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For my money, the most entertaining video clip from last night's clown show in Tampa was the stunned reactions of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell after Clint Eastwood all but told President Obama to go ** himself while interviewing an empty chair:

But while Clint Eastwood may have stolen the show by attempting to interview an empty chair, the emptiest thing on stage last night was Mitt Romney's speech. The first half of his speech was basically a list of things Romney wishes were on Wikipedia page, but notably absent was any discussion of his record as governor. Romney did brag about having tapped a female to be his lieutenant governor and chief of staff, but there was nothing more than that—no mention of Romneycare, no mention of his jobs record (he was 47th out of 50 states in job creation, so it's hard to blame him for that).

Romney's speech didn't just sanitize his political and business careers, it also sanitized his policy proposals. In the more than 4,000 words in his speech, he offered virtually no specifics on the central issue of this campaign: how to grow the American economy. Aside from self-serving platitudes like "in America, we celebrate success—we don't apologize for success," here is grand total of what Romney said on the topic:

I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs. Paul Ryan and I have five steps. First, by 2020, North America will be an energy independent by taking invented of our oil, are coal, our gas, our nuclear, and renewables. Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow.  When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice, and every child should have a chance. Third, we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements, and when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences. And fourth, to assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish, as have those in Greece.  We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget. And fifth, we will champion small businesses, America's engine of job growth.  That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them.  It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small businesses the most, and it means we must rein in skyrocketing cost of health care by repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Even that was impossibly vague. He wants to replace Obamacare? Okay, but with what? He wants to be energy independent by 2020? Okay, how? He wants to maintain confidence in the stability of American investments? Alright, how? There will be consequences for nations that break trade agreements? Okay, name some. He'll give Americans the skills they need to get a good job? Great idea ... please, tell us more. (And by the way, does that mean Mitt Romney blames American skills for slow economic growth?)

Romney followed up those five points with the most specific policy promises in his entire speech, though two of the three had nothing to do with the economy, and the passage as a whole featured one of the strangest non-sequitors I've ever seen in a speech like this.

Today women are more likely than men to start of business. They need a president who respect and understand what they do. And let me make this clear.  Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class of America. As president, I'll respect the sanctity of life.  I'll honor the institution of marriage.
That's really an amazing jumble of words. Romney goes from claiming women are more active in business creation than men to pledging not to raise taxes on the middle class to pledging to be "pro-life" to pledging to be anti-gay marriage. Even if you didn't know that Romney's tax plan would raise taxes on the middle class (or explode the deficit) and even if you didn't know that Romney had just said abortion was a settled issue and that it shouldn't be in the political campaign, this was a real head-scratching portion of his speech—why in the world would he include a call to respect women, a pledge to not raise taxes, a pledge to repeal Roe v. Wade, and a pledge to oppose gay marriage all in the space of 56 words? It really was just weird.

On foreign policy, the speech was no better. Romney thanked President Obama for getting Osama bin Laden, but lambasted him for allegedly apologizing for America. Yeah, I'm sure bin Laden took that apology real well. Romney hinted that he wanted to go to war over Iran, but he completely avoided discussion of Afghanistan, the one war in which we are currently embroiled.

Compare Romney's speech with President Obama's 2008 convention speech. President Obama's speech was longer, by about 600 words, but it also was less about him. Romney's speech dwelled ad nauseum on his own personal biography; Obama also talked about his personal story, but spent much less time on it. Instead, the speech was about us, and what kind of country we want to be. And his speech wasn't just about principles—it was about specifics. Whether it was health care reform, getting Osama bin Laden, developing alternative energy, or expanding educational opportunity, then-Senator Obama talked about what he wanted to accomplish and how he wanted to accomplish it. In that important sense, his speech was dramatically different from Mitt Romney's.

Perhaps the most revealing line from Mitt Romney last night was this:

This isn't something we have to accept.  Now is the moment when we can do something.  And with your help, we will do something.
Yes, we need to do something. But what might that something be? Well, Mitt Romney doesn't want to tell you. Because he's afraid it might hurt his campaign. And you can't blame him for that, can you? After all, he's running for office, for Pete's sake.

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