The brilliance of Schwarzenegger's appearance, of course, is his personality, and the things only he can say. He's an immigrant who truly embodies the American Dream, as he pointed out multiple times during his speech - and is more qualified than most to talk about the terror of tyranny, which doesn't even compare to the tyranny of terror. But most importantly, when he makes a joke in the course of addressing a convention, it'll make front page news. Every Terminator quip is a reminder of who he is, what he is, and who he proudly stands behind. It must gall the liberal Hollywood establishment to see that on a daily basis, to say nothing of seeing it in support of such a crucial effort.
It was also interesting to hear him invoke Nixon, and by association the spectres of Humphrey and McGovern - anti-war failures both, with pretentions of being competent Cold Warriors. The conclusion is inescapable, and more than a bit amusing - as Wolf Blitzer pointed out on CNN, this is probably the first time Nixon's been mentioned at a GOP convention since Watergate. Ditto his optimism; as the talking heads were musing, faith in the competence, goodness and strength of the common man used to be a liberal value, but is now solidly a Republican one. (Times change, guys; I doubt Frank Capra would want to call himself a Democrat today.) Overall, Arnold was fantastic, matching even the high standard set by Rudy Giuliani last night.
The Bush twins, on the other hand, were just plain cringe-inducing. I'm uncomfortable seeing any political family members get roped into a campaign; it's tacky whether the college girls in question be named Bush or Kerry. Their saving grace was being rescued by the president's Stealth Address via satellite, which I enjoyed; it was a nicely synthetical manner of being there in person to introduce the First Lady without sacrificing the drama of Thursday night's address.
Laura Bush was - well - enh. She was generically upbeat, good-hearted and charming, but not terribly inspiring. I was near tears multiple times during Schwarzenegger's speech; it was simply that achingly powerful and impassioned. The First Lady was a competent and stalwart well-wisher, but her speech didn't have the same vigour. Still, more or less a good night, and no one is going to blame the twins for their awkward moment.