Rudy Converses, McCain Serves. Juggernaut.

You know the first night of the GOP convention has gone well when the talking heads are momentarily struck positive. I did a quick flip through the channels and saw Chris Matthews (who is a sucker for a good speech) raving about Rudy, and Andrea Mitchell, bless her heart, looking thoroughly whipped. Mitchell managed to choke out that John McCain should be the GOP candidate for 2008 (let’s get through today, shall we?) while Matthews wondered if it was not “Rudy’s turn”! I moved through CNN and Fox and it was much the same.

Rudy Giuliani was conversational. He stood there and he talked to us. He was your favorite uncle, or most gregarious neighbor, standing on the front porch and telling a story with great eloquence – moving, intelligent, thoughtful, funny, caustic, instructive and most of all: GENUINE. The man is of a piece, all through, and completely authentic. I was so pleased to hear him mention Leon Klinghoffer, to hear him castigate the world for quietly allowing terrorism to grow and flourish, to remind us that “terrorism did not begin on September 11, 2001″ as he, like a provocative history teacher, traced the scourge of terrorism back for decades. The DNC cannot complain that Rudy exploited 9/11. The man lived it. His speech was superb, and should be highlighted all over the place tomorrow. But it won’t be. He dared to criticise John Kerry (gasp!) and the press will very quickly call him a hate-monger. The press is like an overprotective mother hen where Kerry is concerned, constantly wagging its finger at anyone who dares to ask him a direct question, or to sign a standard 180 form, or to be consistant. And Kerry, of course, seems very happy to hide in the aprons and allow it. How sad. But back to Rudy the Great. Am I the only one who thought he seemed near tears when he finished his speech, overflowing with sincerity? He seems to me to have given himself utterly over to the effort to re-elect President Bush, without ego or self-promotion. My one word assessment: Tremendous.

Less impressive, to me, was John McCain who, as ever, seemed to me to be serving himself more than the president. I don’t want to seem ungrateful; he is doing his part for the president, and can definately help him with undecideds, and perhaps I am being a bit picayune and McCain only did what most politicians do. But where Giuliani seemed all about Bush and America, McCain, as he does all too frequently, seemed to be quite a lot about himself. I was only moderately impressed with his taking a jab at Michael Moore. McCain has never gotten over the adulation of the press in 2000 – the magazine covers, the ‘maverick’ label. He loves the cameras, he loves attention. How does such a one make certain he is going to capture the headlines on a night featuring Rudy, featuring the wives and sisters of the 9/11 dead? Throw out a line about another media darling who also adores attention. It was brilliant. It gave the crowd a cathartic release while protecting him from criticism that he was “too rough” on anyone. McCain’s jibe at Moore’s expense pleased Moore immensely, hurt no one and helped McCain dominate the event after-reports. If you turn on the television he’s on every channel, talking to everyone. Yes, brilliant. But I hope President Bush doesn’t show this man his back anytime soon. One word assessment: Opportunistic.

Debra Burlingame, Tara Stackpole and Deena Burnett, grieving family members, brought us right back to September 11, and made us remember what it felt like. Bless them. Although they are not professional speakers they were eloquent, dignified and strong. One word assessment: Class.

One word assessment of Day 1 of the GOP convention: JUGGERNAUT.

About Elizabeth Scalia