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Republican Convention Diary: Tuesday

Robert G. Kaiser and Lucian Perkins
Washington Post Associate Managing Editor and Photographer
Tuesday, August 31, 2004; 12:00 PM

Associate editor Robert Kaiser and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lucian Perkins are at the Republican Convention in New York collecting images and impressions in their Convention Diary.

Kaiser and Perkins were online Tuesday, Aug. 31, at Noon ET to give their thoughts on the convention, the speeches and the Bush-Cheney ticket.

_____About Your Host_____
Robert G. Kaiser is an associate editor at The Washington Post. Previously he was managing editor, second in command of The Post's newsroom, from 1991 until 1998. Earlier, he was a foreign correspondent in Vietnam and Moscow, and covered the Senate and the 1980 presidential campaign. He did a stint as editor of Outlook before becoming the assistant managing editor for National News in 1985 and later deputy managing editor. He is the author of six books including "The News About the News," which he co-authored with Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.

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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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Arlington, Va.: One could say that a Republican in New York would be a Democrat in other parts of the country (and a Democrat in the South would be a Republican in New York). Why do you think no prominent "liberal Republicans" have endorsed Kerry? Have you encountered any Republicans for Kerry in New York? (obviously not those who are there for the convention)

Robert G. Kaiser: Hello to all. We already have lots of good questions--and welcome more!

Any Republican of any stripe who endorsed Kerry would, I think, be ending his Republican life forever. This probably gives pause to any contemplating the idea, if there are any.

I have heard, in these chats and in my own life, from many Northeastern Republicans, many the old "country club" variety, who will vote for Kerry this year. How many such there may be, I ca nnot say.

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Memphis, Tenn.: Seems like every Republican event features the same old Hollywood celebrities. The Post has reported sightings of Bo Derek and Ron Silver. Are there any Hollywood types that younger voters might be familiar with? Bo Derek might be a 10 for the over-50 crowd, but she's pretty much off the grid with anyone under 40.

Robert G. Kaiser: This isn't my specialty by a longshot, but I have the same impression you do. Trouble for me is, if there were big stars here famous to the under 25s, I've probably never heard of them. Well, I hope that's a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

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Houston, Tex.: Mr. Kaiser,

I have to say I was a little bothered by Rudy's comments last night, again treating pre-war Iraq and Al Queda as interchangeable and the comments about Saddam himself being a WMD seems to ignore the reality of the situation and treat the issue as though it weren't important. Is this going to be a theme during the RNC? Just treat Iraq as background and focus on 9/11?

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes I think it is.

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Washington, D.C.: Bob, Political reporters don't get much better than Dan Balz. But shouldn't every article about the praise for Bush's leadership after the terrorist attacks also include some context?

It wasn't just about climbing on the rubble, after all. The first day, from pet goat on, was a total disaster. (What if there had been other planes in the air while Bush was sitting there? Did Cheney actually have the constitutional authority to give a shoot-down order?) And Bush objectively squandered all the internaitonal good will aimed our way -- enough to, genuinely, win the war on terror, if you ask me -- by going off on this Iraqi tangent. Now we're arguably much, much less safe.

Isn't the press doing Bush's PR work for him if all it does is sort of glibly transcribe the convention's attempts to package 9/11, the rubble speech and Iraq in some big happy context-less lump?

If you can't answer that, then at least tell me: Are the journalists around you biting their tongues?

washingtonpost.com: In N.Y., GOP Hails Its Chief (Post, Aug. 31)

Robert G. Kaiser: It's not Dan's job to shoot at every speech a politician makes. It is his job to explain, as he reports, what a politician is doing, and why, when he can do that without basing it on his own opinion, but on reporting. We should not be stenographers, but nor should we play the role of political opposition. That's for opponents, and for columnists and editorial writers if they are so inclined.

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Washington, D.C.: I'd be interested in your opinion re. Giuliani's vs. McCain's speech. What were the crowd's reaction to them. Did one of them seem more popular than the other?

Lucian Perkins: They were both crowd pleasers for the convention crowd. If I were to give an edge to one, it would be Giuliani. He was very provocative in getting the crowd going by calling Kerry a flip-flopper and by recounting 9/11 and Bush's "heroism" during that period.

Robert G. Kaiser: Lucian was on the floor, I was not. On TV I thought McCain was surprisingly low-key, even flat, but I suspect that was deliberate on his part. Giuliani gave the speech of his life I'd say, getting warmer and stronger as it went on--too long, I'd also say.

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Thomasville, Ga.: What about this idea the GOP has that America frees oppressed people? That seemed to be part of last night's theme. I have mixed feelings about that.

About a week ago I heard a caller on a C-SPAN's morning show angry at the Iraqi soccer team because they criticized the president saying the he shouldn't use their image--criticisms we Americans makes almost daily. The caller went on to explain in some detail how those soccer players don't deserve to choose how the president uses their likeness; after all we (the president and the US) freed them.

I don't want to debate whether the soccer players were rude. I'm interested in the caller's attitude about the rights of Iraqi's. I hear this talk all the me. A lot of people believe Iraqis owe Americans something. Maybe you guys weren't raised in the south because if you had been you'd understand that caller represents a lot of people who seriously believe the Iraqis should do whatever we decide they should do because we freed so they owe us.

Even the people at the convention seem quite caught up in the idea of giving freedom. Were they cheering the president & his power to free people; or cheering to celebrate WITH the Iraqis? I couldn't tell.

I'm black. My ancestors were "given" freedom and so that's why my view is slanted (maybe.) As a child I heard the comments about our lack of gratitude for being freed (by people who had no right to take it in the first place)

If there is another way for me to look at this that I'm overlooking it has to be explained to me because the part of McCain's and Giuliani's speech about giving freedom made me uncomfortable. I know it sounds racist but the first thing that came to my mind is: why are white people always assuming they can give freedom like it's candy.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting.

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Pittsfield, Mass.: Oh, I see more stereotypes being brought out to portray the Republicans as for the wealthy and the Democrats as for the poor average person on the street. Well, I'm an independent voter and I don't see things in such black and white terms. Much too simplistic. I think Bush is a great President and I intend to vote for him.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting.

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Charlotte, N.C.: McCain and Giuliani praised Bush for his so-called leadership after 9-11, virtually politicizing the 2001 tragedy. Why will the American people not press the issue of why Bush didn't deal with terrorism BEFORE 9-11, especially in light of the Aug. 6 Daily Briefing memo and Richard Clarke's warnings? It obviously shows a president out of touch with what's going on.

Robert G. Kaiser: And thank you too.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Mr. Kaiser -- Yesterday you wrote of the broadcast networks: "These institutions would make NO profits, would not exist, were they unable to use the public airwaves that belong to the country, not to them."

In fact, the FCC over the past 20 years has, through a series of deregulatory actions, allowed broadcast frequencies to become commodities. The ideal that the airwaves belong to the public may be enshrined in the Communications Act, but in practice all communications spectrum "belongs" to whomever can pay the most for it. If we want broadcasters to care about the conventions (maybe not so important, given what they've become) or honest debate on important issues (always important) we will need a Congress and FCC willing to both limit ownership (since spectrum is finite) and impose something like the Fairness Doctrine. In whose lifetime is that a likely outcome?

Robert G. Kaiser: How old are you?

You are of course right. Len Downie and I wrote a book about the media making this point. The first laws that created broadcasting in America (radio) did require active public interest efforts by broadcasters. Those laws have been either rewritten or gutted in the last 35 or so years.

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Montclair, N.J.: Thank you for these daily chats, guys. Great work, both of you.

My question is about Rudy Giuliani's speech last night and, in particular, the line in the speech poking fun at "John Edwards' Two Americas." I thought the quip was dismissive of one of the greatest problems in America today. There are plenty of serious economic issues that President Bush is side-stepping, but to have a surrogate stand on stage at the Republican Convention and act as if the Democratic running mate has created some illusion that there are two hugely different economic classes really concerns me. I think this 'Two Americas' concept is not only a catchy line, but is a real problem that President Bush has not begun to solve and one that he now seems content to deride.

Did you see what I saw and have some kind of reaction?

Lucian Perkins: Going back to what I said earlier about Giuliani's speech, One of the reasons that it was effective for this crowd is exactly the reason you outlined. He had many quips designed to marginalize many of the issues brought up by the Democrats. His quips got the crowd going.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you seeing a lot of active duty men and women in uniform as delegates? I ask because this is against DOD policies but I see the Republicans bragging that they have 144 active duty delegates. I'm curious about whether they are in uniform. Thanks!

Robert G. Kaiser: I've seen no uniforms, but will ask Lucian to answer also, since he's been on the floor and I have not.

Lucian Perkins: I didn't, but I will look more closely. There were many vet there and they made that clear by what they wore.

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Chicago, Ill.: What do you think of the networks' neglect of Monday night's two wonderful and influential speakers to instead cover the California governor because of star recognition?

Robert G. Kaiser: Any regular reader o these chats knows how fed up I am with the networks for the way they treat conventions, so I will spare you the complaint now.

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Charleston, S.C.: If those are real RNC press passes that you show online, that's a pretty smart idea. give protesters and anarchists an easy template to make a fake badge (maybe even with your photo still on it!) and sneak past some less-than-attentive security to wreak a little havoc.

Lucian Perkins: Nope, those aren't the real things. The badges are actually very elaborate with 3D images on them to prevent them from being effectively copied.

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Bethesda, Md.: It seems to me that the Republicans are trying to use fear, war, and 9/11 to convince us that GWB should be re-elected. Do you think that is correct? And, if so, do you think it will work for them?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, we could rephrase your comment in a way that I think would be accurate but less partisan: Bush and his allies hope that a country traumatized by terrorist attack in 2001 will stick with the leader they've got, whose response to that attack did constitute his finest moment, and an example of American unity in crisis.

In my opinion Bush then let that moment pass too quickly to preserve the sort of unity and support in the country that it had produced. That's one reason why he can't get above 48 percent in any poll I've seen for months now, I think.

Clearly, the Repubs believe that casting Bush as an effective war president in perilous times is a winning strategy for them.

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Battle Creek, Mich.: Yesterday we learned from the President that the war on terror could not be won. Today, he tells Veterans that it can. And all along Republicans claim we're winning the war on terrorism. What's the real story, is there an exit plan for our mission, or is America in this for the long-haul in a nation-building exercise to install freedom country by country?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't think Bush or Kerry has laid out a long-term strategy for the war on terror.

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Diversity at the Convention?: I couldn't help but notice how little diversity is represented by the GOP; a stark contrast from the Democratic convention. New York Times/CBS reports GOP delegates as 85 percent white, 6 percent Black, 9 other. Do you think the lack of diversity matters to the average American? What does this say, if anything, about the two major political parties?

Robert G. Kaiser: Have you met "the average American?" I'm still looking for her.

Sure diversity matters, especially to people who aren't white, but to many white people also in my experience. The Repubs have more non-whites here than they had in Philadelphia four years ago, but, as you note, they remain a predominantly white party.

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Bethesda, Md.: How many of those loyal GOP conventioneers who so lustily booed Michael Moore do you suppose have actually seen "Fahrenheit 9/11"? They know they're supposed to hate Moore for coming out and saying many things that the news media has been too polite or afraid to, but do they know what he said in the movie?

Robert G. Kaiser: I have no idea. But did you see the grin on Moore's face last night? He knew that the Repubs were selling a lot of tickets to his movie, I think.

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New York, N.Y.: Are the Purple Heart bandaids in good taste, or poor taste?

Seems to me that if the Democrats wore weapons of mass deception pins at their convention, they would have been tackled by the cable news folks.

The bandaids may be an afront to all service people who received the Purple Hearts, since the hearts are not for valor, but for sustaining wounds in service to our country.

Robert G. Kaiser: You have to ask?

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Florence, Ala.: Not really a question, just a response to an answer from yesterday's discussion concerning replacing Cheney with McCain on the ticket. You said, "I do not know what so many people believe this is possible. What makes anyone think it is?"

They think it is possible because they believe everything they hear on Fox News, no matter how absurd it is.

By the way, I love the chats, especially the daily ones during the convention. Enjoy NYC!

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks

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New York, N.Y.: The RNC coming to NY is like a slap in the face. The Bush "presidency" wasn't amounting to much until 9/11 -- which gave them their opening: Perpetual War. I'm sick of their agenda, and I'm disgusted that the people of New York will have to pay the price again when more terrorists come our way, thanks to Bush's misguided Iraq war.

Since 9/11, our country has lived in a Orwellian bubble, where we're told that up is down, and down is up. In New York we're always in danger, AKA code orange, but somehow safer with Papa Bush watching over us from his fancy ranch in Texas. I don't feel safer, maybe he doesn't either, and that's why he's always on vacation in Texas.

In fact, thanks to Iraq, I feel a lot more afraid for our country's future than I did on 9/11 -- when I watched the buildings fall from my rooftop.

The Bushies want to come to New York and pat themselves on the back for doing such a great job protecting. Last I checked, Osama was missing, they never found any WMDs, and Sadam didn't have a thing to do with 9/11.

What they HAVE done a great job at is pulling the wool over 50 percent of the American population with their smear/spin machine.

They should have just hosted the RNC at his ranch -- saving the tax payers the expense of flying him from his ranch in Texas.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting. But what do you REALLY think?

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Washington D.C.: Is "Billionaires for Bush" not in tune with Kerry and Edwards net worth? And that all the celebrities and Warren Buffets are not your everyday low income individuals?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the posting.

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Arlington, Va.: Is there any change the GOP will overplay the 9/11 card? Will some one start raising the fact that Bush opposed the 9/11 commission and the Homeland Security Dept but capitulated in the face of political pressure? Doesn't exactly sound like an un-wavering leader to me.

Robert G. Kaiser: Of course Democrats are already making those points. Yes, I think there is a risk of overplaying the 9/11 card, though its always hard to know where the line may fall in such a situation.

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E-town, Ky.: Mccain was a bit flat. Some of his lines were from editorials and his books. Not his best at all. Unlike the last convention.

Robert G. Kaiser: As I said above, I agree. You wonder if the speech was a reflection of his inner feelings. He finds it hard to hide what he thinks.

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Memphis, Tenn.: How many black delegates are there? By watching on TV I would think it is around 40-50 percent of them. I am assuming that is not right. They kept showing the same three black folks over and over again. Who chooses who in the crowd gets shown the networks or the RNC?

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm answering these questions from the Council on Foreign RElations offices in New York, where I'm attending a luncheon, about which I will write something for the diary later today.

Therefore I am away from my notes on the demographics of the delegates. My memory is that the percentage of black delegates is less than 10 but more than 5. I will correct this later if it is wrong.

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Arlington, Va.: The hatred of Bush in some segments of this country is stronger than I have even seen for a president. If he were to be relected could it possibility be in the best interest of this country (regardless of policy) to have a President for the next four that so polarizes it?

Robert G. Kaiser: I guess that's one of the issues that people ought to debate this fall...

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Unfortunately in a Red State--with the Blue-State Blues: In all earnestness, how can the Republicans call Bush an effective war president--other than his immediate handling of post-9/11? First we have a president who calls himself a "war president," then switches the moniker to "peace president, and who yesterday hedges his nickname to "we-can't-really win-the-war-on-terrorism president?"

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for participating.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think the Conventions are a big waste of money, what with all of the talk about budget shortfalls and deficits and poverty, etc.?

Robert G. Kaiser: No I don't, but a lot more money is spent on them than needs to be.

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Boston, Mass.: Has there been any commotion among the Virginia delegation over Rep. Schrock's refusal to run for a third term (or over why he's not running)?

washingtonpost.com: Va. Legislator Ends Bid for 3rd Term (Post, Aug. 31)

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's your answer, from today's Post.

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San Antonio, Tex.: If Ohio will be the Florida of 2004, as Gov. Bob Taft claims, then the Convention Diary certainly hit the bull's-eye in its press coverage of last night's Ohio delegates' party at the NYC RNC. Bush is certainly wrapping visits to Ohio around his NYC drop-in with delegates with pre- and post-convention stops scheduled in Columbus and Cleveland.

The Convention Diary examined the state's 20 critical electoral votes, and the 100-year-old political dynasty of the Tafts (but not the sagging political fortune of my Rawson/Phelps cousin Gov. Bob Taft). But perhaps most telling of the Republican's Party's true stripes was CD's interview with Kay Ayres, vice chair of Ohio's GOP, and her comment about Ohio GOP's evangelistic zeal in getting out the vote based on "social" or "wedge" issues--gay marriage and abortion. Most alarming is Ayres belief that George W. Bush is running for president because Bush got a call from God!;

The cultural divisions in the country are deep, and although moderate McCain and liberal Giuliani took the Monday-night podium, would you say the GOP right-wing conservatives appear to have the true control of the party? I thought the audience's reaction to the McCain speech was tepid at best until the Michael Moore remark. Did I read the audience reaction correctly as it was conveyed by television? Giuliani droned on for so long I eventually went to bed. Again, what seemed to rattle my sensibilities was the absolutely crass manner in which last night's roster of speakers wrapped themselves in 9/11. Were the three women who spoke last night and who lost loved ones in 9/11 aware that President Bush opposed the formation of a 9/11 Commission and attempted to stonewall its progress on several occasions?

McCain said last night that the war in Iraq was "necessary, achievable, and noble." I find the Iraq war to be none of these things. What accounts for the magnitude of the Republican's smoke and mirrors? Will the speeches last night of these hawkish GOP warriors place undue emphasis upon Bush to lay out a real, substantive--and yes, achievable--agenda during his Thursday night address to the RNC?

Robert G. Kaiser: Maybe the Kerry campaign ought to hire you?

Smoke and mirrors is the name of the game in politics, especially for relatively unpopular incumbents. The economy hurts Bush; the war in Iraq hurts Bush; most of all the sense that the country is off on the wrong track (about 55% say so in all polls) hurts Bush. So he has to look for ways to change the subject, or alter the way it is discussed, which is , arguably, what this convention is all about.

Jimmy Carter had exactly the same problem in 1980. He struggled, he tried, and he failed. His poll numbers were worse than Bush's today, but the generic problem is similar: Bush is an incumbent with an approval rating below 50 percent. That is trouble.

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Washington, D.C.: What plans does the Post have to truthsquad politicians' claims? I has particularly struck by John McCain's claim last night that Iraq had to be invaded because our containment policy was failing. While this claim is often made, I know of no basis for it: General Zinni has stated flatly that containment was a clear success.

NPR this morning reported renewed Republican claims that Iraq was a threat to the US, to its neighbors, and that the war on Iraq was a response to the 9/11 attacks. If any of these claims are supported, that's big news. If they're deceptions, that's also news. What follow-up will we see from the Post?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the challenge, which I will share with my colleagues. We have written at length about all these topics, but I would agree with you that we might address them again in the context of this convention.

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RE: we-can't-really win-the-war-on-terrorism : Why such an uproar over this statement? OBVIOUSLY we can't win it. There's always going to be new generations of Islamist terrorists who hate America for what it stands for.

Robert G. Kaiser: I guess because Bush has promised so often in the past that we (he) would win it. Don't you think?

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Rosslyn, Va.: To the poster blaming Bush for not doing anything to avert the 9/11 tragedy, it should be pointed out that the Clinton administration (read: Democrats) also share the blame for creating a climate where intelligence failures happen. The guy was in the office for 8 years (!) versus Bush who was 9 months into his term when 9/11 happened.

Robert G. Kaiser: THanks.

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Grand Rapids, Mich.: I generally love your chats, but I think you dodged a big question earlier. Since when do reporters not provide a comprehensive context when covering an issue? The RNC continually repeats Bush's "strong leadership" after 9/11: Okay, what was it? I was in Boston that day. I remember a general sense of panic in the streets, while the president was in some bunker in the Midwest. Strong leadership? A week later -- not the next day, a week later -- he went to NYC, hugged a fireman and started firing cowboy lines at Al Qaeda. He bombed Afghanistan, which is again under attack from the Taliban, and then the ill-fated adventure into Iraq. Where EXACTLY does this notion of "strong leadership" come from? How can this go unchallenged? Has PR has become reality?

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a fair question, but I'm not sure what you are asking for. Should The Post, or anyone else, publish a story saying "Republicans at their conventionion in New York keep boasting that their candidate is a strong president, but the record shows otherwise"? Is that a news story? No it is not.

Every American is entitled to do what you have done: think it through for him/herself and come to a conclusion about whether this is the sort of president they want for another four years.

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Tempe, Ariz.: E-Town is right. Those lines where cherry picked from old speeches.

MccAin can't hide his feelings: after his speech, Chris Matthews had him on for a few minutes and got him to talking. McCain answered the question and it was visable on his face that what he was saying was hardly on message. But he said it anyway. He does this thing with his tongue when he's regretting what he says. I've followed him a long time (since Keating) and he always does it. (Maybe I need to get a life) -- smile.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

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Ottawa, Canada: I am having trouble with just what is meant by the "war on terror". Is the US going to fight every group throughout the world that uses terror tactics no matter what the context of that conflict? Or, is the war limited to those groups that target the US? I don't think either Kerry or Bush have been clear about this.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. I have written here many times that I think war on terror is a pretty useless label. We are fighting a war against certain terrorists, or, in my view, ought to be. We've lived with terrorism throughout human history, particularly modern history, and it isn't going to disappear in the forseeable future.

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Washington, D.C.: As a Democrat, I've at-times been at odds with my father's political views, but never so much as when he initially supported Bush 1 and then Bush 2. Despite the fact that my dad had no intentions of voting for Bush this time around, as a life-long moderate Republican, he sat down last night to watch the GOP convention, particularly because he wanted to hear Giuliani and McCain's keynotes. He considers them to be two of the torch-bearers for the conservative economic / liberal social rights values that he's championed since Eisenhower convinced him (and Reagan, made him proud) to be a Republican. He was so incensed to hear Giuliani and McCain repeatedly pandering to the far-right social values planks of the party that he did something extraordinary. This morning, he made a special trip to the County courthouse and changed his registration to Democrat, ending forty-one years of Republicanism since his 18th birthday. For him, last night was a last straw. He said, "I cannot in good conscience remain affiliated with a party that no longer represents my values as an American, a veteran and a Christian." I never thought I'd see it happen.

My questions is whether you feel that his take -- as an Eisenhower Republican -- from the convention, campgain and direction of the party might be representative of the many others boomers like him.

Robert G. Kaiser: Sounds like your Dad might be a little old to be a boomer? He might be a war baby like me. Not important, of course.

I think people who share his views are, for Kerry, an important potential source of votes. "Potential" is probably the key word today.

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Great Neck, N.Y.: Of the many protests in New York City, which resonate most with "the average American"? Which protestors succeed in being heard rather than written off as "mental"?

Lucian Perkins: Don't know. I'm not sure I even know what the "average American" thinks of protests. But it is interesting how an idea can at first sound crazy, and then that idea slowly build steam to become a reality. Maybe, that is how protests can be viewed. Some fall by the side as "mental" and some, actually, start revolutions.

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Ashland, Mo.: You asked for responses to a comment about how America's standing in the world had declined recently. George Washington noted that we have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. The comment of your poster really seems to reflect the view of those worried about Western European sentiment. Since the end of Soviet domination, our interests have diverged. France has a problem with Muslims as reflected by the kidnappings over the head scarf ban. It thinks appeasement and negotiation work. Bush thinks that leads to encouraging modern-day Hitlers,e.g., Hussein.

On a much more cynical note, just what is it that continental Western Europeans have done in the last century that is worth emulating? Fascist Spain or Italy? Nazi Germany? Communist Russia? World War I or II? The Balkan fiasco? The Balfour solution? The beginnings of Vietnam? Unemployment higher than in the United States? Lower economic growth than the United States? Less freedom than the United States? Letting the United States do all their defense work for them? (Well, that might be a smart thing.)
One's world view is reflected in the choices that are made. If you believe Hobbs, it is a very different world than Rousseau.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for the posting. No time today for a thorough discussion of these issues, but I would point out that one of our problems with Western Europe now is the gulf between ouir communitarian values, if you will. In Western Europe everyone has free health care and substantial government pensions bigger than ours. They have longer vacations. They have less violent societies. Personally I wouldn't give up my American citizenship to live in any of them, but I can see why so many Europeans regard us askance.

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Clinton vs. Terrorist: Repubs have decired the Monday-morning quarterbacks when discussing American's reactions to the failings in post-war Iraq. However, they do the same when lambasting Clinton's record against the terrorists. Clinton often was hamstrung by legalities and international politics, something Bush doesn't recognize. Bush takes a similar approach to dissenting opinions.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. Richard Clarke certainly agreed with you in his book.

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Edgewater, Md.: I am surprised I have not heard much debate about the environment during this campaign. With the unstable fuel costs and the war, I think the general population has truly begun to see a need for alternative fuels and the dangers we face for depending so heavily on oil. I feel the Democrats can attract voters by taking on these issues, much more so then in past elections. Are you surprised by the lack of attention these issues are receiving, it just seems this is the best time to take on these issues?

Robert G. Kaiser: I am surprised. Polls show conern for the environment to be something that is shared by a large majority of Americans.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: In response to the earlier question from Washington DC about not seeing any active duty personnel in uniform at the convention: According to DOD regulations, active duty personnel may are prohibited from wearing their uniforms when attending political events such as a party conventions.

Link: Department of Defense Directive (Aug. 2, 2004)

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks. I thought so.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you honestly feel the nation will be more united under Kerry? Knowing most of the facts now, the nation is still clearly divided. What makes Kerry and the rest of the Democratic Party think for one second that the nation won't still be divided if he is elected?

Also, while covering the Convention in New York have you heard or seen public displays of support for John Kerry or are most of the views against George Bush?

Robert G. Kaiser: I've seen many Kerry buttons on the demonstrators, and on New Yorkers this week.

I didn't mean to imply that I thought the country would be mroe united under Kerry. Personally I think the divisions in the country will be a huge problem for whoever wins. As a citizen I hope whichever of them it is will make an effort to change the bitter game we are now trapped in. But I am not holding my breath...

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CSPAN Jun, Ky.: For Lucian:
Was the gigantic Rising-Sun-With-Elephant-Flipping-Everyone-Off-With-His-Trunk behind the podium as amazing in person as it was on the screen? I would have been a little nervous speaking in front of that thing.

And another great job from CSPAN.

Lucian Perkins: Wow, I'm embarrassed to say that I missed that one. I must have either had my back to the stage while photographing delegates or I was in the basement of the Madison Square Garden dropping off my digital discs. Oh well!

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Livingston, Mont.: As I listened to the lady from Iraq thank Bush for the invasion of Iraq it occured to me that there are a lot of people in the world who are, like her, very much "pro Neo-con". Are there a lot of people like her? Or how many Republicans actually want a more neo-con direction as opposed to a more moderate position as seems to be being presented at this convention? How big is the radically more hawkish part of the Republican party we are not hearing from here?

Robert G. Kaiser: You know, I was struck by Giuliani's embrace of the neocon position last night in the passage of his speech about the importance of using American power to liberate people in nonDemocratic countries (that's my paraphrase of what he said). I wonder if Bush is making that part of the neocon belief system the Republican foreign policy of the future? I don't know.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I thought McCain seemed flat on TV too -- from your comment before "intentionally flat, perhaps" -- why is it that you think that? I'm interested to hear. Also, what are your thoughts on his remarks on treating members of the other party with respect? Was that a direct reply to the SVT flap?

Robert G. Kaiser: as I said earlier, McCain can't hide his true feelings. I think it is fair to assume that his enthusiasm for Bush is still tempered by the experience of 2000, which wounded him deeply.

Yes, I think he was directly speaking to the swift boat crowd. He said as much in post-speech interviews with Chris Matthews and Jim Lehrer.

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Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks to all. I'm going to skip out now to hear the speeches at this lunch I'm supposedly attending. We'll be back tomorrow at noon. Meantime, if you have any comments or questions, e-mail them to conventiondiary@washingtonpost.com. And thanks again to all for taking part.

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Rockville, Md.: Could either one of you give us a sense of whether there was any energy on the convention floor last night? Except for a few lines by McCain and Guiliani for the most part, the room seemed kind of dead! For instance, there was hardly any cheering during Hastert's speech last night! Not much oomph, especially compared to the Dems last month!! Is it because Republicans are more reserved or what?

As compared to the Democrats in Boston, how "energized" are these delegates? These people look lethargic at least watching them on tv!

Lucian Perkins: There was energy here last night, but nothing like what I saw at the Democratic Convention. This is a very different crowd--maybe they are more reserved. They did try to convey an excitement, but at times it seemed forced. There were exceptions of-course, like the "dancing" Texas delegation.

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