In a speech that was highlighted by an outrageous opening act, Mitt Romney accepted his party's nomination for President of These United States on Thursday night.
A scene reminiscent of a campy SNL skit saw Clint Eastwood inexplicably melt down in his own version of Not Ready For Prime Time Players 'Crazy Old Man.' The troubling part is, he was very much in the middle of prime time. Mr. Eastwood, a Hollywood legend, would find himself preceding Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney on the most important night of convention. Indeed an argument could be made that it was the most important night of the season for the Republican National Committee.
In his wandering, rambling, 13 minute-long rant, Clint took it upon himself to address an empty chair. The symbolism was lost on no one. It was Dirty Harry's attempt at humor and rest assured it made no one's day. The Romney family was not amused. At one point the High Plains Drifter fell completely off his wagon by telling the empty chair "No, I'm not going to tell him that. He can't do that to himself." His remaining hair disheveled, his eyes unclear, his speech had left most scratching their heads. The Outlaw Josey Wales had spoken.
Next up: Senator Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio, son of Cuban immigrants, pulled himself up by his bootstraps and, an all around "good guy" (as he would have you believe), had the distinction of following Any Which Way But Loose. Senator Rubio, make no mistake, is an up-and-coming star in the conservative party. Being given the opportunity to introduce Mitt Romney on national television in prime time was all you needed to see to bear that out. And Mr. Rubio did not disappoint.
Mr. Rubio was both articulate and well groomed. Following Escape from Alcatraz, I'm sure that was met with a sigh of relief. His speech was validation that we still live in the greatest country in the world. A country in which immigrants can still achieve the American Dream. Immigrants that came here in the 1960's that is. Mr. Rubio continued by assuring us that it was time to elect a man who believed as we all do that "We can do better". Sighting no particular strategies other than general resolutions that are well worn and frankly, a little long in the tooth, the 41 year old continued to offer his charming smile and affable manner. We will be hearing much more from Senator Marco Rubio, just as soon as this November election cycle is put to bed.
Now Showing: Governor Mitt Romney
Lastly, it was time for the main event. A moment that everyone inside and outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum had long awaited. With hurricane Isaac no longer posing the threat of a "split screen," all the preliminary presenters out of the way, and family members in their assigned seats the time had come to hear from the Grand Old Party's nominee.
Mr. Romney arrived in the hall, but not as you would expect. In an attempt to make him look more like a sitting president entering congress chambers, he came from the rear of the auditorium shaking hands along the way. That would be the recurring theme throughout his performance. Mr. Romney has been criticized for being stiff and distant. His demeanor last evening did nothing to change that perception. Credit is due to Team Romney for the warm hearted messaging very adroitly conveyed by way of Hollywood style production. Problematic was the fact that it aired before the west coast audience had tuned in.
Governor Romney did attempt to summon all his abilities to try and connect with the nation through vocal inflections and the appropriate head tilt, at the appropriate time. However, just below the surface was the cool, aloof, even detached charm of a venture capitalist about to cut another deal. As I watched, the word "smug" crossed my mind.
Long on "why" and not so much on "how." Mr. Romney continued to remind us that he more than anyone knows what this country needed to get back on track. He would tell us that he was born in the middle of the country, in the middle of century as a means of reminding us of his middle America roots. Somehow my mind kept going back to a dressage horse, and Romney never paying less that 13% taxes, and "Corporations are people my friend ..." and suddenly his words fell short of the mark. One thing is certain, Willard Mitchell Romney is in it, to win it. His corporate friends will make sure of that. I have no doubt that this man is a good man (at his core), I see no malice of intent. That just drives me to his biggest problem, his complete and utter ability to be malleable.
I'm not sure anyone I walked alongside leaving the arena last night was inspired to go knocking on doors. Rather they were content that their guy delivered a solid speech and presented himself admirably. What I did gather is that their quiet conversations had more to do with Play Misty for Me and the humidity that we've all been suffering through.
On to Charlotte!