(by Josh Gerstein, NYSun.com) ST. PAUL, Minn. - Senator Lieberman of Connecticut surpris[ed] delegates to the Republican National Convention here by offering an unusually combative defense – and even going on the offense – for the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Senator McCain of Arizona.
Mr. Lieberman, [a liberal Democrat who became an independent after losing his party’s endorsement over his support for the war in Iraq, and] who caucuses with Democrats but has endorsed Mr. McCain, was widely expected to laud his Republican colleague last night. However, the senator of Connecticut went further, directly attacking the credentials of Mr. McCain’s Democratic opponent, Senator Obama of Illinois.
“Senator Barack Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who I think can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But eloquence is no substitute for a record – not in these tough times for America,” Mr. Lieberman told delegates at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul. “In the Senate during three and a half years … he has not reached across party lines to get anything significant done, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party to get something done.”
Mr. Lieberman also warned that Democrats are engaged in a deceitful effort to paint Mr. McCain as a clone of President Bush and beholden to monied interests.
“Don’t be fooled by some of these political statements and advertisements. Trust me, God only made one John McCain, and he is his own man,” Mr. Lieberman said. “If John McCain is just another partisan Republican, then I’m Michael Moore’s favorite Democrat – and I’m not. And I think you know that I’m not.”
Delegates cheered Mr. Lieberman’s swipes at Mr. Obama, but sat silently through other parts of the speech, including praise for President Clinton and for Mr. McCain’s leadership on so-called campaign finance reform. Republican leaders concluded that, with their party’s image badly battered by the economic downturn and the protracted fighting in Iraq, direct appeals to independents and Democrats were necessary, even if they might irk some party faithful.
Convention planners, who reshuffled the speaking schedule after all but canceling Monday’s session in response to Hurricane Gustav, said yesterday that they were seeking more time from the television networks to make up for the lost hours. Nevertheless, President Bush and the first lady were relegated last night to slots that had them wrapping up just as the broadcast networks began live coverage at 10 p.m.
“We live in a dangerous world. And we need a president who understands the lessons of September 11, 2001: that to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen, and not wait to be hit again,” Mr. Bush said via a satellite feed from the White House, where he is overseeing the federal response to the hurricane. “The man we need is John McCain.”
Messrs. Bush and McCain were long at odds over America’s strategy on the war in Iraq. However, the president glossed over those differences as he praised Mr. McCain for his passionate advocacy for the so-called surge, which the administration finally adopted in January 2007 and which is credited with sharply reducing violence in Iraq.
“Some told him that his early and consistent call for more troops would put his presidential campaign at risk. He told them he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war,” Mr. Bush said. “That is the kind of courage and vision we need in our next commander in chief.”
In an appeal to conservatives wary of Mr. McCain’s record, Mr. Bush painted the presumptive Republican nominee as a resolute leader who would not respond to the demands of liberals.
“If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will,” Mr. Bush said.
The task of fleshing out Mr. McCain’s record of service as a fighter pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam fell last night to a former senator of Tennessee who briefly entered the Republican presidential field this cycle, Fred Thompson.
“John McCain’s character has been tested like no other presidential candidate in the history of this nation,” Mr. Thompson declared.
“We hear a lot of talk about hope these days,” Mr. Thompson said, alluding to one of the central campaign themes of the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Obama of Illinois.
“John McCain knows about hope. That’s all he had to survive on. … When his captors wanted the names of other pilots in his squadron, John gave them the names of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers,” Mr. Thompson said to huge cheers from the delegates. “It’s pretty clear there are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves, ‘Who is this man?’ and ‘Can we trust this man with the Presidency?'”
Mr. Thompson also brushed back Mr. Obama for his forays into foreign policy, while saluting Mr. McCain for being widely respected overseas.
“The respect he is given around the world is not because of a teleprompter speech designed to appeal to American critics abroad,” the former senator said, interrupted by a roar from the crowd. “It’s not because of that but because of decades of clearly demonstrated character and statesmanship.”
In another dig, Mr. Thompson mocked the groundbreaking nature of Mr. Obama’s candidacy. “The Democrats present a history-making nominee for president. History-making in that he is the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president,” the ex-senator said.
Earlier speeches yesterday focused on Mr. McCain’s family and in particular his decision in 1991 along with his wife Cindy to adopt a daughter, Bridget, from a Bangladeshi orphanage operated by Mother Teresa. Bridget, 17, appeared on stage at the convention yesterday evening.
Reprinted here with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at NYSun.com.
1. a) Who is Joe Lieberman?
b) During his speech endorsing John McCain, for what reason did Mr. Lieberman criticize Senator Obama?
2. a) Why was most of the first day of the Republican National Convention canceled?
b) How did the cancellations affect President Bush’s speech to the convention?
3. What issue did President Bush praise Sen. McCain for strongly supporting?
4. What was the focus of former Senator Fred Thompson’s speech at the convention?
5. For what reasons does Sen. Thompson believe John McCain should be elected president?
6. For what reason did Sen. Thompson say that Sen. Obama was not the right man for the job?
7. Do you agree with Sen. Thompson’s assertions about McCain and Obama? Explain your answer.
Watch the 2008 Presidential convention coverage at C-SPAN.
Watch an interview with a fellow POW and McCain supporter at WashingtonTimes.com.
Read more about the 2008 Republican National Convention at JohnMcCain.com.
Read the Republican Party’s 2008 platform at The American Presidency Project website.
Read the Democratic Party’s 2008 platform at The American Presidentcy Project website.