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Posts For: August 31, 2012

Obama Doesn’t Care He’s Been Proven Wrong About Iran

The release yesterday of a new report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency effectively vindicates everything Israel’s leaders have been saying in recent months. The report says Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges it could use to make the core of nuclear warheads at its underground bunker at Fordow. It has also effectively shut down the IAEA investigation of their work at Parchin, where the Islamist regime has been conducting work on nuclear weapons development.

Fordow is the “breakout” facility where it can convert any civilian nuclear activity into military applications safe from air attack. As even the New York Times admits today, far from the Obama administration’s strategy of using diplomacy and sanctions slowing down Iran’s progress, “if anything, the program is speeding up.” It goes on to point out:

But the agency’s report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack.

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The release yesterday of a new report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency effectively vindicates everything Israel’s leaders have been saying in recent months. The report says Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges it could use to make the core of nuclear warheads at its underground bunker at Fordow. It has also effectively shut down the IAEA investigation of their work at Parchin, where the Islamist regime has been conducting work on nuclear weapons development.

Fordow is the “breakout” facility where it can convert any civilian nuclear activity into military applications safe from air attack. As even the New York Times admits today, far from the Obama administration’s strategy of using diplomacy and sanctions slowing down Iran’s progress, “if anything, the program is speeding up.” It goes on to point out:

But the agency’s report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack.

The Times is right about that. Being proven right about the failure of Obama’s policy is cold comfort for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu since the administration refuses to recognize the failure, either publicly or privately. The Times of Israel reports that a meeting last week between Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro resulted in hostile exchanges with the diplomat “breaking protocol” and angrily scolding the prime minister for pushing too hard for U.S. action.

Israel’s problem is that the Obama administration doesn’t care that it has been proven wrong and feels no inclination to engage in a conversation with the leaders of the Jewish state about taking action to either reverse course or head off a catastrophe. Instead, it just sticks to its line about giving more time for diplomacy even though no one in Washington, let alone anywhere else, believes that it is possible to talk the Iranians into giving up their nuclear ambitions. The president wants no back talk from the Israelis about this. But even more than that, he desires no trouble in the Middle East in the next two months as he fights for re-election.

That leaves the Israelis with a difficult choice. It can, as most foreign policy mavens keep telling them to, simply shut up and hope that either a re-elected Obama will keep all the promises he’s made on the subject or that a President Romney will make good on the tough statements he’s made about the peril from an Iranian nuke. But given the speed of the Iranians’ progress and the possibility that by next year it could already be too late for an attack on their nuclear facilities to do much good, waiting may not be an option consistent with Netanyahu’s responsibility to spike any existential threat to his nation’s future.

The administration’s silence about the latest troubling IAEA report, as well as the insolent attitude of its envoy to Israel, seems to indicate the president thinks the Israelis are bluffing about acting on their own. He has good reason to think so.

Despite the assertions that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are alone in their convictions about the Iranian threat, there’s a consensus in the Israeli defense and intelligence establishment that Iran must be stopped. But many there fear the consequences of a unilateral Israeli military campaign. They are right that only the United States has sufficient resources to do the job right. Moreover, the consequences of launching a strike and the inevitable retaliation from Iran’s terrorist auxiliaries are extremely grave. If the United States does not back up Israel in the aftermath of such a strike, it could materially damage the country’s security as well as leading to its complete diplomatic isolation.

On the other hand, if Israel meekly accepts Obama’s dictat to stand down, it may lead to a nuclear Iran, which is something that may be far worse than the blowback from an attack. It would place the security and the future of the Jewish state solely in the hands of a president who has shown little interest in the country’s welfare.

President Obama clearly seems to think there is no pressure Israel could put on him short of an actual attack on Iran that can move him to do something about the situation. And he believes, not without reason, that even if his Republican opponent steps up his criticism of the administration on Iran — a topic that rated a strong mention in Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech last night — he is not politically vulnerable on the issue.

In other words, Netanyahu has no good options available to him. No matter which way he goes on Iran in the coming weeks, thanks to President Obama’s complacent stand, danger lurks.

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Armstrong and America’s Sense of Fair Play

One of the bigger, nonpolitical stories of the summer has been the decision by Lance Armstrong to drop his fight to clear his name in proceedings before the US Anti-Doping Agency which accuses him of using “banned blood transfusions, the blood booster EPO, testosterone and other drugs” to help win his record seven straight Tour de France titles. The affair is in many ways a tragic one, since Armstrong, a cancer survivor who is doing admirable charity work via his own foundation, has been one of the most beloved and admired athletes of recent times–certainly the only cyclist to break through to popular adulation in the United States.

He was not repentant in announcing that he would no longer fight the charges that will lead to him being banned from the sport and stripped of his titles. He called the proceeding “an unconstitutional witch hunt” and said the process was “one-sided and unfair.” He did raise some legitimate questions about the process, and in particular about the lack of physical evidence and that belated nature of the proceedings, coming after his retirement and many years after the acts in question. But by all accounts the USADA had compiled overwhelming evidence of Armstrong’s infractions from among his own former teammates. All legal proceedings are subject to some doubts, but on the whole I believe the process is one that Americans can be proud of even if it brought down one of our sporting icons.

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One of the bigger, nonpolitical stories of the summer has been the decision by Lance Armstrong to drop his fight to clear his name in proceedings before the US Anti-Doping Agency which accuses him of using “banned blood transfusions, the blood booster EPO, testosterone and other drugs” to help win his record seven straight Tour de France titles. The affair is in many ways a tragic one, since Armstrong, a cancer survivor who is doing admirable charity work via his own foundation, has been one of the most beloved and admired athletes of recent times–certainly the only cyclist to break through to popular adulation in the United States.

He was not repentant in announcing that he would no longer fight the charges that will lead to him being banned from the sport and stripped of his titles. He called the proceeding “an unconstitutional witch hunt” and said the process was “one-sided and unfair.” He did raise some legitimate questions about the process, and in particular about the lack of physical evidence and that belated nature of the proceedings, coming after his retirement and many years after the acts in question. But by all accounts the USADA had compiled overwhelming evidence of Armstrong’s infractions from among his own former teammates. All legal proceedings are subject to some doubts, but on the whole I believe the process is one that Americans can be proud of even if it brought down one of our sporting icons.

For the USADA is a non-government agency (although it does receive some money from the drug czar’s office) that is charged with policing our own athletic house. In other countries–say the old East Germany or today’s Communist China–the government is the primary culprit behind cheating and rule-bending to give national athletes a leg up on their competitors in the Olympics or other competitions. If the machinations of those athletes are exposed, it is inevitably done by the World Anti-Doping Agency or some other international body. There is scant hope of those countries policing themselves because they have a win-at-any-cost mentality and want to use international athletic glory to make up for the deficiencies of their country.

The U.S. has a very different–and more admirable–ethos, inherited from Britain, which can be exemplified by the old chestnut, “It’s not whether you win or lose…” Of course we love winners–athletes like Lance Armstrong. But not to the extent that we will connive in their cheating. It is very much to America’s credit that we are willing to police our own ranks and to mete out justice even to a beloved superstar athlete with vast resources to fight the charges against him. That sends an important signal of equality before the law that, even if we take it for granted, will resonate in countries such as China where the rule of law does not exist.

And it’s not as if our devotion to fair play hurts us in the end. After all, U.S. athletes–even without enjoying the benefits of state support for training, much less for rule-breaking–still won more medals than any other country at the London Olympics: 104 compared to 88 for China, which has turned medal production into a state-sponsored industry.

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Conventional Rhetoric

Listening to three days of the Republican Convention, I was struck by some very effective speeches (Governor Susana Martinez, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio), one shall we say idiosyncratic speech (Clint Eastwood), and the nominee’s own, which if not a modern-day Cross of Gold was certainly more than adequate.

The best line, undoubtedly, was, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.” In one sentence it contrasted President Obama’s unpleasant narcissism and Romney’s instinctive self-deprecation, Obama’s utter disregard (even after the severe rebuke of the 2010 election) of what the country wanted him to work on in order to pursue his own personal agenda, and Romney’s concentration on the ailing American economy and the impending fiscal crisis. It reminded me a bit of what is surely the best pun in American political history, Gerald Ford’s “I’m a Ford not a Lincoln.”

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Listening to three days of the Republican Convention, I was struck by some very effective speeches (Governor Susana Martinez, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio), one shall we say idiosyncratic speech (Clint Eastwood), and the nominee’s own, which if not a modern-day Cross of Gold was certainly more than adequate.

The best line, undoubtedly, was, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. MY promise…is to help you and your family.” In one sentence it contrasted President Obama’s unpleasant narcissism and Romney’s instinctive self-deprecation, Obama’s utter disregard (even after the severe rebuke of the 2010 election) of what the country wanted him to work on in order to pursue his own personal agenda, and Romney’s concentration on the ailing American economy and the impending fiscal crisis. It reminded me a bit of what is surely the best pun in American political history, Gerald Ford’s “I’m a Ford not a Lincoln.”

Obama, a mountain of evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, regards himself as a Lincoln at the very least. Romney regards himself as a man who has a job to do.

But I was also struck by a rhetorical dog that didn’t bark in the night. The word “mom” rang through the hall repeatedly. But, at least judging from the convention rhetoric, the word “mother” has completely dropped out of the American lexicon. If it was used even once, I missed it.

When I was growing up, “Mom” was a term of address, used only in the vocative. (Well, not to my mother. For some reason she hated the word and when we were young my brother and I called her “Mum,” which is just the British equivalent, although my mother was not British. By the time we were nine or ten we called her Mother.) Today, mom is used in all cases (“American moms,” “tell your mom,” “your mom’s apple pie”). The word survives only as metaphor (“the mother of all battles”).

I suppose it is just an example of the ever-increasing informalization of the language (in the 19th century it was not uncommon for upper-class kids to use the Latin terms Mater and Pater in addressing their parents). But, at least to my aging ears, it sounds off key.

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GOP Convention Lesson: Biography Matters

The electoral strategies of both the Republican and Democratic parties contain an element of identity politics, though generally of very different kinds. Republican identity politics usually centers on faith and a middle America culture distinct from the coastal elitism of the Democrats. The Democratic Party bases its electoral strategy more and more on race to the exclusion of almost anything else, though this year the Obama White House has conjured a “war on women” to highlight gender as well.

Republicans and conservatives often complain that the Democrats’ race-obsessed political outlook has two major faults: one, that candidates and voters are judged to an overwhelming degree on the color of their skin, and two, that when a member of a racial or ethnic minority group that usually votes Democratic becomes a high-profile Republican, the left seeks to destroy their career with unusual ferocity. (Think Miguel Estrada, Clarence Thomas.) But at the Republican National Convention this week conservatives saw just why the left’s identity politics can be so effective, and why they try so hard to tear down any dissenters: biography matters.

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The electoral strategies of both the Republican and Democratic parties contain an element of identity politics, though generally of very different kinds. Republican identity politics usually centers on faith and a middle America culture distinct from the coastal elitism of the Democrats. The Democratic Party bases its electoral strategy more and more on race to the exclusion of almost anything else, though this year the Obama White House has conjured a “war on women” to highlight gender as well.

Republicans and conservatives often complain that the Democrats’ race-obsessed political outlook has two major faults: one, that candidates and voters are judged to an overwhelming degree on the color of their skin, and two, that when a member of a racial or ethnic minority group that usually votes Democratic becomes a high-profile Republican, the left seeks to destroy their career with unusual ferocity. (Think Miguel Estrada, Clarence Thomas.) But at the Republican National Convention this week conservatives saw just why the left’s identity politics can be so effective, and why they try so hard to tear down any dissenters: biography matters.

Of the politicians who spoke this week, easily three of the most impressive were Condoleezza Rice, Marco Rubio, and Susana Martinez. Their values are conservative values, and their political outlooks consistent with the conservative movement’s message: America is a place where, thanks to freedom and free enterprise, anyone can succeed. But, as the Democrats learned with President Obama, when you have spokesmen for that vision who embody the potential for its greatest achievement, the words take on a heft they don’t possess when spoken by others.

So when the preternaturally likeable Martinez, the Republican governor of New Mexico who is also the country’s first Hispanic female governor, took the stage, she said: “Growing up, I never imagined a girl from a border town could one day become a governor. But this is America. Y, en America todo es possible.” It’s a simple message and one that American politicians repeat quite often (though not always in Spanish). But it meant a bit more coming from Martinez, who told a charming story about how little girls often see her in public places, stare, point, and finally run up to her and ask “Are you Susana?” and then hug her.

And when Condoleezza Rice said that “Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement,” it was all the more powerful because she also said this:

And on a personal note—a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham–the most segregated big city in America–her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant–but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be president of the United States. And she becomes the secretary of state.

Rubio, as the son of Cuban immigrants and now a popular senator from Florida, often speaks about American Exceptionalism in the tone, and with the authority, of someone who is only standing before you because of that exceptionalism. Biography was a centerpiece of his address as well. He said:

A few years ago during a speech, I noticed a bartender behind a portable bar at the back of the ballroom. I remembered my father who had worked for many years as a banquet bartender. He was grateful for the work he had, but that’s not the life he wanted for us.

He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.

That journey, from behind that bar to behind this podium, goes to the essence of the American miracle — that we’re exceptional not because we have more rich people here. We’re special because dreams that are impossible anywhere else, come true here.

That’s not just my story. That’s your story. That’s our story.

That last bit is a particularly effective line, since the conservative movement has consistently stressed the fact that this country was founded on an idea, and it is that idea, rather than a common ethnic heritage, that produces a national identity.

Martinez recounted the story of when, before her campaign for district attorney, two Republicans invited her and her husband for lunch. Martinez knew they were going to try to convince her to join the Republican Party, but she didn’t take the idea seriously. They never asked her to switch parties—they didn’t have to. At the end of the conversation about a whole range of political issues, Martinez turned to her husband as they left and said, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans.”

That’s because the conservative message has broad appeal. But the convention seems to have shown that conservatives have realized how well that message translates across cultures, and the personal engagement that is sometimes necessary to get it across. The message doesn’t have to change, but sometimes the choice of messenger is just as important.

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Republican Convention Winners and Losers

After a week of speeches, a hurricane watch, endless clips of President Obama saying “You didn’t built that,” speeches, silly hats, balloons and whatever it is that you want to call what Clint Eastwood did last night, the Republican National Convention is finally over.

We’ll have the Labor Day weekend to catch our breath and then be confronted with the Democrats infomercial in Charlotte. But before we get ready to digest the Obama and Biden show, here is a roundup of some winners and losers from Tampa.

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After a week of speeches, a hurricane watch, endless clips of President Obama saying “You didn’t built that,” speeches, silly hats, balloons and whatever it is that you want to call what Clint Eastwood did last night, the Republican National Convention is finally over.

We’ll have the Labor Day weekend to catch our breath and then be confronted with the Democrats infomercial in Charlotte. But before we get ready to digest the Obama and Biden show, here is a roundup of some winners and losers from Tampa.

Winners

Mitt Romney: The candidate did everything he needed to do in his acceptance speech. The address managed to overcome the handicap of his low-key personality and reluctance to talk about himself, while revealing his intense patriotism as well as his love of family and the importance of his faith. But the speeches by his wife and those families that he helped while serving as a Mormon lay leader did even more to humanize a man the Democrats have gone all out to demonize. After hearing the Oparowskis talk about his loving friendship for a dying boy, it’s going to be tough for liberals to keep yapping about him killing people at Bain or the dog on the roof. Romney emerges from the convention with a strong running mate, a party united in its dislike of his opponent and some wind in his sails. We’ll find out in November if that is enough but right now, he’s looking stronger than he has all year.

Paul Ryan: The intense effort by the liberal media to try and debunk his smashing acceptance speech is testimony to how scared they are of him. The left has to falsely brand him a liar because now that America has gotten a good look at him, it’s not going to be possible to depict him as throwing granny off the cliff anymore. Ryan doesn’t just leave the convention with his reputation as the intellectual leader of his party intact. Republicans clearly love him more than the top of the ticket but their affection seems matched by Romney’s for his choice. And if you’re thinking about 2016 if Romney loses, Ryan is now automatically at the top of the list.

Marco Rubio: Rubio had the disconcerting task of following Clint Eastwood’s bizarre act. But he gave a speech that was second only to that of Condoleezza Rice’s address in terms of eloquence. Like Chris Christie, he talked a lot about himself rather than Romney but he still tied his story to that of Romney in a credible manner. He showed us that he is the most natural speaker of the GOP’s young guns. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t be on the ticket the next time the nomination is open.

Susana Martinez: Martinez was just a name and a statistic — the first female Hispanic governor — to most Republicans before she spoke on Wednesday. But even though she had the misfortune of following Condi Rice on the platform, she still earned the love of the delegates and, no doubt, much of the television audience, with her plucky style. Her comments about packing a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum delighted them and her, “I’ll be damned, we’re Republicans,” may have been the best line of the convention. She’s someone with a big future in national politics. Honorable mentions should also go to Mia B. Love and Sher Valenzuela. Both also will be heard from again.

Jeb Bush: Given the talented GOP bench that was on display this week, it looks as though Jeb Bush is going to have a steep hill to climb if he ever decides to try and follow his father and brother into the White House. But he scored in his speech both by defending his brother against President Obama’s attempt to blame him for everything and by making the case for school choice. Bush may never be president but he’s still a party favorite and Romney should definitely be thinking of him as a possible Secretary of Education.

Losers

Rick Santorum: Given that a year ago neither most pundits nor I though he had a chance in hell to even make it through the primaries, let alone be Romney’s toughest foe, it’s probably unfair to cast him as a loser. Nor did I think his convention speech was as bad as a lot of people labeled it. For me, it was Santorum at his best, as he talked about his values without lapsing into the angry guy persona that is his greatest weakness. But this week showed that any hopes Santorum might have of winning the nomination in 2016 are quixotic. For all of the grit he showed last winter and spring when he won more than a dozen primaries and caucuses, it’s impossible to imagine him besting stars like Ryan, Rubio or Christie. Santorum’s moment has passed.

Chris Christie: I disagree with those who termed his keynote address a failure since it was all about himself rather than extolling Romney. But sometimes a consensus of pundits can help shape public perceptions and I fear that a year from now it will have become conventional wisdom that he really did flop in the spotlight even though the speech was actually quite good and set the right tone for the party’s future which is the traditional purpose of a keynote. But even if posterity agrees with me rather than the most of the rest of the chattering classes, I still have to concede that the New Jersey governor doesn’t stack up that well when compared to the men who may be his primary competition in 2016 should Romney lose. Christie has a lot of moxie but he’s not as likeable or as much of a star as Ryan and Rubio. But perhaps a convention that is viewed as a slight setback will do him good, as it will focus the governor and his supporters on the formidable task of securing his re-election rather than pipe dreams about 2016 or 2020.

Sarah Palin: The comparison between Palin’s standing in the GOP isn’t so much between the present and her dazzling debut at the 2008 convention but between now and the early summer of 2011, when her mere appearance in the lower 48 seemed to briefly suck all the oxygen out of the GOP race. Over the course of the last 15 months she went from being a superstar to an afterthought and may even be in danger of losing her gig at Fox News, which is her last claim to prominence. Palin still has a cadre of faithful followers who can be relied upon to angrily and sometimes profanely protest whenever she is referred to in less than laudatory terms. But Tampa proved what we already knew about her. She’s yesterday’s news.

Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman and John Thune: Listening to any member of this trio, it was hard to figure out why anyone ever thought they were presidential material. Thune was simply a dud. One wag replied to my criticism of his talk on Twitter by pointing out, “you can hire a speech coach but you can’t fix ugly.” That’s true but Thune is proof that you need more than good looks to be taken seriously. As for Pawlenty and Portman’s speeches, the less we speak of them, the better. Suffice it to say that Romney made himself look like a genius by having them come on prior to Paul Ryan’s star turn.

Lastly, I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later whoever it was inside Romney’s camp that had the bright idea of inviting Clint Eastwood to be the mystery speaker at the convention. But for his or her sake, we should hope they remain forever anonymous. That person probably shouldn’t be completely blamed for Eastwood discarding his planned remarks and providing what was one of the most embarrassing moments in modern political convention history. But I doubt either party will ever take that kind of a chance again.

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The Speech Romney Needed to Give

Mitt Romney delivered exactly the speech he needed to give last night, no more and no less. His job was to show his human side (as Jonathan wrote) and present himself as presidential, while also reaching out to key groups (women, independents, disenchanted Obama voters). He checked all of those boxes.

There were moving lines in the speech (the rose anecdote, the remarks about children growing up), but Romney seems to know his strengths, and didn’t try to compete against the superstar speakers like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or Chris Christie. It wouldn’t have worked, and he didn’t need to, anyway. The whole convention lineup leading up to Romney’s speech was effective at personalizing him, vouching for his character, elucidating the Romney-Ryan vision, and offering an ideological critique of Obama’s presidency. By the time Romney took the stage, most of it had already been said; he just had to get the convention over the finish line.

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Mitt Romney delivered exactly the speech he needed to give last night, no more and no less. His job was to show his human side (as Jonathan wrote) and present himself as presidential, while also reaching out to key groups (women, independents, disenchanted Obama voters). He checked all of those boxes.

There were moving lines in the speech (the rose anecdote, the remarks about children growing up), but Romney seems to know his strengths, and didn’t try to compete against the superstar speakers like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or Chris Christie. It wouldn’t have worked, and he didn’t need to, anyway. The whole convention lineup leading up to Romney’s speech was effective at personalizing him, vouching for his character, elucidating the Romney-Ryan vision, and offering an ideological critique of Obama’s presidency. By the time Romney took the stage, most of it had already been said; he just had to get the convention over the finish line.

Some wondered why Romney didn’t offer more policy details. After the full-fledged media assault on Paul Ryan yesterday — which was baseless, and ended up detracting from the coverage of an excellent speech — why should Romney have put himself in the same position? While I agree that he has to put out more details on his tax, budget and Medicare plans, he did not have to do it last night. He can do that on the campaign trail or on his website. Voters already trust him over Obama on economic issues. Where Romney lags is on empathy — Americans don’t believe he cares about the struggles of others as much as Obama does. That was the gap he was working on closing last night.

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Romney Passes His Big Test

Heading into the Republican National Convention, the big question for Republicans was whether their candidate could be humanized as well as whether he could deliver an acceptance speech that could properly launch the fall campaign. At the conclusion of the convention, the answer to both questions is an unequivocal yes.

Over the course of the three days, viewers got a better idea of who the man Republicans were nominating. They heard stories about his humanity, service to others and his faith as well as his business success. And in his acceptance speech, he showed himself a plainspoken man who was moved by the ordinary gifts of life as well as by his love of country. It may not have been a great speech but it was probably the best one he has ever given on a night when he needed to be come across as more than a middling political talent. Though no acceptance speech is really the make or break moment of any presidential election, Romney passed the test he had been set.

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Heading into the Republican National Convention, the big question for Republicans was whether their candidate could be humanized as well as whether he could deliver an acceptance speech that could properly launch the fall campaign. At the conclusion of the convention, the answer to both questions is an unequivocal yes.

Over the course of the three days, viewers got a better idea of who the man Republicans were nominating. They heard stories about his humanity, service to others and his faith as well as his business success. And in his acceptance speech, he showed himself a plainspoken man who was moved by the ordinary gifts of life as well as by his love of country. It may not have been a great speech but it was probably the best one he has ever given on a night when he needed to be come across as more than a middling political talent. Though no acceptance speech is really the make or break moment of any presidential election, Romney passed the test he had been set.

In a sense, the Democrats did Romney a favor by spending the last few months doing their best to demonize him. With the left determined to portray him as a heartless plutocrat the bar was set fairly low for Romney as far as brightening up his image. While the convention had its less than edifying moments — Clint Eastwood’s bizarre and sometimes tasteless dialogue with an imaginary Barack Obama being the most prominent — the time spent discussing Romney’s life and philosophy was very well spent.

Beginning with Ann Romney’s star turn on Tuesday night and continuing on Thursday with the testimonials from those whose families the candidate had helped as a Mormon lay leader, the nation was given a more realistic portrait of the man the Democrats have sought to besmirch. Though Romney is obviously not comfortable talking about himself, he was able to convey some of his depth of feeling about his family, his faith and his principles.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the convention was the way it showed how deep the Republican bench is with new stars like Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez, Chris Christie and Romney’s vice presidential choice Paul Ryan. But as much as a lot of the attention was devoted to these new faces, Romney still succeeded in putting forward a strong case that he has the ability to tackle a weak economy and the backbone to stand up for American interests and the cause of freedom. He also came across as an admirable if not as likeable as some critics seemed to demand.

Romney touched on familiar themes about Obama’s failures as well as trying to counter the Democratic charge that the GOP is waging a war on women. But when Romney contrasted the president’s messianic pledge about turning back the oceans with his own more humble promise to help American families, he struck exactly the right note. By choosing Ryan and by setting forth a critique of Obama’s creed of big government, Romney also gave voters a clearly delineated choice about the future of the country.

Romney has now passed the humanity test and showed he can articulate a coherent argument for his presidential ambitions. The stage is now set for a fall campaign in which the Republicans are no longer facing quite as uphill a slog as many thought they would have. President Obama has enormous advantages heading into his own convention. He has the power of incumbency, a status as an historic figure, an adoring mainstream media and a party that is willing to brand any criticism of him as a form of racism. Yet this week, Romney took an important step toward giving himself a chance to win in November.

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