Billionaire entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel delivered a short, sharp speech ahead of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention last Thursday.
Most reports focused on the fact that Thiel said he was “proud to be gay.” He was the first RNC speaker to talk about being gay on stage. People cheered, which was surprising given the Republican Party’s historic opposition to gay marriage, including in this year’s party platform.
But there were a couple other parts of the speech that could be taken as incredibly harsh condemnations of recent Republican-led government policies, too.
For instance, he said:
“It’s hard to remember this, but our government was once high tech, too. When I moved to Cleveland, defence research was laying the foundations for the Internet. The Apollo program was just about to put a man on the moon — and it was Neil Armstrong, from right here in Ohio. …
“But today our government is broken. Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government’s software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all.”
You can’t lay the full blame for the government’s technological stagnation on any single party. And technology isn’t the same as science. But they’re related. Scientific discovery is part of technological advance.
And there’s one party that has consistently tried to restrict scientific research that goes against social policies: the Republicans.
The George W. Bush administration restricted research into stem cells obtained from human embryos in 2001 because of the belief that embryos are sacred human lives that must not be destroyed (even if the embryos were created in a lab rather than in utero). Congressional Republicans have argued for restricting funds to NASA and the National Science Foundation for studying global warming.
Then there was the part where Thiel said, “Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East. … It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.”
The 2003 invasion of Iraq was, of course, the most significant US invasion of a Middle East country. It was led by a Republican president with the vigorous approval of a Republican-majority Congress.
And this bit from Thiel: “When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.”
Now, many people on the left don’t realise that the transgender-bathroom debate was spurred by legislation in places like Portland, Oregon, that required gender-neutral signs on bathrooms, allowing trans people to use whichever bathroom they wanted.
But here, Republican-led local governments in places like North Carolina have done their part to stoke this culture war by passing laws that required trans people to use the bathroom of their physical birth gender.
It’s a remarkable testament to Thiel’s ability to hold multiple contradicting ideas in his head at once that he can remain “proud to be a Republican” while issuing such a strong condemnation of recent Republican governance.
It also helps to explain why Trump, who is running as a different kind of Republican, chose him to speak in such a prominent spot.
Here’s the transcript of the full speech as it was written. (Thiel’s final delivery may have varied slightly):
Good evening. I’m Peter Thiel.
I build companies and I support people who are building new things, from social networks to rocket ships.
I’m not a politician.
But neither is Donald Trump.
He is a builder, and it’s time to rebuild America.
Where I work in Silicon Valley, it’s hard to see where America has gone wrong.
My industry has made a lot of progress in computers and in software, and, of course, it’s made a lot of money.
But Silicon Valley is a small place.
Drive out to Sacramento, or even just across the bridge to Oakland, and you won’t see the same prosperity. That’s just how small it is.
Across the country, wages are flat.
Americans get paid less today than ten years ago. But healthcare and college tuition cost more every year. Meanwhile Wall Street bankers inflate bubbles in everything from government bonds to Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees.
Our economy is broken. If you’re watching me right now, you understand this better than any politician in Washington. And you know this isn’t the dream we looked forward to. Back when my parents came to America looking for that dream, they found it — right here in Cleveland.
They brought me here as a one-year-old, and this is where I became an American.
Opportunity was everywhere.
My Dad studied engineering at Case Western Reserve University, just down the road from where we are now. Because in 1968, the world’s high tech capital wasn’t just one city: all of America was high tech.
It’s hard to remember this, but our government was once high tech, too. When I moved to Cleveland, defence research was laying the foundations for the Internet. The Apollo program was just about to put a man on the moon — and it was Neil Armstrong, from right here in Ohio.
The future felt limitless.
But today our government is broken. Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government’s software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all.
That is a staggering decline for the country that completed the Manhattan Project. We don’t accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.
Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East. We don’t need to see Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails: her incompetence is in plain sight. She pushed for a war in Libya, and today it’s a training ground for ISIS. On this most important issue, Donald Trump is right. It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.
When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.
This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?
Of course, every American has a unique identity.
I am proud to be gay.
I am proud to be a Republican.
But most of all I am proud to be an American.
I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.
And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.
While it is fitting to talk about who we are, today it’s even more important to remember where we came from. For me that is Cleveland, and the bright future it promised.
When Donald Trump asks us to Make America Great Again, he’s not suggesting a return to the past. He’s running to lead us back to that bright future.
Tonight I urge all of my fellow Americans to stand up and vote for Donald Trump.
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