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Downplaying The Economy

DOWNPLAYING THE ECONOMY.... Watching the Republican convention last night, it was almost as interesting to consider what the speakers didn't say as what they did. Most notably, no one wanted to talk about the economy or what a McCain/Palin administration would do to help manage the economy. Not a word. If the polls are right, and economic concerns are at the top of voters' priority lists, it's a very odd strategy.

It was almost as if convention speakers were playing a game -- the first one to mention the economy loses.

As it turns out, it wasn't just the Republicans on the dais. Harold Meyerson, reporting from St. Paul, explained that the entire convention is steering clear of the one issue that's likely to drive the election most.

Maybe it's a good thing for Republicans that Hurricane Gustav has abbreviated their convention. On an issue of some concern to Americans -- the economy -- they seem to have nothing to say.I have combed the schedule of events here without finding a single forum, workshop or kaffeeklatsch devoted to what John McCain and the Republican Party propose to do about America's short- and long-term economic challenges. I've found four panels on what to do about the Middle East, but not one on what to do about the Middle West.

Some events deal with aspects of economic policy, to be sure: The Consumer Electronics Association is sponsoring a salute to free trade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Vote for Business Bandwagon. The American Petroleum Institute, in conjunction with the American Gas Association and the National Mining Association, is throwing a wingding for Republican governors. And I count two forums on tax issues.

But by the standard of Republican conventions past, this is a skimpy list. Time was you could count on conservative think tanks to host convention events on privatizing Social Security and deregulating this industry or that. But with our deregulated financial and housing sectors imploding, and with Social Security privatization dead for lack of a second, the Republicans this year are steering clear of such hardy perennials.

Then again, the Republicans here plainly don't believe that the economy needs fixing. On Monday, a New York Times poll of Republican convention delegates showed that 57 percent believe the American economy is in very good or fairly good shape.

If Americans tuned in last night, hoping to get a sense of what Republicans will do to rationalize the party's failures on the economy over the last eight years, and what the party might do to turn things around, they likely came away disappointed. The subject was apparently off-limits.