The GOP has tapped two of its biggest political pop stars, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, to draw in viewers for Monday night's kick-off of a convention intended to showcase President Bush's leadership since the terrorist attacks that toppled the World Trade Center here nearly three years ago.

Advance excerpts of McCain's and Giuliani's speeches "indicate both men will concentrate on Sept. 11," White House correspondent Dana Milbank | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45145-2004Aug29.html reported this morning in an article setting up the convention's first night of speeches.

But McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation." | http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/08/29/ftn/main639234.shtml Sunday that the bigger challenge will be "to keep people from punching the channel changer."

Television viewers will have a lot of other choices. The three major broadcast networks, which plan to devote three hours each to the convention here this week, chose to bypass Monday night's proceedings all together.

So instead of speeches by two of the Republican Party's leading moderate voices and best-known speakers, ABC will carry a pre-season matchup between Tennessee and Dallas on "Monday Night Football," NBC offers episodes of "Fear Factor" and "Last Comic Standing," and CBS will have episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "CSI: Miami."

Having only offered three hours of coverage to last month's Democratic convention in Boston, it wouldn't be fair -- in the Federal Communications Commission sense of the word -- to offer more from the Republican gathering in NYC. (The Museum of Broadcast Communication | http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/F/htmlF/fairnessdoct/fairnessdoct.htm explains the FCC's "fairness doctrine," which mostly exists now as a policy maintained by broadcasters instead of as a matter of government law or regulation.)

In Boston, the commercial networks skipped the Tuesday night proceedings. That meant viewers had to turn to public television, cable or the Internet to see and hear the Democratic keynote address -- a much-discussed stem-winder by Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama. The same is the case for McCain and Giuliani's addresses Monday night. C-SPAN plans to carry gavel-to-gavel coverage, as does ABC News Now (the network's new online video service) and other news Web sites -- including washingtonpost.com | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/mmedia/postwide1.htm. The three 24-hour cable news networks -- Fox News, CNN and MSNBC -- also plan coverage intercut with some of their usual primetime offerings. PBS will be on the air, too, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

But with 15,000 journalists credentialed to cover Bush's renomination, there will be no shortage of coverage.

Here are highlights of Monday night's TV news plans | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45202-2004Aug29.html, a complete lineup of speakers | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/shoulders/rnc_fullschedule.html -- and a few alternative TV offerings | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45426-2004Aug29.html from the big-three broadcasters.

McCain, whose convention role was examined by The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45325-2004Aug29.html in Monday's Style section, plans to campaign with Bush on Tuesday and Friday. The Vietnam War hero, who flirted publicly with running on Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry's ticket before becoming a loyal foot solider for his own party's nominee, emphasized to Leibovich that he and Kerry are not really as close as Kerry has sought to portray.

Asked about the relationship, McCain said he and Kerry have "spent a lot of time working on issues, flying to Vietnam, doing a lot of that kind of professional Senate work." But McCain also noted that "I've never socialized with him. I've never been to his house for dinner. We've never invited him out to Arizona. . . . I've been to John's house in Georgetown once, like six or seven years ago. And I've never been invited up to Nantucket. Or Sun City. I mean Sun Valley [Idaho]. Or whatever."

McCain also was interviewed | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36650-2004Aug26.html by reporters and editors at The Post last week.