A particularly touching passage in George W. Bush's acceptance speech described his meeting with a teenager in a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas. The youth asked the governor what he thought of him.
Behind that question, said Mr. Bush, lay deeper ones: "Is there hope for me?" "Do you, a white man in a suit, really care what happens to me?"
If the answer is no, Bush implied, American society has major problems. This is an important recognition for any politician, but especially for a Republican.
The Republican Party has long been identified with big business. Corporate interests, not the interests of a kid in a jail cell, perk up Republican ears, right? Look at the millions flowing into party coffers from companies and top executives. Look at how Governor Bush has attended to the interests of oil producers and other businesses in his state.
Yes, the Democrats have their big contributors too. But with his words in Philadelphia, Bush issued an unusual challenge to his own party.
He, in effect, said the party of big business cares about the "smallest" of Americans - those who are, statistically, more likely to go to prison than to college.
His words beg follow-up. Does Bush have a more compassionate way to deal with youthful offenders than simply "lock 'em up"? How will he help reverse patterns of poverty and failure?
That teenager in a Texas jail, and countless others, await his answers.
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