Paul Greenberg

Maybe it's a function of what's been called the Information Age, which has become more of a digital data age. We're deluged with bytes, mega- and giga-, but not knowledge. Let alone understanding. As for insight, any hope of that was eclipsed long ago by the klieg-light glare of constant exposure. And over-exposure.

How long has this presidential campaign been going on, half an eternity? And how long has one Mitt Romney been in the news? Even longer. Yet he remains a largely unknown quantity. In part because of his own natural reticence, in part because of the corporate culture he has come to epitomize. (Rule No. 1: Never issue a statement, let alone actually meet the press, without a PR person riding shotgun.) The result: Mitt, we hardly knew you. And maybe still don't. For the more we know about you, the less we seem to know you.

But at last, on the last night of the carnival, vulgar display and even rare moment of insight that is an American political convention, the nominee got a chance to speak for himself. And we the people got a chance to listen for ourselves, clouded as the opportunity was by pre-speech and post-speech commentaries, not to mention warm-up acts, camera hogs, and other distractions galore.

Anything to make sure Americans never get a moment to think for ourselves. That could be dangerous. It might lead to independent thought. Can't have that. Better to just follow the party line -- Republican or Democrat, right or left, Fox News or NPR, clear or muddled but always certain. Unfortunately.

Clint Eastwood, a movie star of some note, led the list of wretched excesses Thursday night with his imitation of a lounge act, deluded mental patient, and doddering old guy, a role he perfected in one of his films. At least we hope it was an imitation, but you never know. There may be nothing as sadly revealing as an actor caught offstage, left to the slim mercies of his own unscripted words and (semi-) thoughts, naked to the cruel world. Pitiable. And embarrassing. The spectacle threatened never to end -- like a drunken performance at what was supposed to be a party. It's hard even now to get it out of your mind, or the taste of it out of your mouth.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.