Dave Barry

Can Joe Biden possibly compete with Clint Eastwood?

Now the eyeballs of the nation turn toward this vibrant, proud, ambitious city in North or possibly South Carolina as the Democrats gather here to present their message of hope for America, namely that the Republicans are fascist, racist women-hating scum.

In the days leading up their convention, the Democrats have been enjoying Charlotte, which is often called "The Tampa of the Non-Florida South" because of its many attractions. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is located here, but that is only the beginning: There are also roads, buildings, trees, sidewalks, several restaurants, literally dozens of traffic lights and a modern taxi fleet consisting of three modern taxis.

On top of all that, right now downtown Charlotte boasts a huge sand sculpture of President Obama. It bears an uncanny resemblance to what the president would look like if he were made out of sand sculpted by somebody who had never actually seen him. The sculpture weighs more than 15 tons and cost $30,000, which was paid by the visitors bureau of Myrtle Beach, S.C., as a way of sending the message: "We have a great deal of sand."

It is only fitting that this sculpture has been erected here. Its looming presence serves as a reminder that no matter how many politicians take the stage, this convention is really about just one person — a person whose name will be evoked countless times over the next few days; a person who, whether you love him or hate him, has come to dominate the political discussion in this nation as few others ever have.

I refer, of course, to Clint Eastwood.

I have been observing political conventions since the Sixties and I have never seen a speaker captivate the nation the way Clint did that night in Tampa. It was mesmerizing to watch: Clint would stare into the lights and launch into a sentence, and as he spoke, you could almost hear his brain shouting "Mayday! Mayday!" as it became increasingly clear that he had no earthly idea how that particular sentence was going to end. Plus, while conducting a pretend dialog with a chair, he made TWO references — a modern political-convention record — to an anatomically impossible reproductive act.

It was, quite simply, the best speech ever given, and I am including the Gettysburg Address in that statement. When I left Tampa and returned, between conventions, to the normal human world, Clint’s speech was pretty much the only thing anybody wanted to talk to me about. If the Democrats want to really boost TV ratings for this convention, they should have Clint speak here, too. Unfortunately, it appears that our best hope for entertainment is going to be Vice President Joe Biden, who is scheduled to deliver his remarks during the coveted 4:37 a.m. Friday slot.

But the most anticipated speech here will be delivered Thursday night by President Obama, who will be making the case that he deserves a second term in office, based on his solid record of taking on some of the most difficult problems this nation has ever faced and unflinchingly blaming all of them, including sunspot activity, on the previous administration. The president will also speak about his plan for improving the economy, which continues to be a pesky problem despite the many hard-hitting speeches the president has made about it.

A big concern for the Democrats is whether the president can rekindle the passion and excitement he generated in the 2008 campaign. Back then he was a superstar who exuded world-class celebrity glamour, the kind you saw with JFK or the Beatles; whereas today, after three and a half years in office, he is more in the William Shatner bracket.

So the president is hoping to get a boost from this convention. It definitely has the potential to be exciting. There are a lot more protesters here than there were in Tampa, reflecting either a sudden resurgence in social awareness on the part of America’s youth or nice weather.

Also there are more celebrities here. Minutes after I arrived, I saw Jeff Bridges, in person, sitting at a table mere yards from the giant sand Obama. The Charlotte Observer is authoritatively reporting that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Oprah either will, or will not, be attending the convention. Vermin Supreme, on the other hand, is definitely here. So am I, and you can rely on me to keep you informed. Although that would be a huge mistake on your part.