I find it difficult to understand The Post's criticism of the Republican Midwest Leadership Conference in Grand Rapids as a "cattle show" (editorial, June 26). What about the well-attended (SRO) business sessions? the camaraderie? the excitement?
The press continually asked these party leaders questions about presidential politics. It wasn't on our agenda. The Post's fellow industry persons kept bringing it up. We didn't! Then, when it was over, The Post said: "Too early for presidential politics."
We did not have the "potential" presidential candidates on the same dais or the same panel. We did not allow "fund-raising for presidential political activities" by any of the "potential" candidates, and we had very substantive business sessions. We all learned how to be more effective in the political arena.
Furthermore, we chose not to release the results of an independently devised questionnaire on presidential preference. Though it would have given our conference worldwide attention, I felt it would take away from the "substantive" portion of our meeting and make it a cattle show. It was my decision (obviously a wasted one).
It was very difficult trying to avoid the inevitable "cattle show" criticism, but I thought we did a damned good job. In fact, if we had done a "show," we could have received much more publicity for Grand Rapids and for the Midwest Caucus (and the Rust Belt needs it), but we felt it not in the best interest of our party-building activity.
How fast the press forgets. Two or three years ago no one would have come to Michigan to attend a meeting to listen to what Republican Party leaders had to say. Now they all came, and we're criticized for it. Maybe they realized it's the "Must Belt" instead of the Rust Belt.
If the early date caused The Post concern, remember that these leadership conferences are always held in the "off" election year because there are too many activities pertaining to congressional, senatorial and statewide races in the even-numbered years. So, be prepared: there will be other conferences in 1987.
The question "why was the Midwest conference so early?" can easily be answered. We polled the caucus. "Anything but football season," they said. The last two Midwest Leadership Conferences -- scheduled for the fall -- had failed. Try to put together a weekend during football season when such states as Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska are involved. Be realistic -- it's impossible. It was my idea to try June.
One could ask, "Then why wasn't it later in the summer?" That can also be easily answered by the fact that we have fewer weeks of summer in the northern states. People would rather spend that time with their families. Maybe the Great Lakes states enjoy their lakes in the summer.
It's a simple equation. I was to chair the event and wanted it in Grand Rapids. The dates fit. We tried it. We originally targeted for 200 attendees and 150 rooms. We ended up with over 700 attendees and two hotels sold out. So it worked!
We thought we did a very good job of staying away from presidential politics until we read The Post.