Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kenyan, Greek, Whatever

I've been going through George H.W. Bush's 1988 convention acceptance speech for another project, and came across a couple of fun items.

First, one of the great rhetorical tricks...of course, this was a lot fresher then than it is when they use it now:
But let's be frank. Things aren't perfect in this country. There are people who haven't tasted the fruits of the expansion. I've talked to farmers about the bills they can't pay. I've been to the factories that feel the strain of change. I've seen the urban children who play amidst the shattered glass and shattered lives. And there are the homeless. And you know, it doesn't do any good to debate endlessly which policy mistake of the '70's is responsible. They're there. We have to help them.
Got that? It's 1988, and there are, inexplicably, things still wrong in the nation despite eight years of Ronald Reagan...so which policy mistake of the 1970s was responsible? Cute.

I liked that one a lot, but I'm sure many of you will like this better...I know it's come up, but I had forgotten how old this one was:
He sees America as another pleasant country on the UN roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe. I see America as the leader - a unique nation with a special role in the world.
Yes, it's now been almost 25 years that Republicans have been throwing that one at Democrats. The cool part of this, of course, is that we have various personality-based explanations of why Barack Obama believes these un-American things...except it turns out that somehow Michael Dukakis wound up supposedly believing the same things despite the absence of Kenyan anti-colonial thinking. Weird, huh?


  1. I suspect you have way too much time on your hands...you're re-reading GHWB's acceptance speech?

  2. Isn't it more significant that, in 1988, the Republican nominee acknowledged that poverty exists, and that it is a problem?

  3. I have a hunch the "My opponent doesn't love America as much as I do" line was first used 200 years before George HW Bush was nominated.

  4. "Isn't it more significant that, in 1988, the Republican nominee acknowledged that poverty exists, and that it is a problem?"

    Hear, hear.

  5. yes, but anticolonialists of a feather flock together....Democrats all share the same flaws of character and outlook.

  6. Bush was a milquetoast in this as in other matters. While you're re-reading stuff, check out Jeanne Kirkpatrick's truly loathsome "San Francisco Democrats" speech from the '84 Republican convention. It contrasts the great, stalwart Democrats of Kirkpatrick's youth, like Harry Truman (who, of course, Kirkpatrick's real role model, Joe McCarthy, was smearing in similar ways at the time) against Dems like Carter and Mondale who are "afraid to be resolute [and] ashamed to speak of America as a great nation." She also has a long litany of charges against an unnamed "They" who allegedly blame America instead of terrorists for terrorist attacks and the like. This speech may really be the template for that rhetoric in its contemporary version.

    But then, as Ron E. says, even the Founders spent a lot of time accusing each other of being traitors, closet monarchists, French revolutionary operatives and the like. The Founders. Who as we know from today's Tea Partiers were infallible, so apparently all those charges were actually true.

  7. It's really the Democrats' fault, for nominating all these anti-American candidates... Bill Clinton, you'll remember, took a very shady trip to the Soviet Union as a student then participated in an anti-American demonstration in London... John Kerry threw his medals away and spoke out against the American war effort... Dukakis refused to let anyone in Massachusetts say the Pledge of Allegiance.... Obama of course had the temerity to be born in Kenya, then slavishly followed a virulently anti-American preacher.

    I don't see how you can blame the GOP for any of this.

  8. How is this any different from Democrats saying the Republicans hate Obama because he's black, when it's actually because he's a Democrat? It's not like Republicans were embracing Clinton, Carter, etc.

  9. For one thing, anonymous, its different because Democrats actually don't say Republicans hate Obama because he's black. Stuff that happens is different from stuff that doesn't happen.


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