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Inside Politics

Blog, Day 3: Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Editor's Note: Follow all the action at the 2004 Republican National Convention with CNN correspondents, anchors, analysts and guests on this daily Weblog. All times are Eastern Daylight.

One-two political punch


Posted: 11:29 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Vice President Dick Cheney's address tonight and the keynote speech by Democratic Sen. Zell Miller were both remarkable in their own way, according to CNN's Jeffrey Toobin.

"That is the single most negative speech I have ever heard at a political convention," Toobin said of Miller's speech. "An all-out, bombs away attack on John Kerry. Whether people want to hear that, I don't know. But I've never heard anything like it. Few people will be persuaded by that rhetoric, but it will charge up the troops.

"Cheney has an unusual demeanor for a politician," Toobin continued. "He is low-key in a really profound way. I counted two sentences about domestic policy and about 40 minutes about terror and Iraq. That's a bet that the public shares those priorities. I don't know if it's right or not."

With President Bush's speech set to cap the convention on Thursday, Toobin said he already had a ominous prediction of the coming two months before Election Day.

"Starting Monday, we're going to see this campaign at a new level of negativity and hostility and combat that will make the summer look like a student council election," Toobin said.


Posted: 11:08 p.m. ET
From Sasha Johnson, CNN

A couple of Florida delegates held up "Jeb '08" signs -- referring to the Florida governor (and the president's brother) -- when Zell Miller came out. A convention worker in a yellow "W '04" hat and some other Florida delegates quickly pushed them down and confiscated the signs. They have been rushed off the floor.

One delegate told me the signs were "inappropriate" and "Jeb didn't authorize them. ... He wouldn't want that."

[Postscript, 11:30 p.m.: Johnson adds that a CNN staffer had gotten ahold of a "Jeb '08" sign, but "An angry Florida delegate just stole our Jeb sign ... and ran away." CNN's Candy Crowley observed that the delegate "literally wrestled him for it."]

[Second postscript, 11:43 p.m.: The delegate may have been a floor whip, the CNN staffers think.]

Delegate fads

Posted: 10:53 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

- During Vice President Dick Cheney's speech, every reference to a John Kerry change of mind receives the cheer "flip-flop, flip-flop" as delegates move flip-flop footwear on their hands.

- The soul and funk music played at breaks is stirring a number of delegates -- particularly one unidentified gentleman seen on monitors who can't seem to resist the urge to dance. Poorly.

Zell, loudly

Posted: 10:20 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Zell Miller's fiery speech earned some of the loudest applause of the convention -- particularly when he said that few have "been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two Senators from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry."

Madison Square Garden is a pretty good echo chamber, and the sound of applause after Miller's red-meat lines managed to outdo even the noisy guitar clang of Brooks and Dunn, who performed earlier.

Black on Zell and the twins

Posted: 10:11 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Comedy Central rant king Lewis Black went off on when we asked him about Sen. Zell Miller -- a Democrat -- speaking at the RNC. Then he went off on the Bush twins act from Tuesday night.

- "Zell Miller, I mean look, to be a Democrat is dumb ... and to be a Republican is stupid -- what did he say, he's a Republican? No. ... Look, if he needs a team that badly -- join a bowling league, OK? We need people who are interested in another party."

- "This is the fourth convention that I've been to and -- they've lost me. Just do it virtually. Get cartoon characters, don't make me sit through it. You sit there and watch it and you go, Don't insult me anymore! I don't need to watch daughters talk!"

Anderson Cooper on the RNC

Posted: 9:50 p.m.
From Thom Patterson,

- "My favorite moment of the convention so far has been watching Triumph the Comic Dog corner Tucker Carlson -- literally in a corner -- and watch Carlson go beet red and not know what to say. I know on a larger, political sense it probably wasn't that important."

- "I'll be interested to see if Vice President Cheney deviates a lot from his stump speech tonight and if he goes after Kerry by name a lot. There are those who say he should sort of try to humanize himself more in the eyes of voters and use personal anecdotes in his speech -- so it will be interesting to see what he does."


Posted: 9:34 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Our informal timing of ovations puts Ronald Reagan in first place, with 45 seconds of applause after his tribute film aired. Arnold Schwarzenegger comes in second; one of his lines lasted about 35 seconds. Does the fact that both men are charismatic ex-actors who became California governors mean anything?

Convention rim-shots

Posted: 9:27 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Humorist Andy Borowitzexternal link tells us that the most surprising announcement during Vice President Cheney's speech tonight might be, "I am resigning effective immediately. Bo Derek will become the new vice president."

As for tonight's keynote address by Democratic Sen. Zell Miller, Borowitz says it "will be a big disappointment because it's going to turn out that the reason he's at the Republican convention is a Mapquestexternal link screw-up."

"Dick Cheney's position on same-sex marriage is: he's in favor of it -- he just doesn't want to pay for the wedding."

The star of two conventions

Posted: 8:50 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

A few minutes ago, a colleague was walking down the hall outside the Madison Square Garden skyboxes -- where the TV networks are located -- and noticed a large crowd gathered around a doorway.

"Who's in there?" she asked.

"Michael Moore," she was told.

Love him or hate him, there's no question the filmmaker has received more attention than any non-politician at both the Democratic and Republican conventions.

But he's gotten so much coverage it's almost like he's a candidate, too.

Adventures in protesting

Posted: 8:39 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

CNN's Jason Bellini -- traveling with a band of anti-GOP protesters this week -- watched them surprise a group of New York's finest across the street from Sotheby's auction house, a couple miles from Madison Square Garden.

At first, police penned up the demonstrators to keep them at bay, Bellini reports. But the group of 10 protesters knew that the rules were: as long as they walked in pairs, they could still occupy the sidewalk.

That posed a problem for police. Protesters quickly moved from the pen to the auction house entrance just before a busload of convention delegates arrived. The demonstrators were within just a few feet of the startled delegates -- who needed police protection and were the targets of profanity-laden chants.

A clash was averted when the delegates quickly entered Sotheby's. The protesters then moved on to the next event -- a planned gathering at Madison Square Garden.

The video feed

Posted: 8:11 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Another note about convention video: In the convention hall, the Republicans have used the video interludes during their convention to air parodies. The Barney program began with a Howard Dean-like exhortation to "go to Florida! and Michigan!"; there was also the fake "Saturday Night Live" introduction that began the convention on Monday.

Republicans have also showed live bits of colleagues being interviewed by the "CJs," or "convention jockeys."

By contrast, the Democrats used their video interludes to showcase Kerry supporters, particularly Republicans siding with their man. An interesting contrast.

Dog days

Posted: 7:48 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

The convention just aired a surreal video about Barney, the Bushes' dog, campaigning for the president. (In co-starring roles: Andy Card and Karl Rove.) At one point, Barney engages in a debate with "FiFi Kerry," a puppet dog who wants to raise taxes for everyone, while Barney wants to make tax cuts permanent.

The RNC crowd roared its approval.

One thousand umbrellas

Posted: 7:29 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

It rained -- hard -- in New York early Tuesday morning, and since umbrellas are one of the many items banned from the convention site, security gathered what looked like hundreds of umbrellas at the media entrance at the Farley Post Office Building and stacked them in a cart.

And like the ones that gather dust in the lost-and-found room of London Transport, most of them are still there today.

One wonders what will become of them after the convention is over. Perhaps they'll migrate to local dollar stores, to be sold when the next rainstorm arrives ... recycling at its finest.

Lewis Black's shop teacher

Posted: 7:19 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson, found Comedy Central rant-master Lewis Black hanging out in front of the CNN Diner near Madison Square Garden. We asked him for his thoughts on tonight's speech by Vice President Dick Cheney.

"I'm just so looking forward to seeing Dick Cheney because it's like the sighting of a rare white elk when he shows up," Black said. "And I don't even think it's Dick Cheney anymore. We see him so rarely ... that I think he may be my old shop teacher."

Readers write ...

Posted: 6:30 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Much of the blog e-mail has been anti-Republican in nature -- or, in the case of Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, against his GOP alliance and his RNC keynote address tonight.

"I voted for Zell Miller and I am so ashamed of him now," writes Butch of Decatur, Georgia.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech Tuesday night prompted reaction -- pro and con. Douglas of San Diego, California, wrote, "Had Terry McAuliffe listened to Gov. Schwarzenegger's speech instead of simply criticizing him, perhaps he would have learned that the same diversity that makes America the greatest country on earth is also making the Republican party stronger."

But Angel of Durham, North Carolina, disagreed: "I don't have health care coverage and I make less than $30,000 a year. I guess I'm a 'girly man.' "

And first lady Laura Bush's speech brought this e-mail from Gaye in Roanoke, Virginia: "Compare Laura Bush to Mrs. Kerry, Laura Bush is what I want to see as an example to my grandchildren! She is the height of respect!"

'Law' & Republicans

Posted: 1:52 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

There's going to be a dead body discovered in upper Manhattan.

That's OK; it's just part of a pre-production scouting trip for the staff of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," working out the details of an upcoming episode.

The show has its offices at Manhattan's Chelsea Piers, not far from Madison Square Garden, but first assistant director Chris Swartout says the convention and surrounding security hasn't affected "CI's" work, with the show still doing episode planning.

That wasn't the case for sister show "Law & Order," though. "L&O" was supposed to shoot this week on Chelsea Piers' soundstages, but with major Republican events scheduled there Wednesday and Thursday, producers decided to postpone until next week.

"They'd talked about not shooting when the convention was announced, then changed their minds," says Swartout. But "all the stuff at the Piers" prompted producers to change back.

Cub reporter

Posted: 1:15 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

He's probably the youngest credentialed journalist covering the 2004 Republican convention. Thirteen-year-old Henry Romeexternal link of Strafford, Pennsylvania, is getting the scoop for Time for Kidsexternal link magazine.

Asked about his most embarrassing moment so far, Rome said, "Just a few minutes ago, we were trying to track down [former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich and I actually asked my first question to his press man by accident."

Has Rome been to any of the city's high-profile parties this week? "No parties, but I have been to some meetings, one ... with Elizabeth Dole and [President Bush's sister] Dorothy Bush Koch."

This 'masquerade'

Posted: 12:48 p.m. ET
From Susan Pettit,

Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe was at the "Mission Not Accomplished Masquerade Ball" Tuesday night at the Social Club in Manhattan, an event sponsored by the DNC and New York Democrats.

McAuliffe was asked about rumors that Kerry was about to make changes in his campaign staff.

"He's going to bring in a bunch of new people," McAuliffe said. "It's not a shake-up. ... I don't know how that rumor got started. There are 60 days go before the election. It's natural to bring in people who can get us through the last 60 days. John Kerry has a spectacular campaign staff."

He said he just dropped by the ball after doing a "rapid response." He said, "We're here to tell the truth about this administration. George Bush for four years has misled America. It's a big masquerade ball, a big charade."

Subliminal message

Posted: 12:42 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Eagle-eyed CNN political unit staffer David De Sola noticed something interesting about the batter playing softball in the background while President Bush introduced the First Lady last night. The batter was wearing a giant number 43 on the back of his shirt.

Bush, of course, is the 43rd president.

The Arnold spotlight

Posted: 12:35 p.m. ET
From Richard Shumate, Wires.CNN news editor

- So much for the other guy: Just before California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the stage last night, his wife, Maria Shriver, and their four children entered the VIP box at the back of the hall. Most of the people sitting at the back of the floor promptly turned around to gawk and take pictures, facing away from the speaker on the stage.

- And another sign incident: Each night, convention organizers distribute handwritten signs for people in the audience to wave. One unfortunate man received and waved a "Girly Man for Arnold" sign -- which, probably to his everlasting regret, got him on TV.

Meet the president

Posted: 12:18 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

What's it like to meet the President of the United States? Apparently, it's like meeting a really nice person, if you're Evan J. Baehr, 21, president of Princeton's College Republicans.

"To meet the president, especially with President Bush, it's a very humbling experience just in terms of how personable he is -- he doesn't come across as pretentious or cocky in any way. He makes a point to ask you how you are, even if he doesn't really know you. He comes across as a really nice person. When he and Laura greet people ... they really make an effort to reach out and connect with the people. That's really how President Bush comes across to me personally -- as somebody who cares about the individual stories of people."

'Zig Zag Zell' Miller

Posted: 11:00 a.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

The Democrat who was the keynote speaker at Bill Clinton's 1992 party convention -- also at NYC's Madison Square Garden -- is the same man giving the keynote speech tonight at the Republican convention. What gives?

His name is Sen. Zell Miller, Democrat of Georgia -- AKBDA (also known by Democrats as) "Zig Zag Zell" and "Zellout..

We asked former speech writer Paul Begala, of CNN's "Crossfire" -- who wrote Miller's 1992 address for the DNC -- what he would write for Miller tonight.

"I would tell him to say, 'I'm very, very sorry for every vote I've cast in the past two years,' " Begala said with a grin. " 'I'm sorry that I helped confirm [Attorney General] John Ashcroft, I'm sorry that I helped explode the federal deficit, I'm sorry that I helped George Bush mislead us into a war.' That's what I'd have him say. But, you know, he didn't call me to write this one."

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