Frieda Wallison: Conventional wisdom
September 4, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS What a difference a day makes. The Republican National Convention, where I am an alternate delegate from Colorado, got into full swing Tuesday evening, once it was clear that Hurricane Gustav had subsided and not caused the amount of devastation that had been a possibility the day before.The convention venue was packed, excitement filled the air, hand-held campaign signs were everywhere to be seen (in contrast to the night before), and members of the media were prowling the convention floor for pictures and interviews, providing a sense of nonstop activity. This sense was augmented by live jazz and rock music, with many delegates dancing in the aisle, and by a spirited recording of the golden oldie Johnny Be Good.Every time a VIP arrived, all attention turned to that event, the crowd erupted in standing ovations, cameras flashed all over the arena, and the proceedings came to a halt. This occurred when Cindy McCain entered the VIP box with her mother-in-law, John McCains 96-year old mother, Roberta, and the McCains daughter, Brigitte, and when George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush joined them. I can see it all from my perch a few rows above the box.Then there were the speeches, many delivered by people who know John McCain well but who themselves are not well-known, such as the godfather of the McCains son, Jimmy Tommy Espinoza from Arizona, whose grandfather was an immigrant to the United States from Mexico and Wes Gullet, a former McCain aide and their adopted daughter Nicky. The Gullets were unable to have children of their own and adopted Nicky from one of Mother Teresas Bangladesh orphanages. Nicky was brought to the United States by Cindy McCain at the same time she brought home Brigitte from the same orphanage. This speech, in particular, was a moving personal testimonial to the McCains.The real meat of the evening were speeches by Fred Thompson, the former U.S. senator from Tennessee and one of McCains opponents in the Republican primaries this year, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent Democrat who has steadfastly supported McCains candidacy for president. Its hard to imagine that at roughly this time eight years ago, Lieberman was the Democratic candidate for vice president on the Gore-Lieberman ticket. The senator called for unity for the sake of the country, not unity for the sake of a party, and that message resonated throughout the hall. Both the Thompson and Lieberman speeches electrified the crowd and were interrupted numerous times by lengthy applause.The people and proceedings Tuesday night furnished the excitement; the convention decor itself is much simpler than what we saw at the Democratic convention in Denver. The stage is dominated by an enormous high-definition television screen, said to be the largest in the world (Ripleys will, I assume, verify that at a later date). The pictures on the screen are of amazing clarity and brightness, and form an impressive backdrop for the speakers at the podium just in front of the screen. The screen actually dwarfs the speakers, but has the effect of amplifying the message the speakers are trying to deliver.Lest the reader think that all of our time in Minneapolis is taken up with politics, I spent a few hours Tuesday, along with many others, at the Minneapolis Convention Center (not to be confused with the Xcel Center in St. Paul where the Republican Convention is taking place) packing caregivers kits to send to Africa. This activity was sponsored by WorldVision and the ONE Campaign, and was also a feature at the Democratic convention. Between the two conventions, several thousand kits, including antibacterial soap, petroleum jelly, washcloths, flashlights and batteries, off-the-shelf medicines and other items, have now been assembled and are on their way to Africa.The evening sessions are, in fact, only a small part of the activities taking place during the convention. There are numerous panel discussions and parties, parties, parties. Our delegation breakfasts have turned out to be highlights. Yesterday, Laura Bush joined our Western States delegation breakfast (at Brits Pub in downtown Minneapolis, festooned with Union Jacks), and we were able to see and hear her up close. Wednesday morning, Karl Rove spoke at the Colorado delegation breakfast for half an hour an unheard of amount of time for him to devote to a single group during the frenzy of convention week. Hes a terrific speaker and kept us all enthralled for the entire time he was with us. I suspect the amount of attention we as a delegation received Wednesday morning and have been receiving in Minneapolis has a lot to do with Colorados importance as a swing state in the general election. However, in Roves case he also has many connections to Colorado, including a father who graduated from the Colorado School of Mines, his birth in Colorado and the fact that one of his aides in the White House is now the executive director of the Colorado Republican Party, a terrific guy who Rove ribbed mercilessly this morning. The big excitement for Wednesday evenings session of the convention is Sarah Palins speech. More to report.
Frieda Wallison is a resident of Old Snowmass and an alternate delegate at the Republican National Convention.