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Campaign 2004
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The 2004 Republican National Convention - New York
Editor's Notebook
By Bob Collins, Senior Editor - News
Friday, September 03, 2004

Heading home

I hadn't intended to go onto the floor of Madison Square Garden last night for President Bush's speech. I was content to have the column on Matt Albrecht be the last one from New York. But when I talked to my wife, she said the people at work were enjoying the ...the...whatever this is and I suddenly felt related to Wayne Newton, who probably always wants to just go upstairs and go to bed, but instead had to sing one more verse of Danke Schoen (and no, I don't know how to spell Danke Schoen because I spent too much time in German class putting golf tees on that rat, Donnie Freeburg's seat).

Usually, the floor is closed when the president -- or challenger in the case of the Democrats -- speaks. Nobody gets on. Nobody gets off. But last night, it was open, but in order to get on the floor, you have to have a floor pass. We trade our regular credentials for the rotating floor pass, and the folks in charge give us 30 minutes to get what we need.

It's 10:50. I have to be back at 11:20. I need to get to the Minnesota delegation, take some pictures, and stick a microphone in front of somebody's face and ask the usual "what'd you think?" question (an answer, by the way, I usually throw away. It's just to warm the delegate up for the fastball, "where'd you get the stupid hat?").


bushthursday.jpg

Once I got on the floor, I knew I was in trouble. The place is always packed and the Secret Service is always nervous. To make matters worse, the configuration of the floor was changed for Thursday's night's speech and Minnesota wasn't where it was on Wednesday.

Being pretty skinny, I'm pretty good at slithering through the crowd, but I only got as far as the aisle in front of the vice presidential box and the Secret Service closed the aisle. I was stuck. I was stuck in the Guam delegation. And the clock was ticking.

So I listened to Bush's speech and wondered whether the delegates have any lingering problems when they get home. What I noticed this week is that whenever any speaker says something, they chant the last lines back. So if a person says, for example, "I stand for shaving in the morning." They all chant back...

"Shaving in the morning....
Shaving in the morning...
Shaving in the morning...."

Until they realize that it's such a stupid thing to chant that there's no chance it's going to catch on. This is very much like the two people who stand up next to you at the Metrodome to try to start a wave.

My guess is that when some of these delegates get back home on Friday, get their car at the airport and get to the cashier, the person will say "That'll be $27.50, please," they'll probably chant back at him...

"$27.50 PLEASE....
$27.50 PLEASE....
$27.50 PLEASE...."

I didn't get a chance to actually listen to Bush's speech because I was spending too much time wondering when he'd finish. I'm sure it was a good speech, but the clock was ticking.

It's 11:07. 13 minutes for Bush to finish, me to get through all these people to the Minnesota delegation, find out where the guy got the stupid hat, and get back through the people, while the balloons are falling.

At 11:10, I see Vice President Cheney leading a conga line from his box, obviously heading backstage for big group unity display. The Secret Service lets me go and I'm on the move. Minnesota? Where's Minnesota? I see a sign. M...I...

Gotta be Minnesota. But it's Michigan.

11:12. The speech ends. The balloons fall. I surf.

I get near center stage and someone grabs me. "Where you going?"

"Minnesota."

"You can't go there," he says. Not until the Bushes, Cheneys, the White House florist, and the doorman finish the display of unity.

11:15. The display ends. The band begins and I see Minnesota. Still at least a minute away. I get held up by a reporter standing in the middle of the aisle, his cameraman 5 feet away telling everyone to wait. I tell him I'm giving him 30 seconds to get his shot and then I'm walking through it.

Thirty seconds later, I walk through his shot. He gives me an oral update on physiology. I'm moving.

And then I hear the words...."and now for the benediction."

Shoot. I can't move during the benediction (and, for the record, that guy can't conduct physiology lectures during it either). I wait. Everyone prays. The person conducting the benediction prays for you, me, the president, and apparently everyone else in the convention hall by name.

11:19. I'm at the Minnesota delegation.

"What'd you think?"

He liked it.

I eventually made it back to the rotating floor pass table to turn my credential back in, but by now they didn't care whether I was late or not, and gave me the credential to keep as a souvenier.

I headed out of the garden and decided to walk back to the hotel. The delegates, giddy at Bush's speech (and privately, many said they think their guy just won re-election), were hugging the line of cops and shaking their hands one by one...for several blocks. The cops were thrilled to get the attention.

A block from the Garden, still in the security zone, the protestors appeared across the street, chanting. Several delegates, who also chose to walk, waved and taunted. They waved back. Well, sort of.

But a block later, the security zone ended, and the delegates now were in with the protestors, not abundant in number, but energetic nonetheless.

While waiting for a light to change to allow us to cross, one man stood looking at the other side of the street, but held a small sign up for the delegates behind him to see.

"OK, your cult leader has spoken, now go home!."

A block later, several protestors held signs and chanted. And shouted, "Shame. Shame. Shame."

This had a real chance to get ugly, especially since a delegate shouted "Get a job," back at him.

But as the numbers on each side dispersed through Times Square, the confrontations stopped, and the delegates prepared to go home, to meet again in four years.

But I'll bet it won't be in New York.

Permalink Permalink | 09.03.04
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Listen to what the man said

Perhaps you should be sitting down before I tell you this, but the Republicans don't like the Democrats, the Democrats don't like the Republicans, and there's not a lot of room in the middle for negotiation.

Welcome to politics. There's a lot of talk in the big city about the "tone" of this convention. The speakers were more "moderate" than the party platform, so the expectation was that this would be a warm-and-fuzzy sort of presentation.

But this is a red-meat crowd and the Party has fed them several times a day. The goal -- besides playing to the folks back home -- is to send these worker bees back to Minnesota revved up and ready to drive a nail into the political coffin of the Democrats and, well, you just don't put on lipstick before a gang fight.

The problem, of course, is that on some chilly morning in November, we're going to wake up, the campaign's going to be over and everyone will realize that there really are two Americas: us.... and them.

matthew_champlin.jpg

Meet Matthew Albrecht of Champlin Park. He's got a novel idea. The winners should listen to what the losers have to say, and maybe even agree with them on occasion.

"You can't change your views, but you have to incorporate some of their beliefs into yours. You have to show them that you are not just a Republican, you are an American. I think that's the big issue. You have to take into consideration, everybody in America. If you do that, then I think America will follow you."


Bingo.

Matt, who technically should be sitting in a class today trying to remember his locker combination, is in New York instead. He's attending some of the events surrounding the Republican National Convention as part of "Lead America," a non-partisan group that gives smart and politically-inclined kids a chance to experience the game on a national scale. No fancy hotel for them. They're staying at the Midtown YMCA.

He's here to learn. But maybe he's the one that should do the talking

Albrecht didn't know which convention he wanted to go to, but he says he did some homework on the candidates and decided that, yes, he really is a Republican and New York was the obvious choice. There was, then, just the little matter of paying to get here (his mother and grandparents helped him out but he has to pay them back), and there's that problem with -- you know -- New York and all.

"New York's a great city. People just have to come out here. There are definitely people who are not as nice, but once you get past that if you see New York as a whole it's a great city. Central Park. The Empire State Building. The World Trade Towers was just an emotional experience. I think people have to go there and view that and see that that is a part of our history that's very important to us and we need to go there and view these things. (Shameless plug. View the RealAudio multimedia slideshow and read the Editor's Notebook on the visit to the towers.)

Matt has friends who are Kerry supporters. "We're not going to say we're not friends anymore just because of that; obviously, we're not that political yet," he says.

Yet? You mean that as you become more political, you take things more personally? Sadly, as we all know, that seems to be true.

In a youth convention at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, he acknowledged that there's even disagreement with other youth 'delegates,' mostly on the issues of capital punishment, taxes, and abortion; that's a striking contrast to the convention as a whole. The kids are much more likely to want more government spending on education. But their emphasis has been on -- and listen up here -- respect for the opposition and consideration of their position.

"On such an issue, they might say 'I think you're right,' but they're not going to change their choice of candidate. You might change somebody's views but a lot of times, from wherever they've heard -- media, candidates, parents, whatever -- they have pretty concrete standing on where they follow."

That sounds positively, oh I don't know... civil. The bad news here is that Matt's too young to vote; he doesn't turn 18 until December. The good news is he might get into politics.

The sooner the better.

Permalink Permalink | 09.02.04
'Let me tell you about my son...'

Kurt Horning's son died in the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. When he wants to visit his gravesite, he doesn't go to lower Manhattan. He makes an appointment to visit a dump on Staten Island.

hornung.jpg

Horning is among a group of relatives of victims of 9/11 who spent Wednesday at the WTC site, calling attention to the families' inability to get the remains of the WTC -- ashes, bone fragments and tissue -- moved from the landfill to a proper site.

I don't know how you spent the day yesterday, but I'm betting you weren't carrying your child's picture in your hands as you walked -- with tremendous dignity, I might add -- back and forth behind a bagpiper, alongside 16 acres of hell, hoping that maybe someone will notice; someone with enough influence to help get the attention of the bigshots of New York.

During a quick stop at the site on Wednesday, Minnesota delegates to the Republican National Convention got a fact-filled presentation from a tour guide for the City of New York, who showed them what was what. They gasped, some cried, but they never met the people who've been gasping and crying every day since -- the families.

The delegates never knew they were there, and the tour guide wasn't about to tell them.

I told the tour guide that the Minnesotans should be taken to meet the families who wanted to meet them. No dice. "It's a better view here," he said. But it was a better story there. No surprise, I guess, since the tour guide works for Republican Mayor Michael Blomberg, and he's the one who told the families that thier loved ones are in the dump, and in the dump they shall stay.

In fairly short order, the delegates came, saw, and left with, no doubt, a better understanding of the area. But for the importance of 9/11 during this week, it's a shame they never met Kurt Horning, who was only too happy to tell you about his boy.

Matthew Horning , was 26. He'd been working in the tower for two years. He was engaged to be married. "Funny, handsome, millions of friends," his Dad told me. "We had so many people who came to tell us he was their best friend, and I thought you could only have one."

"I still can't believe it happened," he says. Worse, he saw it all happen. His office had a view of the collapse.

matthew.jpg


He loved his fiance. They'd already figured out how many kids they'd have. He loved dogs. They couldn't agree on how many to have. He loved the Mets and the Jets and he didn't think too much of himself. "He was a data administrator and his e-mail address was 'I'm a cog,'" his Dad says. "He was just a kid who made the machine run."

Kurt Horning was quick to point out that the families' protest was about the fact their loved ones' final resting place is a dump; it's not about anything else. Nobody was talking politics. Nobody was accusing anybody of hijacking the tragedy for political gain.

They just want a city that's paying millions of dollars for a 4-day coronation to pay a little attention to them.

What do you say as you look into the eyes of someone like Kurt Horning? It's been three years since 9/11 and he's still taking care of his boy.

You say what I said to him. "Matthew had a great father."

If you have a fast Internet connection and RealPlayer, you may be interested in a multimedia presentation which I've put together. Just click here.

Convention surprises

Before heading down to the World Trade Center yesterday, I went to the Republican youth rally at the Garden. I had met five -- I think it was 5, might've been 4 now that I think of it -- high school students from Minnesota who are in New York this week. They are among the best and brightest and I'll introduce you to one of them in this space later today.

I left before the meeting got underway since I needed to get to the World Trade Center site and, besides, the kids were getting a good political education from officials on how to keep your audience waiting.

Apparently a few of the attendees were actually protestors who disrupted the conference when Chief of Staff Andrew Card started talking.

The only surprise, to me anyway, is what took so long to have an incident at these things. Look, there's 10,000 cops here and they've go the city pretty well locked down.

And you know what the weak link is? The people who get the credentials. There's nothing, really, to prevent me at the end of the day -- especially since Republicans issue credentials for every day of the week instead of one for the entire week -- from taking my credentials off and giving them to someone else. And the "someone else" could be anybody.

Once you're on the floor, you can do just about anything you want as long as you're prepared to pay the price.

Scary, ain't it?

The upper crust revealed

Laura McCallum got a chance to meet the New Yorkers who clench their teeth while talking yesterday. I asked her to write a few graphs for the Notebook.

"While in New York, Gov. Pawlenty has been making the rounds with the national press and lunching with his fellow Republican governors. He spoke Wednesday to the Club for Growth, a conservative 527 (not one of those liberal 527's the Bush campaign has criticized) that puts a lot of money into fiscally conservative candidates around the country. The group is made up of entrepreneurs and CEOs, and they held their meeting at a very exclusive club in midtown Manhattan that wouldn't allow its name to be used by the press."

"Let's just call it the "Higher Education Club". (Bob notes: It's called the University Club. University Club. UNIVERSITY CLUB!!! Come and get me, coppers!) The club was less than welcoming to the Minnesota press corps following Pawlenty."

"First, the club has a tie-only rule, so reporters Brian Bakst (AP), Mark Brunswick(Star Tribune) and Eric Eskola (WCCO) were sent packing. They went to a nearby Brooks Brothers, and returned much better dressed than they typically are at the Capitol. No such rule for women, so my outfit passed inspection. I then asked the guy at the door who looked like he was in charge (wearing a tuxedo-like suit and a black bow tie) where I could find a "mult box" (used to record from a public address system) to record the governor's speech."

He looked at me like I was the dumbest person he'd ever met, and sniffed, "I have no idea what that is." I thanked him for his (lack of) help and made my way to the meeting room at the back of the club, where people in nice suits were eating chocolate-dipped strawberries, cookies and other finger food. The PR woman told me there were restrictions on recording (despite the schedule put out by the governor's campaign person that said "open press"), but that I could put my microphone on the podium and see if anyone stopped me. "

"They didn't. So far so good. I record the governor as he speaks to the group and takes a few questions. Then the Minnesota reporter pack follows him outside the room to ask some follow-up questions. Still no problems, although the club staff are milling around behind us. Finally, we talk to Club for Growth president Stephen Moore, who thinks Pawlenty has definite national potential for 2008 or 2012. But the interview is cut short when the club manager tells us we can't record there. We leave the "Higher Education Club", and I would say it's pretty unlikely we'll be back."

To the mailbag, Muffy!


During his convention speech last night I heard Frist say to call 1-800-MEDICARE
to obtain a drug card and say that Dr. Frist had ordered it. So about 45 min
later I did call (on behalf of my mother), mostly to see if it was possible to
get through. I did get through without being on hold for any significant period
of time, and I actually spoke with a very helpful person who informed me that
within Minnesota the drug card program is managed by the state and she gave me their number to call. Chalk one up for Frist. -- Anon., St. Pau

Well, obviously this isn't Fritz' fault but the telecommunications industry's fault. The number CALL-US-NOW-SO-WE-CAN-TELL-YOU-TO-CALL-THE-STATE wasn't available. Don't forget to dial the 1 first.



In the Northern Plains States I hear that America has "moved on" from September 11th. In NYC, it was their neighborhood that tumbled down, their skies that rained grey ash, their coworkers & family members that never came home. Do you gather that New Yorkers see Bush as their steady beacon in a crisis? Or do they take a different view? -- KF, St. Paul

It's always difficult to lump a city of a gazillion people together and come up with a single point of view. Especially a city like this. There are the Bush supporters and the Kerry supporters, like everywhere else. The only difference between here and "back home" is it's easier to figure out it. Nobody ever walked away from a conversation with a New Yorker thinking, "gee, I wonder what he meant by that?

There was a guy down at the WTC site today carrying a sign that said "Republicans go home," and I've thought a lot about this whole "using 9/11 for political purposes" thing and the only thing I can come up with is this:

New York, I know you're still hurting. But 9/11 doesn't just belong to you, #1. #2, a lot of Republicans died on that spot too. Nobody, not the Republicans, not the Democrats, owns September 11.

I spent a lot of time talking to family members at the site today and you know what? I had no interest in asking about Republicans, or politics, or Bush or conventions. Isn't that something? Some reporter, eh? But on that site, on this day, it felt cheap.

Politics, right now, pulls us all apart. That spot should pull us back together.

How? No clue. No clue at all.

Permalink Permalink | 09.02.04
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Who gives a rip?

Lacey, Yassin, Angel, and Yasmill wouldn't know a Republican if one stepped off a bus and painted their daycare center. Today, a bunch of them did.

On a day in which the theme of the convention is "compassion across America," delegations fanned out across the five boroughs of New York to prove they have a heart and give a rip; a concept that is likely to provoke chuckles from Democrats. But even if the Republicans were working in the community for only a day, that's still one more day than the Democrats put in in Boston last month.

Indeed, the event had all the makings of a photo op -- well, yeah, probably because it was a photo op. And one young man whose name appeared to be "I work at the White House" (hey, that's what he said when someone asked) was making sure that "Compassion Across America" stickers were prominently displayed on the delegates as they approached the paint brushes, cans, and rollers with all the self-confidence of a teenager who discovered a pimple on the morning of the senior prom.

bobsbuddies_large.jpg
(Photo by Lacey)

The kids -- Lacey & the gang -- were sent with their leaders to the corner park to play. And, later, some of the delegates were sent there too, since too many of them had volunteered and there was no room to accomodate them all. The luckiest ones got to play; the rest got to paint.

I played.

It doesn't take much to entertain a 5-year-old and if you have any parental experiences at all, you know that a digital camera and a strong back are about all you need, although delegate guest Lowery Smith's (Minneapolis) 4-fingered hand provided a good backup.

For an hour the delegates played, before the kids were called to the park bench to eat their lunch. During the time, an occasional "can we play yet?" plea would be registered. It came from Dan Kihistadius. He's not a kid. He's a delegate from Burnsville.

Nobody talked politics; they talked 'kid,' a language that -- if spoken often enough (and preferably with kids) -- can often refocus a person's priorities to forget about method and worry about results. The delegates at the park all seemed to lead lives of personal mission not at all inconsistent with taking a bus to a day-care center in Brooklyn. Where they differ with their Democrat counterparts is the method of helping the Laceys, Yassins, Angels, and Yasmills. The ones I talked to all had stories of mission work, mostly in other countries and mostly with a faith-based organization. If they were talking the talk, they seemed to know how to walk the walk too.

smiley_small.jpg


Photo op? Well, after I stopped taking photos, they kept playing.

In a political campaign, the debate often gets boiled down to this: (Political party of your choice here) cares about the kids. (Political party you don't like here) doesn't. Some debate, eh?.


By early in the afternoon, it seemed that the tendency to talk politics was in reverse proportion to the amount of time actually spent with the kids. Back at the day-care center, the walls in Brooklyn are pretty much the same as the ones in Minnesota. A delegate hurt his finger. "Is your finger OK?" one delegate asked. "Yeah, and I put in for a Purple Heart," he replied.

Because the bus driver was to go off duty at 2 p.m., the group had to leave. Some delegates stayed behind to finish the painting; they'd figure out how to get back later. Delegate Missy Graner, a University of Minnesota student, didn't want to leave. Not before she said goodbye to the kids, she said.

It would've been easy to get back on the bus and head back -- self-satisfied -- to Midtown. The delegates at least earned that. But on the way back, Rep. Mark Kennedy said he'd heard the day care center has more needs than just freshly-painted walls, and delegates began offering ideas of more ways they can help. They intend, as a group, to establish a relationship with the center -- and the kids -- and provide money and supplies to continue the work. One delegate suggested a plan that would link their kids with the kids in the center.

together.jpg

There's an episode in West Wing in which the jaded White House staff is forced by White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry to spend a day meeting with members of the public and listening to what they're interested in. Apparently it's something that Washington (George, not DC) required. By the end of the day, the staffers bubbled, ostensibly for having learned something about people, but also for having been reminded that they do what they do for more reasons than just saying "I won" on a Wednesday morning in November.

The delegates clearly took away more than they'd thought they would. Kids can do that to you. Especially in Brooklyn.

Maybe we'll get a better debate out of it. All in exchange for a few hours work and some buckets of paint.

Good deal for everyone.

But first this message...

The bus taking delegates to Brooklyn was late arriving. Finally, of course, it did. It's a hybrid bus from General Motors, which burns -- I don't know -- tofu or something . Before we budged, the delegates got a lecture from the GM representatives on the joy of hybrid busses.

"It doesn't burn much fuel."

Whoop whoop whoop from the delegates.

"It doesn't belch out a lot of smoke so it's better for the environment."

More cheers.

This went on for about 10 minutes with the guy pitching and the delegates whooping -- which was weird considering matters of mass transportation isn't exactly up the GOP's alley.

Finally, one delegate shouted, "Who cares? We're Republicans."

Rudy

As you might expect, Rudy Guiliani is -- my very unscientific poll shows -- the choice of Minnesota delegates for the presidential nomination in 2008. "We're still holding out for Tim Pawlenty," said Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. Few were impressed with John McCain.

Mailbag


Where can I find a copy of Ron Silva's apeech? - Shirley, Rockford, IL.

The GOP convention main page has a section called REWIND where all the speeches are transcribed.

Last night (monday, August 30) an NPR reporter who was on the floor tried to talk to Michael Moore but was stopped by the Secret Service. Why?
-- Matt, Coon Rapids

Did you see that on TV? I hadn't heard about it previously. I wasn't aware that Moore was allowed on the floor. I understand he was a guest in a media box (might've been USA Today). Hard to believe Moore was credentialed for the floor, but maybe. I'll poke around.

Bob, are you seeing any significant difference between the reporters, the
columnists or the commentators at the RNC?
I wonder if you see different MOs for those who are charged with letting folks
know what's happening vs. those who are expected to share their opinion on what they've seen. When so much of the DNC and RNC is scripted for a particular audience impression, does it affect the sorts of questions they ask, where they hang out or whom they chase down, any of the details about how they put a piece together? -- Kate

Not really, Kate. At least I don't see any evidence of it. In terms of access and where they hang out, all the credentialling is down by the Washington Radio TV Press Gallery so the access rules are pretty much the same. The questions, and I assume you mean tone rather than actual content since the issues tend to be a bit different, is about the same. I will tell you that I think reporters are bending over backwards in how they approach Republicans not to come off as looking like Democrats. Huge mistake. Got a question? Ask it.

There are two groups of media here. The assigned and the independents. Independents might be people like MPR or a stringer out of San Francisco. The party doesn't really care much about accomodating us, which is fine mostly. But, unlike Democrats, Republicans didn't make a "mult box' available so that we could get actual audio of any stuff coming from the podium. We did find a location somewhere that you could use if you contracted for it. But this would be roughly equivalent to you paying a telemarketer to call you around dinnertime. In my book, this is monumentally stupid and shows that the Republicans are more focused on the folks with the nice skyboxes; not that the Democrats didn't. But at least they acknowledged us.

As for the commentators, hey, if we're going to have a constituional amendment to ban something, how 'bout commentators? The Republican ones always say -- and you can knock me over with a feather on this one -- the Republicans do great work. The Democrats tend to favor the Dems.

And the anchors and correspondents, they're just looking for something that faintly smells like news, especially if they don't have to actual do, you know, reporter work to find it. Remember the breathless coverage of Al Sharpton's speech in Boston. He dared do two things (a) went too long while being entertaining and (b) responded to President Bush's policies with a point by point stinging rebuke; something John Kerry might want to think about when he sees the bounce Mr. Bush is going to get off this convention.

And last night -- Tuesday -- the Bush daughters were pretty well roasted by a bunch of commentators who cover politics -- politics! -- because they weren't funny.

One guideline for watching commentators: If they wear bowties, are they really in any position to tell us anything. They wear bowties! Hey, buddy, go pick up some Garanimals, and then get back to me with the political science.

So what's different? The music. Man, it's way better than the Democrats and I still don't understand what the Democratic obsession with the '70s was all about. The '70s stunk musically and, if you ask me, the fact that one of the biggest plays in this Democratic city is a play full of music from ABBA tells you everything you need to know about what's wrong with the party. Lousy music.

The Republicans are heavy on country music. And I can take it or leave that. But tonight they had Dana Glover who was quite good and Jaci Velasquez who was on fire. They closed it up with the Harlem Boys Choir. Later today, the music is from Third Day, Sara Evans, and Brooks & Dunn. The election would be over today if we were only electing a soundtrack.

I know that doesn't answer your question but surely you know by now that when you talk to me, we're going to end up lost on a different tangent.



Permalink Permalink | 08.31.04
Let me give you a hug

It's closing in on 2 a.m. and I'm feeling the pressure of meeting expectations. Hey, this...ummm... whatever it is, was a lot easier to write when I knew nobody was reading it. But now....now, you want the chuckles every morning.

Sorry, not this morning.

Tonight's....err, last night's appearance by the relatives of victims of September 11 underscored the fact that the heavy cloud of debris never left the city. Now, listen, before we go much further here, this is not an article about whether the Republicans are right or wrong about walking the line of using September 11 in a political convention. That's for you to decide.

I don't know how to overstate the 800 pound gorilla on Manhattan that is September 11. For most of us, it was frightening video on TV. But here, here it's real. Here's there's a face. Here there's a hole in the ground and millions of people who are trying to go back to the way things were before it got there, but they can't.

puppylove.jpg
(Photo: Becky Milbrandt of Hudson, Wisconsin greets a police dog at the entrance to the delegates' hotel on New York's East Side. Her husband is a firefighter.)

Even without a national political convention in town, the city's in lockdown. If I were thrown out of work tomorrow -- and that's always a possibility -- I know I could always get into the security business in Manhattan because everybody's already in it and it looks like they're still hiring.

A few delegates have gone to the World Trade Center site. I haven't. But the other day I stopped into the stationhouse of Ladder 7. They lost four guys. I saw their pictures and read their story and talked -- briefly -- to their friends.

Here there's a face of September 11. There are three or four of them every 20 or 30 steps. They're cops, mostly. There's 10,000 of them in Manhattan this week and a whole lot of them -- and maybe this is me -- look young enough to be my kids, or maybe a brother.

But they're a face -- not in TV, but right in front of us -- of hundreds of folks just like them that went running into two burning buildings, and never came out.
I think delegates are frustrated that the words aren't there to tell them about the ache that's still in the hearts of people from Minnesota and just about everywhere else.

But, you know, this is New York; a city that knows how to take a punch. New York cops have always been a pretty interesting bunch. It's a decidedly unfun job that a lot of cops -- and go figure this -- seem to enjoy.

bowler_large.jpg

Meet Officer Bowler. I did only briefly -- too briefly to get his first name written down -- because we shared the front seat of the bus taking us to the convention. He's actually a plain-clothes guy in the department's organized crime unit. But this week they told him to put a uniform on, and his job is protecting the delegates in their buses, who -- you have to admit -- make an inviting target.

He's two years away from retiring and he's not sure he will, although he'd like to. But he says since New York is putting in a bid for the summer Olympics, he might stay on. Seems "the wise guys" (as he puts it) are already buying up properties on which would sit the Olympic village. So when the Olympics come to town, the wise guys go to town and Officer Bowler's business picks up.

A lot of New York cops retired after September 11. The bomb squad, for example, was decimated by retirements. But it's obvious by the youth of the faces I've seen guarding our hotel this week, that there's plenty of kids who still want to be grow up to be New York City cops, and run into buildings if that's what they have to do.

As the delegate bus pulled up to Madison Square Garden, Officer Bowler (and you know, I'll bet he's a lot higher up than just an officer) was the first out the door...and then turned and smiled to every person getting off the bus, shook their hand, smiled and said "Welcome to New York."

When my Dad returned from World War II, he came home through New York. He and my mother used to say, "the folks of New York couldn't do enough for the soldiers after World War II."

There's a bunch of delegates from Minnesota who know what they mean.

Work with me

Reporters are working a lot harder for stories at this convention, as opposed to Boston. Sometimes we work too hard looking for stories. The Star Tribune, I think, is following one delegate Justin Krych of Duluth, so that you can really get a sense of what his day is like.

Apparently, I think, part of his day involves trying to ditch the reporters who are trying to chronicle what his day is like.

He shook loose long enough to get some peace on the delegate bus yesterday afternoon when he ended up sitting next to Laura McCallum. Seems that Laura knew the folks at All Things Considered wanted to interview him, so she arranged it and, since he's not staying at the hotel, let him use the phone in her room, which doubles as the official MPR feed center.

They did the interview, Laura said goodbye and went about her business. A short while later, there was a knock on the door. It was Justin...and the Strib photographer. She need to recreate the moment when he was on the phone in Laura's room talking to the folks back in St. Paul.

If it feels good...

The delegates held their first breakfast meeting Monday morning. They were given instructions on how to deal with protestors ("Don't engage them even if it feels good. If it feels good, don't do it," they were told). Secretary of Education Rod Paige gave the pep talk, describing the Democrats as "dangerous," and imploring the delegates to "bring us Minnesota" on election day. The delegates should be seeing, if not the A List, a pretty good crop of administration officials; a testament to the state's importance as a battleground state.

The sights and sounds

I didn't make it down to the Garden to hear Guiliani's stemwinder last night. I was working on a little multimedia slideshow which lasts about 5 minutes, but because the program I use to make these is on another computer in St. Paul, I had to code it all by hand and that took about 6 hours. I'm sure that means nothing to you, but if you've been camping and forgot the matches and only had these two sticks that were sort of damp, that's pretty much what I did.

So if you've got RealAudio installed and a high speed Internet connection, click here.

And finally...

No doubt you're beginning a day of work. No matter how bad you think it is, it could be worse. You could be in charge of marketing a hotel that has a view like this. Guess whose room this is.

window.jpg

Are you going to drop me a line or what?

Permalink Permalink | 08.31.04
Sunday, August 29, 2004

Filing for dummies

Back when the world was young and candidates talked about issues, covering a news story was relatively easy. You went, you saw, you phoned home. A pen, a pad of paper and a dime were the only tricks of the journalist's trade, and sometimes the pad and paper were optional.

But that was then, and this is now. We're officially known -- at least at MPR -- as "multi-platform content providers," which is a pretty fancy way of saying, "keep your dime, give us the pictures, dufus."

And even if we weren't both a floor wax and a dessert topping -- journalistically speaking -- we still need a world of high technology to get our radio stuff back to Minnesota. This is generally pretty easy, at least in terms of producing a story. We have our tape recorders (DAT machines, actually), a computer with some audio editing software, and some neurons that are connected properly (we think), and we can pretty much get our stuff recorded and produced. Or, in the case of the Web, written and pasted.

And that works great, if you all could just all come to New York, squeeze into the room and we could play it for you. But, alas, you're back there, and our stuff is here.

With the advent of the Internet, this is no longer a problem. All we need to do is connect to it and ftp (file transfer protocol, but you knew that) an audio file, images, and online scripts back to you. And then much smarter people play with that audio file a bit and eventually you hear it in the comfort of your Lexus. Simple, right?

The things you can do with an Ethernet cable while waiting for tech support.

We've been in place for a couple of full days now and when I'm not on the phone to Calcutta to try to get the hotel's high-speed Internet connection to show signs of life, I occasionally can run out to actually cover something.

Today, for example, Laura McCallum and I went down to Union Square to cover the massive protest. Sure it was about 90 degrees, the sun was beating down on us, we were standing -- still, I might add -- in the middle of 7th Avenue playing the official game of New York City (guess that aroma), but, hey, at least we weren't back in the air-conditioned hotel trying to get the Internet connections to work.

Hotels, nowadays, can make big money providing high-speed connections to the businessperson. Here at the Marriott, for $12.95 per day per computer (I use two...one for image editing and online work, and one for audio production), you can get access to high-speed Internet . And if you want to use the WiFi setup in the lobby, that's another $9.95 a day per reporter. Do the math. That's a lot more than a dime.

The problem is as more and more of us (and not just reporters and editors) depend on technology to do our jobs, the odds of everything (or anything) working are only slightly better than the odds of anyone responsible for taking your money at the hotel knowing anything about fixing it. I charged a $50 five-day wiFi pass. Doesn't work. Last night it took 7 hours to get my computer to connect to back home. Laura asked me to set up her computer's high-speed setup in her room. Doesn't work. A call to Calcutta yielded the opinion from technician that "it's probably the room." This is the Internet version of the hardware people saying it's the software and the software people saying it's the hardware.

Now before you cluck about my technical abilities, let me state for the record that I actually know what a MAC address is and even understand the concept of binding things to it. But I also think I know when technology is no longer as efficient as, maybe, you all sending me your telephone numbers and me calling each of you to tell you what's going on.

It also begins to occur to me that maybe I haven't been sent out on these missions because of some ability to tell you what's going on, but because I've got geek-a-bility.

No battle plan survives the first encounter with the enemy, and we're now scrambling around to figure out how to get our stuff to you, which we will, but just know there's some really weird Internet calisthenics going on at this convention.

Oh, by the way, I have a bunch of photos for the photo log portion of the Notebook, but I'm unable to create photo logs at the moment because of, ahem, technical problems.

Go figure.

Down to business

The convention, of course, gets down to business on Monday. I'm anxious to get to Madison Square Garden to check out the hottest rumor: free facials, manicures, and haircuts for journalists. This is one of those times when I think the power of the Web comes fully into focus. If I hang in there long enough: before-and-after pictures.

No pictures please

One of the highlights of convention week is one you usually don't hear much about: the Saturday media party. It's usually hosted by the city's host committee and bankrolled by a media bigwig. In New York it was held Saturday night at the Time Warner headquarters (aka: CNN) at Columbus Circle. It's a multi-level mall with a bunch of toney shops. Plenty of food, free booze (I hear), but the star watching was relatively thin. I didn't see many. Larry King was wearing a they-told-me-with-salary-I-had-to-schmooze expression. Mayor Blomberg was there, Wolf Blitzer was circulating. And free copies of Sports Illustrated and every other Time Warner magazine.

Dig into the bag

As I said in Boston, these free goodies they give to delegates and media is a sign of who's in the good graces of the Party and the city. So here's what we've got:

  • A Con Edison flashlight. Anyone who ever has had to live with Con Edison knows how useful this can be.
  • Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the shape of elephants (still haven't eaten the donkeys yet.
  • $5 in tokens for ESNPZone, whatever that is.
  • The History Channel special on Ellis Island on DVD
  • A week's membership in some sports club. Right.
  • A 60-minute long distance phone card from IDT and one from Verizon.
  • The official AT&T RNC pin (there's a lot of pin trading that goes on here. There's always a handmade sign on the media tent offices of the big media companies, "No Pins"
  • A pen from the USS Intrepid Museum
  • Dunkin Donuts coffee. All that's missing is the cinammon donuts.
  • Red, white, and blue M&Ms. I always suspected those M&M characters were Republican.
  • Listerine breath mints. Insert your own joke here.
  • The official New Balance Republican National Convention tote bag.
  • A disposable camera
  • A pedometer from some pharmaceutical company
  • A bunch of books which will sit in the corner of my den until I get enough energy to clear off books off the shelf which I've never read, never will read, and have no idea why I put them there in the first place.

    And tonight, before I was heading out to dinner with Ms. McCallum, Mr. Eskola, and Mr. Brian Bakst from the AP (Thai, and yes it was fine, thank you), a knock came on the door with a delivery from the hotel. A card with a box, and it turned out to be a note from Sen. Norm Coleman "Welcome to New York City and the 2004 Republican National Convention! We look forward to seeing you! U.S. Senator Norm and Laurie Coleman." Sorry, no pictures.

    In the box was a heavy black paperweight engraved with "U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. New York City. 2004. Republican National Convention."

    If you want any of this stuff, let me know. I'm still trying to get rid of the stuff from 1996 in San Diego and Chicago.

    Imponderable

    Why do today's alarm clocks give you 9 minutes when you hit the snooze button? 9 minutes? Why not 5? Or 10? Why 9?

  • Permalink Permalink | 08.29.04
    Tuesday, August 24, 2004

    The gospel according to 'Mr. Microphone'

    With the dawning of another intensive week of covering a political convention, I guess we must now gear up for the occasional reference to blogging and how very important it is to the future of political journalism.

    Not to be outdone by the Democrats, the Republicans, too, have officially accredited bloggers. So in fit of pre-convention cyber-wanderlust, which used to be called boredom, I checked out a few to try to figure out what makes a blog (which stands for Web log, I have learned) worthy of such lofty status.

    Wizbang is one such blog. The headlines I read include "Kerry loses control," "The Book John Kerry Doesn't Want You to Read," and "RNC Babe of the Day." Congratulations, by the way, to Laurie Coleman for winning the award on Friday. But it's all very scintallating stuff that makes me continue to scratch by head and wonder what on earth is in the drinking water that makes people utter the words "blog" and "journalism" in the same sentence. Seriously, I'm asking that and have been asking that and as near as I can tell, "it's cool because _I_ can be a journalist too" is about as whacky an answer as going to the store, picking up "Mr. Microphone" ('hey good looking, we'll be back for you later') and proclaiming it's journalism because now you can be a broadcaster too.

    Remember the game "Operation?" I loved that game. Did that make me a brain surgeon?

    There are a few delegates in the Minnesota delegation keeping "blogs," I understand. To their credit, they're not saying it's journalism; just an opportunity to absorb a unique perspective.

    Melissa Graner of Oronoco is penning a Delegate Diary on the GOP convention site. For you Wisconsinites, Maripat Krueger of Menominee is also authoring a diary. By the way, Laura McCallum has a piece almost ready profiling some of the delegates. Look for it sometime this weekend.

    If you really, really love blogs and bloggers, you can find plenty of possibilities by doing a Google search for political blogs. The Star Tribune has also assembled a lengthy list of political blogs. Let me know if you find anything original, especially if it involves Flash or funny stuff.

    Permalink Permalink | 08.24.04
    Send Bob Collins a question, or comment on his posts.


    Notebook Archive
    Document Heading home
    Document Listen to what the man said
    Document 'Let me tell you about my son...'
    Document Who gives a rip?
    Document Let me give you a hug
    Document Filing for dummies
    Document The gospel according to 'Mr. Microphone'

    Send Bob Collins a question, or comment on his posts.

    Photo Log

    noparking_small.jpg
    New York redux


    downinfront_large.jpg
    Down in front!


    hineighbor_small.jpg
    Hey, neighbor!



    Links & Resources

    Document Republican National Convention (official site)
    Document WNYC New York
    Document MPR: Campaign 2004

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