Ruth: With RNC over, politicians and police win big

Published Sept. 1, 2012

So? Was it good for you?

By now the Republicans have packed up their spats, their ascots, their smoking jackets. All the years of planning and spending and waiting for Tampa's big moment on every meteorological chart in the world has come and gone.

This was my fourth convention to cover as a scribbler. So I have a bit of experience with demonstrators, the intense security and, of course, all the blather offered up as visionary political discourse on the convention floor.

Still, I have to admit it is somewhat disconcerting to walk around the streets of my hometown and see the barricades, the checkpoints, the bomb-sniffing dogs, cops in riot gear and other law enforcement personnel armed with assault rifles.

This is Tampa, after all. Not Kabul.

To be sure, I understand and appreciate and have no argument for the need for all the heightened anxiety and security, but it doesn't make it any easier to see one's city regarded as a de facto terrorism suspect.

Was all the inconvenience, all the hassle worth it?

Was it good for Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, who were the point people in charge of ensuring the safety of the community?

Yes. This may have been Castor and Gee's finest hour wearing a badge. Under their leadership, the law enforcement assigned to the convention performed with patience and professionalism. Arrests were few. You could hear crickets chirping at the Orient Road Jail for lack of business.

Was it good for the downtown merchant community?

No. For two years downtown merchants were led to believe their establishments would enjoy a windfall of patronage. Many ordered additional food and products, hired extra help. And too many were left twiddling their thumbs.

Blame the weather, if you want. Fair enough. But too many establishments were cut off from customers by Secret Service barricades, or the decision to make it impossible to park on the streets to access shops and restaurants.

Irony abounds. While the speakers inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum exhorted the theme of supporting small business, less than a mile a way, those very same small businesses were gasping for air because of the presence of those small business champions inside the security zone.

Was it good for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn?

Are you nuts? Of course it was. Despite the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac, Tampa enjoyed a week-long free advertisement on the world stage with relatively few glitches. For a politician, this sort of gift is better than sex. Well, almost.

Was it good for you?

If you live in South Tampa, it was probably an irritant. If you work in downtown Tampa, the RNC was probably like the brother-in-law who comes to visit and drinks all your liquor. If you live just about anywhere else or have no reason to come into the city, well, what RNC?

Was it good for all the protesters?

Not so much. What protesters? Oh sure, there were some demonstrations, some marches and at least one potentially tense moment. But for the most part, this was probably one of the least eventful political conventions in many years.

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Again, put part of the blame on Isaac. And let's face it, marching in 90-degree heat, plus 90 percent humidity, would wilt the resolve of the Chicago 7.

The good news? They can all take a shower. Please.