Politics & Policy

Grand Old Night

Arnold and the Lady.

How bad were the twins? Way bad. So bad that I honestly found myself yearning for the Kerry daughters and their tale of Licorice the hamster. Most of the jokes were probably funny enough, but the girls delivered them badly, then failed to make the appropriate shift in tone and demeanor when they finally dropped the humor and attempted to speak sincerely. Where was Chuck Barry when we needed him? Somebody should have hit the gong.

Arnold delivered, of course: energetic, cheerful, radiating health and well-being and excitement. And who could deny the power of his story? A poor boy in Austria, who saw the evil empire with his own eyes, then came to America and found freedom and abundance and now holds high office. Yet he struck me as uni-dimensional, a problem he’ll need to address if he intends to remain a national figure. Arnold’s world is a lot like Ayn Rand’s: Either make a success of yourself or you’re somehow defective. Arnold spoke not a word about the sick, the old, or the unfortunate. Arnold’s hero (and mine) Milton Friedman might want to take Arnold aside. “We’re in favor of free markets,” Milton would explain, “not just because they create opportunities for the strong, but because the abundance they foster enables us to engage in larger and more magnanimous acts of charity.” But what the heck. “Don’t be economic girlie men” was just fine for tonight.

Laura Bush? Lord, I’ll tell you. What a woman. Pleasant, gracious, and strong. She never lit a fire under the crowd, but she gave a more sophisticated–really, a more masterly–speech than did Arnold, moving from light and funny and gracious, the vein in which she remained for 15 or 20 minutes, to high and solemn, the vein in which she remained while she spoke about the war, the hardships it has imposed on the spouses of our troops, and the burdens her husband bore when he made the critical decisions. She only managed one really memorable line–”His friends don’t change, and neither do his values”–but she made a memorable point all the same: If that man has managed to hold onto that woman, that tough, beautiful, remarkable woman, then there must be something to him. For the Grand Old Party put on another grand evening.

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