Ballot Box

Shh, Don’t Wake the GOP

PHILADELPHIA–You thought last night nbsp;was dull? Last night was a roller coaster off the tracks compared to tonight’s show, which attained a level of deep moderation not seen since the Ford presidency. The nadir, in fact, was New York Gov. George Pataki’s tribute to President Gerald R. Ford. Ford, Pataki asserted, “renewed America’s confidence.” In the Ford years, he continued, “America’s mood brightened … we regained confidence.” This was followed by a video tribute that highlighted such decisive moments in the Ford presidency as the Mayaguez incident, when Ford acted decisively and … you guessed it, “restored our country’s confidence.” The video was followed by a spontaneous demonstration during which the delegates chanted, “Jer-ry, Jer-ry, Jer-ry.”

Almost as moving was the video tribute to President George Bush, which after spending several minutes on the Persian Gulf War and Barbara Bush’s efforts to advance literacy, seemed to run out of anything to add to the list of accomplishments. Bush’s other great presidential accomplishments, apparently, were signing the Clean Air Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. All hail Bush, the great regulator of small business! After Powell’s speech last night, you have to wonder what it would take to actually draw a negative or hostile reaction from this Prozac-addled party. I’m not sure anything, short of a call for higher capital-gains taxes, would rouse the delegates from their satisfied slumber. McCain, a good soldier at long last, didn’t even try.

There is, of course, old-fashioned political animosity in the hall, but it’s deeply sublimated. You heard it early this evening in the extended demonstration for Rick Lazio, the guy running against you-know-who. And you catch a little blast of it every time someone utters a phrase originated by John McCain that has become one of the convention’s top clichés, “restore honor and dignity to the White House.” Translated, this means: Give that child-molesting creep a one-way bus ticket back to Arkansas. But you won’t hear anyone here come out and say it, not in so many words.