The second night of the Republican National Convention reinforced the party's first-night message linking the Republican Party to the American dream of immigrant upward mobility and hard work.
Senator Rand Paul spoke about Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants and about his own immigrant great-grandfather.
Senator Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said:
Back in 1906, two Norwegian brothers named Nicolai and Matthew Gjelsvik came to this country in search of the American Dream. When they reached the shores of America, the only English words they knew were "apple pie" and "coffee," which evidently they had plenty of on the trip over.
The immigration officials at Ellis Island determined that their name "Gjelsvik" -
G-J-E-L-S-V-I-K - was too difficult to spell and pronounce, so they asked them to change it. The two brothers picked the name of the farm where they worked in Norway, which was called the Thune Farm. And so Nicolai Gjelsvik became Nick Thune, my grandfather.
With their new country and their new name, the two brothers began their new life by working on the railroad. They learned English and saved enough money to start a small hardware store.
And yes, Mr. President, they did build it!
Secretary of State Rice said:
More than at any other time in history, greatness is built
on mobilizing human potential and ambition. We have always done
that better than any country in the world. People have come
here from all over because they have believed our creed of
opportunity and limitless horizons.
They have come here from the world's most impoverished
nations just to make a decent wage. And they have come here
from advanced societies as engineers and scientists that fuel
the knowledge-based revolution in the Silicon Valley of
California, in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, along
Route 128 in Massachusetts, in Austin, Texas, and across this
We must continue to welcome the world's most ambitious
people to be a part of us. In that way, we stay young and
optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that
protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that
we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.
Traditionally this day of the convention is devoted to attacking the opposing candidate, and the Republicans offered some slashing criticism of President Obama. The harshest probably came from the former governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, who said:
you know, President Obama isn't as bad as people say, he's actually worse.
The president takes more vacations than that guy on the Bizarre Foods show.
And I'll give Barack Obama credit for creating jobs these last four years for golf caddies.
Actually, Barack Obama is the first president to create more excuses than jobs! In his view, it's George's fault. It's the bank's fault. It's Europe's fault. It's the weather's fault. It's Congress' fault. Mr. President, if you want to find fault, I suggest you look in the mirror!
I've come to realize that Barack Obama is the tattoo president. Like a big tattoo, it seemed cool when you were young.
But later on, that decision doesn't look so good, and you wonder: what was I thinking?But the worst part is you're still going to have to explain it to your kids.
Mr. Pawlenty probably lost the Republicans some votes among tatoo-parlor owners with that one.
A few notes struck me as particularly off key. Governor Huckabee said, "I am thrilled to say Mitt Romney has been loyal to his lovely wife who knocked it out of the park last night in this arena."
How does Governor Huckabee know whether Mr. Romney has been loyal to his wife or not, and why should that, or the loveliness of Mr. Romney's wife, affect my vote? Is this something about which large numbers of voters are deeply concerned? It was addressed not only by Governor Huckabee but by the vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, who said of Mr. Romney, "Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best." Again, how is Mr. Ryan in a position to know? And the phrase "he offers an example of marriage at its best" assigns a curiously passive or absent role to one of the two participants in the marriage, Mrs. Romney. Again, as a campaign theme, the whole thing strikes me as weird. (Though if we have a Romney administration, maybe Jodi Kantor can write a book about their marriage.)
Another off-note came in Paul Ryan's speech, which was generally quite strong, in this passage:
College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life. Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you're feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.
This is not necessarily so. Some people feeling left out or passed by may have failed because of their own doing, or just because of bad luck, and telling them to blame Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid for their misfortune is not doing them any favors. The Republicans have, with justification, relentlessly mocked President Obama for saying that the government, not individuals, are responsible for success ("you didn't build that.") How is it different to say the government, not individuals, are responsible for failure? It seems inconsistent to hold government responsible only for all the failures while not assigning it any credit for the successes.