At the Republican National Convention, pretty much every speech is going to have two main arguments: President Obama and his vision are bad; Mitt Romney and his vision are good. The speakers will try to strike some kind of balance between the two, while emphasizing different specifics.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who delivered last night's keynote address, chose a different approach. Christie decided to use this opportunity to celebrate ... himself.
Watching the remarks, it occurred to me that Christie was trying -- and failing -- to emulate Barack Obama's 2004 DNC keynote, in which the then-state senator talked about how improbable American journey is, and "in no other country on earth, is my story even possible."
But Christie badly missed the point of Obama's speech -- it wasn't about him, specifically, but rather Obama's salute to America's exceptional qualities. Last night, the governor wanted to argue that he too has lived an improbable his American journey, not because of the extraordinary opportunities the nation offers, but because he's a Republican in a Democratic state.
And from there, it got worse. Christie went on (and on) celebrating himself and his virtues. As Rachel noted last night, "He waited 1800 words into a 2600 word speech to even bring [Romney] up."
Even Christie's theme seemed bizarre. The keynote was ostensibly about "hard truths" -- he used the word "truth" 21 times -- and the need for bold political "courage," but all of this only reinforced the degree to which Mitt Romney disagrees.
As we've discussed before, Romney's afraid to offend conservatives; he's afraid to push back against extremist rhetoric; he's afraid of the religious right; and he's afraid of Limbaugh. He's afraid to release his tax returns because he thinks Democrats might be mean to him; he's afraid to disclose his bundlers because he worries sunlight may scare his wealthy benefactors away; and he's afraid to take a firm position on key issues because he thinks he'd lose. His campaign said last week presenting specifics to voters would be "suicidal."
Romney's campaign isn't about courageous "hard truths"; it's about hiding the truth and hoping voters don't notice.
Indeed, Christie almost seemed to be patting Obama on the back, since it's the president who had to take the political risks -- rescuing the auto industry, passing health care reform, endorsing marriage equality, implementing the goals of the DREAM Act -- leaders sometimes have to choose.
By the time the speech was done, I still didn't know why I was supposed to vote for Mitt Romney, why Romney's agenda had value, or even what Romney would do in office. I now know why Chris Christie loves Chris Christie, and I'm glad he put his bullying persona on hold for the night, but I thought the point of the keynote was to advance Romney's ambitions, not the governor's.
Christie treated Romney like an afterthought. I assume Team Romney approved the speech before it was delivered, but I'm not sure why.