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Convention Dispatches Live: Monday

Terry Neal
washingtonpost.com Chief Political Correspondent
Monday, August 30, 2004; 10:00 PM

The 2004 Republican National Convention kicks off amid tight security in New York with speeches from New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.).

washingtonpost.com Chief Political Correspondent Terry Neal took your questions live from the convention hall on the speeches, the atmosphere and the latest political news.

Terry Neal (post.com)

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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.

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Terry Neal: Hello everyone. I'm here in New York for the Republican convention this week. Thanks for joining me tonight on the first of my live online chats that I'll do each evening, tonight through Thursday, at 10 p.m. here on washingtonpost.com. And with that, let the games begin!

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Terry,

It seems somewhat disingenuous for the Republicans to put on a bunch of moderate speakers when in reality these people aren't that big a faction in the party, and don't shape party policy. Are Republicans that worried that if someone like Tom Delay was allowed a prime time berth it would hurt Bush substantially?

Terry Neal: Thanks for your note. I wrote about this issue in my column today. I'll let people decide for themselves whether the GOP is being disingenuous. But it goes without saying that many of the featured speakers are to the left of where the party is generally, and far to the left of where most of the delegates, who tend to be even more conservative that the average Republican voter.
I don't think either party is particularly eager to showcase their more ideological members. Sure, the Democrats gave Ted Kennedy and Al Sharpton forums, but not great ones.
There is of course a practical reason for this...Both ends of the ideological spectrum are already fired up and blazing to go. The parties are focusing on the narrow center, which still includes enough people to swing the election either way.

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Hampton Cove, Ala.: Why has not more attention been focused on the failure of Edwards and Kerry to show up for work in the senate. I remember in 2000, the vocal Texas democrats and liberal media ripped Bush for every second he spent away from Austin. Yet, Kerry and Edwards are both vacationing in their multi-million dollar beach houses while senators like Levin, Roberts, Lieberman, and Collins are dealing with D.C. in August for the good of our country.

I still think you are a great writer, even if you lean to the left.

Terry Neal: Thanks for your question, KM. I hope you're enjoying the convention!
Actually, I don't recall Bush being away from Austin being a big issue in 2000--at least not with the national media. I covered the Bush campaign for the Post in 2000 and don't recall ever writing anything on that subject. I'm sure that was a topic of interest for the state and local media, but it's their state. I can't answer for them.
By the way, you're correct, Kerry has missed quite a few votes this year. On the other hand, Congress hasn't done much of anything of note. And certainly hasn't done anything this summer.

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Arlington, Va.: What do you think is the significance that some prominent Democrats have endorsed Bush -- Zell Miller and Ed Koch come to mind -- but that no prominent Republicans have broken ranks and endorsed Kerry? Is that a sign of Bush's possible strength?

Terry Neal: I think it's interesting, but I'm not sure it's going to have much of an impact. Zell Miller is a conservative from a conservative state. I did a front-page story in the Post on him in 1998, as he prepared to leave the governor's office. I know he is a man of great influence in Georgia. Miller is like many other Democrats around the country--but particularly in the south--who have never officially changed their party affiliation, but are essentially Republicans. I think rather than influencing other Democrats to follow his lead, he represents those who have already gone there--many since Ronald Reagan was in office.
And I don't believe either candidate is significantly stronger than the other right now.

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Pasadena, Calif.: Hi Terry, love the on-line stuff you and your
Washington Post cohorts do.

In Boston the DNC made a point of not going negative (well, not too much anyway) on Bush. I'm guessing the RNC is going to be going after Kerry hard at their convention.

Will all the negativity we expect to hear hurt them?

Did the Dems blow it by not going at Bush harder during their convention?

Terry Neal: First of all, thank you for your kind words.
As for your question, well negativity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There are plenty of Republicans who would take issue your suggestion that the Democrats didn't go negative on Bush in Boston.
My feeling on this is, the parties are debating real issues and criticizing a political opponent is just a part of the way this thing works. There is of course a fine line between a negative attack and criticism. And both parties try to benefit by both playing the aggrieved victim of "negative attacks" even as they embrace the tactic themselves.

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Ft. Plain, N.Y.: Why do they insist on holding the Republican convention in New York City? We've been warned by Ridge a month ago, the city is "under a handicap" with this overtight security it doesn't seem practical. It gives an impression that some political advantage is being taken by the proximity to the twin tower disaster.
When President Bush addressed the nation at that time, he spoke as a leader of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike -- just as the victims were members of all parties as are our military dying on the battlefield. There should be something "sacred" about gathering where it could be conceived as having political value for one party by reflecting a time of disaster for Americans of all persuasions.

Terry Neal: I touched on this subject in my column today as well. There are many people who would agree with you. On the other hand, the bottom line is that ultimately, you can't separate politics from policy. The Republicans chose this backdrop because they believe it best represented their strengths. It's going to be up to each person to decide whether they believe the president is politicizing tragedy.

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Kansas City, Mo.: Do you believe the news media is giving much heavier coverage to this convention than the Democratic convention? Are the press attempting to sway the outcome of the upcoming election by giving reduced levels of negative coverage to Republicans as opposed to Democrats, giving President Bush a "pass" on negative issues?

Terry Neal: First, thanks for your note. Always good to hear from a fellow Show-Me-State person. I graduated from Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo., in 1985...
As for the substance of your question, I'm not sure how you could draw that conclusion, since the convention just started tonight. The punditry hasn't even begun (although it will soon...I'll be on CNN in the 11 p.m. hour tonight on NewsNight with Aaron Brown).
I think I can fairly answer that I doubt that the collective media will be trying to sway the election by giving Bush less negative coverage than they gave Kerry a few weeks ago.

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East Lansing, Mich.: Hi Terry:

Enjoy your online columns!

I'm watching the 9/11 widows right now. How do you think all of this will play with middle America? Is the GOP overdoing it?

Thanks

Terry Neal: No doubt some people will find it very moving and compelling. Others will find their inclusion in the program to be a big turnoff.

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Terry Neal: I've got to run a few minutes early tonight. So sorry I couldn't not answer all of your questions. But please join me again tomorrow, and we'll chat again!

Terry

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