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Politicans and Movie Stars - Welcome to the US Convention Season

Friday, August 31, 2012
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With the first politics lessons of the academic year just days away, how nice of the Republicans to hold their convention just before and thus give us plenty of introductory ammunition.  Even better, the most talked about speech is not one by some boring presidential or vice-presidential nominee, but none other than movie icon Clint Eastwood talking to a chair.  Eastwood’s extraordinary speech has generated a great deal of twitter and internet chatter – largely negative – and even inspired an “Eastwooding” meme whereby twitter users post pictures of themselves interviewing – yes, empty chairs.  More relevantly, the Romney and Ryan speeches have now been comprehensively analysed by supporters and critics alike.

Some of the best commentary comes from Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, but it is generally a distinctly liberal beast.  That said, its merged publication, Newsweek, did give its cover article over to British professor Niall Ferguson’s lambasting of Obama’s broken promises, so there is some balance.  (See also the controversy generated by Ferguson’s piece via the letters section).  Online magazine Slate also has good coverage, including this piece on the peculiar absence of the last Republican president from the convention.

Ryan’s speech comes in for especially heavy criticism, perhaps because he is seen as the fresh poster boy for the more right-wing republicans.  Michael Tomasky subjected his speech to a thorough defenestration at the Daily Beast here, as did Andrew Sullivan here.  Sullivan also provides a round-up of both pro and anti-Romney pieces here.

In the end, convention bounces or flatlinings tend not to last very long, and perhaps the most significant thing about this presidential election at the moment is just how little it has ignited any interest from the American electorate.  One British-based American friend returned to the homeland over summer and was struck by the absence of any conversation about the election – so unlike four years ago.  That said, Obama’s football stadium acceptance speech next week is sure to keep it in the headlines and as November approaches, this very close election is likely to notch the excitement up a few gears.  Another good term in which to be teaching US politics then!

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