Oh, the gift of low expectations! May we all be so lucky as to have little expected from us.
Here was Mitt Romney on the big stage in Tampa, Fla., delivering a perfectly fine acceptance speech. Reading smoothly. Applying volume and emotion at appropriate spots. Accurately delivering a handful of decently crafted lines.
And the hall erupted in delirium.
He hadn't blown the election. He made more sense than Clint Eastwood. It was the greatest speech he had ever made.
"Clearing a low bar," this is called disparagingly, which completely misunderstands the blessing of low bars. In worlds of power and influence especially, it is far better today to arrive with reduced expectations and surpass them than it is to have a reputation for brilliant achievement and fall the tiniest millimeter short.
Just ask the corporate chief executive whose quarterly earnings have arrived a nickel shy of Wall Street's predictions. Soon enough, he'll be an ex-CEO.
George W. Bush, who proved himself a master of this expectations game, once spoke with somber alarm at the "soft bigotry of low expectations," the notion that some kids do poorly in school because they are expected to. It was a snappy phrase, coined by chief White House phrase-turner Michael Gerson, and it may well apply to poor schools. Credit Gerson as well for "axis of evil," "armies of compassion" and the "smoking gun-mushroom cloud" metaphor that helped sell the war in Iraq.
But Bush didn't win a second term on his stirring oratory, any more than he did on his foreign-policy nuance.
Barack Obama, by contrast, is known as giving wonderful, crowd-moving speeches. This is a huge and unwelcome burden for him.
Put it this way: After Romney's workmanlike delivery in Tampa, Obama had better bring down the house in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday night.
- 1. Make My Clint
ASKED AND UNANSWERED: Who knew you could debate an empty chair -- and lose? . . . Instead of just rerouting jet traffic at Kennedy Airport, should the Port Authority pay to soundproof some Nassau County homes? That idea is gaining altitude at the Town-Village Aircraft Safety and Noise Abatement Committee . . . After 23 years, the voice of Hofstra basketball is going silent. But who has enough Pride to announce Ken Weprin's retirement? . . . Feeling thirsty? You might not be after Wednesday's public forum at the Suffolk Legislature Building on threats to the LI water supply . . . Now that the Open Arms soup kitchen and Maureen's Haven homeless program got the bum's rush for making a bad first impression, can any upscale tenants be lured to the old LIRR station in Riverhead? . . . An air-quality alert from the National Weather Service? Does that factor in noise pollution from speechifying Republicans and Democrats?
THE NEWS IN SONG: Step this way and let your mind be free: "Welcome 2 the Party" by Romney booster Kid Rock, tinyurl.com/wel2partycq