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.
(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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.