Sunday, August 01, 2004

-Fourth day of the Democratic National Convention 2004

Before getting into Thursday, a couple of things. On Wednesday nite after Edwards' speech, a hip hop group called Black-eyed Peas.They sing a popular song called "Let's get it started" It was actually used in promos for the NBA playoffs--very groovy song, great beat, a definite crowd pleaser.While they were singing and we were all singing and dancing, for some reason I looked down at the people who were signing for the hearing impaired and I saw the cutest thing ever.The guy was signing the song and he was getting down--he was grooving so hard it was cute. I was glad to see that the hearing impaired didn't miss out on the fun.

So, Thursday--today was the big day, John Kerry's speech and all. So I got up early, 5:30 am again. I was not going to miss breakfast, damn it! I didn't care that breakfast was going to the same thing we got on Monday, Tuesday (I missed it), and Wednesday--French toast, scrambled eggs, one sausage, and fruit, I paid for it and I was going to eat and enjoy it and that was an order.

I was extra-nervous as was everyone with a stake in the Democratic Party or in Kerry. Kerry's speech was billed as the most important speech of his life. I felt that that was unfair and overstating the issue, but the snowball effect was well underway and Kerry had no choice but to perform.

Breakfast was good. The french toast was a touch stale. I suspected that it was recycled. Today, like Wednesday, I did not allow myself to be embarassed by reaching across to the middle of the table to the bagel and muffin basket and helping myself. Everyone at these events wants to appear dignified, and that's okay if you are not hungry, or if you didn't have to pay a hundred dollars as part of the delegation, or if you are running for public office. None of the above applied to me, so a sesame seed bagel with strawberry cream cheese started things off followed by two delicious mini-blueberry muffins. Coffee was great and the orange juice was not acidic at all.

Breakfast was sponsored by Montgomery County, so yes, we got yet another bag with goodies and a subtle pitch for Governor, oops, I mean . . . County Executive Doug Duncan. Doug Duncan and Martin O'Malley, Mayor of Baltimore are two bright stars in the MD Democratic party who will be running against each other to represent the party in the 2006 gubernatorial elections against Erhlich. There has been an undercurrent among the delegation, nonetheless everyone's been very civil and in fact, there has been lots of love in the delegation. BTW, O'Malley was going to challenge Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2000 but was talked out of it, so he is a man possessed.

O'Malley has become something of a national rising star. He got a prime speaking spot at the convention and did a good job. He was wisked around town by security and got to go to the VIP parties. Duncan on the other hand is more low key. While O'Malley spent time smoozing with Donna Brazille in the VIP boxes at the Fleet Center, according to the Washington Post, Duncan sat with the delegates on the convention floor. I think Duncan is running a more grassroots effort, while O'Malley is attracting national power players. O'Malley is said to be a natural politician of Clinton ilk. I did read a report months ago that Duncan has done very well raising money and has been down to Southern Maryland quite a bit, so he is quietly doing what he has to. At the present time, I like Duncan and I did go up to him afterwards to let him know that he had a supporter in Waldorf, MD. I think he's done a fabulous job in Montgomery County, just north of DC. Montgomery County is quite simply one of the best run counties in the country. They have a vibrant economy with all kinds of biotech firms, they are very progressive on the environment and the arts and seem to take people's concerns seriously. Many may recall seeing Duncan with Chief Moose during the sniper ordeal. Even though many, including myself, soured on Chief Moose after the fact, I like the fact that Duncan did not hesitate to support and press for Moose's tenure in the county. I really don't know anything about O'Malley, but I have heard good things. It is unfortunate that both are going to run at the same time, but c'est la vie.

Okay,back to the convention. I have to say that of all the breakfast goodie bags received from the different counties sponsoring breakfast, Prince George's county rocked. It had so much stuff that half my Christmas shopping is done--we're talking key chains, water bottles, t-shirts, you name it. One interesting thing that happened was that John Sweeney, prez of AFL-CIO, who was part of the MD delegation gave a few words. He brought up a young man who was fired from comcast for trying to organize a Union. This gentleman got up to speak and promptly noted that Comcast was a corporate sponsor for the Maryland delegation and then went on to denounce their strong arm tactics to surpress organizing. Ouch! Another interesting fact was that there was an energy company that was also a corporate sponsor for MD. I thought that was strange--I mean this a liberal Maryland delegation, anyway it is what it was. Gov Rendell of PA who spoke on energy issues on the convention floor was reported to have had his speech heavily edited by the Kerry campaign especially since there was a big energy sponsor or two for the convention. I'm not anti-big energy, for instance I respect BP because they seem like a company interested in developing good stuff. In general new energy alternatives are going to have to come in large part from the energy companies. It is unsettling but the reality. This is where idealism meets pragmatism and we have to work with the companies that we rail against.

So after breakfast I got my credentials, begged for a red floor pass and was rejected--what did I expect? After all I am a lowly alternate delegate. Apparently there was quite a bit of horse trading of floor passes if you came later in the day, but what did I have to offer? My undying love? Gratitude? I couldn't even offer breakfast because Thursday was the last breakfast day.

After my one hour newspaper gorge in the lobby with a free Boston Globe, Washington Post, NY times, and Wall street Journal, I headed to Boston College which was about an hour away. I had lunch there with a few people and the discussion was all convention. The buzz was great and everyone was looking forward to Kerry's speech. I do note that some columnist correctly pointed out that Kerry's 1971 speech to the Senate Foreign Relations committee, the "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for mistake?" speech was the speech of his life. Nonetheless, we all agreed that Kerry had to hit a home run. A great speech would be a bottom-of-the-ninth-with bases loaded home run speech. A simply good speech would be a passing grade and wouldn't hurt him. Kerry never gives bad speeches, so I wasn't worried. The problem was that if he didn't hit the bases-loaded home run, then the news coverage would be negative, "Kerry fails to convince" or something like that. I recall that both Bush and Gore's speeches were dreadful in 2000, but the pundits thought that they were the greatest things since sliced bread. I don't trust the pundits, I do not think they know what they are talking about anymore.

A quick note about the media. I'm not sure what the media believes its mission is, to be objective and/or balanced. Objective and balanced are two different things. Balanced is presenting both sides of any issue. For instance if the Bush administration says it has enacted a clean skies initiative, reporting that would simply be uncritical. So a repsonse from an opposing view would balance out what was said and readers can be aware that there are legitimate differences. I think that's balance. However, being objective is a whole different ball game. I don't believe in objectivity because it is the lowest common demoninator of truth, if it can even rise to that level of fact. One can report objectively about a scientific experiment, but how can you capture the truth of a human relationship? If I call my wife and a reporter is objectively reporting, the report may say something like "Ono appeared happy as he spoke with his wife," but that does not capture the truth of what's going on. On the other hand, someone who spurns objectivity and allows the assumption that Ono loves his wife and is excited when he speaks to her on the phone would report the encounter in more engaging terms that come far closer to expresses what actually happened.

I say this because covering campaigns needs to be both balanced and objective, and biased. When Kerry speaks of his vision and we get excited, it doesn't do the truth justice if it is reported in bland terms. This is why I support biased media outlets in addition to objective outlets, because they serve a function, they capture the emotion that escapes objective outlets. My problem with Fox is that they lie about being "Fair and Balanced," I wouldn't mind so much if they simply acknowledget their biases. One reason all this bothers me is that the media has simply refused to acknowledge that John Kerry has fought tirelessly for veterans--starting with visits to VAs in the early 70s working on Agent Orange legislation. One reason he went after crime rings and money laundering in his senate years was because of the problem of drug dependency among veterans. So it is an objective fact that he has supported veterans for years. Yet the media, afraid of being bullied by the Bush administration echoes the nonesense that Kerry did not and does not support the troops. The fact is that he has decades of experience supporting troops while Bush has no experience doing the same. The media seems to be afraid that if they affirm that then they would be accused of being liberally biased--ridiculous, a fact is a fact.

Anyway, back to the convention. I had a sense that the fleet center was going to fill up quickly that night. So I deliberately curtailed my newspaper reading earlier in the day so that I would have lots of reading material at the Fleet center--I also picked up a free National Journal. I got to the Fleet center at about 5pm. I trudged up to the nose bleeds and seats were already scarce. The only available seats at the time were the ones that wrapped around the stage, where you could only see the back of the speaker. I managed to get a seat a little closer in but it was still a pretty bad view--at least, I could see the screen.

It was going to be a long night, my knees were going to kill me, I was terribly sleepy, and so I settled in and pulled out my reading material. It was day four and at this point I can say that I hate speeches--I ignored them all. I did clap when everyone was clapping but I found my reading material quite engaging. I do remember listening to some of Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC Congressional delegate, speaking about DC voting rights. That's been an issue and a half in the DC area. Apparently they played hardball to get a prime speaking slot. They scheduled the DC primary as first in the nation which panicked the DNC because Iowa and NH have first dibs. So in return to agreeing to make the DC primary non-binding, they were promised a prime time speaking slot. However, the DNC was on the verge of reneeging on that promise and so the DC delegates promised to vote Norton as a VP candidate which would guarantee her a speaking opportunity and also shatter the perception of unity, so viola, they got a nice speaking slot. A lady from NH was next to me and she was quite taken in by the issue. I think it was positive from the standpoint of DC voting rights even though the jaded DC news analysts dismissed all the DC delegation efforts.

So on went the night, I would glance up from my paper every now and then. I was also on the top most row so I could stand and stretch my knees without blocking anyone. I remember Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark speaking. Clark fired up the troops but I thought it was more anticipation of Kerry than anything substantive. On the other hand, Clark along the military brass paraded the night before gave the Democratic party an appearance of strength that has aluded the party for decades, so we were all fired up about that. For the record I am owl-hawk hybrid, 65% hawk and 35% owl, so I really bought into the whole military thing. I know it probably grated on our anti-war brethren and I hope they understand that we cannot present ourselves as weak and unpatriotic. As for Liebermann, if the Senate was in our favor, 55 -45, I would strongly suggest that he become a Republican. I don't like how he has embraced Bush and the war on terrorism as though Bush is God's gift to the war of terror. Kerry wrote about terror back in 1997, Gary Hart warned about terrorism before 9-11 as did Senator Edwards, Bush did not care, the issue fell into his lap and he tried to rise to the occassion and has done a lousy job. Yet Liebermann embraces Bush and frequently cites allegiance to him saying there is no difference between the Democrats and Bush on the issue of terror. We are all united against terrorist, he is right, there is no partisanship there. But how we fight that war is not a trivial inconsequential issue--over 1,000 American service men have died, thousands of innocent civilians, it has cost us $350 Billion with more costs coming and not an inch more safety against terrorism. How we fight the war on terror is a big difference and so I have never quite appreciated Liebermann's embrace of Bush as though Bush were a resolute wise leader. He is not.

The excitement of the nite came as the PCF crews of John Kerry began to come in and Kerry's daughters made their speeches and they showed the film about Kerry.


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