Democratic Convention Diary: Thursday
Robert G. Kaiser and Lucian Perkins
Washington Post Associate Managing Editor and Photographer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; 12:00 PM
Associate editor Robert Kaiser and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Lucian Perkins are at the Democratic Convention in Boston collecting images and impressions in their Convention Diary. What is the latest news from the convention? How are delegates, journalists and VIPs dealing with the unprecedented security around the Fleet Center?
Kaiser and Perkins were online to discuss the convention.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Robert G. Kaiser : Hello again from Boston. Hard to believe it is already Thursday. Lucian and I have been running ourselves ragged, but enjoying it. Boston sparkles; it's really a great city. The convention is hokey, because all made for television events are hokey (been to an NFL game lately and sat through the "commercial" time outs?), but the participants are sure having a good time.
We continue to receive, and enjoy, comments, questions and suggestions from readers by e-mail at email@example.com. We'd love to hear from you, too.
And now to the questions...
As often as the Post pats itself on the back for being aggressive and looking past the spin, the paper is giving awfully glowing coverage of the Democratic convention. Take for example the puff piece on Max Cleland. Couldn't you have at least challenged his assertion that his patriotism was quesioned during his last Senate campaign or quoted one veteran who was offended by Kerry's protest activities?
washingtonpost.com: Kerry's Rise Lifts Fellow Vietnam Vets (Post, July 29)
Robert G. Kaiser : My response is, read the piece and decide for yourself. I believe we've heard from this reader previously. For my part, I think the case is clear that Cleland's patriotism WAS questioned in the Senate race in 2002, and he was maligned for voting against one version of the Homeland Security Department legislation as though that were some sort of betrayal of the country. In fact, of course, President Bush fought against the creation of that Department for months.
I say all this not as a partisan, which I am not, but as a reporter who tries to value facts. Facts are important. Facts get lost when politics gets as emotional as they are at present.
Do you think the Republicans are being too dismissive of the DNC? Every single one especially Cheney and his wife dismissing it as essentially a foolish waste of time, considering it will probably be a tight race, has just irked me this week. Do they really believe that the Bush-Cheney ticket is unbeatable? I just don't understand why they are so keen to put on such a display of arrogant conifidence this week.
Robert G. Kaiser : For an incumbent president, Bush is in a weak position this year. His reelection chances are a lot smaller than an incumbent would like. As I have written in last Sunday's Outlook section (the story is still available on our site), no president with approval ratings as low as Bush's at this stage of an election year has been reelected in November.
Is that a prediction? Definitely not. But it is an explanation for Republican behavior. Far from being arrogant or overconfident, Republicans today are nervous.
The only thing that more powerful than Republican's scorn of Bill Clinton is the current hatred of george Bush by the Democrats. How can either party govern effectively when the country is effectively split with very little room for compromise in the middle?
Robert G. Kaiser : Yes, the questions posted here offer evidence to support your description. I wonder if we are going to see Kerry, beginning tonight, try to steal the mantle of "unifier" that Bush ran on four years ago. I thought his courtship of John McCain was an interesting ploy, intended not to persuade McCain to join his ticket (Dems would never have accepted the anti-abortion McCain on their ticket), but to show the country that he liked some Republicans, wanted to work with Republicans, etc. This could be a more important part of Kerry's upcoming campaign than he has yet indicated. But that's a guess on my part; I have no inside info.
Bob and Lucian... Thanks for your interesting coverage in diary for. I recommended it today in a blog post on my weblog.
I have been an active Democrat for many years. While I am excited about our presidential nominee, I think both the convention and the overall coverage have been sub par.
I really wish the VP nominee had not been announced prior to the convention. While some may argue that this a way of playing it safe... I certainly feel if diminished the reasons many people had to tune in and watch. It would have added an element of mystery -- enhancing the significance to people who are a part of the swing-voter segment that we really need to grasp the attention of. Your thoughts?
Lucian Perkins: It is hard to say. When Kerry announced Edwards as his running mate several weeks ago, it put him back in the spotlight, which is a very important factor, and gove both of them an opportunity to press the issues they are running on before the convention.
Robert G. Kaiser : I think this is another fact of modern, TV-dominated life. The Kerry campaign needed to get the signs and buttons printed, the program arranged, the speeches written in advance for their great Boston spectacular. I don't think we'll ever again see a presidential candidate wait until the convention to pick a running mate. Alas.
I'm one of those liberals who'd vote for a bologna
sandwich over Bush... so let's just say that I haven't
set the bar too high. But even I'm getting tired of
that swift boat (whatever that is) and the Mekong
river thing... I mean, we get it... we know, Kerry was
in Vietnam... why the incessant repeating by
speaker after speaker? It feels pandering... it feels
like we're talking to people with extra low IQs who
literally have to hear something 25 times before
they realize they've heard it once. Do politicians
know something that we don't know... are they
trying the stump speech approach (where you
give the same speech but to different audiences
every night) because, I gotta tell you, it's wearing
on me... and I like the guy!
On the positive side, of all people, Al Sharpton
was the hit of my evening.
Lucian Perkins: It seems like many of the best speeches are before "Prime Time."
Robert G. Kaiser : Obviously, the Kerry campaign has made a calculated decision that the senator's vietnam experience is important to their campaign. I guess they can risk annoying you, if it helps them attract less committed voters to their man. Will it? I have no idea.
Thank you Mr. Kaiser,
Why is so much emphasis placed on Mr. Kerry's need to convince voters that he would be a capable commander in chief? As a seasoned public servant, legislator and veteran, what more does he need? Isn't it really the power of the office of the presidency as institution, with its accompanying transition features--the overarching elements of national security and the power of the state--that would convey, making most proven persons capable? What I mean to say is are we making too big a deal out of whether he in particular can "handle" this, even if he is a deliberative sort, when Bush, lacking all of the above, has?
Robert G. Kaiser : My reading of the situation is this: Bush has signalled that he will run as "a war president." His attacks on Kerry and his commercials against Kerry have often featured the suggestion that the nation's security can't be entrusted to such a man. Bush's strongest suit in polls is his status as leader of the war against terror. So the Kerry camp is trying to counter Bush at the outset, preemptively if you will. I expect to see Democrats saying again and again this year, how can Bush, who avoided service in Vietnam, claim to be a better "war president" than a man who actually fought valorously in a war? I also expect Dems to raise a lot of questions about the competence of the Bush administration's war in Iraq.
So in sum, I think you're seeing a prelude of things to come, and come, and come. It's going to be a long 96 days. But fun, too. And damned interesting.
First, you two are the best, I am much enjoying your diary.
Should not the networks, and the party, be ashamed they did not carry the roll call beginning to end? This is formally the point of the convention: nominate, then accept the nomination. Everything else, as at most conventions, is just for fun.
Robert G. Kaiser : Well, Lucian is definitely the best. I'm more of an also-ran.
I don't agree with you about the roll call, a formality if there ever was one. I do agree that the networks have behaved shamefully this week, showing so little of the convention to their viewers.
Lucian Perkins: Bob is being a little too modest here. I'm still trying to keep up with him. I've already given up keeping up with his pace on these chats.
I have a new angle on the broadcast networks refusing to carry much of the conventions. I think this is one of the more unfortunate things about news being a business. The networks are more concerned about money than providing a public service, which is what they claims to do. They'd rather show reruns. Do reruns bring that much more ratings and revenues when we're talking about choosing leaders who could change history?
Lucian Perkins: I'm not sure about the reruns, but you hit the nail on the head, most broadcast networks--most of the media--are owned by very large corporations, where money is the bottom line. Kaiser's book (another plug) goes into this very well.
Robert G. Kaiser : Lucian meant Kaiser's and Len Downie's book, THE NEWS ABOUT THE NEWS. But it's rather shameless of him to plug it, don't you think?
I want to talk about Vietnam for a minute because (like it or not) its part of this election. Everybody wants to talk about whether we should've gone there or not. But what bothers me was the contradiction between our stated reasons for going into Vietnam and the reality of the South Vietnam government we installed.
The South Vietnam leader we installed was corrupt. From what I've read, we didn't know it at the time but when we found out we did nothing. Eventually, we quietly supported his overthrow but his replacements were no better. US Military advisors warned that peasants would not fight for a corrupt government. They were ignored.
My point is political leaders betray American principles all the time--even as they praise their existence. I am very suspect of either Bush or Kerry regarding Iraq. I bet the goal of the next president (no matter who) will be to declare victory and leave; ASAP!!. I'm sure you two hear that kind of speculation.
There was something condescending and almost racist about the attitude that those peasants should put up with crooks leading their government. Has the quality of our leadership really improved? I'm not so sure. And for me that's where the comparison to Vietnam is an important one?comments anyone?
Robert G. Kaiser : My comment, as someone who covered Vietnam for 18 months for The Post a long time ago, is that you have made a very good comment! Thank you for it.
In listening to John Edwards last night, I
had a hard time not flashing back to
Robert Kennedy. Especially with his
views on race relations, labor, etc. Is this
a parallel that you've heard drawn inside
of political circles?
Robert G. Kaiser : First I've heard of it. At a meeting of the Missouri delegation this morning, I heard Cam Kerry, John Kerry's younger brother and a Boston lawyer, compared to Bobby Kennedy, but not Edwards.
But there have been many comparisons this year of Edwards' good looks to JFK's. And I heard that one from two female delegates in the hall last night.
San Antonio, Tex.:
The showing of Michael Moore's film in Crawford, Texas, last night--and Moore's no-show--was an interesting political event, to say the least. It all went downhill when a woman from Austin showed up on Main Street dressed as a chicken, with a placard bovine screed calling Moore a "Moo-ron." The press--both print and broadcast--flocked to either get her on film or to scribble her comments--quite a hen-pecking by the media. (Quite frankly, I thought she looked like a walking sandwich board for Chick Filet.)
It was a fascinating moment of the theater of the absurd--a veritable barnyard circus. American journalism in peril?
My question for you both today is what is the most patently absurd thing you have seen in Boston during your three and a half days thus far covering the convention?
Lucian Perkins: Amercian journalism is certainly in peril, though more from what we have discussed earlier (and which Bob's book--another plug--goes in detail about). Check out my photos of the "Protest Pen" later today and, of-course-the crazy fashion you see the delegates wearing this week that can be seen in many of my photos throughout the week.
Have you been watching any of the TV coverage? CNN and MSNBC are, it seems to me, in a race for the bottom, with their anchors either parroting (or, in the case of Chris Matthews on MSNBC) genuinely emoting the Republican line. It infuriates me that in a quest for "balance" they feel that hurling Republican lies is somehow journalistically acceptable. Here's what they should be doing: Substantively questioning the Democrats on their platform, and their plans. That would be good journalism. Instead of aping of the right-wing nuts and going ape -- over minutiae, how about some substance. John Kerry and the Democrats need and deserve to introduce themselves to the American public here. The media isn't giving them a chance.
Robert G. Kaiser : Happily, one consequence of the hectic life we are leading here is, no time for TV! thanks for posting.
John Edwards' speech Wednesday evening
emphasized poverty issues plus health care and educational issues. I thought the Democrats took care of all this under
Bill Clinton's eight year administration. The
way he talked you'd think we were a third
world country! What gives?
Robert G. Kaiser : I'm not sure this is a serious question, but let me give it a serious answer anyway, independent of Edwards' speech, just because this is a subject I've long worried about.
In too many corners of America, this IS a third world country, at least in terms of poverty, health, child nutrition, infant mortality and more. In my experience, well-to-do Americans find it awfully easy to ignore the fact that if you work full time for the minimum wage and have a family, you will live below the official poverty line. The truth is, the gap between rich and poor has been growing in this country for two decades. It narrrowed ever so slightly at the end of Clinton's second term, but has begun to grow again.
I started your book ("News About the News") last night, and I'm finding it very interesting so far, particularly the IRS/Scientology section.
A question that came to my mind last night after reading the book and watching the DNC was this: the pundits on television talk a lot about Kerry "not being defined," his positions not being clear, etc., etc. But then they fail to show the speakers who the Democrats have put out there to explain what Kerry stands for, and what he wants to do.
So do you think it's possible that the TV talking heads do more harm than good when it comes to helping their viewers understand the campaign?
Robert G. Kaiser : I certainly do. thanks for the posting.
New York, N.Y.:
Republicans have been trying to portray Kerry as receiving a "make-over" during the convention. But couldn't the same be said about Bush? He ran as a uniter not a divider then quickly moved to the right once in office. Now when you look at the prime-time speaker line up for the convention in NY, it's a who's who of centrist Republicans, certainly not the folks who have had the biggest say in running the governement the last three and a half years. agree?
Robert G. Kaiser : I think you've outlined an area of debate to which both sides will return again and again this fall.
Do you really think the pundits reacted to Teresa Heinz Kerry as negatively as Howard Kurtz made out in his story this morning? I don't think so. Do you think it's possible that Kurtz -- and the odd bunch he quoted -- are threatened by smart women?
washingtonpost.com: Giving 'Em What They Want (Post, July 28)
Lucian Perkins: I haven't had a chance to see a bit of TV since I've been here--I'm actually becoming a changed person as a result. I did read Howard Kurtz's piece and was a bit surprised by the reaction toward her according to his article. I was standing about 30 feet from her during her speech and found her warm and compassionate.
Would you comment on Mr. Sharpton's statement last night that Black votes are not for sale. To me with 90 percent of them voting Democratic they have already sold their votes to the Democrats.
Robert G. Kaiser : Missed Sharpton, sorry. But does overwhelming support of a group for one party prove that they have "sold" their votes? Have the 90%-plus of CEOs who support Bush sold their votes to the GOP? I don't think son. On the contrary, Americans vote their interests, as they perceive them. At least that's been my experience.
I've been watching the race fairly closely over the last few months, and it strikes me as odd that Edwards has gotten the attention that he has. Especially last night, it seems that Edwards invokes more passion out of voters than Kerry does -- people appear emotionally vested in his success much more so than I can see out of Bush/Cheney suppoters (where it seems sometimes like Cheney is an afterthought). How do you think this will affect the campaign, if at all?
Robert G. Kaiser : Very hard to say what the Edwards effect may be. As I've written here many times before, there are very few cases in history when a vp candidate actually determined the outcome of an election, or even had a palpable influence. Ferraro probably hurt Mondale in '84, but Mondale was destined to lose that race bigtime, even if Britney Spears was his running mate. Dan Quayle, a disastrous choice for Bush Sr. in 1988, didn't slow Bush down; the GOP (in good times) won easily that year. So I'll be surprised if Edwards makes a difference, but I'm always ready to be surprised. And the record shows that I've been surprised a lot over the years!
Chapel Hill, N.C.:
I'm tired of newspeople continuing to comment on John Kerry's supposed lack of skill as an orator. I find him quite easy to follow, not dull but rather coming across as genuine -- genuinely intelligent and capable of saying things that are complex. Why so much emphasis on such things?
Robert G. Kaiser : Here is the dilemma: The culture has created countless roles for "critics," from the movie critic in your local newspaper to Rush Limbaugh on the radio and all those talking heads on TV. Once one is dubbed "a critic," or a pundit, or a commentator, or even an expert, one is expected to pass judgment. On TV, the harsher th ebetter, or so it often seems.
Alas, NONE of this has much to do with helping people actually understand what's going on around them. For that you need a good newspaper edited by people who think knowing what's going on is important.
So, another plug for The Washington Post. Or the NY Times, or the LA Times, or the Wall Stret Journal. Don't waste your time watching the pontificating talking heads. Instead, Read and Think! That's my sermon, for today and every day.
How is the atmosphere there? Nonstop invigoration? At times boring? Party 24-7? Are normally subdued journalists/politicos all of a sudden wild?
Lucian Perkins: It is a little of everything. The days are very long for everyone, so it ebbs and flows. But when it flows, it flows. And there have definately been a solid group of speakers that really got this crowd going. We stopped by an Irish Bar (what are kind of bars are there in Boston) last night at 1:30am and it was packed with delegates and journalists, who stayed there as long as they could get a drink.
Robert G. Kaiser : Lucian has captured it nicely. These Dems really do think they can win in November; that gives them a real lift. Yet they also talk seriously and a lot about how much work they have to do to prevail, how hard it will be and so on. This is a determined bunch.
My oh so conservative sister (she bought Ann Coulter's book) says she thought Barack Obama was great and would even vote for him for president. Wow! Any word on what the reaction of the Democratic leadership has planned for him? Hillary Clinton's face during his speech was pretty telling -- as she said, she knows a leader when she sees one.
Lucian Perkins: I didn't see Hillary's face, but we keep hearing comments about Obama's speech. He really hit a home run.
To Arlington, Va., who complains about today's Max Cleland profile in the Post being a "puff piece," I would ask him what the problem is with chronicling someone who has been a part of our national leadership for 25 years, and has landed invaluable assistance to the man who tonight will be crowned one of the two possible candidates for leader of the free world? Does everything have to be negative, like at The Times, where every piece seems to bend over backwards to place people in a negative light? I may be rooting for Kerry this year, but I would not feel any resentment if I read a profile about someone who's had a very interesting -- and challenging -- set of circumstances in his life, and is now helping President Bush's campaign.
Robert G. Kaiser : thanks for posting
New York, N.Y.:
I have followed every minute of the convention and read everything I can about it. And I will do the same (with clenched teeth) during the RNC. BUT, my friends and family have paid little if any attention to it and they will probably go into the voting booth (if they even vote) with very little information and more of a gut feeling, say if there is bad news out of Iraq that week, they may vote for Kerry. I guess my point is, does all this convention stuff really matter? It seems to be the news on the economy and Iraq right before the election is what is going to decide this.
Robert G. Kaiser : You know, it's never truly possible to sort out the influences that determine the outcome of an election. Think about 2000, when just a handfull of voters in a handfull of states could have given us President Gore instead of President Bush. And if you actually did a close analysis of, say, every voter in West Virginia, a traditionally Democratic state that went for Bush, very narrowly, what would you find? A different reason for every voter's final decision, one colored by his/her personality as well as assesments of the country's needs, the two candidates, etc.
With that in mind, I think one can answer your question by saying everything matters, including this over-scripted convention. How much it matters remains, of course, to be seen. But the country has begun a conversation, or an argument, that will continue for 96 more days. And then we'll see what it produced.
Los Angeles, Calif.:
What was the reaction in the hall to Sharpton's speech. I thought his was perhaps the most powerful speech I've heard this week, yet when cameras panned the crowd of delegates many of them looked uncomfortable and uncertain. Your thoughts?
Lucian Perkins: I was over by the Ohio delegation when he spoke, and they went absolutely wild over his speach.
Thanks gentlemen, I read your work and the Post website often now that I can't get the dead tree version daily anymore. The "we need gavel to gavel coverage" is insider pool, can't we agree? The ratings for the time actually slotted are abysmal. As usual, the viewers have made up their minds, and they would rather fish at the cabin during July and August. Were that you two were king, wouldn't it be a better idea to have the conventions in late September, when people actually start to focus on what us political junkies live on all year? Then the $75 million under the McCain Feingold Censorship Act (sorry!) can be more concentrated.
Robert G. Kaiser : Interesting idea. Then we could move election day to a Sunday, as the Europeans do, and get bigger turnouts. And we could fix the date for Thanksgiving as November 25, a month befor eChristmas, whatever day it falls on. Geez, the world is ripe for reforming! I better stop now...
I'm only 25 years old, but can't remember
a campaign in my lifetime that has
generated so much emotion, so much
interest, and so much discussion among
people who generally aren't interested in
politics. Granted, I'm in the eye of the
storm right now, but even prior to the
convention being in town, this was the
case. Do you think this is a function of
this being the first campaign I've
experienced as a vested adult, or is it
simply true that in the past 25 years, there
has been no race this heated?
Robert G. Kaiser : I have repeatedly heard delegates here say exactly what you are saying, and some of them are three times as old. This is one of the key facts about 2004: Democrats, at least, are absolutely convinced that this is the most important election in a long time. I'm eager to see if the delegates in NEw York next month are just as concerned. I expect they will be.
After watching some of the Republican reactions to last night's speech by Edwards, I have a comment. Ralph Reed kept talking about Kerry's past votes against military spending (not just referring to the $87 billion for Iraq).
Why has Kerry (or his people) not reponded by saying that because the world has changed since September 11th, that his previous votes on military spending are just not comparable to the problems of today.
Robert G. Kaiser : They have responded, often, and will again. And they have produced countless Kerry votes FOR increased military spending, specific weapons systems, etc. This is an endless debate, and it won't end before Nov.
I hope you have been enjoying yourselves at the convention.
Do you think it is right that U.S. taxpayers get to foot the bill for these large-scale campaign commercials, ahem, I mean conventions?
What do you say to people who support the Libertarian and Green parties when they see tax dollars spent supporting the Democrats and Republicans?
Lucian Perkins: These are all good questioned to be pondered.
Robert G. Kaiser : Well,. this is a complicated issue. The taxpayer does not directly fund the conventions, but the corporations that do can deduct the money they give for convention activities as a business expense, thus reducing their corporate income tax. But it is not our job to explain this to Greens, Reds or Browns. We're journalists.
When the delegations were officially giving their votes to the secretary last night to nominate Kerry, the variety in who spoke (and for how long) was great among the states. Who decides who gets to speak and is this a contentious decision? Also, why did Kucinich receive delegates from several states?
Robert G. Kaiser : Each delegation picks its spokesperson. We wrote a diary entry earlier in the week about some Colorado delegates pledged to Kucinich. I don't know if they tried to cast votes for him last night, but wouldn't be surprised if they did, because they felt this was their duty, since they had been elected delegates because of their support for him.
As a Kerry supporter, I am concerned that the "flip-flopper" label continues to have legs. Do you expect him to address that some way tonight (I think he should), such as taking on the Republican mantra about his vote against the 87 billion dollar Iraq appropriation -- even if it is a 45 second digression from the rest of his speech... How else to deal with it once and for all?
Robert G. Kaiser : As I've been saying all week, flip-flopping is endemic to politics, an idea easier to sell to skeptics if you use the term "changes of mind" instead. Bush has changed his mind repeatedly, as Kerry has over the years, as anyone in public life must as the world changes around them.
That said, how does Kerry counter the clever GOP campaign aginst him on this score? Not my department is an honest answer. It's a good question to put to one of the professional politicians coming on line this week.
San Antonio, Tex.:
"So, another plug for The Washington Post. Or the NY Times, or the LA Times, or the Wall Stret Journal. Don't waste your time watching the pontificating talking heads. Instead, Read and Think!; That's my sermon, for today and every day."
Thanks for mentioning some of the best papers in the country. I read our local paper for only five minutes because it is generally so right-wing, and spend 30 to 45 minutes online reading--every day.
But you forgot to mention books, so important given Michael Dirda's wonderful column about a week ago on the importance of reading in everyday life. I would hardly feel qualified to ask questions if I had not read, since the start of the year (among others): "American Dynasty," by Phillips, "House of Bush, House of Saud," by Unger, and "Imperial Hubris" by Scheuer (Anonymous).
While I'm on my soapbox, thanks for four wonderful days of chats. I say this because they have been thought-provoking, not just because you have taken several of my questions.
Robert G. Kaiser : Let's hear it for books! Bravo to you, and thanks for the comment. I hav ebeen engrossed this spring/summer by Ron Chernow's fabulous biography of Alexander Hamilton. Books are best, at the end of the day. But don't tell my publisher. Come to think of it, he's an avid book reader too.
I see a headline on washpost.com is "Edwards Draws on Courtroom Strengths." I don't think his style was any different than any other good speaker who has the ability to communicate to mass audiences. Is this a story because the right keeps harping about Edwards being an ambulance chaser (which he isn't)? Who really cares about this, other than the media that tries desperately to find some angle? Pretty pathetic, I think.
washingtonpost.com: Edwards's Courtroom Appeal (Post, July 29)
Robert G. Kaiser : Geez, I thought John Harris' good piece was an attempt to explain how Edwards' skills were honed, and where he comes from. Edwards DID learn to speak persuasively in courtrooms; that's a fact. And I find his legal career quite fascinating.
Maryland Eastern Shore:
Thanks for carving out time among everything else you're doing to have this online discussion.
A comment and a question.
The comment: Those who find the networks' decisions regarding coverage of the convention abysmal should make their opinions known not only directly to the networks and their parent companies but also to the SPONSORS of the shows that are running during the time the convention should be on instead.
The question: In your opinion, is it a result of the "stay positive" strategy that we don't hear anyone mentioning that it was the Republicans who supported and ARMED Saddam Hussein right up till the moment he invaded Kuwait?
Robert G. Kaiser : Can't mind read, but thanks for the comment.
Why did NBC cut off Rev. Al Sharpton's speech last night at the DNC, and do you think it was right and why?
Robert G. Kaiser : Can't mind read NBC either, but all the networks march to their own drummers, and put their agendas ahead of the Democrats'.
ABC and NBC, while offering commentary on the DNC and the occasional snipet of a speech, should instruct their pundits to be silent. Let the candidates and the party leaders speak -- without their biased commentary.
Robert G. Kaiser : Pundits silent? You want their jobs to be outsourced or something? Did I hear a YES! ? Was that me talking?
An off the wall question: What is the nationality of Mrs. Teresa Heinz Kerry? I believe she was born in South Africa? Has she taken her US American citizenship? Wouldn't that mean we would have a "non-American" in the White House?
Robert G. Kaiser : She was born in Mozambique, then a Portugese colony of Africa. She has long been an American citizen. I wonder if you are a descendant of immigrants yourself? Does that make you a "non American?"
While I am sure he remains well behind the scenes, have you by any chance seen Rod O'Connor? He's the CEO of the convention and an old college classmate of mine. Just asking.
Robert G. Kaiser : No Rod O'Connor sightings by us.
US Military Base Overseas:
I got a chance to watch some of the convention on the international CNN chanel available at most US bases. With so much going on in the world, before the convention they focused most of their efforts on events in Iraq and the Gaza strip. All of a sudden their is dedicated coverage of the DNC all over the world. Is it safe to say the rest of the world is that much anxious in the next President as much as Americans are?
Robert G. Kaiser : I think it is. Reading the foreign press and dispatches from around the world in American newspapers, I have the impression that foreigners are paying more attention to this U.S. election than to any previous one. As you know, Bush's popularity outside the U.S. is low. I saw a poll of Egyptian public opinion recently which said 95% of Egyptians could be classified as "anti-American" in their outlook. In Europe, Bush gets single-digit approval ratings in polls I've seen.
So, fairly or not, a lot of foriegners hope we will pick a new president this year. Edwards referred to declining respect for the U.S. last night; I expect Kerry to do so tonight. It willl be interesting to see if Bush decides to try to counter this line, and if so, how he does it.
I know that the convention has had some great moments, but as someone who has been there live and in person, have their been any disappointments?
Robert G. Kaiser : Oh yes. On some level the whole thing is disappointing, because it is so scripted, so organized, so totally unspontaneous in every respect. I don't think anyone who isn't emotionally committed to the Democrats' cause could say this was a great event to be part of. It's an interesting event to be part of; it's fun to see artists at work (Bill Clinton the leading example), and it is interesting for all of us who care about politics to see how Kerry and his people are shaping their campaign through this convention. But the fact that we have all known from the get-go that there would be no unexpected events, and no real "news" from here, makes it hard to wax enthusiastic.
Maybe Lucian will have something to add...
Lucian Perkins: No news is being made here like in years past, when the vice-president was selected or various factions hashed out the platform for their respective party.
Years ago when I first covered conventions, the Republican conventions were always the most "scripted." Now they both are. Having said that, it will be very interesting to see the differences between the two conventions when we go to New York next month.
The value of this convention is the opportunity to listen to the new and established leaders of this party speak. I've definately developed a better sense of who some of these people are and where they stand on the issues. And I've seen first hand the new players like Obama.
For the delegates theis convention is getting them psyched up and energized. And on this point it has succeeded. The energy they take from this convention will help fire up the communities they represent.
Robert G. Kaiser : That's enough for today. We will be back for a final Boston=based chat tomorrow at noon. We have more Convention Diary entries to file today and tomorrow. This has been a fun week, thanks in no small measure to all of you who have taken part. Thank you all.
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