An “optimal” speech, and then some

When Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, my initial take viewed Ryan as a “sub-optimal” choice. Time will tell whether this assessment proves correct. Thankfully, events to date suggest that I was wrong.

The most notable such event, of course, was tonight’s brilliant speech to the convention, one of the best I can recall. I’ve long believed that the most persuasive arguments — be it in a political speech, an argument to a jury, or a legal brief — are those that proceed from a statement of facts with the ring of truth. And the best statements of facts are those that proceed chronologically.

That’s how Paul Ryan constructed his speech. He proceeded from a statement of the facts of the Obama presidency. He gave that statement the ring of truth by acknowledging up front the parlous nature of the economy Obama inherited (though he made sure to refer to the Democrats’ partial culpability for that economy by way of their role in the housing crisis). He then took us through the history of the Obama presidency — the stimulus, Obamacare, the Bowles-Simpson commission, and so forth. In each instance, his shots were crisp, clean, and powerful.

I’m almost never fully pleased with the indictment leveled during conventions at politicians I strongly oppose; it’s not part of my emotional make-up to be. But Ryan’s indictment — the particulars, the tone, the sequencing — left me completely satisfied.

With this hard work done, Ryan could proceed with the easier but equally rewarding task of touching the emotional bases. This he did exquisitely, through his family and through his skillful discussion of core American values.

Then, it was back to hard work — humanizing Mitt Romney. I thought Ryan did this well by joking about the music Romney likes. Romney’s a square, Ryan stipulated, but it’s a generational thing (like father and son, in this case) — no more — and kind of endearing. I’m hoping that Romney will play off of this theme tomorrow with some sort of light reference to Ryan’s joke.

In any event, the stage is Romney’s now. Paul Ryan could not have done more to help set it.

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