Column: Staying civil at GOP convention

In their convention Monday night, the Republicans did what they clearly set out to do: accentuate the positive, stress inclusiveness and avoid harsh, ugly criticism of the other guy. On policies, they sounded very much like Democrats. Everything was upbeat, and not only by virtue of contrivance; the Republicans seemed genuinely in a good mood, perhaps because they believe - rightly or wrongly - that their man is going to win.

The high points of the evening were the speeches by Laura Bush - sincere, graceful - and Colin Powell - energetic, mature.

Powell, it is thought, would be secretary of state in a Bush administration, but his speech mostly dealt with domestic issues, with doing more to care for children and with doing more to bring minorities into the GOP fold, for instance.

His comment that Republicans sometimes fight affirmative action even though Congress is friendly to special interests was a non sequitur; the two things have nothing to do with each other. Still, the Republicans are thrilled to have Powell on their side, and they should be. He is an exemplary figure who could probably have been the party's nominee himself if he had wanted to be.

Those who found a way to watch the proceedings - on cable TV or PBS - should not be disappointed by the GOP's seeming exuberance. As some commentators noted, that's much better than vindictiveness and whining and griping, and it says something heartening about the rediscovery of political civility and about the state of the nation.

But, as some commentators also noted, the Republicans probably need to spell out more emphatically what a President Bush would do differently from a President Gore if they want their political dreams to come true. The public needs some reason to switch horses in the middle of so much prosperity. Monday night, few reasons were given.



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