarah Barracuda" failed to show the same courtesy, humility and nonpartisan respect that has characterized the Obama campaign. Whereas Barack Obama has disagreed with John McCain solely on policy issues without casting aspersions on his character and has refused to declare open season on Bristol Palin, her pregnancy and the rest of the Palin family, Sarah Palin did not hesitate to mock Obama’s role as a community organizer (a position he occupied before his entrance into Harvard Law, his stint as a law professor and his later tenure in the Illinois state senate and the U.S. senate). With an acid tongue that belies the Miss Congeniality title she was awarded in 1984, Palin came out simultaneously on the attack and the defense -- while discussing offshore drilling, she mentioned the Democratic opponent’s criticism that even these stores of oil are not inexhaustible, snarking "as if we didn’t know that already" before moving on to discuss alternative sources of energy. And in an impressive feat of semantic gymnastics, Palin singled McCain out as the only candidate who has truly fought for the American people, implying that the figurative fighting for the rights of Americans is less meaningful than participating in combat. By her own logic, does this mean that the men and women currently serving our country overseas are more qualified than Palin herself?

But what stayed with me most was the stunning homogeneity of the RNC crowd -- in Denver, the cameras showcased incredible diversity, whereas the RNC cameramen seemed to have a rougher road, forced to linger on a token Asian or African-American face before pulling back to reveal a mostly white (male, aging) audience. With this crowd, eagerly lapping up Palin’s and Giuliani’s barbs at the opposition, it felt less like the inclusive lovefest of Denver than a relentless pile-on, fueled by bile instead of optimism. As I watched the sea of faces light up mostly at Palin’s insults and rarely at her plans for the future, I wondered what the opposing camp would have to say.

This afternoon, Obama responded to Palin’s jabs: "I’ve been called worse on the basketball court." When pressed about Palin’s record, he told reporters: "I’ll let Gov. Palin talk about her experience. I’ll talk about mine."


Regina Nigro

Comments

Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 1:33pm
I was particularly pained by both Giuliani and Palin's constant ridicule of Sen. Obama's experience as a community organizer on the southside of Chicago, following his undergraduate time at Columbia,(incidentally, working directly w/ Catholic parishes). The Republican Party seems to think that kind of service to our country, living and working in the inner city at very low wages with the the marginalized and disadvantaged, is a joke, that the only respectable way to know how to fight for our country is to, in fact, enlist in the military as McCain and Palin's sons have done ; (and yes, as also Sen.Biden's, but of course we weren't about to be reminded of that at a REPUBLICAN Convention even though the Democratic Party ALWAYS pays due respect to Senator McCain for his military valor.) What truly amazed me last night in watching what preceded McCain's nomination for President by the Rep.Party was to observe the DISCONNECT between the warm reception and honor accorded Cindy McCain for her admirable humanitarian relief efforts, and in particular for John and Cindy's adoption of a child from an orphanage run by Mother Teresa in Bangladesh, AND the jeering derision directed at the Dem. Pres. nominee Barak Obama the night before for his ''insignificant'' experience. To have seen shots of Cindy McCain as gleeful as the rest of her husband's supporters at the ridicule of Barak's ''puny'' efforts as a young 20-plus year old to help remake the world and then a day later to hear of her laudatory work to do the same left me stunned. I couldn't help but wonder if anyone even really ''got'' what comm. organizing is all about and what it might have to do w/ the choices Election 2008 present. Was there perhaps a gross misunderstanding of the word ''community'' that made Barak's social concerns seem only trivial? If so, how very sad and wanting in Lincoln's Great Party.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 11:29am
I too thought that the community organizer bit was a cheap shot. But let us bear in mind that it was also in response to repeated comments from Sen. Obama and his campaign (not to mention the media) about "mayor of a small town" to detract from Gov. Palin's gubernatorial experience. In fact, the comparison made by the Senator was between the Governor's prior mayoral work and his running a presidential campaign! So one must ask in the same vein as Fr. Martin did : When did trying to help small town residents at the level of local government (which certainly include distributing "basic social services")something we hold in derision? Elites are colored both red and blue these days.
Anonymous | 9/8/2008 - 12:02pm
I have to comment on Milbo's comments. He has a very limited view of the culture of death. It not only includes abortion, to which I am opposed, but also to health and hunger and to the death penalty and to fighting wars for oil and settling scores and to the dehumanization of all people and to the deprivation of human rights to all. When will the Republicans realize that life is a slippery slope -- when you support it at the beginning, you must support it all the way through -- if you listen to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 11:57pm
Barack Obama and "community organizing." He worked with Catholic parishes? All the evidence is that he worked with ACORN, a very far left group. And they weren't helping people get jobs. Isn't "community organizer" also on Al Sharpton's resume? I thought Sarah Palin's speech was brilliant. She used humor and a bit of sarcasm to score political points against Obama. Gee whiz, it worked for Mario Cuomo in 1984 going after Reagan; it worked in 1988 with the late Ann Richards knocking Bush 1. And in the Dem convention plenty of speakers laced into Bush and McCain with sarcasm and exaggeration. And what was that professional wrestling-style call out of McCain by Obama toward the end of the Obama speech. "Let me tell you something JOHN McCAIN!! On foriegn policy I'll cmopare MY JUDGEMENT and EXPERIENCe to your any time." compare MY Palin scored big points on Obama's lack of experience, his thin resume and the fact that large portions of the media are in his pocket. Perfectly legitimate points. in Palin's coming debate with that wonderful devote pro abortion Catholic Biden, I sure hope abortion comes up. Palin is a member (as is my wife) of Feminists for Life of America and I hope she sticks their motto "Women deserve better" right in his face.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 10:16pm
Like most everyone else here, I was appalled by the Rovian mockery directed at Senator Obama's honorable service as a "faith-based" community organizer, a role that, for many decades in cities and towns across America, has given the disadvantaged a hand up, not a hand-out. During those three years, Senator Obama helped Southside residents with projects that had a positive impact on the lives of 90,000 citizens. It's hard to believe that such ugly ridicule of work so positive could simply be payback for referring to a town of 7,000 as small. No. Republicans think that community organizing is just another way to get money out of government pockets for deadbeats who don't deserve it. Afterall, Republicans subscribe to YOYO -- you're on your own. They view the young Obama's decision to forego personal wealth and serve his country in the way he chose as ignoble. That's why we saw all the sneers and heard all the jeers directed at the Senator. So much for "values." By the way, only 1.5% of the Republican delegates are black, the lowest percentage in 40 years. A step back in time for all minorities.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 7:51pm
Well, I guess I will cancel my subscription to this left leaning rag. I cannot believe that a ''Catholic'' publication is so in favor of Obama and another ''catholic'' pro choice politician. Abortion is evil!! The Magisterium is what we are supposed to follow, not the polls.
Anonymous | 9/6/2008 - 7:22am
The speeches at the Democratic Convention were apalling: full of ignorance, hate and arrogance. All in how you look at it, all in whose ''side'' one supports, Juan.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 10:44am
Yes, and I was rather shocked at both Mayor Guiliani and Governor Palin's ridiculing Senator Obama's work as a 'community organizer.' When did trying to help the poor to attain basic social services become something that we hold in contempt?
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 12:07am
Regina - I am sorry that someone of such delicate sensibilities like yourself was subjected to the uncouth behavior at the Republican National Convention. I will make it a point to explain to Mayor Giuliani and Governor Palin that their behavior was unacceptable, and that from now on they are to refrain from making any reference to the fact that the Democratic ticket has zero executive experience. I will also insist that they stop telling everyone that the Republicans are in favor of drilling for oil and confronting terrorist threats. Additionally, Ms Palin will be instructed to write a ten-page essay on famous community organizers in American History. I am sorry that the Republican Party does not have as much diversity as you would like, but unlike the Democrats (who impose racial quotas on their delegations), even our so-called ''token Asian or African-American'' delegates must be elected on their own merits. One last thing - John McCain is speaking tonight; you might want to switch over to ''Wheel of Fortune'' on Channel 13.
Anonymous | 9/7/2008 - 5:02pm
Jesus was a community organizer. And Pontius Pilate was a governor. (Wish I could take credit for this brilliant observation. I saw it quoted elsewhere and I believe it's building momentum.)
Anonymous | 9/7/2008 - 10:22am
This morning's FOX cable news program included the presence of a young priest who spoke glowingly of Ms. Palin, but omitted the fact that she was baptized and raised as Roman Catholic until her teens. The clear impression is that as long as a candidate espouses the current position of the Church, the act of leaving the Church is unimportant. It's an embarrassment to me that I, also a cradle Catholic, have worked for years and years to reconcile the beliefs I learned as a child with the positions of the contemporary Church, yet Ms. Palin appears to be the extension of pick-and-choose loyalty when it comes to religious affiliation. Does this mean that we as Catholics should side-step Palin's avowed support of the death penalty, her curious double standard opinions about the treatment of the indigenous population of her own state, and her public promotion of her children? Count me as 100 percent pro-life, 100 percent pro-Obama, and proud of it.
Anonymous | 9/6/2008 - 3:25pm
How can you defend the Democratic Party when they are not going to defend the life of helpless unborn children, millions of whom have being killed by abortion in America making the whole nation guilty of sin by allowing it to happen? A good government is based on the common good. The common good is based on being alive. We are all commanded by the Ten Commandments not to kill. Laws dictate the behavior of a people, of a nation. To allow abortion is to permit mothers to kill their unborn. Obama is pro-abortion. Obama is an excellent speaker. Words are put together with grace and beauty, but what is he saying? What experience does Obama have to make the changes he is proposing? If I was going to travel across the ocean in hurricane season, I would look for someone with experience to guide me and bring me safe to the other side. I would not pick up someone who is telling me that he can do it and speaks beautifully about how he is going to do it – but lacks experience and has never fought or weathered a storm. What we know about Obama and his stand on defending the unborn is no good. He is not Pro-Life. We need to stand for life in this election. We need to vote Republican!
Anonymous | 9/6/2008 - 2:00pm
jim belna...your sarcasm & efforts to belittle are right in keeping with your Republican heroes...you could have been the scriptwriter for Guiliani, Palin & the rest of their vicious ilk. It seems terribly sad that the party that sees itself as Christ's chosen party acts so unChristlike.
Anonymous | 9/6/2008 - 8:56am
The Republican Convention was beautiful! How nice it was to hear the words "culture of life." How can anyone say John McCain's speech was hateful or any other speech for that matter? Sarah Palin was superb! As a Catholic, I am proud to vote Republican this year---we must end the culture of death and provide for the security of our great nation. Our national security is much more important than being concerned about whether terrorists have had their rights read to them. Also wasn't it beautiful to see baby Trig? Milbo
Anonymous | 9/6/2008 - 7:06am
Remember--Jesus was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was the governor.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 3:24pm
The speeches at the Republican Convention were apalling: full of ignorance, hate and arrogance. I am pro-life, but Barack Obama is the only decent option for voters this year.
Anonymous | 9/11/2008 - 12:37am
Thank you Ms. Nigro for a thoughtful piece. I am a cradle Roman Catholic, a progressive Democrat who is pro-life (and that includes the lives of criminals as well), a medical professional, a commissioned officer in the US Public Health Service, and someone who spent three years serving the medical needs of inmates in a federal prison. I am active in my parish's ministry to the sick, elderly, and dying. And I deployed to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Katrina (to Ms. Alves- I hope that you didn't turn to Mr. Bush to get you through that hurricane- he would have sent Brownie to be your captain- but I'm sure his anti-abortion stance would have pulled you through). And since Jan 2001, I, like Michelle Obama, have been hard-pressed to say that I am proud to be an American in these dark days. We have truly lost our way under the evil guidance of Cheney, Rove, and their puppet, that consummate underachiever with daddy issues, in the White House. We are no longer one nation under God, but a nation under the sway of greed, fear, and self-loathing. I am all for a culture of life, but what about a culture of love to go with it? With many in the GOP, what you get is a culture of hate and hypocrisy (lest we forget Cindy's stealing of narcotics from her charity, John's infidelities, Sarah's pot smoking- but it is Senator Obama who gets called a crackhead by Oxycontin Rush). Yes, I'm angry, but like the bumper sticker says, ''If you're not angry, you haven't been paying attention.'' We need only turn to the Gospels to see Christ's anger and indignation when confronted with hypocrisy and injustice. I'm voting for Obama and I urge my fellow Catholics, who have searched their souls, who believe in the 3 virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and who believe in the message of Jesus Christ, to do the same.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 3:04pm
It is true that RNC show in St Paul has an appearance of white-only party. Yes, to show a diversity is great but is Barack Obama going to do something for me, a middle class Asian American, after he wins the election? I doubt it. May be he's going to appoint a few Asian policy wonks up there in DC but as far as real policies, I don't think so. If McCain selected a woman for a VP (and was discussing the VP job with Jindal), he's the man with a true intention of giving us the non-white the real opportunity to affect this country.
Anonymous | 9/5/2008 - 3:02pm
Mr. Belna's derision of Democrats use quotas to achieve diversity probably reflects a common dislike of quotas. Nonetheless, the homogeneity of the Republican delegation does pose a potential problem for the party. Census projections all indicate that whites will be a minority within a few decades, and a few states, like California, have already reached that statistical tipping point. Since I am not a Republican sympathizer, my suggestions would probably be ignored by the party leaders, but I suspect that for some reason or other the party is failing to reach minorities, and, with the exception of a few rising stars like Governor Jindal of Louisiana, is failing to develop new leaders from those minorities. This might be either a poor strategy or a dangerous oversight for a party that hopes to maintain its power in the coming years.