Yes, the one and only true Mormon blog managed to sneak a correspondent into the RNC this past week. Yours truly spent a couple of memorable days sitting in Madison Square Garden, with press credentials around my neck, smiling politely and thinking…”whatever you do, don’t let anyone know you’re a Democrat.” I was planning on filing blow by blow descriptions of the Convention, but didn’t quite manage to become cyber-enabled in New York. (Thus explaining one reason that I’m a fake reporter instead of a real reporter). So, you’ll have to settle for my end of the week overall impressions.
1. I’m apparently easily star struck. Here’s a list of people that I stared at from an embarressingly close distance: Don King, Peter Jennings, Brooks and Dunn, Some Christian Rock Band with Really Really Hot Guys (not their actual name), Sarah Evans, Larry King, George H.W. Bush, Anderson Cooper, some guy from ABC news with a fake tan, and the very best…..Triumph the Comic Insult Dog WHO WAS FILMING RIGHT BEHIND MY CHAIR!!!! Oh, and Zell Miller, which leads me to point number two….
2. Zell Miller scared me. Not the Republicans though, they loved him. Which scared me too. Here’s the story. I finagled (read, “politely asked for”) a floor pass, pushed my way to the front of the floor to watch Sarah Evans up close, and then Zell Miller started talking, so I decided to stay. And then people started shrieking like banshees all around me, and pressing in closer, and I started feeling really claustrophobic…..which probably heightened my sense of fear. But really, just his talk kind of scared me. I wanted to shout out logical phrases (like: “none of this makes sense unless you can prove a connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, which you can’t!”) refuting his reactionary rant, but that sure didn’t seem wise. So I just made my way back to the press section wishing that I had taken at least one other Democrat in my travel group–someone that could share my wide-eyed look of trepidation. Who knew that Chris Matthews would soon be my wide-eyed ally, lending some credibility to my fear….
3. Old people who are Republicans dress up in really funny hats, and you can laugh at them behind their backs, and even take their pictures, and they like it!
4. The audience reacted very differently to Cheney and Bush. Cheney was just another speaker. Didn’t register nearly as much applause as his new buddy Zell. At some points, I think the audience was just being polite in it’s reaction to Cheney. Bush, on the other hand, was a rock star– surrounded by screaming masses of old ladies in funny hats–audience chanting and waving signs as cued by the young Republicans sitting behind the stage. They LOVED his self deprecating jokes, they LOVED his smirky disses on Kerry, and they LOVED when he talked like the commander in chief. Here is something they didn’t love though, about either Bush or Cheney: domestic policy. Cheney got in about two lines. I think education and health care. Barely a smattering of polite applause. Bush hit it a little more. Again, even for the Elvis of the Republican party, barely polite applause. The Republicans were not interested in domestic policy. Nothing nada. They are counting on the traditional strength of the Republican Party–national security–and are, I suppose, hoping that people don’t dig too deeply into the logic or morality of this administration’s choices. Whether this means that the Democrats should concentrate on pointing out the rash and ultimately harmful security actions of this administration, or whether they should concentrate on the economy and domestic issues, I don’t know. But it was loud and clear what the Republicans were relying on, to the exclusion of any other issues.
5. If I wanted to rip off my dress and reveal my “pink slip” underneath (clever clever) while shouting anti-Bush slogans, I too could have been carted off by two amazingly buff security guards like the woman in the section next to me. But it didn’t so much seem worth it.
6. The convention was surprisingly negative. I heard a pundit say that they counted a TOTAL of five references to President Bush in the entire Democratic Convention. In Cheney’s speech alone, there were dozens. And many of the other speeches had the same tone. They were clearly winding up for a dirty campaign, and the audience LOVED IT. I think we’re in for a very long 60 days.
7. Mitt Romney was a disappointment–much to my surprise. He was by far, and I think to his credit, the most polite of the “bash Kerry” speakers. But, there was no fire, no electricity, no inspiration. If he was hoping to use this as his entrance into the national Republican limelight, I think it was a failure.
8. As Jen mentioned, there were policemen everywhere. But rather than seeming menacing, they were pretty much just hanging out. A couple of them cat-called my roommate and I. Which was tres amusant. I never felt threatened, though. Although, I imagine this had something to do with the fact that I was wearing press credentials, and walking in the midst of the Republican crowd. The only problem I ever had was after my friend and I went down to the Media Welcome Center to grab some dinner. We had left our picture i.d.’s up under our chairs in the arena. The security guards didn’t want to let us back in. It quickly became clear to me that they were worried that we were protestors with slogans written on our underwear, and for a brief moment I was worried I was going to have to undress in the middle of a metal detector line to prove that rather than a protestor I was just a nice Mormon girl–thereby bringing to life a recurring nightmare I’ve had since junior high. Fortunately, some sweet smiles and polite assurances that we were not protestors eventually got us back into the Convention. All in all it taught me valuable lesson. Next time I pretend to be a reporter, I shouldn’t expect to get free food out of it.