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Highlights from Condi's convention speech

Condoleezza Rice received a standing ovation when she took the stage at the Republican convention in Tampa on Wednesday night, and the crowd remained every bit as enthusiastic throughout the address -- especially when Rice marveled at how an African-American girl from the segregated South could aspire to the presidency and become secretary of state. 

The speech by Rice -- and another earlier in the evening by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) -- marked the first extended discussion of foreign policy during the convention. Here are some of the takeaways from Condi's big speech:

  • Leading from behind: We've seen a lot of talk over the last couple days about American exceptionalism and a second American century, but tonight's programming introduced a fresh term into the anti-decline lexicon at the convention. The phrase "leading from behind" was first attributed to an anonymous Obama advisor in a 2011 New Yorker article, but it has since morphed into a GOP talking point, making its way into this year's Republican platform. In his speech (and FP column) McCain declared that America is "exceptional" because it has always "led from the front." Rice too declared that "you cannot lead from behind." Both speakers warned that if the United States refuses to lead assertively, a chaotic and dangerous world -- perhaps one with more sinister international actors at the helm -- awaits.
  • 'Where does America stand?' In arguably her most cutting criticism of the Obama administration, Rice argued that the "question of the hour," as the Middle East convulses, is "where does American stand?" Since the end of World War II, she continued, the United States has "had an answer to that question: we stand for free peoples and free markets." 
  • Freedom agenda: "Idealism in foreign policy," the New Republic's Leon Wieseltier wrote a few years ago, "is so 2003." By that he meant that Democrats, in response to the Iraq War and George W. Bush's "Freedom Agenda," had decided to sideline human rights and democracy promotion in their foreign policy. Tonight, both McCain and Rice (the latter more subtly) chastised the Obama administration for not championing freedom and democratic values. McCain, for example, criticized the president for not standing with Iranian protesters in 2009. Rice, for her part, observed that while it's not always easy to "speak for those who would otherwise not have a voice," the United States "will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom." 
  • Trade: Rice warned that the United States was "abandoning the field of free and fair trade" at its peril. "The United States has ratified only three free-trade agreements in the last few years," she noted, "and those were negotiated in the Bush administration. China has signed 15 free-trade agreements and is in the progress of negotiating as many as 18 more." As my colleague Josh Rogin points out, China may actually have fewer free-trade deals than Rice suggests. But the former secretary of state isn't the only one making this point. Jon Huntsman, a former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. ambassador to China, remarked last October that when it came to striking free-trade deals, "China is in the game" and "[w]e are not."  
  • Immigration: At a time when the Republican Party has been stressing its tough, enforcement-first stance on immigration, Rice suggested a middle ground. "We must continue to welcome the world's most ambitious people to be a part of us," she said. "In that way we stay young and optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants."
  • Partisanship: As convention speeches go, Rice's wasn't particularly ideological. She never mentioned Barack Obama or Democrats, and she referenced Republicans only once -- when she greeted the crowd.  

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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Cayman-flagged ship hosts Romney donor party

ABC news reports on one hell of a bad optics moment in Florida -- a party for top Romney fundraisers held on board a 150-foot yacht flying a Cayman Islands flag:

The event, attended by no more than 50 people, along with Romney relatives, including older brother Scott, appeared on no public calendars. ABC News obtained a schedule of the Romney campaign's "Victory Council" and waited dockside to speak with members.

"It was a really nice event. These are good supporters," said billionaire Wilbur Ross, an energy industry executive.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was scheduled to speak.

Registered in the Caymans, and flying a version of the Caymans' "civil ensign" or merchant flag, the Cracker Bay has an impressive art collection and can seat 30 for dinner.

The Cracker Bay is owned by Gary Morse, developer of the Villages retirement community. Companies controlled by Morse gave nearly $1 million to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future superPAC.

Romney has, of course, attracted some unwanted attention for his holdings in investment funds based in the Caymans. I wrote in January about the advantages of setting up a corporation in the Caymans, but it turns out the British protectorate a pretty good place to register your boat as well. A 2009 article in the Cayman Financial Review explained

Although it is generally recommended to use a Cayman Islands vehicle for ownership purposes, it is, in fact, possible for any corporate body to own a Cayman Islands registered yacht or ship either by appointing a representative person or registering as a foreign company under Part IX of the Cayman Islands Companies Law. This allows owners the flexibility to use a foreign corporate vehicle where there are taxation benefits or other reasons for doing so. Using a corporate body to own a vessel has the important benefit of limiting the liability of the owner if a collision or other event incurring liability should occur. However, in practice, usually a new Cayman Islands company limited by shares is incorporated to own each vessel as this is generally simpler administratively and less likely to result in delay.

The Cayman Islands is renowned as a leading offshore jurisdiction with a tax neutral environment. It has a solid political, legal and fiscal environment with a stable parliamentary democracy since 1831. There are no income, capital gains or other taxes imposed by the Cayman Islands on vessel owning companies. With the Privy Council in England being the ultimate court of appeal, the CISR operates within a stable British based legal system which is a compelling reason to choose the CISR for the registration of vessels and any associated loan financing and security.

While there are no restrictions on the nationality of the owner or crew, ships flying the Union Jack-ed flag of the Caymans are entitled to the protection of the British Navy. According to the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, "About 20% of the world's yachts over 50m were registered in the Cayman Islands by 1999."