The first full day of the Republican convention--the schedule was put back from Monday because of Hurricane Gustav--went off smoothly. President Bush was beamed in from the White House, and Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman were the other headliners. No sign yet of Sarah Palin, due to speak on Wednesday, and the subject of almost every conversation in the margins of the event. Whatever the rest of the country may think of her, whether she proves to be an asset or a liability to the McCain campaign, her selection has generated extraordinary excitement and enthusiasm here.
At the same time, though, her arrival on the ticket threw the first day's pace off a little. With Palin nowhere to be seen, day one, as they say, buried the lede. The idea was to devote it to introducing John McCain, but is any American politician less in need of an introduction?
The tributes were well enough done. True, Bush's reference to McCain's spirit being more than a match for the "angry left" was a bit puzzling. (Does anybody even in this hall think that Obama represents the angry left?) But Thompson's funny, punchy speech had everybody asking, why wasn't he like that during the primaries? Aside from the sustained ovation for a fallen soldier, Thompson got the biggest cheer of the night. ("And we need a president who doesn't think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.") His speech even had a morsel of policy content (taxes are a bad thing), which otherwise would have been entirely absent from the day. But there was nothing very surprising and, thanks to Palin, it all seemed a little beside the point.