Well, I’ll be: Whereas the Democratic delegates seem to have been permitted only professionally printed signs and placards, the Republicans waved a profusion of crudely hand painted signs; whereas the Democratic delegates behaved with an obedient passivity, applauding and cheering only and precisely as they were expected to applaud and cheer, the Republican delegates hooted and hollered and booed–what richness, what sonority, what a sense of release, in the booing directed at Michael Moore!–even when the speakers would clearly have preferred them to stop; and whereas the Democratic delegates found themselves participating in a convention that ran precisely on time, the Republican delegates found themselves in the middle of an event that had careened off schedule, with the final major speaker, Rudy Hizzelf, failing to wrap it up until almost half an hour after primetime had come to an end. In a word: glorious.
About the two headliners, Rudy and John McCain, the first observation is the most important: They were something that the two headliners on the first night of the Democratic convention, Bill and Hillary, simply were not: authentic.
McCain’s speech was beautiful–simply, truly, beautiful–and, by way of tribute to the rhetorical arts, tomorrow morning everyone ought to reread just as much of the text as the New York Times can bring itself to print. The diction was exquisite, the use of parallelism fine, the pacing flawless. And the case: John McCain, a man more thoroughly acquainted with the horrors of war than all but a few now alive, argued soberly, calmly, and in detail, that the present war was not only justified but unavoidable. McCain, as all the world knows, has argued that we committed too few troops to the task. And as he himself said tonight, he honors, and counts as his friends, many Democrats. But on the essential point, the vote that we must cast on November 2, he insisted on unity. I’ve never seen him so selfless, or so good.
Rudy? He went on too long, but who cares? He was tough, funny, and–a peculiar trick–abrasive in a completely charming way. In other words, he personified New York. And the crack about Kerry and John Edwards–that Edwards needs two Americas so Kerry can vote for a measure in one America and then against the very same measure in the other–was a stroke of political genius.
I repeat: Glorious.