Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fred Thompson at the Family Research Council Summit

Overall, I think Thompson was strong, but uneven before the Family Research Council Summit.

The parts of Thompson’s speech that work, work well. The problem is that there are stretches in between them that – I must have used this term a hundred times already when writing about Thompson – meander. He begins with a funny, lighthearted story about his 2-year-old daughter Hayden clinging to his leg during a speech at an Iowa event.

He gets significant warmth from the crowd when he declares, “We know that our basic rights come from God, and not any form of government.” His “we have shed more blood” line gets significant applause.

The economics portions of Thompson's speech get something of a blah reception. Around this time, I noticed he clears his throat more often than any other politician I've seen. Somebody get this man a cough drop.* “When we see government officials giving birth control to 11-year-olds, we know some values are seriously messed up.”

He gets a long standing ovation when he says that in his first hour as president, he would “pray to God for the wisdom to know what is right.” The ovation is so long, that his true closing line, “and the strength to carry it out” feels like a forlorn orphan of a statement.

A bunch of young Fred-ites chant, “Go’Fred Go!” as he departs. Some great moments in his address, and since most will only see the highlights, he’s done most of what he needed to do. But we still haven’t seen him knock it out of the park, from the moment he steps up to the podium to the moment he departs. He’s an oddly uneven speaker for a veteran Senator and television star.

* A reader wonders if the throat-clearing is related to Thompson's lymphoma; a Thompsonite told me he didn't think so. I hope my observation didn't come across as a shot at Thompson's health.

Another Black Eye for the GOP?

RNC chairman abruptly resigns

The Miami Herald reported a few weeks ago that Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), elected chairman of the Republican National Committee in January, planned to step down once a GOP presidential nominee emerges. Martinez expected to make way for his successor some time in February, so the ‘08 nominee can have his team in place for the election season.

Apparently, he couldn’t wait that long. Martinez abruptly resigned today, less than a year after taking the job at the president’s request.

“I believe that our future as a party and nation is bright and I have every intention of continuing to fight for our president, our party and our candidates,” the Florida senator said in a statement.

Martinez said he was relinquishing the post to spend more time focusing on his constituents and because the RNC had achieved the objective he set when he assumed the job in January.

“It was my goal as general chairman to lead the party as it established the structure and raised the resources necessary to support our presidential candidate and ensure Republican victories next November. I believe we have accomplished those goals,” Martinez said.

Yes, it’s quite a record of accomplishments. There was the… well, how about the… who can forget about the time…. OK, Martinez seems to have neither set nor met any actual goals as RNC chairman.

But I am curious about why he’s stepping down now.

The AP reported:

His departure was abrupt. Martinez wasn’t expected to step down until a Republican presidential nominee was selected. The earliest that could occur is February. […]

There was no immediate word on a replacement.

I hate to sound cynical, but isn’t this a little odd? The RNC chairman planned to step down next year, but abruptly shifts course, making a Friday-afternoon announcement, usually a time reserved for political figures who are avoiding attention.

For that matter, there was supposed to be a transition, so Martinez could hand the reins off to his successor. Instead, there simply won’t be an RNC chairman until one of the Republican presidential candidates locks up the nomination, which won’t happen for at least four months.

Seems like there might be more to this one. Hmm.