I woke to the sound of saws. They’ve come for the elm trees. We’re losing six of them. Dutch elm beetles have killed six grand elms planted during the first World War. Wilfred Owen was alive when the first shoots poked through the turf. I tried to get back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I miss the trees already.

Family returns tomorrow, so this was my last day to cut loose. I did nothing. Spent the morning poilishing two columns, spent the afternoon sketching out the Sunday column, editing some video. Dennis Prager dropped by around 4:30, which was an absolute treat. We had cigars, talked about music. The guy you hear on the radio? That’s who he is. We could have talked for nine hours, I think.

Now I’m at the kitchen table, picking away at the Sunday column, watching the convention. There’s a woman on the TV, singing. Excuse me: Who is Dana Glover and why was I not informed of her existence before? I’m watching the convention with the sound off, and frankly I don’t care if she’s singing about Babylonian masonry techniques over a sitar-and-washboard accompaniment: ooof, as Walter Monheit so famously said. The widescreen close-ups are a little disconcerting – her teeth are the size of paperback novels – but still: ooof.

Okay, sorry.

8:55 PM: just turned the sound up to see what these energetic young people are playing, and the answer is: very bad music. “I’ve Got the Music in Me.” Please, keep it there. The singer is so dreadful she simply has to be Karl Rove’s daughter; there is no other reason for her to be there. And she is wearing a poncho. At the end she reached for a high note like a toddler getting up a chair to touch a lightbulb. Now a band is playing “Signed, Sealed and Delivered.” Shot of Bush 41 sitting next to Maria. Her hair looks fabulous. And aerodynamic: Given the right draft, she could probably fly forty feet in the air.


Now, Arnold. Odd. Either the audience is undermiked or they’re 88% thrilled to see him. He’s beaming, waiting for the applause to die down. It seems forced. “This is like winning the Oscar.”

Like I would know, I say in an Ahnold voice.

“As if I would know,” he said. Or something like that. Joke two: “True Lies” movie reference. Lame, but we have to get these out of the way. Making reference to his movies is for Arnie what referencing cheapness or violin-playing was to Jack Benny. It simply must be done. Joke three: a man said he was as good a governor as he was an actor. “What a cheap shot.” The delivery lacked, but it’s the sort of self-deprecating thing we like from the ol’ brute. Is this going to work? He can connect with millions through the lens uf de cahmera, and he’s good on the stump, but maybe he’s not the kind of speaker who scales well to an arena.

I love the accent: “Medicine Square Godden.”

Okay, he gets better. A good Arnold speech is not full of subtle rhetoric, cozening shifts in vocal tone, facial nuance. It’s like watching a strong man chop an oak tree: the last blow will be just like the first. (Except that after the last one, something falls on someone’s head.) Very simple cadences; you could actually read this speech in a Kennedy voice, and it would sound Kennedyesque. Paging Vaughn Meader; Mr. Meader to the desk.

“Fear of the Soviet Boot.” Yep.

Holy Crow, he’s just endorsed DICK FRICKIN’ NIXON. Only Arnie can go to China.

“You may not agree with this party on every issue, but that’s okay; that’s what’s great about this country.” An echo of Guiliani last night. Okay, well, you can read this two ways. Either it’s a Calculated Rovian Ploy to make people think the GOP tolerates dissent while privately shipping the moderates to the Cryo-Storage facilities on Mars, or these guys are making a point that they have disagreements with the party because – are you ready? – because they have disagreements with the party, and would like to change minds from the inside. “Here we can respectfully disagree, and still be patriotic, and still be good Republicans.” Applause line, but I would have liked it if everyone stood and said NO DUH in unison. Was there such an emphasis on disagreement among the keynote speakers at the DNC? I don’t know. I don’t know what they disagree on, exactly, except the War. And whether Bush should be flayed with a cheese grater or one of those orange-peelers you get at Williams-Sonoma. The kind with the nice wood handle. Fits right in your hand.

“If you believe that the government should be accountable to the people, not the people accountable to the government, then you are a Republican.”

Note the distinction between people and government; on the other side of the aisle, it’s a seamless whole, with the latter being the incarnation of the former.

“If you believe that a person should be treated as an individual, not a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican.”

I would have preferred something besides “interest group,” but it’ll do. Any jab at identity politics is welcome. I can’t stand identity-group politics. I don’t care what your melanin concentration might be, or whether you descend from Swedes or Toltecs, or what you do in the bedroom as long as no one’s four-legged or underaged. It’s what you think that matters. It’s who you are as an individual. critics will read this differently: stop banding together for the purposes of magnifying your political power!

“If you believe that your family knows better how to spend your money than the government, etc.” I agree in the micro sense, but not the macro sense. I have no idea how to spend my money on weapons systems R&D, for example. I wouldn’t know where to start. Space-based lasers? Stealth-enabled landing craft? I can see the arguments for each.

“If you believe that the educational system should be held accountable for progress of children, then you are etc.” It strikes me that this speech is an inadvertent rebuttal to Michael Moore’s USA Today piece about how Republicans are really Liberals. According to the one-size-fits-all bromides of Arnie’s speech, many Democrats are really Republicans. End of the day message: everyone is a Republican, and no one is a Republican. It’s a fictive party!

Now the line about trusting the US more than the UN. Raucous applause. Chants of USA, which will strike Europeans as the modern-day sound of a Nuremberg rally. Well, they’d know.

I think that the whole point of this speech is to remind everyone that Arnold is a Republican.

And really, that’s all he needs to do. You can’t expect 22 minutes of incisive analysis or brilliant rhetoric; that’s just not Arnie. Wattage, not heat; heft, not depth. The guy’s a rock; you like him or you don’t. Me, I like him. One big grinning slab of rich immigrant cheer.

He gets better towards the end – the pace picks up, the intensity kicks up a notch. “Someone once wrote ‘there are those who say freedom is nothing but a dream – they were right. It is the American dream.’”

Who said that? <googling> Of course! Jason Duke!

Next, the Twins. Painful. Turn-the-channel-painful. They have to stop dragging the kids out in these events before a candidate has a pregnant wife and the fetus has to appear via sonogram. Look! It’s giving us the thumbs up!

I’m done – time to finish the movie and relish my last night of freedom. More tomorrow.

perm link: here.


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