Invisible Chair and Invisible Bush at Republican Convention

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COMMENTARY | As an observer of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions over several decades, I expect to see party stalwarts onstage accompanied by delegates' roars. Talk about invisible chairs; yes, I noticed quite a few in the VIP stands this year.

Party superstar appearances are normally a highlight. However, two former President Bush absences spoke louder than words on the occasion of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Notable absences left me wondering whether party leaders are ashamed of recent Republican administrations.

The video of endorsement from Bush & Co. was a weak link. Jeb Bush's nod to his brother was gotten off his chest in a hurry, acknowledging that Obama had been "dealt a tough hand." More to the point, where was George W? Were the eight years of his presidency expunged from the record by his own team?

I was left with the impression that the GOP is not proud of Bush, Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin or John McCain, with the New Jersey Star-Ledger calling McCain "senile" and "completely off his rocker." Dick Cheney, apparently, was off fishing in Canada.

And Clint Eastwood was embarrassing. I'm old enough to remember Eastwood in "Rawhide" in the '60s, and to remember when he became mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, two hours' drive south of us here in San Francisco. But Eastwood's 10 minutes of rambling were just awful. Had party strategists wanted him to make a headline-grabbing endorsement, they should have scripted it for under 30 seconds. Five seconds for the rousing musical theme from "Gran Torino," 15 for the crowd to cheer as he strides onstage, another five for him to say "Mitt Romney will make my day!" Job done, exit left.

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