Joel Klein served as the chancellor of the New York City Department of Education for eight years. In a new book called "Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools," he recounts his experience as head of the nation's largest school district and explains his vision for how to solve the problems plaguing our education system.
Mitt Romney officially became the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee at the Republican National Convention yesterday. Hours later the full bore effort to broaden his appeal began. His wife, Anne Romney and up and coming Republican Party leader, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey gave speeches aimed at weak spots in Governor Romney’s support: female voters and undecided voters dissatisfied with President Obama’s performance. This week’s Republican convention presents a critical opportunity for Romney to re-introduce himself on the national stage. Please join us for an update from the convention
- Ron Elving Washington editor for NPR.
- Stuart Rothenberg editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report and a twice-a-week columnist for Roll Call.
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com and author of a new book, "The Gospel According to The Fix."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Republican National Convention was in full swing yesterday. The effort to repackage Gov. Romney as the candidate voters can trust and one who has better ideas for the country began in earnest.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio to talk about what we learn last night and what we can expect at the convention the rest of this week, Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report and a columnist for Roll Call, joining us from an NPR studio in Tampa, Fla., Ron Elving, Washington editor for NPR, and Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us. Call us on 800-433-8850. I'd like to hear your reactions to last night's speeches. Give us a shout out on an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody.
MR. STUART ROTHENBERGGood morning.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning, Diane.
MR. RON ELVINGGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to have you all with us. Stu Rothenberg, I know you were glued to your television last night. Two featured speakers: Ann Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, they both had very specific jobs to do. What was it, and did they succeed?
ROTHENBERGWell, let me start you off with a small correction. I didn't glue myself to the chair, Diane.
ROTHENBERGI had my wife tie me into the chair, so I couldn't get up and leave. Ann Romney's purpose was to talk about very personally about her husband to emphasize his value, his core beliefs, his personal style, his integrity, his commitment, his energy. It was a terrific wife's speech aimed, I think, primarily at women but generally at voters -- more generally at voters as a whole.
ROTHENBERGChris Christie had a very different job, and therefore it was a very different speech. And it -- and the contrast between the two speakers and the two speeches has received significant criticism from many people thinking that they didn't quite fit together. Remember these two people were supposed to speak on different nights originally, and Chris Christie was much more about toughness and leadership and telling it like it is, not the -- it's not about love with him. It was about toughness and confronting the truth.
ROTHENBERGYou know, they were fine. At the end of the day, Ann Romney's, I think, has more impact, a longer term impact. But speeches are still speeches, and undecided voters probably were not convinced one way or another on last night. And we still have two months of a campaign to go.
REHMRon Elving, let me ask you about Ann Romney's speech. I think she delivered it with warmth, with humanity, with love. The question for me became, did she, in fact, write that speech herself, or did someone else write it? I heard two different versions.
ELVINGAnd I believe both versions were correct. I believe she wrote a good deal of the speech. I think it was probably the best part of the speech.
ELVINGIt was the part that she then delivered with the most authenticity, the most feeling. And much of the speech I thought was highly successful in doing just that, projecting Ann Romney as a person who is not just an equestrian with a horse in the Olympics, but also as a wife and mother, a real person, flesh and blood and someone who if she likes Mitt Romney this much and really does believe he has those human qualities people are looking for, maybe he really does.
ELVINGSo I think that in that basic way, it was successful, and they let her write the speech. And she delivered it well. The parts that were not so good, I thought, were the interpolations. The parts that somebody came and then said, Ann, we need to punch it up a little here at the end. It's not clear enough that you're appealing to women, so here's a line where you're going to say, I love you, women.
ELVINGAnd also, we're going to put in line a little later on here saying, you can trust Mitt. And we're going to put in a line here saying, he will never fail. I guarantee you, he cannot fail. You know what I'm saying? I mean, they got a little over the top.
REHMHow about you, Chris Cillizza? What was your reaction?
CILLIZZAWell, you know, Diane, I think one thing -- first of all, I agree broadly with what Ron and Stu have said. I think one thing to remember is that the vast majority of the people who spoke at the convention last night and the people who speak tonight and the people who speak tomorrow night are professional politicians. These are people who get paid and have made a living on trying to persuade the persuadable folks out there about why they're the right choice, go out and vote for me.
CILLIZZAAnn Romney is not someone who has -- well, she has lived a public life because she is married to someone who lives a public life. She is not someone who has ever really done that sort of thing. And I -- I'm not suggest we grade on a curve here, but I do think it's worth noting that I found her speech even better for that which is it is difficult to -- I think we always forget this.
CILLIZZAIt is not easy to get up in front of however many thousand people are in that arena, and you know there are lots more people watching, listening, consuming this, to get up and deliver a speech talking in a very personal way about your own life. She mentioned MS. She mentioned breast cancer, talking about your husband, while at the same time, to Ron's point, trying to bridge a gap among women.
CILLIZZAI mean, this was not an easy task for her. I think she handled it well. I do agree with Stu, though. I -- we tend, I think, to in the moment stand too close to the picture, Diane, and invest any single one speech, including -- up to and including Mitt Romney's speech on Thursday night probably with too much value.
CILLIZZAIf you go back and look at polling for the last eight months a year on this race, basically nothing, no event has changed the dynamic, which is it's very, very close. I don't know if Ann Romney's speech, if Paul Ryan's speech, if Mitt Romney's speech, if Chris Christie's speech, I'm not sure if any of them given that history can affect it.
REHMOK. Chris Cillizza, he is author of a new book. It's titled "The Gospel According to The Fix." And you're invited to join us, 800-433-8850. Ron Elving, what about the mood of the crowd? What was it like inside that hall?
ELVINGMost of the day, and they began about two o'clock, right -- in fact, they began right exactly at two o'clock, and they ran up until about 11:15. And, of course, a little bit of celebrating goes on after that. Throughout that entire period of time -- and it's a long time to be in any kind of room but a -- particularly a big noisy, boomy room. During that entire time, it seemed to me they were in an ebullient mood. They were very happy.
ELVINGYou would think that they were 10 points up in the polls. They had an enormous amount of confidence, first of all, that they were going to beat Barack Obama and the Democrats in November and, secondly, that they were going to usher in an entirely new era in American fiscal policy, in American social policy that really we were on the brink of another 1980 Ronald Reagan kind of breakthrough for the Republican Party.
ELVINGThere was no question in their minds. There was one exception to that. There was one kind of angry passage right after four o'clock when they were dealing with the credentials committee report and the platform committee report which contained some things that were considered an affront by the Paul -- of the Ron Paul delegates and by also some of the people who would've preferred Rick Santorum be the nominee, specifically...
REHMYeah. What happened on Ron Paul?
ELVINGWell, Ron Paul was there physically. He was in the hall.
ELVINGBefore we began at two o'clock, he was walking around wearing a lovely lei of flowers around his neck, no tie, white shirt, drawing quite a crowd, looking a little bit like a guru who had somehow gotten here from Hawaii. But he was charismatic, a lot of people coming to him on the floor, everyone talking about how he ought to be given a speaking opportunity, which, of course, he isn't. His son is speaking, but he is not.
ELVINGHe has also not endorsed Romney. So not only were they not going to be willing to let him speak. They would not even announce the votes that were cast for him when they did the roll call vote. They only announced the votes for Romney which got to sound kind of weird, and people in the crowd started chanting out the Ron Paul numbers because they weren't being announced from the podium.
ELVINGSo, just to sum it all up, they got very upset about this credentials issue, about striking certain names of delegates of future conventions, a little obscure, but it was considered to be the moment of diss for Ron Paul and all of his people. And so there was some booing, and there was a great shout of no when they approved the rules and when they approved the credentials report. So, just for a moment, it looked as though the whole thing were going to come a little unglued, but that went away very quickly.
ELVINGChairman Reince Priebus handled it, and we went on.
REHMStu Rothenberg, how important, how damaging was the whole Ron Paul issue?
ROTHENBERGOh, I don't think particularly damaging at all. If you look at the way the Republicans handled that, first, they negotiated a deal, and, second of all, all this complaining and the protest was not in primetime. People were at the work or they were watching the local news or whatever they watch these days, some talk show. And so, sure, it occurred, and there are Ron Paul people who were carrying a grudge. But it's not defining. It will not define this convention, I don't think.
ROTHENBERGYou know, I really think we will talk more about the speeches in over the next few days, all of the speeches. But I think what's important for the Republicans is the general impression that this convention leaves with voters, particularly swing voters, but voters in general. And I think it looks to me as though the general impression is going to be the Republican Party is reasonably unified in going after the president of the United States.
ROTHENBERGThey are a conservative party, but they're trying to broaden their diversity and their appeal. And, OK, so fine. So they're credible. They're -- I may like them. I may not like them. But they're a credible alternative. Now, let's see what the Democrats have to offer, and then let's see what the two candidates have to offer in the debates.
REHMIn the debates.
REHMStuart Rothenberg, he is editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, a columnist for Roll Call. Ron Elving and Chris Cillizza are on the line with us from Tampa, Fla. Ron Elving of NPR, Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix and a new book, "The Gospel According to The Fix." Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd we're back talking about yesterday's event speeches at the Republican National Convention. Two of our commentators are there at the convention: Ron Elving of NPR and Chris Cillizza of Washington Post politics blog and managing editor of PostPolitics.com. Here in the studio, Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report and a columnist for Roll Call. Now, let's turn to Gov. Chris Christie's speech and, Chris Cillizza, your take.
CILLIZZAIt was Chris Christie at his Chris Christieness in a way, Diane. This is kind of what we've come to expect from the governor of New Jersey.
REHMOK. So what do you mean?
CILLIZZAHe came out. He walked out onto the stage. He pumped his fist. He clapped his hands. Toward the end of the speech, he urged everyone to get up on their feet. He has a brashness, a boldness, a -- to my mind, it's a remarkable lack of nerves. I watched pretty much every speech from eight o'clock through 11:00, making me probably one of 50 people in America who did so.
CILLIZZABut I watched all of those speeches, Diane, and almost everyone, even people -- the governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, the senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte, people who are, you know, in big offices seemed a little bit nervous. And I would put Ann Romney in that category as well. Chris Christie seemed entirely unbothered by the moment.
CILLIZZAI don't think it was the best performance Chris Christie has ever given. I don't think he blew the doors off. I don't think he will be the story of this convention. That said, if you like Chris Christie going into that convention speech -- and I would suggest to you that lots and lots and lots of Republicans do -- you certainly left it liking Chris Christie.
CILLIZZAThe one thing I do think is noteworthy, while it was a keynote address, and he was not tasked with introducing Mitt Romney, his speech was the least workmanlike in terms of saying, here's why Mitt Romney is great, and you should vote for him. Ninety-five percent of his speech was, here's why Chris Christie is great, and you should vote for me. But I'm not running for president, but I might someday. You know, it was a remarkable thing.
CILLIZZAAgain, it's a keynote address. It's not meant to sort of introduce the nominee. But if you go back and watch that speech or read that speech, that speech is about Chris Christie, what he's done in New Jersey and what he would do in his sort of broad vision, which is how the Christie people wanted it.
ELVINGDo you have to go back and look at it?
ROTHENBERGWell, I would just -- I think he tried to do one thing that -- I don't know how successful it was. But he tried to define kind of broad differences between the parties. But, first of all, I agree with everything that Chris Cillizza said. But I did want to note that I was watching Andrea Mitchell this morning. She said something that I thought was really right-on. One of the things that separates Chris Christie from other politicians is he can be really funny, funny in a natural kind of way, not the -- not funny like reading jokes but back and forth in kind of a play on words and -- he can be self-deprecating.
ROTHENBERGThere wasn't -- you didn't see that. You know, here he was on the stage way up above thousands of delegates. I thought he was OK. I thought he was fine. You know, he didn't fail. It was -- he did what he wanted to do, and I -- he added to the convention. But he was not at his best. He is best when there's some banter involved, when he appears more natural.
REHMWhen he doesn't have a speech to make maybe.
ROTHENBERGHe appears more natural. This setting is very artificial.
REHMYeah. Right. And, Ron Elving, your take.
ELVINGIt's too frayed with too many things. It's too built with expectations. So if he tries to do a little of this, people jump on him for that. In this particular case, I think people are going to remember, as Chris suggested, just how much it was about Chris Christie and who he was. He talked a lot about his own background, about how he grew up. He was on program.
ELVINGYou know, he'd gotten the memo about this was a night in which they wanted to show a lot of appeal to women. He talked about his mother a long time, his Sicilian mother. She was the enforcer, he said. She drove the car in the family. He talked about her quite a bit. And there was a sense that he was following some of the things that he was supposed to do.
ELVINGBut then he only mentioned the name Mitt Romney -- this may not seem like so few, but just seven times. That's few in a speech in which you are supposedly advertising the nominee of the party. It was mostly not about this year's nominee of the party. And, you know, I do think he also got dealt a little bit of a tough hand because, originally, he was going to have the spotlight to himself.
ELVINGBut as I think Stuart has already noted, they moved Ann Romney's speech because of the storm right up against his, and so he had to follow her. And, you know, there was a lot of excitement about her and a lot of excitement about what she was trying to do for Mitt. So he got a little bit overshadowed. It was not the proper way to present a keynote speech.
REHMInteresting. Two quick emails, the first from Mark in Birmingham, Ala., who identifies himself as a dedicated progressive. He says, "Ann Romney gave the most sincere, genuine and compelling speech of any of the presenters last night." And another from Mike in Arlington, Texas, who asks, "Why did Republicans not bring George Bush or Dick Cheney to the convention?" Stuart Rothenberg.
ROTHENBERGWell, I don't know what kind of formal invitations, if any, were offered. But I think the Romney people are pretty clear that they want this to be about President Obama. They want to introduce Mitt Romney. They want it to be about now and the future, and they don't want this election to be another referendum on the Bush years.
REHMDo we know if either was invited?
ROTHENBERGI don't know. Chris or Ron, do you know?
CILLIZZAI believe that they both were -- and the only reason I say that, Stu and Diane, is because they both sort of said, you know, thanks, but no thanks publicly. Now, they could have said thanks, but no thanks publicly and had not been invited. You know, I don't -- I did not see the invitation, was not on the phone call in which they were invited.
CILLIZZAI think both of them, particularly George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as well, grasp that a convention in which there can be cutaway television shots of them sitting in the audience does not get Mitt Romney where he needs to be, which is that this is not the party of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney anymore. This is a party of Mitt Romney. This is the party moving forward. I do not think the Republican Party wants -- in terms of just a political calculation, I do not think they want to tie Mitt Romney all that closely to George Bush and Dick Cheney.
REHMAll right. There were other speakers, notably South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Stu Rothenberg, what do you think?
ROTHENBERGI think Nikki Haley is an extremely likeable, personable, attractive young woman, who presents a different face of the Republican Party, a party that -- a party of women, a party -- she's -- as you know, she is Indian, not Native American, but East Indian. She talked a lot about Boeing and South Carolina jobs and how the president had interfered with growth. But I don't think anybody will remember the speech in particular. But she -- I think she is a significant presence and possibly a rising star in the party.
REHMInteresting. Chris Cillizza, you say she was the best.
CILLIZZAI think she was the best of -- last night, Diane, you had a lot of people who -- people like Stu and I get pitched and Ron get pitched on as the next face of the party. And so you had Brian Sandoval, the governor of Nevada. You had Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire. You had Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican Senate nominee, and you had Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina.
CILLIZZAChris Christie, I don't count as a rising star. He's just a plain star. You know, I mean, he's a -- when you keynote the party's national convention, you're not an up-and-comer. You've arrived. I thought -- of that group of people who are in kind of the great mentioned as, you know, down the line could be national candidates, I thought she acquitted herself best. I would say I think Ted Cruz actually did fine for himself as well.
CILLIZZAI thought Kelly Ayotte and Brian Sandoval looked nervous and kind of hesitant, and their speeches felt a little thin. But I -- it's to Stu's point -- I think a lot of these speeches, Diane, you will never remember what they said. This is more about buzz among insiders and political types about how they performed on a big stage. I don't think we're going to, four years from now, and if we're thinking about Nikki Haley running from president, we're going to say, remember that one speech?
CILLIZZAIt's very rare that that happens. Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic convention is an exception to that rule, but...
CILLIZZA...I think it's kind of a general feel that when the spotlight shined on her, she seemed likeable. She threw red meat to conservatives without looking like she was pandering. She performed. And in a lot of ways, that's what this is about, is when the light shines on you, can you do that thing that separates good politicians from great politicians?
REHMAnd let's not forget Bill Clinton's speech introducing the vice president several conventions back and the reception he got when he finally ended his speech. Ron Elving...
REHM...what about Ted Cruz? What can you tell us about him, his appeal within the party?
ELVINGTed Cruz is the surprise nominee for the United States Senate in the state of Texas and will be elected to that office in November. He's surprising because he beat in the primary the state's lieutenant governor, who is considered to be more or less a shoo-in, initially, and who is considered to be the rising talent of Republican politics in Texas. He is now, if you will, the flavor of the month, really, for the Tea Party. He is their sudden star.
ELVINGAnd he came out last night and tried to do something quite different. He had the podium retracted, so there was nothing on the stage but Ted Cruz. And he walked around and gave, I thought, a bit of an air of television evangelist in giving a strong speech. He's an extraordinarily successful communicator, and this is how he has risen from. He actually is only a former office holder. He's run as a private citizen, and he showed a little bit of what has appeal to people in Texas.
ELVINGI'm not sure that it came across either in the hall the way he had in mind, and it looked a little bit odd. It looked a little bit as though he wasn't really part of the program. It was almost as though this were a commercial interruption and we were suddenly hearing from Ted Cruz who is going to sell us something. And there was a little touch of Joel Osteen, a little touch of a lot of different pitch people that you might see on television. So I didn't think it was entirely successful, but I do think he has a very successful career ahead of him.
ROTHENBERGWell, I agree with what Ron said, the way he walked around on the stage. And I must admit, I give a lot of speeches -- that's one of the things I do -- and I do walk around the stage like that.
REHMMe, too. Always.
ROTHENBERGI mean, it's better to connect with the audience.
ROTHENBERGYou look at them. You talk to people.
ROTHENBERGAnd it's more natural. So I think that was -- he tried that, and I think it worked partially...
REHMMay give appeal to the television audience more than those within the hall?
ROTHENBERGYeah. I think it did have kind of the air of the preacher. Ted Cruz is very interesting figure.
ROTHENBERGHe has Ivy League education. I believe he went to Princeton and Harvard Law School.
ROTHENBERGAnd yet he's a favorite of the Tea Party and the Club for Growth, and he defeated this establishment Republican. I think Ted Cruz thinks that he is going to be a major player in the Republican Party over the next 20 or 30 years. And I look for him to join the kind of Jim DeMint, Rand Paul group of Republicans in the Senate who are disinclined to compromise.
REHMStuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report. He's also a columnist for Roll Call. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What have we heard thus far that tells us what the Romney-Ryan policy prescriptions are going to be, Stu?
ROTHENBERGWhat we've -- what have we heard so far in that convention?
ROTHENBERGNothing, I would say. I mean, convention -- this part of the convention is about broad themes, introducing, reintroducing or Ann Romney introducing her husband to people who haven't paid a lot of attention so far, talking about change, talking about freedom, talking about liberty. No, we're not to meat, and there won't be, I suspect, lots of meat. Now Paul Ryan may offer some meat. That'll be interesting.
ROTHENBERGAnd Mitt Romney, that'll be interesting to see how much meat is in there because, of course, he's been criticized for, again, being rather vague and general and talking kind of at 30,000 feet. So we'll see how much detail is in these, but I wouldn't expect too much. This is not the kind of setting particularly conducive to detailed discussion of public policy.
REHMRon Elving, how much of a deficit do Republicans face with women, even considering Ann Romney's speech?
ELVINGGiven the latest CNN poll that I saw just yesterday, Mitt Romney is trailing by 12 points among women, 54-to-42. That approximates the margin from 2008 when Barack Obama got 55 percent, I believe, of the female vote, and John McCain got about 43 percent. That 12-point gap is the story, really, of 2008 because McCain and Obama tied among men. They were both at around 49 percent. I think Obama might have been just a hair above.
ELVINGBut that was essentially a tied election. It would not have been the blowout that it wound up being in the Electoral College but for the lopsided win for the Democrats among women. That's the story of our politics in one tiny nutshell. You can look at all the other demographics. You can look at income groups. You can look at race. But if you want one huge number that just jumps out at you, it is the fact that men are right now favoring Mitt Romney by double digits, and women are favoring Barack Obama.
ELVINGSo both parties are going to have to try to do something about this. I think the Democrats are going to try to defend their advantage among women, and certainly what we saw yesterday was it points almost a comical effort to reach out and say, no, we really do care about you women voters. Now, all of that was done through programming and visuals. There was not any change in the Republican platform.
ELVINGAnd this is the one thing that is meat that we've gotten so far in the convention, and it was entirely buried. They did it out of primetime, and they didn't talk about the platform at all. They just approved it. You have to go look it up. You have to go read it. And if you do that, you'll find that the issues on which the Republican Party is somewhat at odds with most women voters, there's been no change at all, except perhaps to move further in the direction of being at odds with where most women are.
REHMYou mean there was absolutely no change in regard to what women or many women care about from the draft to the final version of the platform?
ELVINGNot that I'm aware of.
CILLIZZANo. You know, Diane, the thing to remember -- I hesitate to go too far into the weeds on this because, you know, the -- while the party platform is fundamentally sort of it should be, and many people view it within the party as, the best outline of their views, you have people like that speaker of the House, John Boehner, saying, I prefer that party platform to be on one piece of paper rather than in a book.
ELVINGMaybe an index card.
CILLIZZARight. You know, the people who control how the platform is written are the most activist portion of the party, and those people tend to be the most conservative, which is why you see it reflected that you don't see movement to them at all. I don't think Mitt Romney is going to read from the platform or hold it up in some way as an indicative of exactly where he is taking the party.
REHMAll right. Chris Cillizza, his new book is titled "The Gospel According to the Fix." Short break. When we come back, your calls, your questions. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. It's time to go to the phones, first to Miami, Fla. Good morning, Hillary.
HILLARYI was wondering about why we have these conventions. You know, every year, we are -- we always know who the candidate is. And then you see speeches like last night. As a woman, I don't really care how Mitt -- what she thinks of her husband or as he is as a man. Like, I was wincing when she was saying, I love women. It was so weird. It was so weird. I want to hear about policies. And this is -- aren't these conventions expensive? Why are we still doing them?
ROTHENBERGWell, why we're doing them is because the parties think they're an opportunity to do two things. One, energize the base, get people excited, show people who are happy, enthusiastic, energized and hope to build a kind of a bandwagon effect among other people who say -- who look at this and say, well, look at this party. These people got it together. This must be great candidates, and take a look at the candidates.
ROTHENBERGAlso, the party strategist want the opportunity to put on big events that they think will and hope will draw millions of eyeballs to their candidates, to their message so that this can kick off the fall campaign. Having said that, I'm forcing myself to watch this. I will force myself to watch the Democratic convention. I don't expect to learn very much new. I don't expect discussion of real ideas and public policies. That's not what the parties see these conventions...
REHMBut think about her comment regarding the money, Ron Elving.
ELVINGThe money, let's talk about the money. I would say the main reason for the conventions today is, in a sense, money. The history of the convention, of course, is that it used to make a lot of decisions. It used to decide who would be the presidential candidate, vice presidential candidate. And it used to hassle about platform items with great verve. And they really made history at a lot of conventions. Even within the last 30, 40 years, the conventions really mattered. That has come to an end. Now, the candidates are all pre-chosen.
ELVINGThat may be a better system. It may be more egalitarian. It may be more democratic. But it does make for a dull convention. All we're really doing here is mounting an advertisement for the candidates and for the party that nominated him. That's true of Republicans and Democrats equally. The other thing about money is a lot of money gets raised at these conventions, not so much for the presidential candidates but for all the other candidates, all the other people on the ballot.
ELVINGAnd then, of course, there is the money that, going back to the 1970s, was devoted to the conventions by the set-aside money that taxpayers pay if they choose to check that little box on their 1040 form that then sends money to the parties to put on these conventions. Now, that's not all the money that goes to the conventions, but then you get a lot of these private interests in the cities that are sponsoring these events
ELVINGAnd there's a lot of money to be made by the cities and by interests there, and it's advertising for those corporations as well. So a lot of it does come down in the end to being about money.
REHMOK. But here's an email, Chris Cillizza, from Howard, who says, "I was glued to my chair The Weather Channel and one -- when I was watching the Republicans, I heard everything except new ideas about the economy. I never doubted that Mitt Romney has a great family or that Chris Christie is an interesting personality. However, except for tax cuts for the very rich, I heard nothing about jobs or the economy." So it does raise the question are these conventions truly necessary.
CILLIZZAIt does, and I would say the answer is certainly no in their current form. The idea that you need to -- and some of this is my personal bias, Diane. I have a 6-week-old at home that being away from her for six days is not exactly my wife's idea of a great time. But I would say I do think broadly it is true that we do probably not need four days. Obviously, since this convention was planned for four days, it's going to wind up being three days of actual events. Stu is right in everything he said about why the parties like conventions.
CILLIZZAThat said, I think there has been an ongoing fight between the parties and the broadcast networks over how much time they will actually show in primetime. That fight -- it seems to me that we are -- this is the end of a four-day convention. Now, whether that means -- President Obama, in fact, in Charlotte, they're only having a three-day convention. Whether that means we go to a three-day conventions or two-day conventions, you've seen a lot -- Tom Brokaw has proposed on The New York Times that we do a single-day convention.
CILLIZZAYou do the keynote, you do the Marco Rubio speech, you do the Paul Ryan speech, which would introduce Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney speaks, and you do voter registration drives around the country in football stadiums. You pipe those speeches in. One day, you get the big speakers you need. I don't know if we're ready for that sort of radical change in four years time. Politics tends to move glacially slowly.
REHMMight be a good one. Here's...
REHM...a representative of about 10 emails we've gotten, which says, "You might want to mention two other horrifying episodes, number one, the representative who threw peanuts at an African-American CNN reporter saying, 'This is how we feed the animals,' and, number two, the fact that the speech by a Puerto Rican representative, who had the nerve to speak with a slight accent, was interrupted by people screaming, USA, USA." Did that actually happen, Ron Elving?
ELVINGI cannot say I witnessed either of those allegations.
REHMIs either of these true? Go ahead.
ELVINGI just don't -- the first one I don't know what went on there. There was a flurry of reports about this that could not be confirmed. Certainly, you know, people are still trying to find witnesses to this event who can give us the facts on what happened there. There were a number of points during the day yesterday when various speakers were interrupted, not necessarily even intentionally by cheers of one kind or another that rose up from the floor.
ELVINGWhat you saw during primetime last night was really not representative of the kind of zooey (sp?) atmosphere of most of the day from two o'clock to about eight o'clock, nine o'clock, 10 o'clock at night. And there was a lot of interruption of various people who were speaking. I would not doubt that there are people in this crowd who nurse animosity towards Spanish speakers. I would not doubt that there are people in this crowd who might express some of their feelings in extremely unfortunate ways.
ELVINGIf that initial incident were true, part of -- and I don't know what the actual facts were, but part of the story from the beginning was that the person who supposedly threw these items at this camera person was immediately ejected. It was not as though this were somehow representative of the general feeling at the convention.
REHMChris Cillizza, did you see any of that?
CILLIZZAI did not, Diane. I think Ron hits it right when he says that, look, there are a lot of people here from a lot of very different viewpoints and backgrounds. I think it is difficult to hang what any one person says or does, who is not a sanctioned representative speaking onstage or an elected official to hang then on the Republican Party or Mitt Romney any more than, I think, someone yelling something out at a rally a big, you know, thousands of people rally of Barack Obama that someone might find objectionable should be somehow --Barack Obama should be answerable to that.
CILLIZZAAt the same time what the Romney team wants and what the Obama team want next week is no distractions. You read that email earlier, the guy talking about how he was watching The Weather Channel most of the night.
CILLIZZAI would say putting aside these issues, which to Ron's point, it -- and I will second Ron on this. We were not able to confirm them. I'm not confirming or denying them, but we were not able to confirm them. To me, the bigger story here is the split-screen nature of what Mitt Romney is getting out of this convention. You know, we've got TVs. We're obviously paying close attention to you, Diane, but we've got TVs around here in the studios that CNN has been running hurricane coverage this whole time.
CILLIZZAThere has been no convention talk. You've got the split-screen mentality, and that's not great for Mitt Romney. They want to use this convention to dominate media coverage for the two or three days leading into it, and the two or three days leading out of it. He is not getting that. That, to me, is kind of a bigger story than these reported or alleged incidents that happened in before.
REHMAll right. Stu.
ROTHENBERGYeah. I just wanted to add a postscript to what Ron and Chris just said, and I agree with them. I have become radicalized in one area over the past 30 years in Washington. And that is I have become radicalized about people who believe that their opponents are not just wrong or misguided but are evil. And I was tweeting last night -- and I tweeted something when Santorum was speaking about how -- I thought that he was -- he comes -- I think Santorum comes across -- Rick Santorum comes across as very sincere.
ROTHENBERGYou can agree with him. You can disagree with him. But I think he believes what he says. And a number of people tweeted back to me, oh, he's lying. He knows he's lying. I think this is really a bad thing that is happening in this country, when you can't even accept that somebody believes what they say. And so I don't know if these incidents happened, but I don't even like -- unless there's evidence, unless there's videotape, unless you have the CNN reporter coming forward, I don't even like to hear about these kinds of charges.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Staunton, Va. Good morning, Douglas.
DOUGLASGood morning, Diane. As a marginalized Ron Paul supporter, I appreciate you taking my call.
DOUGLASAnd to the last comment -- the crowd was shouting USA, and they were trying to be heard. They've been trying to be heard this entire election cycle. What I'd like the guests to talk to or talk at would be what the effects of the rule passed by the rule committee yesterday does to the electoral process in the United States. I'm a bit concerned that we don't have a true popular vote. And now, we don't even get to elect our delegates. And if your guests could please comment on the rules that were passed yesterday and the effect on the next election cycle.
REHMAll right. Ron Elving.
ELVINGThe rule, I believe, the caller is referring to allows the eventual nominee of the party to essentially take a look at the list of delegates that are coming to the convention once that nominee is in charge. Now, let's say, it were 2012 and Mitt Romney has vanquished his various rivals, he would then be empowered to essentially look down the list of delegates coming from, say, Iowa or some other state, where a state convention had sent a number of people to the convention who were not Mitt Romney supporters.
ELVINGAnd Romney would be able to look down that list and say, hey, am I getting everything that I'm entitled to for my performance in the Iowa caucuses? Or did somebody stack the deck at the state convention and send a lot of people here who don't like me? That's what they're worried about.
ELVINGAnd there was some attempt made by the Paul forces to amplify the congressman showing by going to state conventions, county conventions, local conventions and getting their people into the delegation so they could come here and not necessarily vote against Mitt Romney on the first ballot, which would be the only chance that it would matter, but -- and to be here and to essentially be part of the energy and to -- if there were, by any chance, a second ballot vote for Ron Paul.
REHMI see. Ron Elving of NPR. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Thanks for clearing that up for us, Ron. Chris, you wrote that, with the exception of Rick Santorum, there was no mention of abortion, traditional marriage or any other social issues, but with Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin staying in the race, might that issue or those issues be harder to avoid?
CILLIZZANot if the Mitt Romney campaign has any say over things. I would say, Diane, in this convention period, more broadly it is -- it's so difficult, I think, in this media environment to control your message at all. That goes for President Obama, it goes for Mitt Romney. But I would say, you've some ability to control your message, at least within the convention bounds. The Romney kind of speech vetoers do take looks at these speeches. Most of these people are not just going up there and -- they write their speech.
CILLIZZAThey go up there and they give it, and the Romney folks hope that it's in line. There is -- you heard, we did build that repeatedly. Last night, you heard talk about Mitt Romney's experience in business, that he knew the private sector. Those things are not by accident. Those are things that are made sure that they are in every speech.
CILLIZZAThe exception to those rules are people like Rick Santorum and people like Chris Christie, who bring a native set of support level of their own and, therefore, have some level -- some leverage in terms of negotiating what they want to talk about. I agree with Stu. Santorum's speech, in some way, was fascinating because it was so different than all the other speeches. That he was much more about his broad philosophical vision, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life.
CILLIZZAHe talked very little about fiscal issues, whereas, every other speaker -- to my mind, unless I missed one, almost no one else mentioned traditional marriage, talked about abortion. If they did, it was kind of in fleeting, passing. And I think that's why there is an element of that party who really does react to Rick Santorum. And I'm with Stu. I don't think that Rick Santorum is just posturing. I followed his career for a very long time.
CILLIZZAThis is someone who, if he in his best political interest, would have walked away from some of his more conservative social views when he was running for re-election in 2006, a race he lost badly in the state of Pennsylvania. So this is someone who, I think, believes what he says. Whether you agree with him or not, I don't think it should take away from the sincerity with which he holds those beliefs.
REHMAnd, Stu Rothenberg, what's ahead? Gov. Romney gives his acceptance speech Thursday night. What should we be watching for?
ROTHENBERGWell, tonight, of course, is Paul Ryan and then tomorrow is Gov. Romney. I think they'll touch somewhat on the personal, but also somewhat in terms of the vision that they want to bring to the country, to the electorate. I don't think we're going to get details on public policy, though I think Paul Ryan will talk about opportunity and entrepreneurial spirit, in freeing up the business.
REHMWill he talk about Medicare?
ROTHENBERGI think he probably has to talk about it somewhat because it is -- it's, you know, that's -- it's the 800-pound elephant, to use a Republican image, in this convention, in this room and in this election. You can't ignore it. But I don't think Republicans want this election to be about Medicare. I think they've been forced to deal with it because it's such a significant part of the Romney budget, and who and what Paul -- the Ryan budget, and who and what Paul Ryan is.
ROTHENBERGSo I think they'll talk about it. But I don't think he's going to make an argument -- his Medicare argument in this speech. Now, it'll be -- I suspect, it'll be some personal and then some about the Republican vision, the conservative vision for freeing up the business, getting the economy going and creating jobs.
REHMStuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, columnist for Roll Call, Ron Elving, Washington editor for NPR, Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, managing editor of PostPolitics.com. Thank you all so much.
ELVINGThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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