Once Ryan’s speech ended, peppered with phrases like “Let’s get this done!" and “We can do this!” and even taking a turn for the poetic, calling the Obama administration “a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind,” I had the overwhelming urge to skate back out on the ice and show those Russians who was boss. The riveted, enthusiastically booing and cheering crowd seemed similarly moved. They even cheered his iPod playlist. If you will cheer the iPod playlist of the GOP vice presidential candidate, you will cheer for anything.
Early in the night, it was rough going. Rob Portman, known for his inability to agitate stingrays, proved that his powers extend beyond rays to human beings. His tie seemed more excited than he was. After him, Tim Pawlenty delivered a series of jokes about how the Obama presidency was like a tattoo that seemed cool at first but which you had come to regret. I am not making this up. It was the sort of speech that made you worry Pawlenty had spent the past several weeks attempting to remove an ill-advised ROMNEY PAWLENTY 2012 FOREVER from his lower back. Mike Huckabee delivered a pleasant, if unmemorable, monologue in an even more enthusiastic tie.
But when Condi took the stage, everything changed. She was eloquent and coherent and used memorable, almost lapidary phrases. Imagine! Memorable phrases! As a general rule a speech is something you sit through. But this one earned six standing ovations from the audience. I was so excited that I chiseled large portions of it into granite.
This was the first speech, so far, that bore the imprint of anything that could reasonably be described as “speechwriting,” in contrast to “the assemblage of crowd-pleasing jokes and groaningly inverted phrases (Yes We Can? More Like, Yes We Can Fire You!) that belong in someone’s retirement roast.”
Her own story is certainly testimony to how “America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect” — one of the numerous well-turned phrases.
After Condi’s poetry, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez delivered a colorful and personal tale (including the extremely memorable fact that she stood guard outside Catholic church bingo nights with a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum as an 18-year-old) before making way for Paul Ryan’s prose.
To call it prose is no insult. It was more than serviceable and the crowd would hardly have devoured it more enthusiastically if it had been buttered beforehand. They booed when demanded. They cheered when demanded. They supplied sustained cheers over a female protester being removed from the room.
And Ryan did what he does well — delivered a cheery attack on President Obama, complete with jabs about recent graduates who spend their days jobless in their childhood bedrooms gazing up at fading posters of Barack Obama. Touche, sir. But even with those ships sailing on the wind of yesterday (which sounds like the line you get if you are trying desperately not to plagiarize the closing sentence of the Great Gatsby) it was a locker room speech, a half-time talk, a far better version of the pump-up speeches offered earlier in the evening. It was what the occasion demanded. If he had talked a minute longer I would have started doing push-ups.
Poetry is nice, but you don’t read it in the locker room. Still, once this game ends, we’ll be watching Condi.