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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Time not on their side

TACOMA – An axiom of academic politics is that they tend to be very nasty because very little is at stake.

The axiom can sometimes be applied to partisan or "real" politics, particularly at a time like this, when one major party is trying to get its president re-elected and the other has a nominee with all the delegates he needs to be the nominee. Why, then, would sensible people give up their weekends, travel scores or hundreds of miles, and argue over seemingly minute changes in obscure rules, like Saturday morning’s debate on  whether would-be delegates to the national convention should speak for 30 seconds or 15 seconds when making the pitch to fellow partisans that they should have the privilege of traveling to Tampa, paying exorbitant rates for meals and hotel rooms?

Such rule changes may sound as esoteric as the old apocryphal debate on . . .

. . .on how many angels can dance on the point of a pin – a finite number, according to one physicist’s computations, but one that can’t be written easily here – until one realizes that with some 259 Washingtonians competing for 10 openings, the change represents roughly an hour of speechifying. An hour in the lives of the 1,561 delegates gathered at the Tacoma Convention Center that will never be recovered.

A similar proposal to drop the speaking time from 60 seconds to 30 seconds ate up nearly an hour of Friday’s convention. It passed, but took up more time than would have been used by would-be delegates running for other positions that afternoon.

The proposal, from supporters of Mitt Romney, prompted a "floor fight" between them and supporters of Ron Paul, and served as a test of strength for the two sides. Romney had the numbers, and prevailed, but the whole thing came after leaders of the two factions announced they had reached agreement on convention rules, including the one-minute speech limit, in what Romney leader Diane Tebelius had described as a "Kumbaya moment".

Moments are indefinite, but fleeting, periods of time.

It even took State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur, who was presiding over his fourth state convention, by surprise: "I think it was a silly move."

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.