Live Blog: Haaretz coverage of the final night of the U.S. Republican National Convention
Haaretz's Natasha Mozgovaya covers the final night at the Republican National Convention, with speeches by Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, presidential nominee Mitt Romney and special guest Clint Eastwood.
After a long walk to the stage during which he shakes delegates' hands, Romney begins his speech while the crowd is still chanting his name. Romney says he is "deeply moved by the trust you've placed in me. It's a great honor. It's an even greater responsibility. And tonight I'm asking you to join me to walk together to a better future."
He describes his VP Paul Ryan as "a man with a big heart from a small town", "a strong and caring leader who's down to earth and confident in the challenge this moment demands" who "lights up around his kids," and is not embarrassed to "show the world how much he loves his mom."
One of the major themes of the speech is the disappointment with Obama. "Four years from the excitement of that last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future. It's not what we were promised…Our nation was supposed to start paying down the national debt and rolling back those massive deficits. This was the hope and change America voted for. It's not just what we wanted. It's not just what we expected. It's what Americans deserve"
Romney speaks at length about his roots ("My dad had been born in Mexico, and his family had to leave during the Mexican Revolution. I grew up with stories of his family being fed by the U.S. government as war refugees.") and his faith ("We were Mormons, and growing up in Michigan, that might have seemed unusual or out of place, but I really don't remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to.") his parents' relationship and his wife Ann.
America isn't known to bring many businessmen to the Oval office, but Romney blamed Obama's failure on taking office "without the basic qualification that most Americans have...he had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs, to him, are about government."
"If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama? You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."
Romney spoke of his own business success, concluding that "it's the genius of the American free enterprise system to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that's dedicated to creating tomorrow's prosperity, not trying to redistribute today's. That's why every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: You're better off than you were four years ago. Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president."
"America has been patient. Americans have supported this president in good faith. But today the time has come to turn the page. Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us...now is a time to restore the promise of America," Romney said.
Furthermore, Romney accuses Obama's policies of "crushing the middle class" and warns that his plan to raise taxes on small businesses (those earning over 250 thousand dollars) "won't add job - it would eliminate them." Romney then stresses he has a plan to create 12 million new jobs.
He credits Obama with giving an order to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, but immediately accuses him of failing to deal with Iran's nuclear threat. "In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We're still talking, and Iran's centrifuges are still spinning."
Romney also repeated his old metaphor of "throwing allies like Israel under the bus". "He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments. But he's eager to give Russia's president, Putin, the flexibility he desires after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the Tea Party heroes and of the most eloquent speakers, tells the crowd that the problem is not that Obama is a bad person, but rather that he is "a bad president," Rubio tells the soaring crowd. He then touches on his family's (immigrants from Cuba) story, talks about struggles and disappointment of the Americans, and says. "Life in America can be better than it has ever been," Rubio states. Before introducing Romney, Rubio ends his speech optimistically, saying that "our children and their children will be the most successful generation and their achievements will astonish the world. We chose a special man to lead us in special times."
After hockey player Mike Eurizione praises Romney's salvaging 1980 winter Olympics, the crowd enjoys a short video dedicated to Romney's family, his romance with his lifetime sweetheart Ann and challenge of raising five boys.
And then Clint Eastwood takes the stage: "Maybe it's time for somebody else to solve the problem," Eastwood tells the roaring crowd. "Mr. President, how do you handle promises you made? What do you say to people? Even people from your own party are disappointed you didn't close GITMO (prison facility at the Guantanamo Bay).
After several speakers humanizing Romney and talking about him as a faith lay leader and compassionate community member, speeches on the convention floor turned to rebuffing attacks against Romney's business practices, and focused on his investment firm, Bain Capital, which is responsible for his fortune. Tom Stemberg, founder of the office-supply chain Staples testified to Romney's astute business senses which helped his enterprise succeed. Stemberg wondered why the Obama administration, which is unable, unlike Romney, to create jobs, is demonizing him. "I've got a theory. I think when it comes to jobs, new businesses, and economic growth — they just don't get it."
Romney's success was indeed questioned by the Democrats who stressed the cases of companies which were exploited by Bain Capital", with factories closed, workers fired, with Romney's company pocketing fat dividends.
The next stop this evening is dedicated to Romney's service as one-term governor of Massachusetts, with stress on his appointing women to his administration (women, similar to minorities, are another group among which President Obama enjoys an advantage).
Grant Bennett, Mitt Romney's friend, testifies to candidate's character, while also demystifying his Mormon faith. Bennet talks about Romney's work as lay leader at the Mormon Church ("like all Mormon leaders he did it at his own time and at his own expense"), mentioning that Romney "taught faith in God, personal integrity, self-reliance and service to our fellow men. And Mitt did what he challenged us to do. He led by example."
Former President George W. Bush is not attending the convention, but his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, begins his speech with "I love my brother, he is a man of integrityGrant Bennett, Mitt Romney's friend, testifies to candidate's character, while also demystifying his Mormon faith. Bennet talks about Romney's work as lay leader at the Mormon Church ("like all Mormon leaders he did it at his own time and at his own expense"), mentioning that Romney "taught faith in God, personal integrity, self-reliance and service to our fellow men. And Mitt did what he challenged us to do. He led by example." Bush calls on President Obama to stop blaming his predecessor for his own failures, and goes on to speak about education and the need "to start rewarding success at schools."
One of five Mitt Romney's sons, Craig, opens his speech in Spanish, saying that his father is a "great husband, father, grandfather." Pretty much the same kind of speech he gave in front of Hispanic audiences while campaigning with his father and on his behalf. Later on he switches to English, promising that his father will put the country on the path "back to prosperity."
There is much talk about new (Hispanic) faces of the Republican Party, but it is hard not to notice that despite impressive presence of minorities among speakers, the crowd is still pretty homogenous and white.
After an inevitable tribute to the iconic President Ronald Reagan, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (who lost to Mitt Romney in the primaries) and his wife Callista arrive on stage. The two take turns to speak - a stark difference from most of his campaign events, during which she was politely and silently standing by him, approvingly nodding and applauding.
Gingrich calls this campaign the "most critical election of our times," and likening President Obama to Jimmy Carter, who Gingrich says "produced little effective legislation."
Tonight at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney will deliver his acceptance speech, which will focus on America's disappointment with President Obama, and the alternative Romney offers. Romney's camp might have downplayed the expectations, but the shortened convention did bring him a modest lead over Barack Obama, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll which came out on Thursday, giving Romney a 44-42% lead over the president. Still, at least until the three presidential debates, Obama will have the last word with the Democratic National Convention gathering next week in Charlotte, North Carolina.