This much I will say of the Republican National Convention: It is an irony free zone.
Last night the theme was "Service" and a Minneapolis fire captain, Shana Hanna, who was a hero of the interstate bridge collapse last year, spoke of the tragedy in stirring terms.
It was not her place to be political, of course, but the context went unmentioned: The deterioration of the nation's infrastructure that was the underlying cause of the tragedy. It has been equal opportunity neglect, involving Republicans and Democrats, but it happened on the Bush administration's watch, so it takes more than a little chutzpah to bring it up.
More from the irony free zone: The delegates hold up cards saying "Country First." This is not so subtly meant to suggest that someone else - you know who - puts his political ambition before his country.
Yet there is no party in America that puts political partisanship ahead of country more than the Republicans. Why, in the first day of the convention, when Gustav was threatening the Gulf Coast, Cindy McCain had to remind delegates that it was time "we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats."
There was no doubt what hats were on last night, despite the desperate attempt to wrap the convention in the flag as insulation against the record of the Bush years.
Fortunately, I missed Joe Lieberman, being the happy turncoat, and also the lugubrious Fred Thompson, who quit the senate because he was bored with it and then ran a lazy campaign that justifiably went nowhere. I did see George W. Bush, who should have gone nowhere long ago and wasn't even welcome at the convention for where he did go and took the country sadly with him.
But it was something that Fred Thompson said, and which I saw in a brief excerpt, that got my goat. This is the quote as recorded by Fox News and printed on their Web site (the italics are mine):
Terrorists, rogue nations developing nuclear weapons, an increasingly belligerent Russia, intensifying competition from China, spending at home that threatens to bankrupt future generations, for decades, an expanding government, increasingly wasteful and too often incompetent, to deal with these challenges, the Democrats present a history-making nominee for president, history-making in that he's the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president.
This is insensitive as hell. I don't mind him knocking Obama - he's a big fellow - but don't downplay a truly historic moment in the history of this nation, the nomination of an African American to be president, with a cheap little quip to get applause. Clearly, Thompson doesn't give a damn about the aspirations of minorities, or indeed all Americans who care about justice. Heck, he doesn't give a damn about the history-making moments of his own country.
The fact that the delegates cheered this neo-racist remark showed the moral caliber of those sitting in the hall in their irony free zone.