The Republicans on the first two nights of their national convention have featured four of the most popular political figures in American life: John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush. Interestingly, none of them was a nationally popular figure five years ago: John McCain was just starting his presidential campaign, and was, of course, an opponent of George W. Bush; Laura Bush, as candidate Bush's wife, was not widely known; Giuliani was a major local politician in New York, vilified by the New York Times as a kind of fascist (the New York Times evidently prefers a city with crime rates more than double of New York's post-Giuliani's crime rate); and Schwarzenegger was a well-known movie actor whose capacity to command big advances seemed about to be coming to an end.
Now they stand in different shoes, as a result of the 2000 election campaign, of the September 11 attacks, of the California recall election. All are considered by Old Mediathe New York Times, the Washington Post, the dinosaur broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBCto be Republican moderates, unsympathetic in varying respects to George W. Bush's platform, supportive to varying extents of abortion rights (actually, McCain is not supportive of them at all) and other social causes of the American cultural left.
Yet they all delivered, on Monday and Tuesday nights at the Republican National Convention, brilliant speeches in favor of the candidacy of George W. Bush. In some respects they made stronger cases for Bush's policiesspecifically, for the war against Saddam Husseinthan Bush has done himself over the last 12 months. My sense is that Bush and his top appointees consider the case for the war against Saddam Hussein so obviously justifiable that they don't feel obliged to set it out themselves with any rigor. But John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani did, on Monday night, with sophisticated and rigorous arguments. The choice, they said, was not between a tolerable status quo and a war, but between allowing a regime with a proven record of developing weapons of mass destruction and assisting terrorists to do more in that direction or squelching that possibility.