Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Convention Diary – Tuesday, July 27

The Faithful Correspondent learns that the most important work at the convention is not done on the floor of the Fleet Center or on prime-time TV.

It took me too long to get myself to breakfast . . . .8:15 and nothing was left but juice and a few slices of bacon. So I guess I’m on the Atkins whether I want to be or not. This report will be more on the events of the day than the actual evening convention because we found them more interesting on the whole. Dad had been able to scrounge a “Important Guest” pass for last night and so was able to go with me (to keep me from getting lost?) and sit in the seats up near the roof. He loved seeing it all first hand.

Our Ohio morning breakfasts feature speakers of both local and national political stripe. Because our state is so key to victory we have been assigned one of the better physical locations – the Sheraton is campaign headquarters as well as being where Ohio, Michigan and New Mexico delegates have accomodations. (Very handy when you are sleep-deprived.) But we also are addressed in the mornings as though we are truly important by people who flog us into concerted action to register voters and help them get to the polls. Today we had Henry Cisneros and a video of Madeleine Albright. But more on that tomorrow. As for yesterday, the state representative from Port Clinton, Chris Redfern, opened the meeting. He headed the Edwards campaign in Ohio back when. He introduced to us a veteran who was on Kerry’s Swift Boat and who was there to testify to not only to Kerry’s bravery but his humanity. We all are familiar with the stories of how truly courageous John Kerry was and how his shipmates banded together very early in the campaign out of devotion to him. This one repeated the scary story of being trapped in a narrow canal with fire on both sides. What we haven’t heard as much about it is how Kerry allowed sampans of Viet Namese civilians – people with their grandparents and their young children – to escape. Practice would have had the crews capture the boats and imprison the people in order to question them. Kerry insisted that they be allowed to flee. This veteran said that “his captain” showed great kindness and humanity for someone so young.

After breakfast Dad and I talk to the Congresswoman from Ohio’s 9th District, Toledo’s district and parts east along Lake Erie, Marcy Kaptur. Marcy had been introduced at this morning’s meeting as the longest serving woman in Congress and she’s particular honored for her outstanding work with John Dingell of Michigan to protect the Lake Erie coastline of northern Ohio. Another of Marcy’s causes is to amend NAFTA. She opposed it when it was first proposed and in the meantime she has made it her business to monitor how her district is being affected by it. She traveled to Mexico to examine what has happened to Ohio plants that had been moved there in the last 10 years, their impact on the environment and their working conditions. She distributed a CD to members of the delegation for them to see what she saw and to show it to our friends. Marcy takes care of her district and is re-elected again and again. She is being seriously challenged this year by a candidate chosen by the national Ohio’s Republican Party that is determined to oust representatives like Marcy, but her campaign manager tells us “no problem.” We want her to know how great a candidate [for the Ohio 5th district] our Robin Weirauch is – Marcy recruited her – and to thank her for giving us this chance to make a difference. In turn, she compliments Dad and me for our active support of Robin. She says something that you would never hear in states like Massachusetts, New York or California, “Given your position in life [sic], one would expect you two to be Republicans and uncaring. You deserve praise for your concern for the ordinary person.” Marcy lives and represents a part of Ohio that is conservative so she is used to the fight and unused to finding all sorts of people – not just union members – worried about what happens to the least of us.

At noon we are again late. Having committed to attend the Emily’s List luncheon – expensive tickets, but worth it – we realize that we should have been there at 11:30 and it is now noon. We race to grab a cab and there’s a line a block long waiting for rides to the lunch. Everyone has been in a morning meeting that just got out and are as late as we. When we finally succeed we are happy to share with another woman who tells us she’s from Nebraska, fighting a hopeless battle of course, but winning in the district in which she lives – 90 miles west of Lincoln. Her husband is a trucker and he tells her he drives so she can work for the Democratic Party. The cab driver is Haitian (all cab drivers seem to be Haitian in Boston) and is new to the city. We say “The Convention Center and step on it.” Really. But we fail to tell him the NEW convention center. After the long 20 minute drive to what begins to look familiar, he lets us off, speeds away and we realize that we’re at the FLEET Center, not the new facility on the harbor. Another $12.00 later we reach our destination at, now, 1:15, and just in time to hear the last few minutes of Ellen Malcolm’s introductory remarks. As you no doubt know, Ellen conceived of and nursed Emily’s List into being. It’s goal is to elect pro-choice Democratic women in as many districts in the country as possible. We are seeking money from their PAC to underwrite Robin’s campaign and wanted to support them by attending and being visible at this luncheon. The speakers we heard yesterday were, no other word, fabulous: Barbara Mikulski, Nancy Pelosi, Ann Richards and Jennifer Granholm.

Barbara was the first female Democratic woman elected to the Senate, she’s the grandmother of them all. Her delivery is strong for so tiny a woman and her voice rings out as strongly as would that of a male’s although in a higher pitch. Nancy Pelosi shared with us the tingley feeling she had occupying Tip O’Neil’s office where people, senators, had had to come to ask for favors. Now they come to her. Ann Richards, oh you know her well . . . there’s no one like her and she hasn’t lost any of her wonderful delivery of jokes and serious, passionate ability to persuade. She loves to compare this administration to a bad marriage: he’s cute, he’s sexy, you get married, you find soon that he’s spending all his time on the couch watching football and spending his money on guns and hunting trips, the yard looks like a jungle and there are dismantled cars up on blocks in the driveway. You realize it’s time to divide the sheets and sign the divorce papers.

The last was the best. Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s new governor, is as beautiful as a movie star. Her delivery is so quiet and powerful that the room of 2000 guests was so still you could have heard a pin drop. She evoked the image of The Butterfly Effect, where a butterfly moving its wings over a marsh in . . . . .Texas ? . . . .caused a windstorm to arise in, say, Massachusetts. She described women as coming out of their cocoons and taking flight. We can make a difference. The message to the room from all five women was the same and said so powerfully – women, it’s your time. Go For It. Ellen Malcolm said we want to all announce after the 3rd of November “Mission Accomplished!”

I decided to get to the convention hall later last night so Phil and I had a bite to eat in the bar at the hotel around 6:00. Luckily the man in charge of Ohio’s part in the convention passed by and we were able to get him to find a guest pass for Phil. So Phil got to experience the bus ride, the walk into the convention center, the crowds and confusion – worse last night than the night before – and to see from his perch under the eaves all that transpired down below. My seat this time wasn’t as choice as on Monday night. I sat in a row of four or five vacant seats that quickly filled up with a group that had come in together and talked over and around me throughout the evening. Something of the same was happening behind me. Two men must have thought they were at a cocktail party, so much loud (perforce because of the general din) happy social talk did they exchange. In the row in front of me sat a mother and her 6 (?) year old with his little tricorn hat sporting a “Thank You Howard Dean” button. A puzzlement, but then, a 14 or 15 year-old multi-pierced young woman was seated two rows in front of us. I read in this morning’s paper that there’s a widespread practice of variants of credential exchanging taking place. No kidding. Our leader this morning said, NO MAS. Tonight is serious business, roll call and registration of delegates and we must be there NO LATER THAN 4:00 – the fire marshalls are going to lock the doors!

The speakers last night were from the more liberal side of the party, knowing, I read, that with no TV coverage, the party can feel free to give a nod to the more liberal wing who love hearing Dick Gebhardt, Tom Daschle, Carol Mosely Braun, and Howard Dean lash the team. Howard Dean was particularly interesting in that he received a huge, extended, standing ovation which he was reluctant to quell. For someone there to endorse the candidate he seemed to love feeling as though he were the candidate and indeed, he said, “I was hoping for a reception like this but on Thursday night” – heh, heh. Other memorable things he said were: “We must restore a world leader to the world.” “We won’t be shouted down by those who carry a banner of false patriotism.” “We will soon be proud to be Democrats in states like Mississippi, Oklahoma and TEXAS!!” – big cheer. He was strong and very forthright. Less strong was Christie Vilsack, the Iowa governor’s wife who first endorsed John Kerry, giving her husband permission to abandon his support of Gephardt. She was all but inaudible, poor dear.

By cell phone Dad and I decided to exit, the time being now 10:20 and we wanted to get back to our room so we could watch the coverage of Barack Obama. As it turned out we watched him on one of the TV monitors in the hallway near the concession stands at the arena. A crowd of people about 10 deep gathered around the set. His message was “E Pluribus Unum . . .we are ONE nation, not red and blue states or one religion or another or gay or straight.” There’s no doubt that he’s a star. Sadly, a black woman who was on the escalator toward the exit of the building at the same time we were, muttered, “He’s wonderful, but I hope they don’t destroy him . .” I thought of that remark this morning as I listened to Henry Cisneros, the former “Bright Star” of the early 90’s. And I worry for John Edwards.

We watched Teresa Heinz Kerry on our room TV and were so proud of her and pleased at her reception, at the warmth of her affection for her sons. I heard someone this morning say that the audience in the hall didn’t know when to applaud, that her delivery was confusing. Oh . . . .bosh! We loved her and I bought a pin this morning after breakfast that reads “SHOVE IT . . . .GEORGE W.” I’m wearing it proudly.