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08.30.12

Best Lines From the GOP Convention: Christie, McCain & More (Videos)

Ooh, that hurts! From Mike Huckabee’s slams on Obama to Paul Ryan’s Led Zeppelin zinger, a look at the memorable remarks Republican headliners have delivered in Tampa.

There have been plenty of speeches at this week’s Republican National Convention, some of them pretty longwinded. In case you didn’t catch all of them, we’ve picked out the best lines from the key speeches so you don’t have to go back and wade through the transcripts.

Thomas Stemberg

“They just don’t get it!”

The founder of Staples led the crowd in this rousing chant. “They” refers to the Obama administration, of course. In the leadup to Romney’s acceptance speech, the third night of the RNC focused on Bain Capital, parading the CEOs of businesses like Staples on stage and on screen to tout the nominee as a heroic businessman.

Clint Eastwood
It’s hard to give much of an explanation for what the Oscar winner and longtime Republican said on stage Thursday night, but his speech was chock full of one-liners.

“Save a little for Mitt.”

Eastwood took the stage amid rousing applause and made this quip with a grin.

“Everyone was crying, Oprah was crying, I was crying. I haven’t cried that hard since there’s 23 million unemployed people in this country. That’s something to cry for.”

He insisted not everyone in Hollywood is a liberal and recalled the night President Obama won the election in 2008.

“What do you want me to tell Mitt Romney? I can’t tell him to do that to himself. You’re absolutely crazy. You’re getting as bad as Biden…. Biden is the intellect of the of the Democratic Party. Kind of a grin with a body behind it.”

Eastwood talked to an empty chair, pretending it was President Obama.

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Mitt Romney
“I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed.” This seemed to be another running theme during the convention—the idea put forward by many of the speakers that they too had gotten caught up in Obama fever in 2008 and are sincerely disappointed by the president they’d believed in. Obviously, it’s impossible to say for sure that Mitt Romney voted for McCain in ‘08, but, after losing the primary race to run against Obama in 2008, did Mitt really wish the president had succeeded? Where would Mitt be today if Obama had, in his opinion, succeeded?

“My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, ‘Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?’”

Romney said he wished his parents could have seen all the accomplished female politicians who spoke at this week’s RNC. But would he want his pro-choice mother to know that, if elected, he plans to cut funding for Planned Parenthood?

“I thought about asking my church’s pension fund to invest [in Bain], but I thought it was bad enough if I lost my investors’ money, but I didn’t want to go to hell too.”

The audience laughed at this as Romney continued on to explain that this was a bad choice because his co-founders at Bain asked their Episcopalian churches to invest and there are a lot of Episcopalian priests now who are happy that they did.

“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans,” pause for laughter. “And to heal the planet. My promise… is to help you and your family.”

Obama did, in fact, say this. The Associated Press confirms that, in 2008, after winning the Democratic primaries, candidate Obama said, “we will be able to look back and tell our children that… this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” The crowd went wild for this.

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Rick Santorum

“I thank God that America still has one party that reaches out their hands in love to lift up all of God’s children—born and unborn—and says that each of us has dignity and all of us have the right to live the American dream.”

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Known for his extreme opposition to abortion, Santorum pushed social wedge issues as a way to establish his credibility with the Republican base during primary season. The strategy helped Santorum stay in the race probably longer than he might otherwise would have, given that Romney had professed a belief in a woman’s right to choose when he was running for office in Massachusetts.

“The president’s plan didn’t work for America, because that’s not how America works.”

For much of his first term, President Obama has had to face an opposition party that routinely criticized his policies as socialist. Whether it was the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform, or the stimulus package, Republicans have charged that the president lacks an understanding of capitalism and the fundamental values of the United States.

Scott Walker

“On June 5th, voters in Wisconsin got to determine who was in charge—was it the big-government special interests in Washington or the hard-working taxpayers of our state? The good news is that—on June 5th—the hard-working taxpayers won.”

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After pushing a bill that stripped collective-bargaining rights from most state workers, labor unions fought back with a massive recall effort that ended with the governor keeping his job.

“With this pick, he showed us that the ‘R’ next to his name doesn’t just stand for Republican, it stands for Reformer.” 

Republicans have tried to elevate Romney as the politician who can fix the economic crisis facing the U.S., citing his considerable business experience as one reason why he’ll be able to create more jobs than President Obama.

Ann Romney

“Tonight, I want to talk to you about love.” 

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Ann Romney’s main task was to humanize her husband, who often comes across as stiff and awkward on the campaign trail. Her speech was an attempt to show that Mitt has a softer, relatable side. During the primary, Mitt often talked about his marriage with Ann to show he was consistent and to answer claims that he flipped-flopped on issues for political expediency.

“I love you, women!”

The Romney-Ryan campaign is severely lagging with female voters. Recent Republican missteps—like Rep. Todd Akin saying women’s bodies can shut down their reproductive systems in the case of “legitimate rape”—have painted the GOP as out-of-touch on women’s issues. The party has also railed against contraception coverage and adopted a platform that wouldn’t allow for abortion under any circumstances. Ann’s job was to connect with women, who have been increasingly less likely to support Republicans.

“A storybook marriage? Nope, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.”

One of the main criticisms of Romney this election season is that he can’t relate to average voters because his net worth hovers somewhere around $250 million; he’s building a car elevator for his home in San Diego; and owns multiple properties. Ann was trying to show that she and her husband are faced with the same problems as everyone else, including cancer and multiple sclerosis.

“Mitt doesn’t like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point.”

The Romneys’ tax status—and charitable contributions—have come under scrutiny because the couple has refused to release more than a few years of tax returns for public vetting. Despite calls from many Republicans that they share more of their tax history, the campaign has refused to do so. Ann also made a bit of news when it sounded like she told ABC, “We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how—you know—how we live our life.”

“We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish.”

The few details that Ann provided were, again, meant to convey a sense that they had struggled just like most other Americans who are concerned with having enough money to put food on the table. She also mentioned that they had used their ironing board as a table. But she left out the fact that they were living off stock options that George Romney had invested for Mitt, which she told the Boston Globe about during his 1994 Senate campaign.

Chris Christie

“Tonight, we’re gonna do what my mother taught me. Tonight we’re gonna choose respect over love.”

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Just before taking the stage, Ann Romney had started her own speech by saying, “I want to talk to you about love.”

“Their plan: whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff. as long as they are behind the wheel of power when we fall.”

If this line sounds familiar, it’s because President Obama made a similar metaphor about Republicans two years ago, ahead of the midterm election. “These are the folks that were behind the steering wheel and drove the car into the ditch,” President Obama said at a Democratic Party fundraiser in August 2010.  “So we’ve had to put on our galoshes, we went down there in the mud, we’ve been pushing, we’ve been shoving, they’ve been standing back watching saying ‘You’re not moving fast enough. You ain’t doing it right. Why are you doing it that way? You got some mud on the car.’ Finally we get this car out of the ditch, we’re just right there on the blacktop, we’re about to start driving forward again they say, ‘Hold on, we want the keys back.” You can’t have the keys back, you don’t know how to drive.”

“They believe in teachers’ unions. We believe in teachers.”

Christie began his remarks by noting that he’s a Republican governor in a state “with 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans.” Christie has long been an adversary of the New Jersey teachers’ union. During a battle over budget cuts last year, Christie said, “I believe the teachers in New Jersey in the main are wonderful public servants that care deeply. But their union, their union are a group of political thugs.”

“[My mother] spoke the truth—bluntly, directly and without much varnish. I am her son. I was her son as I listened to “Darkness on the Edge of Town” with my high school friends on the Jersey Shore.”

Christie’s relationship with Bruce Springsteen has been a storied one. Like any good New Jersey native, the governor often professes a fondness for Springsteen, but the Boss hasn’t returned the love. As such, Christie has had to prove just how big of a fan he really is. He’s complained that his predecessor Jon Corzine once had better seats to “the best show I’ve ever seen” and left during the encore! Then, of course, there was the time he was allegedly spotted sleeping during a Springsteen show, which he profusely denied. His line about listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town might have been just as much another attempt to prove his loyalty to his favorite musician as it was an attempt to prove his average-Joe-ness to the crowd.

Mike Huckabee

“The only hitch in an otherwise perfect week, was the awful noise coming from the hotel room next door to mine.  Turns out it was just Debbie Wasserman Schultz, practicing her speech for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week. Bless her heart.”

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Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, is the chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is a vocal—and oft-interviewed—supporter of the Obama administration, and she regularly appears on news programs to push back on Republican talking points.

“My working-poor parents told me that I could do better. They taught me that I was as good as anybody else. And it never occurred to them to tell me that I could just rest comfortably and wait for good old Uncle Sugar to feed me, lead me, and then bleed me.”

President Obama and the Democrats, as the Republicans see it, want to tax and spend their way into making people more dependent on government aid. They have consistently tried to paint Obama as the “food stamp” president who believes government is the solution, instead of personal responsibility and private enterprise.

“I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church, than I do about where he takes this country.”

One of Huckabee’s main goals was to put evangelical voters’ minds at ease about Romney’s Mormon faith. Huckabee, a Baptist minister who is still popular with Republican social conservatives, told these voters they could trust Romney to handle the issues they care about: abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception.

“For four years, we’ve given a chance to a man with very limited experience in governing, no experience in business whatsoever, and, since taking office, mostly interested in campaigning, blaming, and aiming excuses at his predecessor, the Republicans, and people in business. Or as Republicans like to call them, ‘employers.’”

As the economy sputters along, many Republican strategists have said that their best shot at unseating President Obama is to call attention to his handling of the economy and to contrast that with Romney’s successful career at Bain Capital. Obama has been attacked for criticizing Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis, calling bankers “fat cats” for opposing reforms that could prevent another financial meltdown. Obama also called for reining in salaries at companies that took bailout money, and some of his rhetoric has lead to charges that he is anti-business.

“The Democrats say we ought to give Barack Obama credit for trying. Folks, that sounds like the nonsense of giving every kid a trophy for showing up. Let’s be clear, we’re talking about leading the country. Not playing on a third-grade soccer team.”

Translation: President Obama is a lightweight. Huckabee also mentions the president got the Nobel Peace Prize not because he’d achieved anything, but because the international community thought he had the potential to. According to Huckabee, that’s not good enough.

John McCain

“I had hopes once of addressing you under different circumstances, but our fellow Americans had another plan four years ago and I accept their decision.”

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We all know what McCain’s referring to here, but, to his credit, McCain accepts the fact that he’s not addressing his party as its leader humbly and doesn’t start off with a dig at Obama.

“It is said that this election will turn on domestic and economic issues. But what Mitt Romney knows, and what we know, is that success at home also depends on our leadership in the world. …. We have always led when necessary with the armed might of freedom’s defenders, and always we have led from the front, never from behind.”

Like “you didn’t build that,” the phrase “leading from behind” is one of those soundbites Republicans have taken and turned into a running theme in the argument against President Obama. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mentioned it as well. The phrase originated last year when an Obama adviser described the president’s approach to the crisis in Libya as “leading from behind.” The adviser explained, “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world. But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.” Still, the Democratic Party has hardly been able to live the comment down since.

“We can’t afford to have the security of our nation and those who bravely defend it endangered because their government leaks the secrets of their heroic operations to the media.”

The president has come under fire lately from some former Navy SEALs, who say the administration has put U.S. military missions in jeopardy by leaking sensitive information and, as they argue, taking credit for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

“The demand for our leadership in the world has never been greater. People don’t want less of America, they want more. Everywhere I go in the world, people tell me that they still have faith in America. What they want to know is whether we still have faith in ourselves.”

This comment has gotten a lot of backlash. The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart points out that neither McCain nor his fellow foreign-policy speaker of the night, Condoleezza Rice, made little to no mention of the U.S.’s current wars. “This is nonsense,” The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf wrote of McCain’s insistence that the world wants more America. “The world wanted American leadership more when it involved liberating them from German fascists and Japanese imperialists. They wanted American leadership more when it meant being saved from Soviet aggression,” he wrote. “With those threats gone, and nothing as dire having replaced them, the world is, at this moment, less needful of America’s help and less enamored of its leadership.”

Condoleezza Rice

“We are blessed with a gift of oil and gas resources here in North America, and we must develop them.”

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Rice is calling to mind a Republican campaign slogan from the 2008 election that caught quickly: Drill, Baby, Drill. With rising gas prices, the GOP has been hammering the Obama administration for not taking more steps to open up domestic fossil-fuel resources to drilling.

“One of two things will happen if we don’t lead: Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values. My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead, and you cannot lead from behind.”

Despite President Obama’s foreign-policy successes, Republicans have disapproved of his handling of international affairs, mostly notably his management of the fighting in Libya. When it came to deposing Muammar Gaddafi, Obama opted to work behind the scenes at first, coordinating with rebels and the international community to isolate the dictator before starting a bombing campaign. The strategy led Republicans to accuse the president of “leading from behind.”

Paul Ryan

“I live on the same block where I grew up. We belong to the same parish where I was baptized. Janesville is that kind of place.”

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Right off the bat, Ryan works the small-town, Christian average-Joe angle that’s clearly one of the biggest themes at this week’s convention and in this election in general.

“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you… this plant will be here for another 100 years.’ That’s what he said in 2008… Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”

This isn’t the first time Ryan has mentioned candidate Obama’s campaign promise to keep a GM plant in Janesville, Wisc., open and his failure to do so. And last night, Ryan’s argument was just as unsubstantial as it was the last time he made it. During that 2008 campaign speech in question, then-Senator Obama did, in fact, say “I believe if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to retool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another 100 years.” Whether or not this was a promise to keep the plant alive or a suggestion that, with the government’s help, the plant could survive, is subject to interpretation. But when, exactly, the plant shut down is cut and dry: one month before Obama was inaugurated into the White House, while George W. Bush was still president.

“And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly… The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.”

According to Paul Ryan’s speech last night, President Obama “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare “at the expense of the elderly.” According to Politifact, this statement is mostly false. While Obama’s health-care law does include spending cuts of $716 billion, those cuts come from insurance companies and hospitals, not the elderly who receive Medicare benefits.

“College graduates should not have to live out their twenties 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.”

Here’s Ryan’s attempt to appeal to the youth vote—a demographic that overwhelmingly went for Obama in the last election. Ryan’s message may have hit home for many recent grads who cast their first presidential vote for a man they saw as much as a cultural icon as a politician, and are now unemployed. But whether that message will influence the youth vote remains to be seen. According to the latest Gallup poll, 55 percent of 19-29 year olds still approve of President Obama’s performance.

“We’re a full generation apart, Governor Romney and I. And in some ways, we’re a little different. There are songs on his iPod, which I’ve heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, ‘I hope it’s not a deal-breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC, and ends with Zeppelin.’

This comment was, presumably, intended to prove that Ryan’s cool and disassociate himself from Mitt’s out-of-touch persona.

“Mitt and I also go to different churches. But in any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example. And I’ve been watching that example. The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable. Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best.… Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life.”

Though it would seem at this point in the election cycle that the Republican Party and its supporters have gotten over Mitt’s unique religion, in a convention packed with religious conservatives, Mitt’s Mormonism stands out like a Grand Old elephant. Ryan decided to address this head-on, pointing out that while they “go to different churches,” they’re not so different when it comes to faith and values.

The founder of Staples leads the crowd in a rousing chant of “they just don’t get it!” “They” refers to the Obama Administration, of course. In the leadup to Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, the third night of the RNC focused on Bain capital, parading out the CEOs of businesses like Staples on stage and on screen to tout Romney as a heroic businessman.


Surprise guest Clint Eastwood

It’s hard to give much of an explanation for what Clint Eastwood said on stage Thursday night, but his speech was chock full of one-liners.

Clint Eastwood takes the stage with rousing applause and says with a grin, “Save a little for Mitt.” The actor insists not everyone in Hollywood is a liberal and recalls the night President Obama won the election in 2008. “Everyone was crying, oprah was crying, I was crying. I haven’t cried that hard since there’s 23 million unemployed people in this country. That’s something to cry for.”

Then Eastwood proceeded to talk to an empty chair, pretending it’s President Obama. “What do you want me to tell Mitt Romney? I can’t tell him to do that to himself. You’re absolutely crazy. You’re getting as bad as Biden.”

Biden is the intellect of the of the Democratic Party. Kind of a grin with a body behind it.

Instigated by the audience Eastwood gives in to saying one of his most famous lines. “Ok. I’ll start, you finish ... Go ahead,” he says as the audience yells, “Make my day!”

Mitt Romney

"I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed." This seems to be another running theme during the convention—the idea put forward by many of the speakers that they too had gotten caught up in Obama fever in 2008 and are sincerely disappointed by the president they’d believed in. Obviously, it’s impossible to say for sure that Mitt Romney voted for McCain in ‘08, but, after losing the primary race to run against Obama in 2008, did Mitt really wish the president had succeeded? Where would Mitt be today if Obama had, in his opinion, succeeded?

"My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, "Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?" Romney then says he wishes his parents could have seen all the accomplished female politicians who spoke at this week’s RNC. But would he want his pro-choice mother to know that, if elected, he plans to cut funding for Planned Parenthood?

“I thought about asking my church’s pension fund to invest [in Bain], but I thought it was bad enough if I lost my investors’ money, but I didn’t want to go to hell too.” The audience laughed at this as Romney continued on to explain that this was a bad choice because his co-founders at Bain asked their Episcopalian churches to invest and there are a lot of Episcopalian priests now who are happy that they did.

"President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans,” pause for laughter. “And to heal the planet. MY promise...is to help you and your family. Obama did, in fact, say this. The Associated Press confirms that, in 2008, after winning the Democratic primaries, candidate Obama said, 'we will be able to look back and tell our children that ... this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.' " The crowd goes wild for this.