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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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GOP Road Trip

Comedian Jeff Ross was roasting actor Charlie Sheen when he rhetorically asked whether anyone knew how much cocaine Sheen had used in recent years. The answer: “Enough to kill two-and-a-half men.”

I thought of that joke late last month while at the Republican National Convention (RNC) because every time I lifted my head and glanced at a television there was an advertisement which called Rep. Connie Mack, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Florida, a “Charlie Sheen Republican.” The ad stated that Rep. Mack loves Hooters restaurants, periodically gets into bar brawls, and often asks his father to settle his unpaid bills. I’m still not sure how that makes Mack unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Don’t worry; that’s not the only story I’m bringing back from my Florida trip. This columnist’s theme this week is how difficult it is to gauge how the media is portraying the RNC when you are at the RNC. To make the point, let me offer a few observations about three storylines which emerged in Tampa during the final week of August: Hurricane Isaac, Rep. Paul Ryan’s vice presidential nomination speech, and the after-hours scene at the RNC.

Hurricane Isaac, had it made landfall near Tampa, would likely have caused either the cancellation or postponement of the RNC. Most RNC delegates were housed far from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the RNC, residing in St. Petersburg and Clearwater hotels situated to the west of Tampa. More importantly, someone traveling to Tampa from either of those cities usually crosses the Howard Frankland Bridge, which appears to have been built about 10 feet above Old Tampa Bay. Days after Isaac had come and gone, the bay’s choppy waters appeared close to jumping onto the bridge, which would have forced its closure and made it impossible for hundreds of RNC delegates to attend the RNC.

The morning after Rep. Ryan’s speech, and a few hours after I left the Kid Rock concert which took place immediately afterwards (more on that in a moment), I was stunned to see on the CNN news crawl this line: ‘Romney camp defends Ryan’s speech.’ That’s news? The Romney camp probably wrote Rep. Ryan’s remarks. I did not know at the time that the Wisconsin congressman’s stated timeline about a General Motors (GM) plant’s closure in Janesville, Wisconsin, had been discussed endlessly on the cable news programs.

I would have learned about the GM controversy earlier on the RNC’s final day had I not attended the incredibly entertaining Kid Rock concert, which was held at Liberty Plaza, a so-called insta-venue built not far from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. I can report to my fellow middle-aged people out there that more than half of the sizable crowd was 40-plus and, like me, a little surprised, but happy, to find themselves at an event which began after midnight.

Those unfamiliar with Kid Rock should know he was briefly married to actress Pamela Anderson, was once involved in a late-night brawl at a Waffle House, and opines about mind-altering drugs in some of his songs. In other words, Kid Rock is a Charlie Sheen Republican.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net