Politics: August 2004 Archives

For my KFAQ listeners, here's a link to the item I mentioned this morning:

Advice to a Just-Elected Conservative Friend by Morton C. Blackwell.

Fuzzy memories -- by John Kerry

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New York talk radio host and blogger Kevin McCullough caught another interesting discrepancy between John Kerry's memories of the '60s and what actually happened. Kevin 's got a sound bite from a Brit Hume report quoting a Kerry speech on Martin Luther King Jr's birthday last year. It's reminiscent of Bill Clinton's "vivid and painful memories" of the burnings of black churches in Arkansas during his childhood.

Go have a listen.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kevin for the nice mention. It was a real pleasure to get to meet him in person and talk politics. Kevin will be covering the convention from Radio Row and on his blog, and you can hear streamed audio of his latest show 24/7 by following this link.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be focusing a lot more here and in real life on the Republican National Convention. (Note to the Cockroach Caucus -- I will still be keeping an eye on City Hall, so don't try anything.)

Earlier today I sent the following e-mail to the chairmen of all the state delegations to the Republican National Convention, asking them to forward it on to their states' delegates and alternates. I will let you know what kind of feedback I receive.


Dear fellow delegates,

I'm an at-large delegate from Oklahoma, and I'd like to take a few minutes of your time to call your attention to an important issue.

In just over a week we'll be gathering in New York City to renominate President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and to celebrate our party's achievements at every level of government.

We will also be looking ahead to 2008 -- we as delegates will vote on the rules which will govern the Republican Party until the next convention, including the 2008 presidential nominating process. The decisions we make at this convention will shape the contest for our party's next standard-bearer, and it's important that we make the most of this once-every-four-years opportunity to reexamine our rules.

Going as far back at least 10 years, there has been a growing sense that the current system of front-loaded and plurality-take-all primaries does not serve our party well, and that the problem is only getting worse as more states move their primaries earlier. At best, we may well find ourselves in 2008 in the same awkward position that the Democrats are in this year. The nominating process would be effectively over eight months before the election, and the party would be stuck with a presumptive nominee who fails to inspire the grass roots of the party and fails to appeal to the American electorate as a whole. At worst, the shortened primary season may not give us enough time to learn about the candidates. Damaging information may emerge about the presumptive nominee during the many months between clinching the nomination and the convention. Under the current rules, if such a flawed candidate refused to step aside, the convention would have no choice but to go ahead and nominate him.

Leading up to the 2000 convention, the Brock Commission studied reforms and brought forward a recommendation known as the Delaware Plan, which would have addressed front-loading by putting the most delegate-rich states at the end of the primary calendar. The plan received the endorsement of the Republican National Committee, but in the Rules Committee it was killed as the result of lobbying by political operatives who were focused on short-term advantage rather than the long-term health of the Republican Party. You can read what happened by clicking this link.

Since 2000, the schedule has become even more front-loaded and the problem has only gotten worse. If we waste this opportunity and take a pass on the issue at this convention, it will be four years before there is another opportunity to reform the process, and changes won't take effect until the 2012 primary season.

The word from on high is that no substantive changes to the rules will be brought before the 2004 convention. But ultimately, that decision is up to us, the delegates.

As a grass roots party activist like you, I've worked on countless campaigns, attended countless caucuses and conventions, was the Republican nominee for a city council race, and currently serve as a state committeeman and member of my county's central committee. I don't have a candidate picked out for 2008 or any axe to grind. I'm not committed to any particular reform proposal. I'm just concerned that we have a process in place that will give us the strongest possible nominee as the standard-bearer for our Republican principles in 2008 and beyond.

We can make a difference. The future of the Republican Party has been entrusted to us as delegates to this year's convention. If you agree with me that this convention should address our broken presidential nominating system, if you agree that we can't wait until 2012, take action today:

  1. Contact your state's delegates to the convention Rules Committee and urge them to consider and recommend primary reforms to the convention. Remind them that any Rules Committee member has the right to bring a reform plan up for consideration by moving to amend the proposed rules. Urge them to give the convention as a whole the chance to consider this important issue. Remind them, too, that it only takes 25% of the committee members to write a minority report, which would also come before the convention.
  2. E-mail me at gopreform -at- batesline -dot- com and let me know of your interest in this issue. In order to bring about reform, we will have to be organized and in communication. When you e-mail, let me know the best way to get in touch with you in New York City. If there's sufficient interest, we may organize a meeting prior to the convention's opening.

If you would like more information, please write me at this e-mail address. A web search for Delaware Plan and primaries will lead you to many articles on the reforms proposed in 2000. This website presents nearly a dozen alternative plans for reforming the nominating process, listing the pros and cons of each. Whatever reform proposal you prefer, let's work together to address the problems in our broken nominating system.

Sincerely,

Michael D. Bates
Oklahoma at-large delegate

Scott Sala of Slant Point is one of the bloggers given official press credentials by the RNC for the Republican National Convention. One of his recent entries has an up-to-date list of credentialed bloggers. He also asks for ideas:

I still am soliciting ideas for angles to cover. Lots of people recommended issue that are getting sidelined - like choice, religion and others that may not portray such an Urban Republican message. Let me know any thoughts. Thanks.

Here's an angle for the convention bloggers: Any controversy likely to be associated with the convention will happen the preceding week, during the platform and rules committee meetings. Plan to attend and cover these meetings and talk to the delegates who are on the committees. I don't have a complete schedule, but I understand that Platform Committee sessions begin Tuesday, August 24, and will continue daily through the week. Rules Committee is only scheduled to have a single meeting on Friday, August 27.

The issues Scott mentions above, and many other contentious issues, will be discussed in the Platform Committee and its subcommittees. Committee members will be working with the 2000 platform, platforms submitted by the state Republican parties, and input provided to the convention website. The aim will be to keep the base happy while avoiding any public show of disunity during the convention proper. While a major challenge to the President's positions on the issues is not expected, any of the members of the committee (two from each state) could take the initiative on a pet issue.

One issue that may not be on your radar screen is immigration. There is a lot of grassroots discontent with the President's immigration policy. It was evident in resolutions submitted by precinct caucuses to the Tulsa County Republican Convention Platform Committee (which I headed this year) -- it was one of the three most often expressed sentiments, the other two being support for a strong pro-life plank in the platform and support for the President's execution of the War on Terror, including military action against Saddam Hussein. Oklahoma's state platform reflects the same concern about the consequences of Bush's immigration policy, which many consider an amnesty, for all practical purposes, which will encourage a surge in illegal immigration. Any disconnect between the President and the grassroots is where controversy is likeliest to erupt.

The Rules Committee will recommend a set of rules to govern this convention and the rules which will govern the party until the 2008 convention, including the rules for the presidential nominating process. At the 2000 convention, there was a detailed proposal for reforming the process which had been hammered out by a special task force over several years and was going to be recommended by the Republican National Committee's permanent Committee on Rules to the convention's Rules Committee. At the last minute, the Bush campaign pressured the committee to pull the proposed changes off of the table. I hear that the permanent Committee on Rules isn't making any recommendations for significant reforms this year, but that doesn't preclude a group of the convention's Rules Committee members from taking the initiative and making a proposal of their own. In my opinion, it would be a lost opportunity if the issue wasn't debated at all.

To prepare yourselves for covering these committee meetings, be sure to review the rules and platform adopted by the 2000 Convention. And feel free to e-mail this delegate and long-time party activist with any questions you may have. (And don't miss this entry on what being a delegate is all about.)

Scott Sala of Slant Point, one of the bloggers invited by the RNC to cover the Republican National Convention, caught my earlier entry about security and the situation that the media (including invited bloggers) may be afforded more liberty than the delegates, in terms of what we are permitted to bring with us into the convention hall. He wrote a sympathetic reply:

While I sympathize, especially since delagates are perhaps the most-enthusiastic Republicans in the country, and they merely want to be confortable and have fun and record a few memories for posterity, I understand security concerns as well. I guess I think of it as a sports event, with very much the same policies people are subject to every weekend around the country. Yeah, it sucks, but in many ways that's the world we live in - and it was this way long before 9/11.

But some of this delegate's concerns are due to his discovery that bloggers will be allowed to bring in the items listed above. This of course is due to the status of media being given to select bloggers.

What he says makes perfect sense if you start from the assumption that "delegate" is just a fancy way of saying "spectator," "fan," or "cheerleader." Scott's reference to delegates as "perhaps the most-enthusiastic Republicans in the country" suggests that he makes that assumption. Most people who watch these conventions on TV have never attended a precinct caucus, or a county, district or state convention, and probably haven't given much thought to how the delegates got there, or why they are there. It would be reasonable to assume that the only people who matter are the speakers and the media there to cover them.

The celebration will be fun, as will being there in person to hear the President and other leading lights of the Republican Party, but I'm sure people at home will be better able to see and hear the speeches. I am not going to New York, and spending money on airfare, hotel, and restaurants just to be a prop, a warm body in the stands, or a member of the cheering section. I am going for the same reason I attended the county, district, and state conventions -- to participate in setting the course of the Republican Party for the next four years. The delegates are there to vote on four items -- a presidential nominee, a vice presidential nominee, a platform, and the party rules for the next four years, including the rules governing the 2008 presidential nominating process. The first two items are foregone conclusions this year. The second two don't attract much attention, but they matter greatly.

Balloon failure, 1980

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The news that the founder of the American Muslim Council pled guilty today to engaging illegally in business with Libya, and last Thursday night's balloon deployment failure at the end of the Democrat National Convention brought back memories of 24 years ago, when Libyan connections overshadowed another Democrat convention, and the balloons wouldn't fall that year either.

You may recall that in 1980 Sen. Ted Kennedy had challenged President Carter for the nomination, and although Carter had the lead coming out of the primary season, Kennedy refused to drop out.

Toward the middle of July 1980, Billy Carter, presidential brother, acknowledged that he was being compensated by the government of Libya to serve as that country's agent. By the end of the month, the White House and the Attorney General had admitted to knowing about the connection, the Senate had announced plans to investigate, and a "dump Carter" movement began to build momentum. Democrat leaders could smell disaster and were afraid that Jimmy Carter would take down the whole party with him -- and they were right to be afraid.

Still, Carter had enough pledged delegates to assure his renomination. There were calls from Democratic congressmen and governors for Carter to release the delegates pledged to him, so that they could vote their consciences. The convention opened with a rules debate -- over Rule 16(c) if I recall correctly. A contemporaneous account by Rick Brookhiser was rerun on National Review Online this week:

At stake was a proposed rule requiring delegates to be bound by the results of the primaries and caucuses that chose them. It was of course the final consummation of the campaign reforms so zealously sought by the party's liberals, and the Carterites insisted righteously on enjoying the spoils of success at the polling booth. In the heat of the moment, Senator Ribicoff even declared "we can't take from a man what he has rightfully won" an outburst that challenged fifty years of Democratic social policy, but never mind. Supporters of the "open" (that is, brokered) conventions were forced into equally contorted postures. By binding the delegates, warned Governor Carey, the Democrats would be forsaking a "tradition of 150 years," and somewhere in Heaven Burke smiled on his newest disciple. Senator McGovern challenged the rule on the grounds that it wasn't democratic enough delegates committed to a previous decision could not carry out the "present convictions of the people." He did not say whether, moved by his own present conviction, he would now retract his vote against allowing the states the same privilege with regard to the ERA.

I learned today from the King of Fools, who attended the Texas Republican Convention as a delegate and with media credentials, that a number of bloggers (including Michele of "A Small Victory", SlantPoint, Wizbang, Captain's Quarters and Matt Margolis) have been offered credentials to the Republican National Convention. The King offers some good convention-blogging advice from his experience -- things like don't forget to eat.

Here's the part of the invite:

For the first time, bloggers will hold an on-site presence at the Republican National Convention called "Bloggers Corner." Positioned near Radio Row, credentialed bloggers will have the opportunity to connect with delegates, guests and other surrogates for interviews, and to provide original content, including multimedia, to their audiences. Through this behind-the-scenes look at the convention's proceedings and events, bloggers will play an important role in telling the story of the 2004 Republican Convention.

Bloggers Corner will be located in Madison Square Garden's Theater Lobby in the corridor adjacent to Radio Row. Electrical outlets, tabled work stations and necessary hook-ups for laptop and other portable computers will be available for high-speed Internet and Intranet access. Main TV monitors will also be accessible in all convention common areas including Bloggers Corner and will carry closed circuit coverage of all floor activities.

Bloggers will be credentialed to move about all media areas with access to the Media Center and the news conference center for briefings.

Now I am pleased to see that bloggers are being accorded this kind of recognition, but as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, I'm starting to feel like a second class citizen. Yesterday, I received a packet of info from the convention, which included a list of prohibited items. These are things we won't be permitted to carry within the security perimeter. Included in the list are laptop computers, camcorders, cameras with long lenses, bags for carrying cameras or binoculars, backpacks of any kind. So it appears that observers of this event -- members of the media, including bloggers -- will be accorded far more freedom and trust than actual participants in the event -- the delegates.

I had really hoped to be able to do some blogging of my own, and even e-mailed someone on the organizing committee asking about the availability of Wi-Fi in the convention hall. I've started to look into wireless web on my cellphone and using Azure or another PalmOS-based Movable Type client as an alternative to the laptop, but there's no guarantee that they won't decide to ban cellphones and PDAs -- the letter emphasized that the list of banned items is not exhaustive.

Most of the other banned items are the sorts of things you're not allowed to bring on airplanes, but the ban on laptops, camcorders, and camera bags strikes me as just not wanting to have to bother screening them, and who cares if the delegates are inconvenienced. It reminds me of the early days of TSA screenings when they were confiscating nail clippers. Umbrellas are banned, too, as are containers of any kind. Given that Madison Square Garden is about a mile from the hotel, I had planned to do what I used to do when I lived two miles off campus in college -- put anything I might need for the day in a small backpack and then plan not to return to the hotel until after the evening session. I suppose I might be able to fit my glasses and contact lens case, Kleenex pack, map and guidebooks, Oklahoma pins for trading with other delegates, business cards, my digital camera, the agenda, platform, rules, and any other bits of paper and ephemera they hand out, and a NY Post somewhere in the pockets of my pants or my official Oklahoma delegation blazer, but a little backpack would make life easier. I'd even settle for one of those transparent backpacks the students have to carry in dangerous schools. It would be nice to be allowed to bring in a bottle (plastic, of course) of Diet Coke and a bag of M&Ms or trail mix, but it looks like that would violate the "no container" rule.

Thanks to SlantPoint for posting the invitation letter, so now I know who at the convention to bug about bringing in my laptop.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from August 2004.

Politics: July 2004 is the previous archive.

Politics: September 2004 is the next archive.

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