The Washington Times - September 2, 2008, 08:41PM

ST. PAUL, MN | Better late, and safe, than never. The convention has finally started, and thankfully those along the Gulf Coast have been spared a horrible storm.

The convention is well into its second of four hours now. The GOP is focusing tonight on John McCain’s military service and his reputation as a political “maverick.”


Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee is speaking tonight on “the courage and service of John McCain,” and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent who still caucuses with his former Democratic colleagues, is speaking about “the original maverick.”

The remarkable thing tonight is not that President Bush will be speaking by a video link tonight and isn’t here physically. A sitting president actually has skipped the convention before, in 1968, when President Johnson decided not to seek reelection.

What is remarkable is that the president’s 9-minute speech is shorter than both of the other speeches. Mr. Lieberman is speaking last, for 15 minutes, while Mr. Thompson gets 25 minutes.

So far, House Minority Leader John Boehner, of Ohio, Sen. Norm Coleman, of Minnnesota, and Rep. Michelle Bachman, also of Minnesota, have spoken, but the political shots at Democratic nominee Barack Obama have not started flying yet.

Mr. Coleman, who is running for reelection this fall, delivered the first jab though. He told a story about how Minnesota was a down and out city.

“We had sex shops and the nation’s only failed McDonalds,” Mr. Coleman said. “The mayor said, ‘I’m not indecisive, am I?’”

“That could have been an Obama campaign slogan,” he said, before capping off by sharing how “conservative principles saved this city.”

There’ll be more to come of the rough and tumble stuff later no doubt.