Tampa Tidbits (Final Chapter)

by Jay Nordlinger

For a day or so, I didn’t know what to think about Clint’s appearance. Brilliant? Befuddled? Helpful? Un-? I am now firmly in the “crazy like a fox” camp. A conversation with a famed, magnificent political writer convinced me. And then I read posts by two other stars: Mark Steyn and Jennifer Rubin. Triply convinced.

Clint has certainly perturbed liberals from President Obama on down. One of the advantages conservatives have, I think, is that we’re used to criticism. For instance, if we speak up on our campuses, we are demonized, ostracized — read out of the human race. You get used to it (sort of). Liberals are always being patted on the head: “Good boy”; “Good girl.”

We’re used to being mocked too. In movies, in television shows — think of Saturday Night Live alone! Liberals, less so. Conservatives exist to be mocked, liberals to do the mocking. And when the tables are turned . . .

This is one of the reasons Bill Buckley so shocked and inflamed the Left. They were completely unused to being out-thought and put down. He had more style than any of them — completely disorienting (to them).

For the first couple of days in Tampa, a lot of us griped about the security: too much of it; unrepublican; un-American. Frankly, I adjusted. I learned how to navigate the security, basically fuss-free.

The protesters were very few, and the violence? Nonexistent, so far as I know. This is in contrast with the GOP convention in Saint Paul four years ago. The Left was out in full force then. There was much nastiness on the streets. Why, I can’t quite remember — GWB in the White House?

Yesterday, someone told me there had been only three arrests in Tampa — convention-related arrests — all week long.

How come there aren’t right-wing protesters at Democratic conventions? Are there? The street, it seems to me, runs only one way. Odd.

On certain minds: Have we come to the end of the line, where conventions are concerned? Do we need conventions? Should we have them? The four days, the slates of speakers, the balloon drops, the whole bitsy?

Maybe they aren’t necessary, maybe they’re wasteful — but I’d miss ’em. You know conservatives: nostalgic, clinging not just to their guns and religion but to things of the past . . .

A friend who lives in Tampa told me, “This city has a Midwestern feel.” Then he laid out a theory: “I-75 runs from the Midwest down the west side of Florida. I-95 runs from the Northeast down the east side of Florida. The two sides of Florida reflect those sensibilities.”

My friend went on to say that each of Florida’s four major cities has a different character. Jacksonville belongs to the South. Orlando is a place of tourism, and chain restaurants. Tampa is Midwestern. And Miami is Northeastern — and Latin American, and Caribbean.

Interesting, this anthropology of Florida. (Or do I mean sociology?)

Whoever thought to put Spanish moss on trees had a really good idea.

I met a cabbie who said he was a Tampa native — and he is. Courtly, interesting, experienced man. But something bugged me when I was talking to him: He sounded a little New Yorky. There was a streak of Tom Sowell or Charlie Rangel in his voice.

I was relieved when he told me that, from ages 12 to 18, he lived at Eighth Avenue and 125th Street. Relieved because my ears hadn’t gone haywire.

What a watery state Florida is! You can see this as you take off from the Tampa airport: “puddles” as far as the eye can see, not to mention that big puddle, the Gulf.

There are people who take pride in saying, “I’m not a Republican, I’m a conservative!” Okay. But remember what our Bill Rusher said: Conservatism is the wine, the Republican party the bottle, or vessel. You need both. I’m rather impressed with Republican talent now: Romney, Ryan, Rubio (lots of R’s), Jindal, Portman, Jeb, Christie, Martinez, Condi, Toomey, Fortuño, many more.

And I’ll say it again: The Democratic leaders in Washington are Obama, Biden, Reid, and Pelosi. Their counterparts are Romney, Ryan, McConnell, and Boehner. I know which foursome I prefer, for sure.