I’m off-topic again, and late to boot. This is about yesterday, but I didn’t get a chance to post it before this.
RNC report from Minneapolis-St. Paul
September 2, 2008
Yesterday we had nothing to do after the breakfast because everything was canceled. It turned out that Laura Bush and Cindy McCain spoke in the evening, but it was just about the hurricane relief efforts and we didn’t go. In the evening we met a woman from Alaska who was there with her 20-year-old homeschooled daughter, a page at the convention. She said everyone was amazed when Palin was picked. Nobody has said anything negative yet about Bristol’s pregnancy, but people have said a lot about the media.
This morning we went to the breakfast for the Texas delegation, which was a lot bigger than the Arkansas one. Governor Rick Perry had stayed in Texas, so he spoke over the phone. John McCain’s mother then said a few words. She is 96 and just remarkable. She seems to have all her marbles, stands up straight and doesn’t wear glasses. She doesn’t look a day older than 80.
Mike Huckabee was the next speaker. When the group of us had entered the room the delegation had given him a standing ovation, and they reacted like that to almost everything he uttered. He’s a good speaker, no question about it, with ready jokes. The biggest ovations came when he said anything about Sarah Palin. People are really excited about her. He pointed out (or claimed) that Palin got more votes for mayor of Wasilla than Joe Biden got in two quests for the presidency.
Gary Bauer gave a stemwinder. His best line, commenting on the tallness of the Texans in the room (He’s about 5 foot five at most): “When I first went to Washington I was six foot three. And this is all that’s left of me.” He said the Republicans have put together a really good platform. You know it’s good because the media aren’t talking about it.
Congressman Henry Bonilla spoke; nothing remarkable, but he is a nice guy. He was in the car with us going and coming. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, a Texan, was next. She said she was the first mother with a child to have her job, so she identifies with Gov. Palin.
Jim was up next and gave pretty much the same speech as yesterday. He added a part at the beginning about Obama being embarrassed because Americans don’t speak foreign languages. He then greeted the crowed in German, Spanish, French and Hebrew. Again there was a strong reaction to his speech and lots of people had their picture taken with him.
Our driver took us back along the scenic route along the Mississippi river. I’m at the Hilton now, in the Friends and Family room. There are a lot of campaign people here – young folks, doing things on their phones and their laptops. Some of them take care of us – Regan Wilson, who is in charge of vets, Scott Gunn, his deputy, who arranges things for us, and Nick Garcia, who is our minder when we go to the breakfasts.
The evening session had a few exciting moments surrounded by hours of tedium. The theme is Country Above Self, or Above All, or above something. (Actually, Country First.) This was in lights around the stadium. There were cards on the delegates’ chairs saying Service in colors and typeface that reminded me of a Hershey bar.
We had reserved seats in the level above the ring of media. We were in the first row. But Jim was supposed at 6:30 to go to a room somewhere with the POWs who were there so they could go somewhere in the place to be recognized at 8:00. And there was hardly a soul in our section so the air conditioning blew through like a winter gale with no body heat to mitigate it. So another wife and I went up to the top of our section where there were stools and a kind of bar at the back row. It was marginally warmer.
I’ve never watched a convention evening all the way through, so I had no idea how silly it could be. Unknown person after unknown person took the stage, one to tell us about a foundation she had started to renovate houses for poor people, another to tell us about his foundation to help do the work for farmers who had personal crises, yet another to tell us about her rare blood disease and how it made her a better person – and yet more whom I can’t remember. An unknown singer-songwriter belted out a couple of songs whose words were incomprehensible, so I have no idea if they had anything to do with the convention or John McCain.
A couple of preachers said words about God and character and other things. One of them ended with a prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, which was more than the Episcopalian priest who gave the invocation managed to do.
There were videos about past Republican presidents – Teddy Roosevelt, who approved of service and putting one’s country ahead of oneself, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and especially Ronald Reagan, whose segment elicited great applause and cheers. I wondered what Bush the elder thought about that; he and Barbara were sitting near Cindy McCain. I don’t think that Bush ever thought much of Ronald Reagan. At any rate he fired all of Reagan’s employees on the day before his inauguration, and never hired any that I know of. No, he hired Peggy Noonan.
John McCain’s great friend and advisor, Orson Swindle, spoke about vets and service. He recognized the several Medal of Honor recipients in the audience, and then the big moment for which Jim had been absent for a couple of hours – recognizing that there were some number of John McCain’s fellow POWs there. A shot of the couple of rows of men appeared on the screen for a few seconds – I couldn’t make out Jim – and that was that. Jim and his friend came back upstairs.
And there were the speakers we wanted to hear – Laura Bush, and President Bush on video, way larger than life on the big screen; Fred Thompson, who gave the crowd what we were looking for, some trenchant words of criticism of Barack Obama. President Bush had said John McCain would not be intimidated by the angry left. Later I saw some Democrats on CNN comment with horror on his use of the words “angry left” and express doubt that anybody would know what he meant. The crowd at the convention knew what he meant.
We left after Fred Thompson, before Joe Lieberman. A guy who came back on the shuttle bus with us said he talked about independents and Democrats voting for McCain. He said that when Lieberman talked about unity you could have heard a cricket chirp. That’s good, since I hate unity. That’s just another way to describe the strong overpowering the weak.
I’m sure I am forgetting someone important. The TV will remind me.
I was overstuffed with the great good of serving others, above all other goods. I longed for an entrepreneur to be honored, or for the president of Shell Oil to be introduced to tell the audience how his company has discovered how to get the oil out of the shale cheaply. I felt my long-lost interest in Ayn Rand surfacing and had a strange urge to re-read The Fountainhead. Or, alternatively, to sit down and finish reading my book on Hildegarde Von Bingen.
The guy on the shuttle bus is running for auditor of Rockford, Illinois. We had a beer with him. It is one of the benefits of being married to Jim that he attracts fans who buy him beers and are thrilled to be sitting talking to someone who not only was in prison with John McCain but worked for Ronald Reagan. We tell our war stories. I guess it’s like tribal elders passing on the lore.