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Sneak Preview

Friday, August 6, 2004; Page A18

IT'S ONE THING to say, as everyone seems to, that conventions these days are "tightly scripted." It's another to actually get a peek at the script itself -- and while it's still in development.

A draft of the Republican convention schedule recently came our way, and it offers a sneak preview of the less-than-spontaneous nature of the festivities and a certain fill-in-the-blank quality of the offerings. For example, the convention's first day, Aug. 30 (theme: "Protecting America"), has this slotted for 9:40 p.m.: "Iraqi Woman (TBD)" -- to be determined. Whoever she is, we know she'll be great. On Sept. 2 (theme: "Yes, America Can") another segment has penciled in: "Iraqi scholar . . . or any Fulbright scholar from Iraq." The pledge of allegiance that day is to be led by an "Olympian/Celebrity." Five minutes are allotted for the floor demonstration before President Bush's acceptance speech, another five for the demonstration following.

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The Democrats in Boston had their Reagan (Ron, on stem cell research); the Republicans feature theirs (Michael, on his father). The Democrats paraded their generals; the Republicans showcase theirs -- if the plan holds, Gen. Tommy Franks, retired head of the U.S. Central Command. As did the Democrats, the Republicans touch every ethnic and religious base, with benedictions from an evangelical Christian from Texas, the New York Police Department's Muslim chaplain and a Native American -- TBD.

The president will check in periodically, via live remote -- from a convention watch party, right after he goes over the top, and from a baseball game, just before the first lady speaks. Does this mean that even Mr. Bush won't actually be watching?

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