For a Convention that promised unconventional thinking, the RNC has been pretty, well, conventional. Mitt Romney's management consultant background has promised out-of-the-box approaches, and Paul Ryan's young gun persona is built on fresh ideas. Yet yesterday evening's spectacle of disses and dishonesty came out of the classic Convention playbook: let the VP nominee do the dirty work of ugly insults and unapologetic extremes, and let the presidential candidate ride in on his horse above the fray..
Three moments stand out in the Night of Big Lies that the Republicans staged last night and they came from a trio of the GOP's "nice guys": Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee and Paul Ryan. All three are thought of as positive, smiling faces for their conservative party. All three work to win descriptions such as "likable" and "bland" from the media - because that allows them to deliver the most sinister lines on their party's behalf.
First came Pawlenty, the former Minnesota Governor who couldn't make the VP cut last cycle or this one. His speech played like a stand-up routine, and there was one punchline he couldn't wait to get to. He said that it was alright President Obama had failed in his first term. After all, many "have failed at their first job."
In a throw-back to Sarah Palin, Pawlenty knows he's joking about President Obama's community organizing experience. He ignores Obama's time as a professor. He dismisses his time as an elected official - even though public service has been the main profession of both Pawlenty and the evening's keynote, Paul Ryan.
To Pawlenty, none of them count as jobs. And to a GOP that likes lying about Obama waiving the work requirement of welfare and accusing the Democrats of creating a nation of citizens reliant on handouts, suggesting that Obama was just another unemployed loafer seems to be par for this election year. But don't accuse them of racism.
Then you had Mike Huckabee who accused President Obama of believing "that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb, even beyond the womb." Beyond. The. Womb. I will never get back those minutes of my life spent listening to Huckabee.
Since he's probably not suggesting Obama practices infanticide, one can only wonder what he means. He's not suggesting we should never tolerate civilian casualties during war - after all John McCain and Condoleezza Rice spent their speeches saying we weren't in enough wars. He may alluding to death panels. Or he may just be saying one of the most absurd statements to come out of Tampa.
Finally, Paul Ryan, whose absurdity was less sensational, but just as blatant to anyone who wants to fact-check. He spoke about his hometown in Wisconsin, and blamed President Obama for the GM plant that closed there.
Except the GM plant closed before the Obama Administration began. And by all counts, the Obama Administration's support of the auto industry kept it alive, allowed it to rebuild, and helped prop up jobs numbers that Ohio's Governor Kasich boasts about. It was Mitt Romney who penned the editorial: Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.
In many ways, Ryan's lie is the biggest. The others are insults, deranged slurs and baseless accusations. Ryan went after Obama's record, which is what this race should be about. And repeats the biggest lie of the night.
But that's why it's useful to have a circus as your backdrop: the clowns distract the audience while the magician pulls a sleight of hand. So we liberals will fume about Pawlenty, and the media will question Huckabee, and Ryan wriggles off the hook.
Night two of the RNC laid out the GOP plan: blast Obama not just on the truth, but on myths, and not just on his record, but through divisive messaging around race, religion and class in America. Now, the final night is Mitt Romney's turn, his chance to come in as the White Knight and save the day. If the monsters he's unleashed have left anything worth saving.