If the big surprise of the convention is to be a Suit, however, then we definitely need some very strong supporting acts. Sarah Palin has to be one. Not only is she a great performer, a diva, a star, but the hall would fill — as would the Barcaloungers nationwide — from sheer excited curiosity at what she might say. The Romney campaign is said to fear that she would go “off message” — but that would be the point. America would watch open-mouthed to see if she went off message, and even off the tightrope. Again and again she would seem about to do so, then at the last moment she would veer brilliantly back into party orthodoxy, and the audience would sigh with relief and/or disappointment. She would probably end up by endorsing Romney and calling on the Tea Party to support him. Whatever she said, however, she would make the GOP convention an exciting place — indeed, the only place to be. When was that last the case? It’s achievement enough.
Rick Santorum is a more conventional figure, and he will not arouse the same kind of excitement. But he has a very necessary task to perform. He can claim some appeal to a national constituency that is on the verge of becoming solidly Republican but that is not personally warm to Romney — namely, the white working class.
And if the Republican high command can’t see that Mike Huckabee is the Will Rogers of the GOP and give him a prime-time slot for a folksy appeal to social conservatives, maybe accompanying himself on the guitar, they shouldn’t be running even such a suburban version of show business as a political convention.
Whenever President Eisenhower was approached by someone who had ideas for running the Republican convention, he always said: “Clear it with Bob Montgomery.” This was the distinguished Hollywood actor, Robert Montgomery, who was a staunch Republican (like many of the early Hollywood aristocracy) and whom Eisenhower asked to ensure that the GOP convention got the party’s message across effectively.
My proposal is that the Romney campaign ask the only living Hollywood Republican to do the same. There are now quite a few Hollywood conservatives, but there is only one Hollywood Republican — namely, Rob Long of this parish. Unfortunately, however, Rob is at present fully engaged in producing the new hit show Sullivan and Son (Thursdays on TBS), and so he probably won’t have the time to help Romney save the GOP convention — or, by extension, the United States.
But I suppose that’s show biz.
— John O’Sullivan is editor-at-large of National Review.