Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Smug Gets in Your Eyes in Tampa

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Smug Gets in Your Eyes in Tampa

Article excerpt

WHILE FOLKS in New Orleans were getting drenched from Hurricane Isaac, conventioneers in Tampa were being covered by a massive smug cloud called Paul Ryan.

The concept of a smug cloud comes not from me, but from an episode of "South Park," whose creators brought "The Book of Mormon" to Broadway. If Matt Stone and Trey Parker had written the 2012 Republican National Convention there would have been at least some good songs and jokes and, perhaps, a 10-minute pantomime on the life of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Blame Canada. Blame Reince Priebus.

For the record, Reince Priebus is not a verb and noun suggesting the washing of a hybrid made by Toyota. He is the national chairman of the GOP. Hybrids, by the way, along with George Clooney, were responsible for the smug cloud in "South Park." Full credit goes to Romney for the one in Tampa. He chose Ryan.

Romney, who has yet to speak as I write Thursday afternoon, has drifted from the middle to the right on issues as varied as women's reproductive decisions and health care reform. He may "lead from the front" -- to use a tired GOP phrase -- but his lateral moves are less consistent. For now, he has taken a hard right with his selection of Ryan as running mate.

Republicans can make a legitimate case against President Obama. The president has disappointed in many ways -- from his choice of policy priorities when he had a Democratic-controlled Congress to his inability to connect with the American people after becoming president. Obama was a fantastic candidate; as the president, not so much.

There were three star turns by politicians in Tampa: Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and the nominee himself, Romney.

Christie is many things. He is not smug. I may be in a minority in praising Governor Christie's keynote address Tuesday night. Christie has been faulted by Republicans for not mentioning Romney enough and by Democrats for glossing over the negatives of his tenure as governor of New Jersey.

A keynote address is a tricky thing: It should raise the expectations of the party while not conflicting with the party's agenda at that moment in time. For Christie, that required sounding like Christie without stepping too far up front. The keynote speaker cannot get ahead of the nominee.

Given the constraints, the governor's speech moved the conversation as far it could be moved without declaring Christie's intentions of wresting the nomination from Romney at the last minute. For me, the poetic evocation of a "second American Century" by Christie in the speech was worth the price of admission. Maybe it was too much of a taste for some people hungry for a full meal, but I took it as a teaser for what may come yet from a very unpredictable politician.

There was nothing unpredictable about Ryan. Onstage, he resembled an adult Fred Savage from "The Wonder Years" fame, except this Kevin Arnold was somewhat stiff and scripted and had an air of annoying self-satisfaction. …

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