I started my legal career as a brief writer for a federal agency. Sometimes when my crusty boss commented on my draft brief she would start by saying, “well, it’s all there.” That meant the brief was pretty good, that nothing important had been left unsaid, but that it hadn’t quite come together and, above all, wasn’t sufficiently concise. The brief wouldn’t need major surgery, but would require more than a little tightening.
That’s how I felt about Mitt Romney’s speech last night to a sold-out (and more) dinner at National Review’s conservative summit. Romney spoke well. He was likeable throughout and dynamic at times. During his best moments, he almost sounded Reaganesque. And the speech had all of the important elements — what he learned in the private sector; how he took these principles, especially his insistence on data, to government; the merits of the health insurance plan he came up with; his views on social issues, including why he changed his position on abortion; the major problems facing our nation (out-of-control spending, competition from Asia which will force us to raise the bar or become second-rate, and jihad); and how our traditional strengths as Americans will help us overcome these problems. Romney showed an excellent understanding of “jihadism.” And he got in a good shot at McCain without ever mentioning the Senator by name when he praised President Bush for standing firm on cutting taxes despite the opposition of “some in his own party.”
However, the speech struck me (and some of our readers to whom I spoke afterwards) as too long and a bit rambling. Moreover, the best bits — his powerful recitation of our strenghs as a people, his strong explication of jihadism — came late. In fact, some of it did not come during the brief Q & A session. It’s a bad sign when someone asks you, at the end of a lengthy address, what your core principles are. The good news is that Romney gave an excellent answer — “culture makes all the difference” and our culture is a “purpose driven” one in which the family is the key.
Mitt still fits for me, he just needs a better fitting stump speech.
UPDATE: Romney apparently hit a home run in a speech he gave in Israel on the battle against radical Islam. As I said, “it’s all there.”
SCOTT adds: NRO has posted a Quicktime video of Governor Romney’s speech here.
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