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Republican Convention Diary: Thursday

Robert G. Kaiser and Lucian Perkins
Washington Post Associate Managing Editor and Photographer
Thursday, September 2, 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 Thursday, Sept. 2, 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.


College Park, Md.: I find it a bit irritating that last night's speakers at the RNC were allowed to spend the evening glossing over the complexities of congressional legislation, with impunity, at the expense of John Kerry's reputation. Zell Miller parroted the Republican argument that "Together, Kennedy and Kerry have opposed the very weapons system that won the Cold War and that are now winning the war on terror." It is true that in 1990, 1995, and 1996, Kerry voted against Pentagon appropriations bills, but this does not constitute a vote against particular weapons systems. Each bill contains hundreds of line items to fund such things as schools on military bases to soldiers' pay. Miller failed to note that Kerry has also voted for 16 Pentagon appropriations bills. How much longer will this argument be taken seriously?

Dick Cheney attacked Kerry's call for "more sensitive war on terror." George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld have all used the word sensitive in reference to the war on terror. Why is Bush allowed to develop a nuanced explanation of his can/can't win the war on terror comment, but Kerry can't explain himself?

Cheney, trying to paint Kerry as a waffler, argued, "Although he voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, he then decided he was opposed to the war, and voted against funding for our men and women in the field." Again, how long are we to take this? Yes, Kerry voted to authorize the war (and then stupidly said he would do so again knowing what he knows now), but his vote against authorizing more money was a vote for accountability; that is, he wanted a plan from the White House about what was to become of the money, our money, in what has become a debacle. Should we be expected to blindly follow (and pay)?

Robert G. Kaiser: Hello to all. Not surprisingly, last night's angry and heated rhetoric has prompted a lot of comments and questions today--not a few of them angry and heated! I hope we can have a lively discussion.

Miller and Cheney both gave us a lot of work to do, which Dana Milbank began to do in this morning's paper with a fine analysis piece, which we will link to here. It is our job to hold these guys (Dems and Repubs alike) accountable for the truth and relevance and accuracy of what they say, and a lot of what was said last night is open to such reporting. And The Post will continue to do it.

Do you really want someone or something to tell the vice president, or anyone else, that is "not allowed" to say something? Seems to me the essence of our system is, you can say whatever you want, but you then must defend what you say in public, and let voters decide if they believe or trust you.


Arlington, Va.: I thought John Edwards was right, I sensed a lot a hate in those speeches last night. Miller was downright scary, if not a little crazy. Would you agree that the country is more polarized now than during the Clinton years? If so, do you feel there is any group in particular to blame for this?

Robert G. Kaiser: The anger on Miller's face really surprised me, I confess. I'vde argued here many times that it's not the country that's polarized so much as the politicians and their partisan adherents. Polls always show the public to be more measured, more moderate, more thoughtful and more GRAY than the politicians are. But this is bad, and getting worse, no doubt about it. I don't think it's my role to cast the blame, but as a citizen, I think it is right to hold any politician accountable for his/her rhetoric, the more so when it seems unfounded or extreme.


Awaiting Frances in Florida: In Central Florida--the biggest swing region in the biggest swing state--the news coverage has already gone into All Hurricane All The Time mode. Since, presumably, the Republican Party had hoped to gain a few more voters in this region with this convention, is there any sort of feeling apparent that this may negatively impact the party in Central Florida? How does the party plan to overcome having the high point in what is essentially their biggest single advertisement of the campaign season effectively blacked out?

Robert G. Kaiser: very interesting. I have no idea what the GOPs may do about this, unless they can get their friends in high places to call off the hurricane, or move it to a safe state.


washingtonpost.com: Topic of Terror Overshadowing All Others (Post, Sept. 2)


Spokane, Wash.: I have noticed several press photos of Washington State delegate Jane Milhans? Is she, like Bo Derek, some sort of celebrity or just one of the few pretty faces?

Lucian Perkins: Her antics, such as constantly standing on her chair and dancing to get the crowd going attracted a lot of attention. And yes, I photographer her too.


Rosslyn, Va.: Zell's speech was a little crazy, it's being compared as worse than the 1992 Buchanan speech. Do you think the GOP will try and distance theirselves from Zell? Most of his rhetoric about Kerry seemed completely false, especially since he was praising Kerry just a few years ago. Although, I have to admit, when the crowd kept on shouting flip-flop when Cheney was speaking I did laugh.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. I think we can assume that the convention managers had cleared every word Miller spoke.


Denver, Colo.: I have read a couple stories lately about the impact Cheney is having on Bush's reelection bid. Many Democrats outrightly hate him and some conservatives are bothered by him as well.

Are there any practical scenarios where Bush could realistically drop Cheney from the ticket, short of his resignation due to health issues?

Robert G. Kaiser: Omigosh. I thought last night when I heard Dick Cheney say, "I accept your nomination," that we had finally burried this canard that Bush was somehow going to dump Cheney. IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! It never was going to happen. I don't know why people like you find that so hard to believe.


Green Valley, Ariz.: How can Zell Miller call himself a Democrat? I know the Dems won't oust him -- they want him to be counted as a Dem for purposes of Senate make-up -- but how can he retain his affiliation with a party that he so clearly holds in total disdain?

Robert G. Kaiser: Miller is history. He is not running for reelection, an dhis vote will never be cast again to organize the Senate. So I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of Dems disown him completely after last night.


Portland, Maine: I'm hearing comparisons of Miller's speech to Buchanan's '92 speech. Please refresh my memory -- how damaging was Buchanan's speech to H.W. Bush's campaign? It's given credit as a contributing factor to his defeat, but I have my doubts. Can one speech from a fringe politician really scuttle an incumbent?

Robert G. Kaiser: Good question. Of course one convention speech doesn't determine the outcome of an election. In '92., I always thought, Buchanan's speech was more symptom than cause: a symptom of the fact that the right wing of the GOP had turned against Bush 41, and would not do its best to reelect him. And that turned out to be the case.This time, Miller's speech could be forgotten in a week, or it could become a symbol of the Bush campaign's principal tactic, impugning Kerry, which will either work or backfire. But I think it's too soon to try to evaluate its importance.


Frederick, Md.: In exchange for the Democratic convention avoiding harsh direct attacks on Bush the Republican convention and it's various supporting groups are making little or no pretense or attempt to restrain negativism and such attacks on Kerry. Will this backfire?

Robert G. Kaiser: It might.


Houston, Tex.: Mr. Kaiser,

What exactly is going on with Zell Miller? I saw his speech last night, and frankly it left me stunned, he seemed so angry and unhinged. How can a man go from saying nice things about Kerry a few years ago to basically destroying him now?

Robert G. Kaiser: I've asked for a llink here to my colleague Dale Russakoff's profile of Miller that ran in yesterday's Post. It may help answer your questions.

He is an odd duck. I found the quotation from 2001 that Mark Shields read last night on PBS, from a speech in Atlanta when Miller introduced John Kerry. Miller said then, was one of America's "authentic heros." He added:

''John Kerry has fought against government waste and worked hard to bring some accountability to Washington...He fought for balanced budgets before it was considered politically correct for Democrats to do so. John has worked to strengthen our military, reform public education, boost the economy and protect the environment.''

Three years later, Miller revised and extended his remarks last night.


Charlotte, N.C.: Did Zell Miller hurt more than he helped last night? He came off as crazed. His performance with Chris Matthews after his speech was downright bizarre (he challenged Matthews to a "duel").

Lucian Perkins: Seeing it live, his speech sounded angry and vindictive. But the crowd in Madison Square loved it. As a matter of fact they went wild. It will be interesting to see how it plays for most Americans.


Charlotte, N.C.: Two of the GOP's biggest heros spoke on Monday night when many were watching football.

Laura and Arnold spoke Tuesday to good reviews, but seemed flat. For contrast compare Arnie with Obama. I'm not sure these two moved the ball much.

Last night Zell Miller may have done more hurt than good. Cheney was Cheney, and I'm not sure that is a big help either.

If Bush doesn't give a really good speech tonight could this convention end up being considered a failure?

Robert G. Kaiser: You watch and read and decide for yourself. The Repubs are running a risky campaign, and their convention reflects it. DAvid Broder and Jonathan Weisman have a fascinating piece in today's paper, to which we will link here, on the fact that the Bush campaign is trying to ignore the economy. Every lesson of American political science is that the economy has more impact on an election than anything else. Personally I think this is a huge gamble. But maybe it's the best choice they've got.


washingtonpost.com: Zell Miller: A Democrat Who Insists His Party Left Him (Post, Sept. 1)


washingtonpost.com: The Economy Edges Away From the Back Burner (Post, Sept. 2)


London, U.K.: Hi guys, love your Q&As -- great way for a Brit to follow what's going on in this election that has global implications.

I was curious about a comment that you made on Tuesday - "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." In Britain, we would certainly expect our journalists to point out the gap between a party's rhetoric and their achievements. This would be seen as basic reporting! Why is the journalistic ethos so different in the States?

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a big subject, too big to deal with here. British journalism is, by our standards, blatantly partisan and ideological. People on the left read the Guardian because it reflects and reenforces their views, in its news reporting as well as its leaders, or editorials. People on the right have a similar relationship with the Telegraph. And so on. Here the handfull of great newspapers, in which I immodestly nclude the Post, try hard to separate news and opinion. In Britain news reporters and news editors write editorials, or leaders. That is verboten on The Post or New York Times. We separate "church and state."


Fear Factor: The convention far has done two things: attack Kerry and instill fear among Americans. Outside of a Tom Clancy novel, has fear ever been used as a political device to such an extent as this administration is using? How do you think voters will react?

Robert G. Kaiser: There's a third question, of course, which is whether others perceive this as you do. Is it a deliberate effort to instill fear, or a sensible effort to remind us of real dangers?

But when I try to analyze this issue, i conclude that the countless occasions when this administration has cried what seems like wolf with their orange alerts and whatnot have, along with the Iraq war and other factors, significantly eroded its credibility for a lot of Americns. Cynicism breeds contempt, as someone once said. That's what the Repubs have to worry about, I think.

But if 50.1 % see the GOP as more worried, and more capable to responding, then they could win.


Gambrills, Md.: What do you expect from Bush tonight? Will he even discuss domestic issues, or will it be 9/11, 24/7, from now on?

Robert G. Kaiser: Well, if I were advising him, I'd sure suggest a meaty section trying to explain his economic policies, and explaining how they can help Americans who are now feeling economic pain. That's what Gov. Bob Taft of Ohio told me this week HE wanted Bush to do. We only have a few hours to wait.


Swann Street: Thanks for doing these chats, it gives us the feeling of being able to participate. After Cheney's speech, his gay daughter was conspicuously absent. Only the "good" one with here children was allowed on stage. A coincidence or a deliberate decision to keep anything gay at bay?

Robert G. Kaiser: Don't know.


Laurel, Md.: Arnold Schwarzeneggar said on Tuesday night:

>I finally arrived here in 1968. What a special day it was. I remember I arrived here with empty pockets but full of dreams, full of determination, full of desire.

Did any of the anchors point out that he was also the reigning Mr. Universe?

Robert G. Kaiser: I wasn't watching at the time.


Goleta, Calif.: Just curious... are there any newspaper-specific policies (or a reporter code of conduct?) that says that those who cover politics should not vote? Or be a registered party member?

Robert G. Kaiser: No. My colleague Len Downie, the editor of The Post, has earned a certain amount of notoriety with his position that he doesn't vote. Len argues that by not voting, he is not tempted to come to a conclusion in his own mind if one candidate is actually preferable to another, helping him assure that Post coverage is fair. But when I was his managing editor, or number two, I did vote, and still do, as do nearly all, if not all of our other colleagues--as far as I know. Len has said repeatedly that he did not expect any other Post journalist to adopt his policy, that it was his personal decision.


Montclair, N.J.: The New York Times had a chart on their front page this morning that illustrated the frequency with which a few key words had been used by the Republicans in their speeches so far in comparison to how frequently the Democrats used the same words in their first three nights of speeches in Boston.

A summary: the parties used 'terrorism' about the same number of times, but the Democrats used the word 'jobs' 127 times to the Republicans' 28 and have said John Kerry's name something like three times as often as the Democrats said Bush's.

A viewer of this convention doesn't need to see this chart to realize that the theme has really been 'anti-Kerry' as opposed to pro-Bush and that the Republicans are really side-stepping the problems with the economy (I don't think calling people 'girly men' will lower the unemployment rate). The heavy discussion of terrorism and war, which I think seeks to inflict a sense of danger on voters, also contributes to this convention's negativity.

What is your reaction to all this and what does it say about how they view Bush's accomplishments?

Robert G. Kaiser: This is a sneaky way to get the contents of a NY Times story into washingtonpost.com, but what the heck...

I saw the Times headline, but haven't yet read the story. It occurred to me that in Boston and New York, speakers used euphemisms like "the president" or "our opponent" to speak of Kerry and Bush, so how accurate is this count really? Anyhow, I have to read the story.

Bush and his campaign have clearly decided that the accomplishments they want to boast about involve terrorism and war and national security. I'm surprised, for example, that we've heard so little about tax cuts so far. We've been writing in The Post for weeks about the basis Bush strategy: promote the wartime president, and undermine Kerry. We said it would be coming, and now it is here.


Washington, D.C.: Can you compare the mood of the Democratic convention to this one? From outside the dems seemd optimistic and uplifting. Here the general sense seems to be -- be afraid at all times. Kinda scary!

Lucian Perkins: The only similarity between the two conventions is that the delegates and supporters attending are greatly energized. But their is a stark contrast in the mood and the tone of the Democratic and Republican Convention. Last night speeches further accentuated that contrast. I'm very curious how this will play outside the halls here.


Washington, D.C.: People are complaining about Miller's negativity but they don't seem to recall Al Sharpton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, which was 100 percent vitriolic demagoguery. Why the double standard?

I don't begrudge any speaker's righteous indignation, I just wish the standards were applied evenly.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. You know, one problem is that one man's demogoguery is another woman's common sense--these are subjective terms, so any attempt to apply "an equal standard" is doomed, I think, to fail.


North of Hollywood, Calif.: To the British writers point, while we may try and separate church and state, we also spend a good deal of time worshipping at the feet of false idols.

Arnold Schwarzegger's speech yesterday shows once again how America is gaga for Hollywood-style politicians whose sharp one-liners and Rambo (or in his case Conan)-like intensity belies a hedonistic, selfish personality.

Our media is falling into the same personality driven trap... just turn on cable TV and look for someone who's not sharpening their rhetoric.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting.


Detroit, Mich.: Thank God for the Bush/Cheney camp that the Bush twins speech is being overshadowed and forgotten after the Miller/Cheney speeches. The twins were simply awful and such a poor respresentation of the 20-something crowd. I can't believe the pro-family conservatives are supporting Bush after the antics of his daughters, they certainly do not embody the proper upbringings of a compassionate conservative, that's for sure!

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting.


Anonymous: I wish you could get a Republican to answer this question.

During the Democratic Convention, though there were, of course, policy disagreements, there was little, if any Bush-bashing. Republicans had said they hoped it would be that way and it was. Democrats called a truce on the personal attacks against Bush during their convention.

Yet, the Republicans have turned their convention into 24/7 Kerry-bashing. The amount of invective and character assassination is incredible. If they want to disagree with Kerry's polices, I'm fine with that.

But when they go around wearing purple-heart bandaids, that not only mocks Kerry's brave service. It mocks ALL Vietnam veterans who EARNED purple hearts.

It seems those who have NEVER seen the horrors of combat like to belittle those who have.

Are Republicans unable to discuss policy? Is all they can do is to belittle those who have actually seen the tragedies of war?

I'm a veteran and I'm incensed. True, I was for Kerry before, but this attack on Kerry and veterans has made me even MORE for Kerry.

(I'm sorry to have been so long.)

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for posting. Save your question for one of the many Republican guests on washingtonpost.com chats. Maybe we can post a few upcoming ones right here...


Alexandria, Va.: Has any speaker during the convention mentioned Osama bin Laden's name? I find it interesting that 9-11 has been envoked on a regular basis, yet no mention appears to have been made of the man responsible, as far as I can tell.

Robert G. Kaiser: I haven't heard it mentioned.


Austin, Tex.: Re Zell Miller's speech. I recall that after the 2002 elections, some pundits were saying that the Republicans were on their way toward the status of a national party, with the Democrats being relegated to the political wilderness for -- perhaps -- decades.

But given Bush's policies and the constituency toward which he panders, I was convinced that the Republican party was actually marginilizing itself, become a party principly of Southern evangelicals. Sort of like a modern-day version of the Know Nothings.

After seeing Miller's speech last night, I'm convinced that I was correct. He conveyed the same anger and intolerance that was the trademark of segregationists and Dixiecrats of 40 years ago.

Your thoughts, please.

Robert G. Kaiser: My thought is yours is an interesting comment, and I'm pleased to be able to post it here.


Alexandria, Va.: Several people have said to me today that they have never seen anything like Zell Miller's speech last night. That just proves that they're too young to remember George Wallace. The same snarling, hate filled, hyperbolic screed, delivered without a touch of humanity or humor. This is a bitter guy, and he's the public face of the RNC?

Robert G. Kaiser: We have a lot of comments like yours today. I'll be intrigued to see how the Miller speech plays out over time. I gather Miller and Chris Matthews got into quite a tiff on the air last night, but I missed it; after this chat I'm going to try to find out what happened.


Bethesda, Md.: It strikes me that with two completely choreographed conventions, we are moving from being a nation of political participants to a nation of passive observers, much like a game-show audience. I also think that both parties incorrectly assume that this micro-management will actually help them control the ultimate outcome. What do you think? My observation is that the electorate will still be unpredictable, like the exact track of Hurricane Charley or Frances, but that the information we are being fed is farther and farther from truth and policy and closer to spin and performance points.

Robert G. Kaiser: Party conventions ought not to be able to guide or govern the behavior of American citizens, should they? My sense is the conventions are indeed choreographed and designed for a nation of couch potatoes, but why can't the potatoes get up and go out, get involved, participate themselves?


New York, N.Y.: To the commenter who compared Zell to Al Sharpton, I think it's appropriate to remember that Zell was the RNC KEYNOTE speaker. Al Sharpton was given a few minutes very early in the night as a courtesy. He was intentionally not scheduled at a time where a lot of people would hear him. Zell was invited to give one of the most prestigious speeches of the convention in prime time. There's no comparison.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.


Chicago, Ill.: Is it just me, or are the networks zooming in on a minority in the audience, say, every 10 seconds of their coverage? To watch the RNC, one would think that the party is made up of elderly African-American women, and Latino men -- which, of course, replicates the exact ethinc composition of the US. Congress, not to mention the executive branch. My question, you ask?

My question is, why are the networks so eager to show the RNC as a diverse gathering of minds? I would call the Republican Party many things (most of them not good), but to call it diverse -- or inclusive -- is an absolute joke. And, I mean that in the most compassionate way possible.

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's another question about diversity. Again, read the story linked to above for a full account of how diverse this convention really is


Bowie, Md.: From a tactics standpoint, isn't having a Democrat deliver the most vitrolic speech of the convention a political coup of the highest magnitude?

Robert G. Kaiser: I doubt it, but who knows?


Boston, Mass.: Why do you think so much of this election coverage (certainly more on television, but among print journalism, too) is focused on procedure this year? It seemed like we started down that road in 2000 and won't be turning back anytime soon. By this I mean the constant lobbing back and forth of each campaign's "strategies" and HOW people respond to one another rather than what they actually say. For example, last night on Hardball, the gentleman sitting to the right of Joe Scarborough mentioned that they could "talk about what Dick Cheney said" but that it's more interesting to discuss the manner and tenor in which he said it. Why AREN'T we focusing more on the specifics rather than the 'strategeries?'
(As a shameless plug for the Washington Post, I think you are one of the few outlets who does focus on content -- especially the article about Rudy taking so many of his remarks out of context).

Robert G. Kaiser: this is a disease in the electronic media that I fear is incurable. It has been going on a lot longer than since 2000--you must be young! Substance scares too many television journalists, is my sad conclusion. Or maybe it's their bosses it scares. Anyhow, process does win out much too often for my taste, too.


Eugene, Ore.: How diverse are the Southern delegations? Are there any members of minority groups in any of them?

Robert G. Kaiser: I saw a number of black faces at the Alabama breakfast Lucian and I went to yesterday (see our diary entry). And there are other nonwhites in other southern delegations. Not a vast number, however.


Anonymous: Exactly how many minorities are delegates to the Republican convention?

Robert G. Kaiser: We had a very good story on this subject yesterday, which I hope we can link to here. The Republicans are getting more diverse, albeit slowly. They are still more than 80 percent white, but the change, as this story shows, is significant.

washingtonpost.com: Grand Old Party Showcases Its New Diversity (Post, Sept. 1)


New York, N.Y.: A little upfront flattery first -- Kudos to the folks who have put together your diary. It's a great piece.

At the Democratic convention, Ron Reagan was very cautious not to sound partisan and stayed to the science of stem-cell research. Last night, Zell Miller's speech was a very angry rant. If he were Howard Dean, the media would be calling for medical help. I wonder if anyone can keep Zell Miller's family safe?

As for last night was it "Building a Safer World and a More Hopeful America" or something a little less optimistic?

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for posting.


Unfortunately in a Red State--with the Blue-State Blues: Robert Kaiser,
In your book, you frequently use the term "accountability reporting." Please explain how that term applies to both the DNC and RNC this year?

Robert G. Kaiser: Accountability reporting is journalism that holds the powerful individuals and institutions in America accountable for the ways they use their power and influence. Dana Milbank's piece today, linked to above, is a good example of accountability reporting applied to a convention.


Tallahassee, Fla.: All I read in the media is how Zell called Kerry a 'hero' and is a flip flopper and an "angry old man". Why is it that no one ever considers that 9/11 changed things and that he is speaking his mind as he sees fit? I even see muck being drug up on him that he is a segregationist, when he led the fight against the confederate flag! All I'm asking for is equal time -- when writing a story journalists should include both views instead of trying to slant their coverage. (R)nold and Zell gave two of the best speeches I have ever seen.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for sharing your view.


Chicago, Ill.: I actually thought that Zell Miller's rant helped to make Vice_president Cheney's negative tone a little more comfortable.

I chimed in earlier this week about all the Hollywood Celebs at the convention being over 50. Today, I read that Karen Hughes wrote the Bush twins speech.

Is there anyone under 50 who talks to younger Americans (like Obama did for the Democrats, or the young girl who suggested Cheney needed a time-out), or is the Republican Party entering its golden years?

Robert G. Kaiser: Look at my Convention Diary entry about the College Republlicans I met at a party here two nights ago. They were an attractive, intelligent, engaged group of young people, fully in touch with their generation as far as I could see. I sense the GOP has done a good job mobilizing young people to their cause; you may be a Democrat guilty of wishful thinking. But I may be making an unfair accusation! Anyhow, thanks for taking part in the discussion.


San Antonio, Tex.: Any idea how the southern delegations are responding to Zell's speech? Post-delivery, are there different reactions to Miller from different areas of the country, as represented by the RNC convention-goers?

Robert G. Kaiser: very good question, but I don't know the answer. I will pass it on to my colleagues here.


Winter Park, Fla.: Re: A previous poster's point that Al Sharpton's speech was just as demagogic as Zell Miller's -- I think one difference that may resonate in people's minds is that there's sort of an expectation already in place that Sharpton will speak that way, while Miller is a sitting Senator, which probably places people's expectations of what he says a bit higher (if that's the right word to use).

Robert G. Kaiser: I think higher is the right word to use, and thank you for posting.


Ottawa, Canada: Having watched both conventions, it seems to me that the major difference between the two parties is that the Democratic speakers were talking to the television audience and not the delegates in front of them. The Republicans, on the other hand, seem to be playing more to the crowd in front of them and are far less concerned about what is seen by the television audience. Do you agree?

Lucian Perkins: Today the conventions are made for TV. So the fact that the Republicans would be playing to the crowd and not to the TV audience doesn't make a lot of sense. But I can't help but think that there is something to your observation.


Arlington, Va.: Barack Obama, Zell Miller -- compare and contrast.

Robert G. Kaiser: Is that an exam question for me? One is young, one is quite old; one is at the beginning of what could be quite a political career, the other is at the end of his public service; one shows the optimism of youth and ambition; the other shows, or showed last night, remarkable anger and bitterness at the end of a very long run in office. At the same time, Obama is a relatively inexperienced newcomer, whose conclusions about the world are not yet tested against experience. Miller is an old hand who has seen a lot, and been around, and -- as Dale Russakoff reported yesterday (link above)-- has been on many sides of the issues over the years, so much so that for some Georgians his nickname was Zig Zag Zell.

Send me my grade privately, please.


Alexandria, Va.: Zell Miller's speech brought to mind another Southern Democrat... former President Jimmy Carter lambasting the Bush administration last month.

Robert G. Kaiser: I wonder how many others made that comparison?


Washington, D.C.: How is New York holding up to the protests, security, GOP, etc.?

Lucian Perkins: New York is used to this kind of stuff. As a city, they've seen it all-well almost everything, this is their first GOP convention.


Los Angeles, Calif.: While Miller's speech was certainly aggressive, in comparison to some the rhetoric of late from Al Gore, Howard Dean, etc... wouldn't you agree that the tone while sharp, was no more sharp than that coming from the left?

Robert G. Kaiser: again, I think any such comparisons are entirely subjective; I know no way to make them objectively, or scientifically. The real question is, did Miller's speech persuade any Kerry voters to change to Bush, or persuade any undecideds to go to kerry, or have any other palpable effect on the outcome of the election? And I have no idea what the answer to that might be.


Washington, D.C.: Do you feel like there has been more "news" at this convention than in Boston? Is that a good or bad thing for the GOP?

Robert G. Kaiser: Have to think about that, but my first reaction is the quantity of news was very small, and about the same, at both conventions. So far.


Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks to all for taking part today. We'll be back tomorrow for a final convention-week chat at noon EDT. Meantime, if you have any questions, comments or requests, e-mail them to us at conventiondiary@washingtonpost.com.


Alexandria, Va.: Rumors on the message boards are that the former Lt. Govenor of Texas that helped George W. Bush get into the National Guard has taped an interview for "60 Minutes" which supposedly will air a week from Sunday.

By most accounts, the media, especially cable, over-played the Swift Boat story (Especially given the meager $200k ad buy they made)

So do you think the media will devote any significant time to this story, or will the Swift Boat hangover mean a reluctance to pursue this story?

Robert G. Kaiser: His name is Barnes, I believe, and we had a story in The Post in the last week about his feeling that he had made a terrible mistake helping not only Bush but the sons of a number of other Texans avoid combat in Vietnam by getting them places in the Texas air national guard. Maybe we can link to it here, or post a link in tomorrow's chat since it's time fo rus to sign off.


Washington, D.C.: Not a question, but a comment: For everyone who is angry about the "bitter, divisive tone" of Zell Miller's convention speech
last night, I say "Welcome to the club." That is exactly how every conservative/republican/Bush supporter has felt for the last ten months as every democratic candidate or supporter has directed the same kind of inflammatory accusations at Bush.

Robert G. Kaiser: thanks for the comment.


washingtonpost.com: Democrat 'Ashamed' He Helped Bush (Post, Aug. 29)


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