For the debut evening of the truncated Republican National Convention, the party basically plundered their deep back bench of minorities and women to make speeches. Most of those speeches had to do with ridiculing President Obama for a statement that he didn't really make. The theme was "We Built It," in reference to the inelegant statement of an argument made by President Obama a couple months back. This has been thoroughly debunked by Jon Stewart, but it must still poll well, because the Republicans felt it was important enough to spend one of their three convention nights, nearly four full hours, arguing against a statement that the president never said.
There was no out gay Republican, but just about everyone else was represented. John Boehner opened the convention for all the orange-skinned not-so-secret alcoholics by saying, "Where are the jobs?" (Probably still hiding in that jobs bill that you didn't pass.) He then riffed on the It that We Built for a while before talking about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. "They're calling them America's Comeback Team," Boehner said, even though the "they" is clearly just Romney's PR team. Boehner passed the mic to Reince Priebus, who said that Mitt Romney "doesn't ask for accolades," because he is "humble." This is a small lie that always get said in politics, and it drives me kind of nuts: You don't run for president if you're humble. It's just not done. You run for president because you love accolades, because the thought of your name dying is so frightening to you that you're willing to take the most difficult job in the world for four or eight years and risk burning your reputation to smoldering ashes just because you need people to remember your name forever.
But before we get further into the speakers, let's take a moment to shudder at the music. We had an America's Got Talent winner performing "Proud to Be an American" in a weird mixture of opera and the Cowardly Lion voice from the Wizard of Oz ("...I love this LAA-A-AAA-AAAA-AAAAA-AAAAA-AAAAAAND, God bless the You Ess AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY"). The Oak Ridge boys sang "Amazing Grace," because America is a-runnin' away from God these days, an ain' it a durned shame? The closing act was Third Door Down, who debuted a new song that I'm pretty sure had the word "fiscal" in it.
And Rick Santorum spoke, too!
He was really boring. Except for when he took his hot new hand fetish out for a spin, explaining how he's gripped them all, from scarred coal miners to the "broken" hands of his special needs daughter, all around the country. The response to Santorum was lukewarm. (One of his biggest applause lines was actually the audience responding to guards removing a screaming protester from the premises, but Santorum didn't seem to realize that, thinking the audience somehow became interested in him again for a second, as improbable as that may have been.) But Santorum was far better than Scott Walker, who began his speech at the beginning of what is surely the loudest, longest round of applause he will ever receive in his life. By the time the applause for his recent recall win died down, he was quite a ways into his speech, and nobody knew what the hell he was talking about.
Anyway. There were a whole slew of terrible non-white, non-male speakers, including Kelly Ayotte, Artur Davis, Mia Love, and Janine Turner. Washington's own Cathy McMorris Rodgers promised to take a unique role in the evening's proceedings, hosting and introducing people. She was never seen again after she left the stage that first time. And then Ann Romney spoke. Romney did pretty well, maintaining a bubbly presence and breaking into a weird Oprah cadence now and again while speaking up for the moms and other noncontroversial issues (she's in favor of love and doesn't care who knows it, although she wants you to know that she and Mitt have had a "real marriage," whatever that is). It wasn't substantial, and it didn't achieve its main goal of somehow turning Mitt Romney from a block of carbonite into a real human person in front of every voter in the nation, but it certainly helped make everyone momentarily forget the fact that Romney is a disastrous extemporaneous speaker. The only speaker who was very good was Nikki Haley, who delivered her lines like a Republi-celebrity. This doesn't mean her lines were good—she seemed to equate the need to show your ID before you buy Sudafed (which I believe is a deterrent to people who make crystal meth out of household ingredients) with the requirement to show your ID before you vote, and she made the voting law sound more reasonable in comparison. But she delivered her hash of teabaggy thought with a conviction that will earn her lots of Sarah Palin comparisons in the next few days.
And Chris Christie. Oh, Chris Christie. This is the acceptance speech he didn't get to make this year, a biographical speech about how great Chris Christie is and how Republicans need to stop being so meek all the time. He assured us that it was better to be respected than to be loved. (This came right after Ann Romney's speech, which was supposed to be all about love. But the theme for the evening kind of went out the window in the last hour, anyway, with very few references to Building It. And the only reference to Isaac came at three hours and twelve minutes into the program, when Romney brought it up in an awkward ad lib that started as a call for a moment of silence and wound up as an appreciation for our men and women in uniform.) Christie railed against unions and he swore that it was possible to stay true to your principles if you don't care what anyone thinks of you. I'm not sure how it would play outside the room, but Republicans ate it up. They loved him. They roared. I'm sure many of them wished that Christie, not Romney, was their nominee. Oh, well. There's always next time, guys.
I live-Tweeted the speeches right here. I'll probably do the same thing tomorrow night, and the night after. Tune in for that. And if you find Twitter to be repugnant and a sign of the end times, of course I'll post writeups right here on Slog as soon as I can once the evening's speeches are over.