Paul Greenberg

Mr. Eastwood's piece of performance art infected even what should have been a stirring introduction of the presidential nominee by Marco Rubio, junior senator from Florida but mainly embodiment of the American Dream. For even now, today, this hour, the Marco Rubios of the future are getting their first sight of the Statue of Liberty. Even now fathers and mothers are bending down to kiss American soil, thinking not of themselves or even of their new country, but how new, how free, how American their children are going to be....

Despite all the distractions at Tampa last week, there is still an America out there, waiting. We need to remember that.

It was a good speech. Mr. Romney didn't get where he is by making a bad impression. And he is, after all, George Romney's boy. And knows how to do. And never to show off. It might excite envy, and Lord knows there's already enough of that floating around -- even waiting to be enlisted for any cause good or bad, but mainly political.

As is the case not just with Romneys, the man was best when he was just himself, avoiding bombast, ignoring his pollsters and handlers. He was most impressive when least seeking to impress. That's when he seemed most hopeful, helpful, effective -- always fixing something big or small, whether a business in trouble or a country. That's his trade, not speechmaking.

Maybe that's why it wasn't the applause lines, and certainly not the rousing finish, that resonated when the speaker finally had the chance to speak for himself. That is, when he was ... temperate. Then the great tumultuous hall seemed absolutely still. And he seemed to reflect what Adlai Stevenson once called "an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect."

What policies did he advocate? Many in general. But you know they will change with the circumstances, as with all politicians, especially the great ones like the second Roosevelt and the one and only Lincoln. He will steer from point to point down this muddy river, not just strike out, trusting his fate and the country's to a collection of ideological reflexes, not his own decent instincts.

How many New Deals did FDR propose, anyway? The historians count at least a couple, each different in character and programs. Until they were all replaced by a single and singular focus on winning the life-and-death struggle called the Second World War.

FDR changed ideas, he changed policies, he changed vocabularies and crises, but never his personality -- always chipper, always hopeful, always ... himself. And always very American. That much never changed -- in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, before and after he acquired those braces on his paralyzed legs. He was always the Happy Warrior. We could use that kind of president. We could use that kind of presidential candidate.

You might have come away from listening to Mr. Romney's speech with much the same impression FDR left. His positions will change, too. But not he. Which may be why the most impressive thing about Mitt Romney's big night was not what he said. It was his having chosen some of the people around him on that stage. Ann Romney. Paul Ryan. A great leader chooses a great team, not one whose principal function is to make him seem great by comparison.

The greatest of American leaders chose as his secretaries of state and the Treasury two completely different, even warring types, named Jefferson and Hamilton, both great themselves. He did not want to be surrounded by lesser men. On the contrary, he sought out the greatest, however different their talents and temperaments, their past achievements and future promise.

Mitt Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate. His opponent chose Joe Biden. In a way, that says everything that may need to be said about the choice confronting the American electorate this fall, a choice that, like all choices at the ballot box or in life, will have consequences.

Mr. Romney, we still may hardly know you. But we know some of the choices you've made when it comes to the most important thing, people. And those choices speak for you. Unmistakably.


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.