Ballot Box

Pop Goes the GOP

So many highlights tonight … Rep. Bud Shuster’s tribute to Ricky Martin … the cast of the UPN hit Moesha … the Congressional Cage Match … Trent Lott’s karaoke version of “Friends in Low Places.”

OK, I’m kidding. But it wasn’t far off. Pro-wrestling celebrity and newly registered voter “The Rock” introduced the speaker of the House. After the Delfonics performed, a rock band led by Rep. Joe Scarborough sang a song titled “Together in America” that was basically “Sweet Jane” set to patriotic lyrics. House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich warmed up the crowd for Latin pop “star” Jon Secada. And Lynne Cheney sang “Oops … I Did It Again” with Laura Bush.

OK, I’m kidding again–but only about that last part.

In the daily edition of the Weekly Standard distributed at the convention, David Brooks called this year’s Republican convention “reparative therapy for Caucasians.” Tonight it was more like a hemispheric festival of extremely low-quality pop culture. The best thing about Republicans in the old days was that they hated this stuff. They left Kenny G. and Fleetwood Mac to the Clintons. No more.

For the last half-hour, tonight’s show actually did resemble a political convention. When Dick Cheney finally delivered an explicit “screw you” Bill Clinton and Al Gore speech, after three nights of tantric politics, the effect was, well, cathartic.

Most of the jabs were not especially pointed. “That last day is near,” Cheney said. “The wheel has turned … and it is time … it is time for them to go.” The last part of this, the repeated refrain of the speech, was actually a verbatim quotation of the chant led at the 1992 Democratic convention in New York by none other than Al Gore. (No credit was given.)

And: “We are all a little weary of the Clinton-Gore routine.”

And: “They came in together. Now let us see them off together.”

And: “Does anyone Republican or Democrat seriously believe that under Mr. Gore, the next four years would be any different from the last eight?” (Isn’t this an argument for electing Gore?)

And of course, of Bush “… he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office.”

Cheney delivered this speech as if he were reading from the annual report at a stockholders’ meeting. When the crowd went wild, he smiled his crooked smile and folded his hands as he waited for the demonstration to end so he could get back to his TelePrompTer.

Then Lee Greenwood sang “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”