From a national convention's opening gavel to its concluding prayer, the tendency and temptation is to give politics precedent. No need to go into detail about anything else, including the hard choices -- and sacrifices -- that real government, and real life, may involve. The sight might only spoil the show. The way real thought does partisan reflexes, real emotion the kneejerk kind, and real experience the storybook version.
Some showpieces deserve the places they've earned in American history, going all the way back to William Jennings Bryan's classic Cross of Gold performance in 1896, which he would repeat the rest of his life.
In more recent times there was Barack Obama's classic keynote at the Democratic national convention in 2004. ("There is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America.") Back then, the man was a uniter, not divider. And the country's heart was lifted.
As it was Tuesday night in Tampa, or should have been. And not by the keynoter. Chris Christie did well enough. He lived up to his billing. He gave it the old Jersey bounce, and did what keynoters are supposed to do, and have been doing for quadrennia: rally the troops, point with pride and mainly view with alarm. No complaints on any of those scores. But let this much be noted:
The lady who stole the show at the Republicans' national convention this year was no professional, no politician, and, though she talked politics in her way, she remained a lady throughout. An all-too-rare accomplishment in these times, or any times. For once the hurlyburly parted, the show didn't go on, and reality -- far from being obscured -- was brought home.
The lady was named Romney, but her effect was quite different from that of the male of the species. When she spoke, there was no razzmatazz, no hoopla and hyperbole, no outline of talking points clearly visible behind her text.