One can only hope they weren't just window-dressing camera fodder for the nationally-televised event. If so, it was all too fleeting. By Day Two, minorities seemed to have returned to the GOP's "hidden variables" status as the distinctly disparate white-people-to-people-of-color ratio had by then re-emerged and the convention floor once again began to resemble the crowd at an NHL game.
Charlotte was a soccer game; thick with color, energy, talent, flavor, grace, and legit diversity. It was a glistening, smartly-sequenced showcase of re-invigorated hope and belief in the potential for a brighter future conveyed earnestly, openly and unambiguously by the likes of Tammy Duckworth, Deval Patrick, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Granholm, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, certainly Bill Clinton and of course, the President himself.
Little of that applied to Tampa, where the GOP's grand scheme ultimately meant that matters like authentic minority inclusion warranted only the single day's focus. Of more importance was managing the off-platform legislative history carried into the convention by their nominees (while simultaneously low-keying most of the extreme elements of that platform) and to "humanize" Romney.
Beavis and Butthead
Thus, the challenge for Team Romney was both significant and -- with slightly over two months to Election Day -- subject to crucial time constraints. In an election where knocking off Obama was viewed as simply plunking down a candidate with a B-School background, I found it amusing watching them try to work some sort of David Copperfield maneuver on a set of hype-up fiscal experts bogged down by a paper trail that reflects dubious economic sensibilities:
"P90X" Paul Ryan : the attention-starved fiscal Butthead; vivid in imagination but short on what it takes to figure out when to round up his numbers and when to round them down. Ryan's rep as a deficit hawk sunk like the Titanic when shortly after being chosen for VP, it was pointed out that during Dubya's reign of error Ryan voted in favor of roughly $6 TRILLION in deficit spending.
Mitt Romney (aka MITT-ROM): the preposterously prosperous corporate shill whose Beavis-like proposals for economic recovery read like a suicide note from a deranged accountant. Romney's proposed budget is so undefined that it's been described as "an end without the means."
Spinning away those inconsistencies added another layer to the challenge of humanizing their seemingly soulless nominee who projects a personality that seems to offer unmistakable proof that "corporations are people too." Obviously, a transformation of MITT-ROM from greedy Gordon Gecko to philanthropic Bill Gates was completely far-fetched, but warming him up to at least, Dick Nixon levels seemed doable.
Nevertheless, Tampa seemed more like a Romney roast than an event designed to showcase the human side of their nominee. Other than Mrs. MITT-ROM, speakers like Rubio, John Kasich and Chris Christie seemed determined to treat their allotted time like a commercial for Monster.com. It was almost saddening to watch as speaker after speaker laboriously touted themselves while giving either belated or less-than-assiduous mention of the man they were there to nominate. What I got out of it was a sense that many speakers feel that Romney's defeat is a foregone conclusion.
The Good; the Bad; and the Puzzling
Still, on the final day's lead up to his acceptance speech, the Mitt Humanization Project nearly came to fruition thanks to a surprisingly masterful video presentation that depicted MITT-ROM acting human during various stages of his life. Considering the video's impact, it would have been awfully dramatic having Mitt stroll onto the stage amidst the video's closing. It may have been the shape-shifting event of the convention.
Of course, some nameless scheduling monkey decided to sandwich Eastwood in between that remarkable, potential game-changer and Mitt's acceptance speech. Accordingly, a crusty, bed-headed Clint went into his crazy-grandpa-shits-on-the-reception bit followed by the nominee who traipsed onstage and basically threw out a policy-thin stump speech . And so in the end, MITT-ROM stiff-walked out of Tampa largely untransformed with a "warm and fuzzy" rating registering somewhere between Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein while still carrying himself like a guy who looks like he should sound like HAL 9000 , the Heuristically-programmed Algorithmic computer from the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey.
Meanwhile Ryan, who charged into the convention like a mojo worker on a hot streak -- Palin redux on the excitement scale -- pretty much left it as a small fry in a baked potato world. In fact, even before Romney's speech, the sheen on Ryan's tough, no-nonsense truth-telling persona had tanked after the August 29th speech Ryan delivered turned out to be a fact-checker's nightmare . It was an unforced error in which his cleverly-crafted cred as a straightforward broker of hard facts was needlessly eviscerated -- by Ryan himself.
In the aftermath, many of Ryan's most loyal endorsers found themselves in full brand retreat. After months of plastering praise on P90X Paul as the intellectual soul of the GOP -- the one politician willing to expound hard truths -- they were reduced to pointless rationalizing with some insisting that Ryan's lying is now an accepted part of politics essentially chucking Tip O'Neil's "all politics is local" dictum for one of their own: " all politicians lie ." Others absurdly suggested that maybe " fact-checkers should be checked .
It's difficult to comprehend the notion some have about Ryan as a future presidential hopeful, much less vice-President. Ryan doesn't belong in the White House; he belongs on a skateboard! Go right ahead and try to convince yourself that P90X Paul Ryan does not look like a guy who rides to work on a skateboard.
But don't be confused about his motivation. Paul Ryan doesn't project as the kind of guy who'd do that sort of thing on behalf of the environment; but as the kind of dick who thinks it makes him look cool. Because really, aren't dicks typically the kind of guys who tell whoppers along the lines of how much they can bench press, how many times they've read The Art of War or, in Ryan's case, how fast they run marathons?