Just as important to some, the conventions that year were the first covered by newscaster Walter Cronkite. It is often said, the conventions that year launched his career. They certainly cemented his place as the premier watchdog of the American political scene.
Political conventions, of course, have their moments in the sun, but many say the television cameras have by themselves changed the nature of the beast. The conventions used to be the final battleground for nailing down party support for a particular candidate. Politicians now know the audience is far too large to ignore and far too large to allow the event to disintegrate into a family squabble.
Nowadays, conventions are orchestrated pageants. The primaries have long ago gotten all the ugly stuff out of the way. Nobody wants to see a bloodied candidate giving an acceptance speech on national television. By the time the convention rolls around, all that's left is a maudlin scene of self-congratulation and smiles larger than those found on toothpaste commercials.
Forget policy announcements and memorable quotes. Rep. Paul Ryan, accepting his role as vice presidential candidate, told the crowd and the cameras, "I live on the same block where I grew up," the equivalent to saying he deserved your vote because he never missed a day of school. Laudable, sure, but not exactly heroic stuff.
"Now is the moment when we can stand up and say, 'I'm an American. I make my destiny. And we deserve better! My children deserve better! My family deserves better. My country deserves better!'" declared Mitt Romney in an acceptance speech that was 99.9 percent pep talk and 0.1 percent policy.
"What is needed in our country today is not complicated or profound," Romney said, preparing his audience his next statements, which were neither complicated or profound. "What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs," he said.
Searching a national convention for the Understatement of the Week turns out to be a very misguided idea. Why is that? That's because national conventions are all about something else. They are all about overstatements.
But one newscaster gave it a shot. Fox News host Chris Wallace found Romney's speech not great, but good enough.
"There's an old saying that you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose. I'm not sure it ever soared into poetry, but it was a workmanlike job, and it certainly got the job done," Wallace said.
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