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Posted at 08:40 AM ET, 09/04/2012

The party that believes in government

[The day after Labor Day: Most dreaded moment on the calendar. The kids are back in school, the bosses are back from the beach, and suddenly we’re all Type A again, bouncing among meetings and conferences and social obligations, and losing the muscle memory of what it was like being an unrushed and unharried person in the sultry depth of summer.]


Clint Eastwood unplugged. An instant classic. (Charles Dharapak - AP)

The Democrats have their turn now, but I’m still thinking about the Republicans, and Tampa, and Clint. The sound quality was poor where I was standing in the arena, over next to the press tables, and I kept wondering how it was playing on television. Depends on your ideology, like everything else, I guess, but he was clearly winging it. “Rambling” was the gentle word used in much of the news coverage. No one knew what he was going to say next, and by “no one” I am including Clint Eastwood.

Still, he’s Clint, and he owned the hall simply by walking onstage. Let’s see a show of hands among the guys out there: Who would you rather be, Mitt Romney or Clint Eastwood?

Another lingering Tampa memory: About a dozen men in black frantically, maniacally trying to dismantle the podium and set up a new podium on a different level of the stage just as Mitt Romney walked into the forum. Romney kept shaking hands, like a president about to deliver a SOTU address, while his staffers did this complicated technical work on the stage. You have never seen men working under such pressure. They sprawled on their belly fussing with wires and whatnot. James Bond disarming an evil genius’s nuclear warhead didn’t work that fast.

Years from now I’ll remember the cops in Tampa, patrolling the desolate downtown in their new khaki uniforms, on their new mountain bikes, with all their new gear, and a helicopter overhead and patrol boats in the harbor and for all I know a submarine pinging along the bay floor in search of protesters with gills. A $50 million federal grant for police protection will buy a lot of hardware and rent a lot of cops from other counties. .

Here’s a good memory: The Cuban breakfast I had at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop: Eggs loaded with chorizo and onions and served with toasted Cuban bread and cafe con leche. All for about 5 bucks and change. Where can you find a good, affordable breakfast in Washington? One night in Ybor City the stars aligned and I smoked a freshly rolled and wrapped stogie while sitting on the porch of a smoky bar, the Isaac-drawn humidity making the world a vast humidor. When in Rome...

I’ll remember the political noise machine — the extraordinary media apparatus that churns out so many words and so many images, to what end it’s hard to know. My thin contribution seemed surely lost in the maelstrom. (I know everyone reads all my work the moment I hit the done button, but fyi my stories last week touched on Paul Ryan’s philosophy, on the stormy Sunday that got things rolling, on the protesters, on the Ron Paul insurrection, on the GOP’s younger talent and on the ennui of Tampa voters.) (If I keep typing like this for an infinite period of time I will eventually write “Hamlet.”)

One final, lingering thought after Tampa: The Republicans are the ones who really believe in government.

Democrats believe in government, too, which is why they’ve been pushing government programs for 80 years as potential solutions to societal problems. But the Democrats are jaded, in the main. They know that a lot of this stuff doesn’t work, that the market finds workarounds, that there are unintended consequences and that programs become hidebound and obsolete.

The Republicans, however, believe that government is so effective that it has swamped our freedom. The central GOP message is that the federal government is oppressing us, meddling in our decisions, contorting out behavior, and sapping us of our precious bodliy fluids. That’s a very effective government!

Listen to Paul Ryan during his acceptance speech at the convention:

“None of us — none of us have to settle for the best this administration offers, a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.”

Question: What’d you do this Labor Day weekend? Did the government plan it for you? Did you feel free to have an adventure? I did — and for the record I went to two Nats games. Let’s go Nats!

By  |  08:40 AM ET, 09/04/2012

 
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