Politics::RNC2008 Category

Via Mister Snitch, I came across this detailed, link-heavy blog post about Sarah Palin's political career, beginning with her first race for City Council in 1992, and including her 2004 decision to quit a plum $118,000 a year seat on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission after the Attorney General and Governor not only ignored her concerns about corruption on the AOGCC, but also, in the case of the AG, threatened her with prosecution if she blew the whistle:

Why do I mention Palin's apolitical roots? Because they help explain three things about her that become important later. One, how she's been able to stay grounded to have a normal, non-political person's reactions to the kinds of things politicians get inured to seeing. Two, why her views on reform, corruption and waste were not a pre-designed program but the evolving product of those reactions kicking in over time in response to things she observed first-hand. And three, how she was able to make the most important decision of her political career - to walk away from it all on principle with the significant chance that she was ending her career in politics.

On a related note, I enjoyed SNL's opening sketch, which was, as expected, a spoof of Thursday's Palin-Biden debate. Unlike the real Gwen Ifill, the fictional Ms. Ifill (played by the lovely Queen Latifah) made an opening disclosure about her upcoming book about the "Age of Obama."

I was also pleased that the SNL writers captured a moment that struck me as one of the biggest surprises in the debate: Biden saying, "Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple." Compressing the exchange slightly, the writers came close to quoting Biden's comments verbatim. I haven't seen much discussion of this in the blogosphere, so it's nice to see that I wasn't the only one who was surprised by his blunt embrace of his radical position on this issue.

I received a note today from Oklahoma Republican Party chairman Gary Jones, passing along the word that the Republican National Committee is correcting Oklahoma's vote in the official record of the roll call for the Republican presidential nomination. As BatesLine reported the night of the roll call, Sen. Jim Inhofe was cut off before he could report Oklahoma's vote as 39 for Sen. John McCain and 2 for Rep. Ron Paul. The secretary recorded 41 Oklahoma votes for McCain, and attempts to get the attention of the chairman to make a correction were unsuccessful.

Jones continued to pursue the matter, out of respect for two unbound Oklahoma delegates, elected at the 2nd Congressional District Convention, originally bound to but released by Mike Huckabee, and their desire to have their votes count for their chosen candidate.

Tom Josefiak of the RNC legal department sent the following e-mail to Jones on Friday, September 19:

Just want to confirm to you that the official GOP Convention delegate vote tally for the State of Oklahoma now reads:

"Oklahoma 41 votes, 39 for John McCain, 2 for Ron Paul". The Official Proceedings of the 2008 Convention ("The Green Book") will reflect those numbers.

Gary Jones deserves a great deal of credit for pursuing this, especially since some of Paul's most outspoken Oklahoma fans denounced him and made his job rather unpleasant this year. The vote didn't change the outcome, but Gary saw it as a matter of fairness.

A call to vote

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From a grateful Dawn Summers:

I live in the greatest country in the world.

I was born to immigrants and was raised by a single mother earning less than twenty thousand dollars a year. Yet, I was able to graduate from one of the best private schools in New York, have college and doctoral level degrees from the best universities in the world, and own property in New York City....

My country doesn't force me to put on a uniform and take up arms in her defense. America does not ask me to pledge my loyalty, though I would do so happily and would volunteer to police the strict enforcement of such a pledge from my fellow Americans. With extreme prejudice
.
America does not limit the number of children I can have or force me to use my talents to win gold medals.

America does not even ask that I respect her leaders or learn her history - again, all of which I generally try to do.

Heck, America, does not even require that you be American to let you enjoy all of these things. That is how awesome America is.

So, you'd think that when a country as great as mine is, that asks as little as mine does, puts the question of who will run our nation and direct our great country's future before the people every two years that we, its citizens, would happily say "hey, no problem, America. It's the least I can do," and take our educated, fed, entertained, free bottoms down to our local polling places and pick a half dozen or so names on a ballot.

Read the whole thing.

In addition to all the writing I did for BatesLine during the Republican National Convention, I managed to turn out three pieces for this week's issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly:

The cover story about the upcoming PLANiTULSA citywide planning workshops. The folks at the City of Tulsa Planning Department and Fregonese Associates were very helpful as I put this story together. I had a copy not only of the publicity materials but the instructions for the facilitators -- the volunteers at each table who answer questions and keep the mapping process on pace to finish within the alloted time. From those instructions, I tried to put together a vivid description of what workshop participants will experience. My feeling is that the more you know about what will happen, the better prepared you'll be to participate fully and advocate effectively for your ideas for Tulsa's future.

I spoke to Theron Warlick, one of the City of Tulsa planners assigned to PLANiTULSA, and he told me that about 500 people had already signed up, with about a week and a half to go. Mayor Bill LaFortune's 2002 Vision Summit drew about 1100.

If you haven't signed up yet, visit PLANiTULSA.org and register online.

Also this week, I have a story about the the Republican National Convention as seen through the eyes of Tulsans who attended the convention.

The week before, I spoke to Jackie Tomsovic, a first-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and covered the surprising political resurrection of former Gov. David Walters, co-chairman of the Democrats' convention rules committee.

My column this week relates both to St. Paul and to planning. During my visit, I tried to learn what I could about how the city handles planning and zoning, river development, downtown, and affordable housing. I wound up with far more material than I could use on all of the above topics. I chose to focus on the way St. Paul connects citizens and neighborhoods with city government, using 19 independent, non-profit "district planning councils."

MORE: Here's a video of planner John Fregonese's presentation at the TulsaNow forum on July 15. He speaks about planning concepts, demographic trends, and the results of the planning team's survey of a thousand Tulsans.

(The embedded video was making this page load slowly, so if you want to watch it, visit the PLANiTULSA channel on blip.tv.)

Blogger lunch at Babani's

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I mentioned a lunch for bloggers on Wednesday of the Republican National Convention. It was organized by HotAir's Ed Morrissey, sponsored by Verizon, and held at Babani's, a Kurdish restaurant in downtown St. Paul. The food was delicious and plentiful, and my taste buds wanted more of it than my stomach, already full from a breakfast with the Oklahoma delegation and a blogger brunch, could handle.

During the lunch, we heard the inspiring story of Babani's owner, Rodwan Nakshabandi -- his conscription into the Iraqi Army, fleeing the country following Gulf War I and Saddam's attacks on Kurdistan, making his way to the US, and finally settling in St. Paul and opening this restaurant. Ed's entry from the luncheon includes video by Danny Glover of Rodwan's story as told by Joe Repya (Lt. Col., U. S. Army, Retired), along with a transcript. Here's a bit of it:

In 2003, prior to the start of the Iraq war Rodwan was a frequent guest on talk radio, but only under an assumed name and never mentioning his restaurant in fear for the life of his mother and other family members in Mosul, Iraq. Rodwan wants all Americans to know how grateful the Iraqi Kurdish people are to the United States and George W. Bush for liberating them from the tyranny of Saddam Hussain. Last year Rodwan took his family back to Iraq for the first time to visit relatives he had not seen since 1991. His love for America is great, but his heart still remains with his Kurdish heritage.

The video also includes remarks by Nakshabandi and by Jon Henke of New Media Strategies, and some photos of the food at the very end.

I asked Tulsa-area delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention to share memorable moments from the convention for an Urban Tulsa Weekly story. Some stories came in after my deadline that are too good not to share, so I'm going to be publishing them here.

Delegate Cheryl Medlock heads up the After Five Republican Women's Club and represents Tulsa County on the Republican 1st District Committee. (She's also married to that radio guy.) Cheryl told me about a tribute to Cindy McCain which gave her a glimpse into the personality and character of the prospective First Lady as well as her vice presidential counterpart, Todd Palin, who has been dubbed by his wife the "First Dude of Alaska."

We were pleasantly surprised by an appearance by Todd Palin. You can see that he is just a "regular guy". He was brief in his remarks and was humorous. He mentioned that he was still on his job the week before, working shift work. He also mentioned that if he had a crystal ball a few years ago, that would have been his opportunity to steer Sarah away from getting involved in the PTA!

Cindy McCain has struck me as an ice princess-type person, but this lunch really opened my eyes to her warmness and generosity. Her medical missions with Operation Smile was obviously a hands-on endeavor for her. She was in scrubs, hair pushed back in a band, no makeup and holding babies.

While at the lunch, Debbie House, GOP County Chair in Payne County, approached Mrs. McCain for a photo. Debbie, a hairdresser, told her that she needed to study how she had her hair because she will be asked often to replicate the hair style for her clients. Cindy McCain was very gracious and allowed photos of her hair and had one taken with Debbie.

(Please note that the chairman of the Payne County Republican Party is not a J. R. Ewing-type oil mogul, not a banker, not a lawyer, but a beauty shop owner who cares enough about public policy to serve as a party chairman and to pay her own way to a national convention. David Holt has more about Debbie House.)

Splitting my time between experiencing the Republican National Convention and writing about it, I didn't get around to linking my new blog acquaintances until last night, and I'm only now getting around to linking the Oklahoma delegates who were there and blogging. Although the party's over, it's worth going back to read what the convention was like from a delegate's perspective. There is a lot more going on than you see on TV every evening from 8 to 10.

The Oklahoma Gazette had two Republican delegates blogging about their convention experiences: 4th District Republican Chairman Steve Fair and Jason Reese. Steve also cross-posted his write-ups, plus more content, at his own site, Fair and Biased.

Steve has some great write-ups of the breakfast speakers the Oklahoma delegates heard. Here's a bit from U. S. Rep. Tom Cole's Thursday breakfast talk:

[Cole] said Palin's speech reminded him of the country music song written by Tom T. Hall called Harper Valley PTA. It was a major hit single for country songstress Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, which is probably before most of the people in the room. The song tells the story of a junior high student who is sent home with a note to her single mother from the PTA of the school decrying her behavior by small-town standards. The mother decides to speak to a meeting of the PTA where she addresses various episodes of misbehavior on the part of several of its members, concluding, "This is just a little Peyton Placce/And you're all Harper Valley hypocrites." Cole was complimentary of all his congressional colleagues.

David Holt blogged the convention for the Oklahoman. Early on, David wrote a nuts-and-bolts description of the convention. Page through his posts, and you'll find brief profiles of several members of the Oklahoma delegation. This one, about alternate Cheryl Demarest, suggests that friendliness can be an effective economic development tool for our state's small towns:

The Demarests moved from Long Island, NY to Talihina in 1999. They had no connection to the town or the state, but just wanted a place that was friendly to home schooling. They discovered Talihina while checking out Poteau. They were amazed that everyone in Talihina waved as they drove by.

Robert is a printing consultant and Cheryl is starting a real estate firm. And when they discovered they couldn't get reliable and affordable Internet access in Talihina, they didn't call the government and complain, they just started their own Internet Service Provider.

While Sarah Palin was speaking to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, Michelle Obama was hitting two Hollywood fundraisers, giving subtly different messages to different audiences.

Patrick Range McDonald of LA Weekly, who covered the events as the designated pool reporter. Here's his description of the first stop of the night:

Dressed in a purple tank top with a purple floral skirt and black high heels, Obama first addressed a largely gay and lesbian audience at the home of Bryan Lourd, managing partner of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and Bruce Bozzi, Lourd's companion. The event was described by the Obama campaign as an "LGBT Reception."

Approximately 300 donors attended the fund raiser, which took place in the wealthy, Los Angeles neighborhood of Holmby Hills. Minimum contribution for a guest was $1,000 to get through the door. Supporters who raised $25,000 were given access to a VIP room, where Obama met with them and briefly spoke. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.

Speaking at the fundraiser, Mrs. Obama insinuated that she doesn't think Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is very bright:

Obama then moved on to politics, where she first brought up her husband's vice-presidential choice. "I think it was a really good pick--Senator Joe Biden," she said, and later added, "People say they have amazing chemistry, and it's true."

Obama continued with talk about Biden when she said, "What you learn about Barack from his choice is that he's not afraid of smart people." The crowd softly chuckled.

Later, she spoke about gay rights:

Mindful of the audience in front of her, she then touched up gay and lesbian issues. "In a world as it should be," Obama said, "we repeal laws like DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" She also said an Obama Administration would "recognize" gay adoption rights. Both lines received loud applause.

Later that evening she spoke at a fundraiser at the home of Samuel L. Jackson:

Located in the gated community of Beverly Park Estates South in the city of Beverly Hills, approximately 300 people attended the event. Minimum contribution for a guest was $2,300, with VIP access for supporters who raised $25,000. All money went to the Obama Victory Fund.

Another star-studded crowd was on hand. Among the celebrities were actor Denzel Washington, actress and singer Barbra Streisand, actor and Streisand's husband, James Brolin, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, actress Scarlett Johansson, actor Ryan Reynolds, and former California governor Gray Davis. Guests gathered poolside in the backyard of Jackson's home and drank red and white wine. Golden shallot pancakes with brie and fig preserves and grilled vegetable torte bites with roasted pepper sauce were served. Bread & Butter Catering provided the food at both fund raisers.

Even in front of a presumably gay-friendly, left-wing Hollywood audience, part of her earlier remarks were omitted from the second appearance:

Obama did not mention anything about gay issues, but much of the rest of the speech was the same.

(Via Wilshire and Washington, Variety's blog on the "intersection of entertainment and politics.)

Fred Davis in the spotlight

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Fred Davis, Jim Inhofe at the Republican National Convention, by Michael Bates

I had been hearing about this famous/infamous ad-man for years, a native Tulsan and the nephew of Sen. Jim Inhofe, but I had never met him and had no idea what he looked like until I was on the convention floor Wednesday night and spotted Neil Munro of the National Journal next to the Oklahoma delegation. (Neil, Stephen Spruiell of National Review, Kate Hunter of Congressional Quarterly, and I comprised the entire press corps covering the Committee on Rules and Order of Business last Friday.)

I went over to say hello, and Neil called my attention to someone with luxuriantly flowing blond hair standing behind the delegation, next to Inhofe. He told me it was Fred Davis, McCain's attack ad man.

Neil had a profile of Davis in Tuesday's convention edition of National Journal:

Television ads are the background rhythm of a presidential campaign, and Republican Sen. John McCain's drummer -- ad man Fred Davis -- is already accelerating the beat and playing his signature riffs.

He has in the works a television ad that contrasts Democratic nominee Barack Obama's life as a politician in Chicago with that of his half-brother in Kenya, who lives in a shack on an unpaved street. Davis, chairman of Strategic Perception, McCain's advertising firm, said that the images are meant as a sharp-edged counterpoint to a theme in Obama's acceptance speech last week, in which he declared, "I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper."...

Davis sketched out his advertising strategy for a breakfast at the Minneapolis Hyatt Hotel recently, revving up the crowd with a selection of his past spots and an anti-Obama ad that was pulled before it could be run. The ad portrayed an Obama supporter in Texas being asked to cite an Obama accomplishment; he remains open-mouthed and silent for several seconds -- as if to suggest that he could think of nothing Obama had ever done.

Ultimately, the ad was discarded because it also showed a similarly nonplussed Democratic legislator who has since died. "There's plenty more in the can, soon to come," Davis promised.

MORE: Here's a 2006 National Journal Q&A with Davis, in which he talks about his first major race, his uncle's 1994 run for Senate. I don't recall Inhofe being as much of an underdog as Davis suggests, but I could be misremembering. That was a big year for Republicans across the board and a near sweep of statewide offices in Oklahoma.

And a couple of weeks ago, Townhall's Matt Lewis had this:

I'm hearing that tensions were high recently when veteran actor Robert Duvall was taping a voice-over for a video to be played during the Republican National Convention. Apparently, the veteran actor objected to the direction he was receiving from Republican media guru Fred Davis. According to my sources, Duvall said something along the lines of: "F-you Fred! If Scorsese couldn't give me direction, what the hell makes you think you can?" Though this blow-up is actually recorded on tape, my guess is it's in everyone's best interest for this to not leak out ...

If memory serves, Davis was responsible for Bob Sullivan's attack ads in his 2006 Republican Governor's campaign against Ernest Istook. Here's the one featuring Gailard Sartain:

Here are links to and a few notes about the bloggers I had the pleasure of meeting this week at the Republican National Convention. (If I met you but left out your name below, it's because I didn't get your business card. Drop a reminder to me at blog at batesline dot com.)

* Anne Leary, the BackyardConservative, from the Chicago 'burbs: Here Anne has posted some great photos from the last day of the convention, and she tells of her brushes with greatness.

* Skye, a conservative Democrat from Philadelphia, who blogs at Midnight Blue, Flopping Aces, and Right Wing News: Skye's latest has video of Barack Obama gaffe-ing his way across Pennsylvania.

Here's a video conversation between Anne and Skye.

* Chad Everson of Grizzly Groundswell and Socialist Squirrel. Grizzly Groundswell is a conservative blog community.

* Stix of Stix Blog: Stix has photos of several of our fellow bloggers at Centerfield, the Minneapolis warehouse district bar where he and several others stayed during the convention. (Unfortunately, I had to miss the Wednesday night party there. I stuck around the Xcel Center for the roll call, then posted about the problem with Oklahoma's votes and uploaded video, and I didn't get out of the Media Filing Center until 1:30 a.m.)

* Eric of The Tygrrrr Express: Eric had an interesting run-in with some Code Pinkos:

When they complained about a police state and overaggressive police tactics, I set them straight.

I told them:

"I can prove you are wrong in 60 seconds. You claim the police use excessive force. I know this is wrong because I begged them to do it and they wouldn't. I asked those cops (pointing towards them) to use tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons. I wanted Kent State 2008. They said no because we live in a democracy. So sorry to disappoint you, but as badly as you want it, you will not be savagely beaten. Now be quiet before I come back tomorrow with a razor and shave you all under your armpits."

Sadly enough the police would not let me do that either.

Eric also believes that Sarah Palin is the Second Coming of Margaret Thatcher.

Skye has posted some video of Eric conversing with a Code Pinko and a "Paulbot."

* Katherine Morrison from New Hampshire, of PurplePeopleVote and Blogs4McCain: Here's her summary of Day 2, which had the theme of service.

* Bill Smith of the ARRA News Service, a conservative Arkansas blog, and Let's Get This Right, a conservative blog community: Here's an interview between Bill and the aforementioned Katherine Morrison, who talks about what brought her to the convention:

I have a brother who moved to the St. Paul area and I wanted to visit him, my sister-in-law and their children. I am also a blogger and applied for press credentials as an Independent. And the RNC granted them. So, I took vacation and paid my way here. I have meet bloggers of all types: republicans, libertarians, democrats, independents and some from other countries.

* "CyberPastor" Ed Boston of Do the Right Thing.

* The Lady Logician of Ladies Logic: Here are her photos of the wide variety of Wednesday afternoon protesters, and here are her initial reflections following McCain's speech:

Senator McCain's intro video was very informative and I loved the self deprecating humor that was interlaced in with some very serious subject matters. At one point, in a section where it talked about all of the different names that Senator McCain had been called, as the narrator said, "He has even been called," the camera cut to Senator McCain's 96-year-old mother saying, "Mama's boy".

* Fausta of Fausta's blog: Here's her encounter with a couple of P.O.ed PUMAs for Palin:

Staunch Hillary supporters with a long history of activism, they headed to Denver. Bettyjean [Kling] purchased a 27′ RV and drove to Denver with her friend Robin Robinson as part of the "300″ to get Hillary a nomination and roll call at the Democratic National Convention last week.

They had worked on the Hillary campaign for months, Bettyjean in Pennsylvania and Robin in Delaware, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

But once they got to Denver they found delegates who told them that they were bein pressured to vote for Obama, and who were being told that they would never have a future in politics if they didn't. "Their arms were twisted", said Bettyjean....

Robin and Bettyjean were bitterly disappointed. When they heard that Sarah Palin was going to be the Vice-Presidential candidate, "our spirits rose and we headed to St. Paul."

* Lance Burri, who is, according to his business card, "the widest read, most influential conservative columnist ever to emerge from Greater Metropolitan Baraboo. East side. North of the river. Ever." Lance also blogs at Badger Blog Alliance, where he posted this account of the blogger lunch at Babani's Kurdish Restaurant, complete with a mouthwatering photo, plus video of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Frank Luntz at Wednesday's blogger brunch, and of former Sen. Fred Thompson from Tuesday's brunch.

* Dan Blatt, the western correspondent for GayPatriot, which calls itself "the internet home for American gay conservatives": Dan notes that the theme of gratitude provided bookends to McCain's speech:

At the beginning, he acknowledged his rivals for the Republican nomination and expressed his gratitude to the president and his family. He concluded by acknowledging his fellow POW Bob Craner, telling us how that good man "saved" him.

Maybe I read too much into this, but it says a lot of a man that he frames this speech by acknowledging how much he owes to others, showing how grateful he is for their love, their inspiration, their support, their compassion. He knows, more, he recognizes what he owes to others. For no one who has achieved any measure of success in any given endeavor could have accomplished anything without the support of others.

Devoting so much time in a speech of this significance suggests a certain humility, something we don't see in many politicians, particularly this election cycle.

* MarathonPundit, who recounts a conversation with a British press journalist who regarded his assignment to cover the RNC as "punishment."

I also met (briefly) A-list bloggers Scott Ott of the family-friendly satire site Scrappleface (who was surprisingly tall and whose face did not at all resemble scrapple), Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, and former (?) blogger and rising conservative star Mary Katherine Ham.

MORE: Skye and Marathon Pundit were interviewed by Al Jazeera during the convention.

From Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech in St. Paul tonight:

Education is the civil rights issue of this century. Equal access to public education has been gained. But what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.

When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have that choice and their children will have that opportunity.

Senator Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucracies. I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm President, they will.

(Crossposted at Choice Remarks.)

McCain's remarks, quoted above, brought the delegates to their feet with loud cheers several times.

School choice received many prime-time mentions from the podium of the Republican National Convention this week.

GOPAC Chairman Michael Steele:

Some just talk about change, but John McCain believes the resiliency of the American people is the real source of the change America needs; and that means putting country first.

So, do you want to put your country first? Then let's change the way we educate our kids.

Let's empower those whose minds are shackled by a poor education with real choices in where they go to school....

John McCain knows we must empower working families and stand with them against the erosion of our constitutional rights, the corruption of our school systems, the weakening of our families and the taking of human life - born and unborn.

Mitt Romney:

Opportunity expands when there is excellence and choice in education, when taxes are lowered, when every citizen has affordable, portable health insurance, and when constitutional freedoms are preserved.

Rudy Giuliani:

And as we look to the future never let us forget that - when we are at our best - we are the party that expands Freedom. We began as a party dedicated to freeing people from slavery ... And we are still the party that is willing to fight for freedom at home and around the world. We are the party that wants to expand individual freedom and economic freedom ... because we believe that the secret of America's success is not central government, it is self-government. We are the party that believes in giving workers the right to work. The party that believes parents should choose where their children go to school.

From the 2008 Republican platform about Washington, D. C.:

Washington should be made a model city. Two major Republican initiatives -- a first-time D.C. homebuyers credit and a landmark school choice initiative -- have pointed the way toward a civic resurgence, and a third piece of GOP legislation now guarantees young D.C. residents significant assistance in affording higher education.

From the education section of the platform.

Parents should be able to decide the learning environment that is best for their child. We support choice in education for all families, especially those with children trapped in dangerous and failing schools, whether through charter schools, vouchers or tax credits for attending faith-based or other nonpublic schools, or the option of home schooling.

I was sitting down in the Media Filing Center to begin to clear out some of by back blog, but as I sat down a convention staffer brought by Texas Congressman Michael Burgess. Burgess was here to talk about health care policy. He is an obstetrician and gynecologist, and in 2002 he succeeded Dick Armey in the 26th District, located in the northern part of the DFW Metroplex.

I'm in a rush to post, so I can go out on the floor for Tom Cole's speech (rescheduled from Monday), but in a nutshell, Burgess said that McCain's plan builds on the employer-funded insurance that serves 160 million Americans, but removes tax-code discrimination against those who purchase insurance individually. McCain's approach would make employer-funded premiums taxable, but there would be a $5,000 tax credit per family. So if you're employer pays, say $10,000 a year, for your health insurance and you're in the 25% tax bracket, your taxes would go down by $2,500 ($2,500 taxes on the employer-funded premiums, minus the $5,000 credit. If you're in the 10% bracket with the same plan, you'd be ahead by $4,000 under this plan. That net gain could be used to fund a Health Savings Account to cover out of pocket expenses or even to pay for an individually-owned plan.

McCain also wants to create greater choice for insurance buyers, so they can choose the right plan for the right cost from a coast-to-coast selection of companies, rather than being stuck with higher costs in their own states, driven by legislative coverage mandates.

The McCain team is also working on a guaranteed access provision to protect people with pre-existing conditions or in fragile health.

Burgess said that liability reform in Texas has made a huge difference in medical liability insurance costs. Overall cost of the plan he had as an obstetrician dropped by 22% after the passage of Proposition 12 in 2003. He said that this modest change in liability laws freed up non-profit hospitals to spend more on nurses, capital equipment, and other improvements to patient care, using money that used to go to insurance premiums.

There was a question about House's shortened schedule this fall. The House has less than 20 legislative days remaining. Burgess said that House Democrats are all running against President Bush, so House leadership doesn't want to give him the photo op of signing meaningful legislation.

Burgess said there is unlikely to be a lame-duck session, unless Obama wins. In that case, Congress may go ahead and act on a free trade agreement with Colombia, so that Bush can sign it, and it won't be waiting on Obama's desk when he's sworn in.

Obamphaloskepsis

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Sarah Palin's speech was a big hit with the delegates. A couple of lines painted Democratic nominee Barack Obama as something of a navel gazer:

But listening to him speak, it's easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform - not even in the state senate....

My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of "personal discovery."...

It was exciting but exhausting to be on the floor for nearly the whole evening. I caught a couple of interesting moments, on video, and took a bunch of photos.

IMG_0444

In the media filing center, I had the pleasure of sitting next to KAL, cartoonist for The Economist, watching him work on his latest set of convention cartoons. Here's yesterday's collection:

But I've written all I can for tonight. See you in the morning.

I stayed around after the speeches ended for the roll call of the states -- the actual, required vote on who will be the Republican Party's presidential nominee. Arizona passed first time around, and everyone from Nebraska on through the end of the alphabet passed, so that Arizona could put its senator over the top.

I caught an interesting conversation between Sen. Jim Inhofe, who was to announce Oklahoma's vote, State Chairman Gary Jones, and two 2nd District delegates, Paul Clayton of McAlester and Robert Demarest of Talihina, about their intention to abstain.

Some background: The 2nd District voted for Mike Huckabee in the primary, but Huckabee released his delegates. Two of the delegates elected by the 2nd District Convention were supporters of Congressman Ron Paul. Freed from the legal obligation to vote for Huckabee, they wanted to cast their votes for Paul, but thinking that they couldn't vote for anyone whose name had not been placed in nomination, they wanted to abstain.

Inhofe and Jones told them that they were free to vote for whomever they wished. I interviewed Demarest and Clayton briefly after their conversation with Inhofe and Jones. I apologize for the weird angles, but I had to stand too close to them to get a decent two-shot.

Later they told me that they did intend to vote for Sarah Palin during the vice presidential roll call.

When Oklahoma finally got the chance to vote, after McCain's majority was assured, the delegation's chairman and Oklahoma's departing National Committeeman, Lynn Windel, yielded the floor to Inhofe, who began his spiel. When he said the phrase "war hero of all war heros, John McCain," the convention secretary, perhaps not paying close attention, assumed she heard the vote, and announced, "Oklahoma, 41 votes for John McCain." Inhofe attempted to correct the secretary and go on, but as soon as the secretary spoke, Inhofe's mike was cut.

There was some minor commotion as the roll call continued, but in the end Oklahoma's vote was recorded as 41 for McCain, even though the state's vote was never announced. Delegates began filtering toward the exits. Chairman John Boehner never asked for corrections, but he did announce, "Seeing that there are no states that wish to change their vote...." before saying that McCain received all but 7 votes -- 5 for Paul, 2 (from Utah) for Mitt Romney.

As they say on The Daily Show, and now, your moment of zen:

California Congressman Kevin McCarthy roped in political focus group maven Frank Luntz to take about four minutes to answer a few blogger questions at the end of today's RedState.com / Google blogger brunch on the 22nd floor of the St. Paul Crowne Plaza hotel. He spoke about swing voter reaction to Sarah Palin's personality, experience, and issues and also fired off a few pointed one-liners at Hillary and Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.

About a vice presidential debate between Palin and Biden:

Biden's awesome. The key to the debate between Biden and Palin is to have it completely open, because Joe Biden for the first 90 seconds is as good as it gets. Always makes a stupid comment at about 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

About Bill Clinton:

Bill Clinton was a great speaker because he felt your pain. He caused your pain, but at list he felt it while he was causing it.

About Hillary Clinton:

The great thing about this election is that she's finally done. Of all the places she could have chosen to live, she chose Chappaqua, Indian for "separate bedrooms."

In a 5 min. interview with BatesLine, Muskogee Mayor John Tyler Hammons, a delegate to the Republican National Convention and at 19 years, 364 days old America's youngest mayor, talks about trying to meet Rudy Giuliani, how he became interested in politics, the challenges of serving as mayor, and the amount of worldwide media attention focused on him this week.

(The embed doesn't seem to be working, so here's a link to the video's page.)

My tank is full

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I've spent all morning and the beginning of the afternoon eating and listening. I've finally had the time to stop taking in and starting processing and writing about what I've seen and heard.

First stop was a joint breakfast of the Oklahoma and Louisiana delegations, way the heck out in Brooklyn Center, northwest of Minneapolis. J. C. Watts was the guest speaker. If the audio is audible, I'll post it later this evening.

Then I drove into St. Paul, for an 11 o'clock RedState.com/Google blogger brunch. Tony Lauinger from Oklahomans for Life rode along with me -- he was headed to a "Catholics for McCain" event not far from the brunch.

Today's blogger brunch featured a Q&A with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, U. S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy from California (not the guy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and UHF), and a surprise appearance by pollster Frank Luntz.

At the brunch I heard about a lunch organized by Hot Air's Ed Morrissey at a Kurdish restaurant, Babani's. I hadn't gotten the invite and therefore hadn't RSVPed, but I decided to tag along anyway. We heard some brief remarks, but mostly it was a chance to chat with the other bloggers. I shared a table with Fausta, Dan Blatt, and one of Dan's readers who lives here in the Twin Cities area.

One of the topics of conversation was how poorly organized the RNC had been in dealing with bloggers this year. Four years ago, there was a Bloggers' Corner near radio row, which gave bloggers easy access to the eminentoes coming and going for talk radio interviews. Convention staff brought elected officials and other special guests around to be interviewed by the bloggers. There were fewer bloggers in 2004, but they all knew who the others were. This time there are many more, but word about special events for bloggers isn't getting around. I was especially chagrined to hear today about an incredible Pajamas Media party last night at James Lileks' palatial Jasperwood estate. Granted, if they had had a full list of convention bloggers, they might not have invited all of us, but then again they might have.

At the moment I'm back in Dunn Bros. Coffee, sitting next to Adam C. from RedState.com, a Tulsa native. (Here's his latest post, about a poll showing Gov. Sarah Palin with stratospheric approval ratings in Alaska.) Once I get back to the convention hall, I plan to upload more video, audio, and photos. You can see my pictures, up through last night, on my Flickr page. There are some good shots of Fred Thompson, George H. W. and Barbara Bush, and a number of Oklahoma officials and delegates, such as Muskogee Mayor John Tyler Hammons, America's youngest mayor, being interviewed here by MTV News.

Muskogee Mayor John Tyler Hammons at the 2008 Republican National Convention

You can hear more of my take on last night's proceedings on the WynnCast and in an interview with the KRMG Morning News team.

MORE: Here's a slideshow which includes photos of my conversation with KRMG's Joe Kelley and Rick Couri.

Day 1 and 2 roundup

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Just a few notes on what happened today and yesterday:

I had a terrific time at a National Review event. It was fun to spot such luminaries as former Education Secretary Bill Bennett and former U. N. Ambassador John Bolton. It was even more fun to talk politics with NR staffers and other guests. Being in a room of people who can discuss politics passionately and intelligently is heavenly.

After the party, I headed back up Cathedral Hill to where I'd parked the car. The time passed quickly (despite my tweed jacket, my heavy laptop backpack, and the unusually warm evening) because I was on the Wynncast, being Wynnterviewed by Claremore bloggers Tyson and Jeanne Wynn -- two more folks who can discuss politics with passion and intelligence. You can listen to the latest Wynncast at this link.

Back down the hill today to stroll past the Fox News outdoor set, where Sen. Joe Lieberman was being interviewed. I did some work on an upcoming Urban Tulsa Weekly story at a Dunn Bros. Coffee at 5th & Wabasha, located on the ground floor of a nicely disguised parking garage and sharing space with an opticians' shop. It was an interesting arrangement. They also had a coffee and snacks cart out on the sidewalk for express service. I was sad to notice that despite the extended hours that many of these shops are offering during the convention, most places in the western part of downtown seem to close early under normal circumstances.

Dunn Bros. had become a sort of alternative media filing center. I met Britten Chase, the Oregon editor for The Politicker, a national collection of state-focused political websites. During a later writing session, I was sitting near a reporter for CBS Radio News, who was phoning in periodically about complaints by protesters that undercover cops were the ones getting violent during their marches. Other folks with notepads and microphones and cameras were typing intently on their laptops.

While there I did phone interviews with Oklahoma U. S. Rep. Tom Cole, who is also chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who is head of the Republican Mayors' Association. More about that in a later entry.

I did more writing and had something to eat in a sad little food court in the Fifth Street Center. The sign on the street door said they'd be open until late. When I got upstairs, most of the places were already closed. I walked around the corner and found a local Mexican fast food place and a McDonald's still open.

I decided to take the skyway back toward the convention center. The skyway -- at least in parts -- is like walking down an indoor Main Street. In the Town Square shopping center, I was excited to come across a little shop that sells Discovery Toys. The shop had everything some fun and wonderful educational toys, and they're currently on offer for at least a 20% discount. The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you're here at the convention and need something fun to take home to the kids, you need to stop by. (You can also find this Discovery Toys consultant, Bobbie Collins, online.)

I made it back to the convention center about 5:30. I marveled at how much quicker it was to get into the Xcel Center than it was to get into Madison Square Garden four years ago. I've never had to wait in a long line, and tonight, I was arriving not long before the gavel.

The accommodations for the press are much better than I had feared, after I'd read Ed Morrissey's Hot Air post about the cost of Internet access for media. The media filing center is open to everyone -- periodical press, daily papers, radio, and bloggers. We've got fairly high speed wired access, sponsored by AT&T -- I was getting about 2 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. There are lockers -- bring your own lock -- where you can lock up your stuff if you don't care to lug it around.

Near the lockers I found a bunch of the bloggers whom I met at the RedState.com brunch, including Skye of Midnight Blue (who requested and got a nice photo with me at the brunch). I was also invited to spend a few minutes on Grizzly Groundswell's BlogTalkRadio show tonight.

On the way to the convention floor, in hopes of getting a media floor pass, I came across 740 KRMG's booth on radio row and saw Joe Kelley, Rick Couri, and their producer for the week, KRMG program director Drew Anderssen. They've been doing a live special edition each evening of the convention, as well as an extended morning show from 5 to 9. They were in Denver, too. You can find KRMG's convention website here, with audio and video, and their revised convention schedule here.

I'm going to stop now -- will add more about my time on the floor of the convention in a later entry. Time for another climb up the hill and another edition of the Wynncast.

National Review's Stephen Spruiell is over in Minneapolis at the Target Center, covering Ron Paul's counter-convention.

Spruiell writes that one speaker's attack on his employer was a crowd-pleaser:

Another prompted loud applause for calling for the rejection of "the redefinition of conservatism that began with Bill Buckley and National Review," adding, "To break with statism is to break once and for all with the Buckleyite right-wing."

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse "The Body" Ventura spoke at the event. Turns out he's a Troofer, and he's threatening to run for President in 2012.

As Ventura continued to "ask questions" about what really happened on 9/11, a vocal contingent in the crowd (coming from all parts of the arena) took to chanting, "9/11 was an inside job." At one point, it got so loud that Ventura had to pause for a few moments before going on. Many in the crowd were applauding Ventura throughout his discussion of 9/11, but some were sitting stone-faced, looking on with dismay.

Stay tuned to The Corner for more transmissions from Planet Paul.

Fred! * 2

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This morning I attended a "Blogger Brunch" sponsored by RedState.com and Google. The guest speaker was my pick in the presidential primaries, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

The event was on the 22nd floor of the Crowne Plaza, which provides breathtaking views up and down the Mississippi River and up the hills to the State Capitol and the Cathedral. It's a beautiful city, and September is just about the best time of year to be here.

On the elevator ride up, I saw political pundit and Beltway Boy Fred Barnes. Someone else in the elevator used to go to the same church as Barnes -- the historic Falls Church -- an evangelical Anglican parish that has broken away from the liberal mainline denomination. It was encouraging to hear their conversation about the new parishes being planted by the Falls Church around the Washington area. It's nice, too, to know there are committed evangelicals like Barnes with a prominent voice in the Washington commentariat.

Google provided a terrific spread. One odd thing --- an oversight by the catering staff, I'm guessing -- they had a tray with smoked salmon, capers, onions, and all the fixings one associates with lox and bagels, only there were no bagels. I guess this was the Atkins version.

There was only one face in the room familiar to me: J. P. Duffy, an ORU grad who had worked on John Sullivan's early campaigns for Congress. J. P. is the Media Director for the Family Research Council. (I met one of his colleagues, Tom McClusky, at last night's National Review party.)

I met a lot of bloggers -- from Arkansas, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, Maryland, and Minnesota, among other places -- got cards from several, and I will add links to their blogs later. I was surprised by the number of people who reacted to the name "BatesLine" as if it were familiar.

Our speaker was stuck in traffic and arrived at about 10:30. As soon as Thompson arrived he was introduced and launched into his brief speech, followed by some Q&A.

(I tried to record his speech on my Sony recorder, but at some point in the speech, the Energizer rechargeable gave out, despite having recharged it last night. I give up on Energizer. I have had too many missed moments thanks to Energizer. Duracell only from now on. Duracell has never let me down. I'm sure other bloggers will post video and audio, and I will add links later.)

In his appearance at the brunch, Thompson displayed all the strengths -- and weaknesses -- of his run for president. This was my first time to see him in person, so now I can better appreciate the observations of those who saw him on the campaign trail. I say "see him in person" because I didn't have the chance to meet him. He departed immediately after the Q&A and didn't hang around to shake hands.

The physical set-up -- obviously not under his control -- was great for being able to see and hear him, but it also created an awkward distance between Thompson and the audience. He stood in an elevated area at the center of this top-floor restaurant, while the bloggers were at tables nearer the windows and several feet below.

But of course, conservative grassroots bloggers backed Thompson for the substance of his platform, not for his outgoing personality. The same common sense, "first principles" conservatism that drove his campaign were at the heart of his remarks. That same approach to conservatism is at the heart of his newly launched political action committee.

Here are a few quotes I managed to jot down on my old fashioned notepad:

What he learned during his presidential campaign: "Never underestimate John McCain."

On the Democrats' choice of Barack Obama in light of the international situation -- he mentioned tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and China's military buildup among other crises: "This is no time to turn the keys to the car over to a 14 year old in heavy traffic."

On McCain's choice of Sarah Palin: "She's the kind of public servant we claim we want... They're going to Washington and take it by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shaking."

On mainstream media coverage of the presidential campaign: "It has been generally poor up until now, and now it's abysmal."

On the alleged experience gap between Palin and Joe Biden: "You don't get experience by being in the Senate....[Palin] doesn't have experience making the wrong decisions about Iraq [referring to Biden's proposal to partition the country into three ethnic-religious enclaves]. She doesn't have experience being wrong about the surge."

I didn't write down a direct quote on this, but he was asked about whether he'd be open to serving in a McCain cabinet. Thompson said it would be presumptuous for him to answer that question, and there are family considerations that would have to be weighed if such an offer were to be made.

More notes from other bloggers:

Shay at Booker Rising liveblogged the speech and has more quotes and photos of the event.

PA Watercooler elaborated on Thompson's comments about Senate experience: "As a veteran of the Senate, Mr Thompson did not give rave reviews to foreign policy or domestic security exposure... saying that it was mostly about deal making and bringing back pork to the home state."

Doc's Political Parlor weighs in.

MORE: Here are video excerpts, via NewsBusters.

The convention was called to order long enough for the presentation of colors, Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, invocation, reading of the official call for the convention, and approval of the permanent convention committees. Once those committees were officially approved, the committees, which had conducted their business provisionally last week, met to ratify their work as official committees.

At the moment, delegates are milling about, and we're waiting for all the committees to complete their work, at which point the convention will reconvene and the delegates will be asked to approve the committee reports.

The rules committee meeting lasted about 20 minutes, most of which was spent on the invocation, pledge of allegiance, and roll call. We were near section 117, crammed into a temporary room, surrounded by thin, 8-foot-tall cubicle walls which made it nearly impossible to hear. The committee ratified the rules report unanimously.

I was unable to find Bettye Fine Collins, the committee member from Alabama who was circulating a minority-report petition, protesting the plan to appoint an extraordinary between-conventions commission on the primary process and calendar. I heard from several members who had signed it that they did not believe it had received sufficient signatures -- 28 were needed.

It's 4:18, and the convention is back in session, and the chairman of the credentials committee is giving his report. There were contests in Massachusetts, Washington, and Nevada. The challenged Massachusetts delegate (from the 4th CD, I think I heard) was not seated. The Washington delegation was seated. Regarding Nevada, the chairman said an "equitable resolution was reached" allowing Nevada to have its entire delegation seated.

4:22: Alec Poitevint is presenting the rules committee report. Passed by voice vote. No minority report was presented.

4:25: Committee on permanent organization now making its report, naming the permanent convention chairman (U. S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio) and other officers.

Watch this space for updates.

Convention about to begin

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Some links as we get ready for the abbreviated opening session of the Republican National Convention, beginning at 2:30:

RedState's Adam C has a nice summary of "Minnesota Nice" and the political profile of the Land o' Lakes -- the state that has the longest streak of voting Democratic in presidential elections (thanks to native son Walter Mondale), but still sees Republican success at the state and local level.

NRO's Stephen Spruiell reviews the 2008 Republican platform and finds another indication (along with the Palin pick) that McCain is wisely handling his differences with party conservatives:

The new platform is distinctly different from the two adopted during the candidacies of George W. Bush, which were constructed to essentially mirror his positions. The 2000 and 2004 platforms made exceptions for Bush in areas where he strayed from traditionally conservative principles. By contrast, the 2008 platform accommodates McCain's maverick positions on issues like immigration and climate change without accepting his views as the official positions of the Republican party....

Conservatives should be grateful that the McCain campaign took a different approach to this year's platform. The committee finalized the document on Wednesday night, well before the McCain campaign picked conservative Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. But both the principled platform and the Palin pick illustrate that McCain knows and respects his limits with the base. In the last week, McCain has twice given conservatives something to cheer for.

(Here is a link to the 67-page report of the platform committee to the 2008 Republican National Convention.)

Someone from the PBS News Hour came by and gave me a combination pen and flash drive to promote their website. News Hour also is providing a Flickr feed and a Twitter feed of their convention coverage.

On my way down to the Xcel Center from Cathedral Hill, I came across a rally of about 50 red-shirted folks gathered around the Grand Army of the Republic monument, carrying American flags and placards saying:

"Support our troops AND their mission!"

"VICTORY over Terrorism -- Let Our Soldiers WIN!"

"Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE"

"Some HEROES wear capes. Mine wear COMBAT BOOTS."

and the classic:

"How about rooting for our side for a change, you moonbats?"

The rally in support of the troops began at 10 a.m., as anti-war protesters gathered a few blocks away at the Minnesota State Capitol for a protest march down to the Xcel Center.

The familes' rally was organized by Families United for our Troops and Their Mission. Marrilee Carlson, the president of the group, led the event, which began with the National Anthem, sung a capella with a few notes on the trumpet, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Marilee Carlson is a Gold Star mom -- the mother of Army Sergeant Michael "Shrek" Carlson:

During a night mission, his platoon was assigned to cordon off and take out of commission, two bomb-making factories. As the Bradley they were driving was going over a culvert in the roadway, the culvert gave way and the vehicle rolled over backwards into the water. Seven soldiers were in the Bradley; five died, including Michael. A rescue unit was able to save two other soldiers, in large part because before he died, Michael was able to partly pry open the hatch in the vehicle.

Mrs. Carlson read from a "credo" that her son wrote while in high school:

When I am on my deathbed, what am I going to look back on? Will it be thirty years of fighting crime and protecting the country of all enemies, foreign and domestic? I want my life to account for something... I only have so much time. I want to be good at life; I want to be known as the best of the best at my job. I want people to need me, to count on me... I want to fight for something, be part of something that is greater than myself. I want to be a soldier...

Here are some of Mrs. Carlson's remarks:

Gold Star mom Debbie Lee spoke about her son, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Alan Lee, a Navy Seal killed in Iraq just over two years ago. Mark was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Valor, and Purple Heart:

Lee, 28, was killed Aug. 2 in a fierce firefight while on patrol against insurgents in Ramadi, Iraq. An aviation ordinanceman and a member of a Coronado, Calif.-based SEAL team, Lee was one of the first members of the elite group to be killed in Iraq.

U.S. Navy officers told Debbie Lee that her son died after single-handedly holding off enemy fighters as his team rescued a wounded soldier from a rooftop. During the two-hour battle, Marc Lee fired 100 rounds against insurgents, they told her.

A base in Iraq is named in Lee's memory.

Mrs. Lee read from her son's last e-mail from Iraq, a meditation on the nature of glory, self-sacrifice, and generosity:

It is not unknown to most of us that the rest of the world looks at us with doubt towards our humanity and morals. I am not here to preach or to say look at me, because I am just as at fault as the next person. I find that being here makes me realize the great country we have and the obligation we have to keep it that way.

The 4th has just come and gone and I received many emails thanking me for helping keep America great and free. I take no credit for the career path I have chosen; I can only give it to those of you who are reading this, because each one of you has contributed to me and who I am.

However what I do over here is only a small percent of what keeps our country great. I think the truth to our greatness is each other. Purity, morals and kindness, passed down to each generation through example. So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they are people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion. This is our real part to keep America free!

Here are some of Mrs. Lee's remarks:

Mrs. Lee said that God redeployed Marc to heaven, because he'd "successfully completed his mission," but she told the families that they are only halfway through their deployment, and they have a job to do -- to stand for the troops, to write their congressmen, to write letters to the editor, to let their friends and neighbors know what's really going on in Iraq. She spoke of her visit to Iraq, and the Iraqis she met who expressed gratitude for America's presence.

A special surprise speaker emerged a few minutes later. Actor Jon Voight addressed the families. He recalled with regret his anti-Vietnam War activities and expressed thanks for living long enough to change his ways, while saluting the troops who made such a difference in such a short time on this earth.

I said in a little op-ed in the Washington Times, that the great patriotism that is represented by our troops and this generation of young people is really lifting our nation altogether. And thank God for them, for your children and what they have meant to all of us, to fix our minds in the proper direction....

I'm 69 years old. I've had a lot of life. I've needed a lot of life to get my priorities straight.... I got a little wayward at the end of the '60s, with celebrity -- it does something to your mind. It drops your IQ.... It distracts you from the truth.... I got into this antiwar stuff in the late '60s and early '70s, and I pray to God everyday that he would forgive me for that nonsense....

I am in awe of the young people who stand for this country....

Here are Voight's remarks:

MORE: Families United also rallied across from an antiwar protest in Denver a week ago. Looking at the Left has photos.

I was having lunch and writing outside The Bad Waitress, a cafe at 26th & Nicollet in Minneapolis, when the wind blew the umbrella down on my head. There's still a strong wind blowing outside here in the Twin Cities, but it's nothing compared to what's about to hit the other end of the Mississippi River.

Earlier this afternoon, the Republican National Convention media office announced that Monday's convention proceedings will be limited to the bare minimum required to establish the convention and lay the ground work for the official nomination of John McCain and Sarah Palin for president and vice president.

At the recommendation of Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican National Convention announced substantial changes to the convention's program and actions being taken to help with Hurricane Gustav relief efforts. On Monday, all program activities beyond the official business that must be conducted in accordance with party rules will be cancelled. Among the other actions announced today are the formation of the Affected States Working Group, the establishment of an Affected States Information Center, and the chartering of a DC-9 to transport affected delegates.

Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain 2008, announced that the upcoming Republican National Nominating Convention is making serious revisions to the convention program and surrounding activities. Davis said, "We are deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of the residents of the Gulf State region. Our top priority is to assist those who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav. This is not a time for politics or celebration; it is a time for us to come together as Americans and assist the residents of the Gulf States."

Davis also discussed what the changes in the program will mean for the nomination process. "In order for the Republican Party to officially exist and for Senator McCain to qualify for the ballot, we are - by law - required to conduct specific official business. At this point, our program on Monday has been scaled back and will only include what party rules governing the nomination of our candidates for president and vice president require. We will perform the official business as required. In addition, we have set aside time to make delegates and Americans watching our proceedings at home aware of what they can do to assist in relief efforts designed to help those who will be affected by Hurricane Gustav."

Davis concluded: "At some point between Monday and Thursday evening, we will convene once again to complete the activities needed to qualify Senator McCain and Governor Palin for the ballot in all 50 states. Beyond that, all we can say is that we will monitor what is happening and make decisions about other convention business as details become available."...

The convention program has been altered in response to the situation developing in the Gulf States region. However, the convention will still take place. According to party rules, it is necessary for the convention to proceed in order to ensure that the party is able to place its candidates' names on the ballot in November.

On November 9, 2007, pursuant to the rules adopted at the 2004 National Republican Convention, the party issued the call for its convention. The call requires that the convention meet on Sept. 1, 2008. The session must be convened no earlier than 9 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m. Under the current party rules, this is the only method by which the party may select a candidate for President and Vice President.

This raises some interesting questions about the necessity and duration of national party conventions. Their four-day length is a relic of a time when delegates actually had decisions to make and time to deliberate them.

Friday's Republican National Convention rules committee meeting heralded major changes in the way Republicans will select a presidential nominee in years to come, although exactly what those changes may be are yet to be determined. The primary process was one of several thorny issues debated in a six-hour meeting by pairs of representatives from each state and territory.

Several attempts have been made in the past to reform the primary process, to address front-loading and to have a process long enough that the flaws of a candidate have time to surface. Such a proposal would normally pass through the permanent Republican National Committee (RNC) rules subcommittee, then through the RNC as a whole, then through the convention rules committee, then through the convention as a whole.

Reform proposals in the past have been killed by the presumptive nominee's campaign team, either at the RNC stage or the convention rules committee stage. This is for two reasons: (1) The nominee wants to avoid any substantive debate at the convention, because it keeps the convention from being a coherent, four-day infomercial for the nominee and his platform. (2) Any modification to the primary calendar is bound to make some states very unhappy, and some of those unhappy states may be swing states. Better to punt the problem down the road.

The Democrats are doing just that. Their rules committee, co-chaired by former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters, recommended the establishment of a "Democratic Change Commission" which will examine the primary schedule (and how schedule violations are enforced), the role of superdelegates, and the conduct of caucuses (caucus presidential preference votes are binding in the Democratic Party). The committee will be appointed by the DNC chairman, will convene in early 2009, and will submit a report back to the DNC by the end of the year. The DNC will then debate whether to adopt the plan for the 2012 election cycle. The plan was approved by the Democratic delegates last week in Denver.

That approach has not been an option for Republicans, as only the quadrennial convention has the power under the party rules to change the rules. This year, however, the rules committee approved, with the blessing of the McCain campaign, an amendment that authorizes a commission to study the primary schedule and to report back to the RNC by the summer of 2010. The RNC would then be authorized to vote up or down on the recommendation (no amendments), and if it passes by a two-thirds margin, it becomes a part of the rules. This approach is similar to that used for military base closures -- the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission makes a recommendation and Congress votes up or down on the recommendation as a whole.

This commission proposal will come before the convention for approval on Monday embedded in the rules committee report. The rules report is usually accepted, without debate, by a voice vote of the delegates. Blink, and you'll miss it.

This commission proposal is a major departure from Republican tradition, which holds that only the convention can change the rules, a fact often repeated by the rules committee veterans who opposed the change.

The composition of the RNC is very different from that of the national convention. Every state and territory has three members on the RNC -- chairman, national committeeman, national committeewoman. The size of the delegations to the national convention are weighted by population and by the state party's success in winning support for Republican candidates. This makes the national convention far more representative of the party as a whole, while the RNC gives undue influence to officials from unsuccessful, small-state party organizations. Texas, Massachusetts, and the Northern Marianas are all equal on the RNC. An RNC vote on the commission proposal which weighted votes in accordance with national convention delegate strength would be more representative of party sentiment.

A long-time RNC member told me that the two-thirds hurdle would be easily surmounted by a commission report with powerful backing. Assuming a Republican is in the White House, the President has only to send one of his minions to the RNC with the message, "The President wants this approved," and two-thirds of the RNC members will fall right in line. (Think back to the RNC's approval of Mel Martinez as chairman.)

Commission opponent Morton Blackwell from Virginia said during the rules committee debate that the Democratic "flexibility" on rules leads to intraparty struggles that purport to be about high-minded principle but are, in reality, about prospective presidential candidates trying to gain an advantage. And as we saw last week, even when Democrats change their rules late in the game, they still don't enforce them -- Michigan and Florida delegates were seated at the convention.

I'm told that the commission proposal was not approved by the RNC's permanent rules committee or by the RNC as a whole. Instead, it was brought as a floor amendment on Friday by Ron Kaufman, the RNC committeeman and rules committee member from Massachusetts. RNC members who might have opposed the idea didn't know about it in time to alert their convention rules committee members or to organize opposition in advance of the committee meeting.

There were enough dissenters on this issue that there may be a minority report, which would be presented to the convention for a vote prior to the majority report. Bettye Fine Collins, a rules committee member from Alabama, was circulating a minority report petition, which would needed 28 signatures to meet the 25% requirement to be presented to the convention. I heard tonight that she had 26, but the number slipped to 25. It's likely that pressure is being applied to rules committee members behind the scenes to keep this issue off the floor.

Even if the minority report gets the signatures, there's no guarantee that it will get a hearing or that it will be handled in accordance with parliamentary procedure, which would require the delegates to deal with the report of a committee minority before they address the majority's committee report. The most important work of a convention happens in the first few hours on Monday afternoon, when the credentials, rules, and platform committee reports are heard. The chair rushes through the agenda as quickly as possible, while the delegates are still dazzled at being on the floor of the convention. If some attentive delegate were to try to raise a point of order, the only chance of getting a hearing is if someone turns on the delegation's microphone.

Expect this major change to fly through right under the radar on Monday.

Minor changes to the primary calendar

The rules committee made changes to the primary calendar over and above the creation of the commission. The recommendation from the RNC to the rules committee would have put the official primary start date on the first Tuesday in March, except for New Hampshire and South Carolina, which would have been allowed to hold a primary as early as the first Tuesday in February.

The change would have penalized more than 20 states which had moved their primaries into February. Committee members from two of those Tsunami Tuesday states, Oklahoma chairman Gary Jones and Tennessee national committeeman John Ryder, proposed a simple amendment to move those dates back by a month. The amendment passed, but a later amendment adjusted the exception to make the third Tuesday in January the earliest primary date for New Hampshire and South Carolina.

These calendar changes would be superseded by anything that the primary process commission comes up with, assuming the RNC votes to approve it.

There was an interesting proposal to discourage but allow February primaries and to help lengthen the primary season by making it harder for one candidate to roll up a huge lead during that month. Under the proposal, primaries held before the first Tuesday in March would have to allocate delegates proportionally -- no "winner-take-all." The motion failed overwhelmingly. Opponents argued that the national party shouldn't impose proportional representation on the state parties.

Military participation in delegate selection

A proposal to guarantee members of the military the right to participate in the delegate selection process drew opposition from rules committee members concerned about logistics and legal exposure. Military personnel are already guaranteed the right to vote in a presidential primary, and most states have special provisions for getting absentee ballots to and from military personnel stationed overseas.

Caucuses and conventions are a different matter. With few exceptions, Republicans don't do anything meaningful to bind delegates at their precinct caucuses. They may hold a straw poll, as they do in Iowa, and the results may boost the profile and fundraising efforts of the straw poll winner, but the straw poll results have no bearing on who is elected to represent the state at the national convention and which presidential candidate those national delegates will support. A small number of Republican caucus/convention states do bind delegates based on a precinct caucus straw poll -- Kansas and Montana come to mind.

(The Democrats are different. Presidential preference polls conducted at precinct caucuses are considered a "first determining step" toward binding delegates to presidential candidates, and the delegates to the next step in the process -- county or state conventions -- are allocated in proportion to the support for each candidate at the precinct level.)

Even though caucuses and conventions rarely bind delegates, they still, in most states, play a role in determining who will represent the state at the national convention, where delegates not only vote for a presidential and vice presidential nominee, but for the rules that will govern the party for the next four years. (In a few states, like Illinois, primary voters vote directly for delegates and alternates.) Because the caucuses and conventions are part of the "process... for selecting delegates," simply giving the military the ability to cast an absentee ballot in a straw poll or a presidential primary is not sufficient to meet the requirement in the proposed rule.

For example, Oklahoma binds its delegates based on the statewide and congressional district primary vote. This year, Mike Huckabee won two congressional districts and six delegates, while John McCain won three districts and the statewide vote to get 32 delegates.

Although all these delegates were bound to McCain or Huckabee, there was still a mighty struggle at each of the congressional district conventions and the state convention as Ron Paul supporters tried to elect delegates from among their number in hopes of influencing the platform, rules, VP selection, and possibly even the presidential nomination itself. (See my April 16 Urban Tulsa Weekly column, "Paul Plot," but please note that since that column was published, I have resigned from both the state and county GOP executive committees and no longer hold any party offices.)

The delegates to Oklahoma's district and state conventions were chosen at the county conventions, and the county delegates were chosen at the precinct caucuses.

So the process of selecting delegates and alternates in nearly every state involves face-to-face meetings in living rooms, school auditoriums, and convention halls. How, practically, do you include active-duty military stationed half a world away in making these decisions?

Two solutions come to mind that would allow greater military participation in the process while meeting the logistical concerns of party officials' concerns. Here's the original language of the proposed amendment:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates shall guarantee the right to vote in that process, by absentee ballot, of individuals who are serving in the United States Armed Forces.

One way to allow military participation while retaining the face-to-face qualities of caucuses and conventions would be to authorize a "Republicans Deployed" delegation at the national convention. The members would be selected at caucuses held at bases around the world.

There may be problems with this idea. Active-duty military aren't free to come and go as they please, so it might not be possible for the delegates elected by Republicans Deployed to travel to the national convention. I also don't know to what extent active-duty military can participate in partisan political activity, beyond casting a ballot. Do we really want soldiers at a forward base in Afghanistan arguing with each other over a platform plank or who gets to be chairman?

Another approach would avoid those obstacles: While a deployed soldier or sailor wouldn't be able to attend a precinct caucus or a district convention back home, he could be allowed to vote in elections for delegate and alternate. This would require candidates for delegate and alternate to file well in advance of the district or state convention, rather than filing the morning of the convention as is sometimes done, so that absentee ballots could be sent to deployed members of the military who request them.

How would runoffs be handled? The same way states like Arkansas are already handling military votes in state primary runoff elections: With "instant runoff" ballots, where voters rank their preferences. In Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District, we've been using that voting technique to elect delegates and alternates since 2000.

Given the hour they had to deal with the issue, the rules committee only managed to come up with a compromise that turned the "shall" to a "may" and added a few more qualifiers:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates may use every means practicable, in the sole discretion of the state party, to encourage active military personnel the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

The compromise satisfied state party leaders, concerned about how to implement the proposed mandate, and McCain campaign officials, who wanted to avoid the embarrassment of the appearance of a rules committee vote against our troops overseas, but it did nothing to address the original concern.

In its one-day meeting, the rules committee simply doesn't have enough time to work through a four-year backlog of reform ideas. But meeting longer than a day has its own problems. Many committee members are ordinary delegates, elected by the members of their state delegations, who take extra days off from work and pay for some extra pre-convention days in a hotel so they can participate.

There's no doubt that the rules of the Republican Party are in need of review and reform. There has to be a better way than, on the one hand, handing the issue over to an unelected commission and, on the other hand, restricting debate and discussion to one day every four years.

MORE: National Review's Stephen Spruiell covered the rules committee meeting and posted several entries in NRO's "The Corner" regarding the debate over military participation in delegate selection: post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4.

For my liveblogging notes from the committee meeting see these entries:

Rules committee: A Republican commission on the primary/caucus process
Rules committee: Palin applause, long-distance caucusing
Rules committee: Primary calendar changes
Rules committee: Palin buzz

You may also be interested in my coverage of the 2004 convention -- scroll down to read my posts about that year's rules committee deliberations.

There. I had that headline ready to go, and by golly, I'm going to use it. (Dawn Summers already won the Sarah Palin punny headline contest: "Palin Comparison.")

I was excited this morning to hear the buzz about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as I hadn't been hearing her name in the last week or so. Palin is both a good choice and a brilliant political move.

As a political move, choosing Palin helps McCain reach out to independent voters and Democrats. Some, particularly Hillary PUMAs, will like her because she's female. Others will appreciate her hard work in rooting out political corruption in Alaska. It warmed my heart to hear her say the phrase "good ol' boy network."

At the same time, Palin fires up the conservative base. Time magazine has posted a McCain campaign report that they raised $3 million between when the announcement was made and 6 pm today. She's a hunter, she's a homeschooler, she supports domestic oil exploration. She's pro-life -- not just a theoretical pro-lifer, but one who chose life when she learned her fifth child, a son, would have Down Syndrome.

My only worry was how well she'll make the jump from small-state politics to the national stage, but when I think of the depth of corruption she had to face in the Alaska government, I think she's ready for anything. True, she was a beauty queen, but she knows how to throw an elbow under the basket, too.

Other reactions:

Rod Dreher: "Whatever crossover appeal the Palin pick may or may not have, McCain has just energized the base going into his convention -- and, I think, beyond. Next week in St. Paul is going to be a lot different than a lot of us thought it would be."

Dustbury has a photo of her as a high school basketball player who led her team to the state championship.

MORE: My friend David Russ from Coral Ridge Ministries let me know about a three-minute "Learn2Discern" video they did recently about two families who chose life for their unborn children who had Down Syndrome. One of those families is the Palin family.


Everything stopped here at the Rules Committee meeting as we watched Fox News coverage of John McCain's introduction of his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Much enthusiasm here.

Following Palin's speech, we recessed for lunch, allegedly until 12:20, but it's 12:47 and only now are most of the committee officials back on the dais.

The issue on the floor before the VP announcement was the following amendment to Rule 15:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates shall guarantee the right to vote in that process, by absentee ballot, of individuals who are serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Now that we're back in session (12:50), the committeewoman from Alabama is proposing a substitute amendment:

Any process authorized or implemented by a state party for selecting delegates and alternates or for binding the presidential preference of such delegates may use every means practicable, in the sole discretion of the state party, to encourage active military personnel the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

This seems to satisfy everyone. State party officials were concerned about how you include someone who has been deployed in a caucus, where meeting face-to-face is the whole point. And if you can't accommodate them, what kind of legal and credential challenges are likely to occur? McCain officials will be happy that there won't be a vote on record rejecting a rules amendment about expanding military participation in the political process.

The motion passed overwhelmingly, and we're moving on to other amendments to Rule 15.

Oklahoma GOP chairman Gary Jones along with Mr. Ryder of Tennessee (didn't catch his first name) succeeded, by a vote of 67-31, in passing an amendment to a change to the primary calendar proposed by the Republican National Committee. The RNC proposal would have allowed only New Hampshire and South Carolina to hold primaries prior to the first Tuesday in March. Jones pointed out that this would put many states which are currently in compliance out of compliance. The two committee members from Michigan, one of whom is a state senator, spoke to the difficulty of negotiating with a legislature under mixed control to change the primary date. Under Jones's amendment, NH & SC can go any time after the first Tuesday in January; everyone else can go from the first Tuesday in February onward.

We've had the call to order by Chairman Alec Poitevint, the invocation and pledge of allegiance here at the Republican National Convention Rules Committee meeting. Gary Jones and Mary Rumph are here representing Oklahoma. (I was pleased to see that conservative activist icon Morton Blackwell is here again, representing Virginia.)

I'm hearing a lot of buzz about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's pick for VP. We'll see. The chairman of the Rules Committee said that they'll halt the meeting and let everyone watch McCain's announcement in Dayton when it happens.

There was a minor delay in being admitted. The communications staff hadn't showed up with the press credentials list yet, but they let me show my convention credential letter and signed me in.

There are six big screen TVs hanging above the room, showing the chairman or whoever is speaking. Media and guests are segregated from the committee by a three-foot-high blue curtain running the width of the room. Two thirds of the press/guest area is roped off as "McCain Staff Seating" -- at least 100 chairs, although only nine people are sitting there. About 12 people are over in the remaining third of the media/guest area. I don't see anyone else who looks like media.

The room is lit brightly, as they're recording the meeting with four cameras.

They are going section by section, and then rule by rule, asking for committee amendments to the rules. Most are technical in nature -- a comma here or there. If someone has an amendment to a rule, they're to speak up when the applicable rule is called.

We have our first amendment, from Louisiana, to rule number 5, and from Kentucky to rule 7, and Louisiana again to rule 9, to Massachusetts to rule 11. That's all for the first section. They will deal with this section before moving on to the next.

There will be a proposal relating to the primary schedule, setting a March start date for all but New Hampshire and South Carolina. (In the Republican system, national delegates don't get bound until district or state conventions, so precinct caucuses aren't considered "the first determining step" as it is for the Democrats.) Oklahoma GOP Chairman Gary Jones, who is also a member of the rules committee, is concerned that states who moved their primaries to February under the current rules, as Oklahoma did, will be penalized, as it would be up to the legislature to adjust the date.

LINKS: Here are the rules as adopted by the 2004 Republican National Convention..

UPDATE: As of 9:39, Rules 1-9 and Rule 11 have been closed to further amendment. Only two amendments from the floor were successful. An amendment by Mary Rumph of Oklahoma and seconded by Morton Blackwell of Virginia, requiring RNC subcommittee meetings to open with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, passed by about a two-thirds margin. The only objection came from an Indiana RNC member who thought it was superfluous, as every RNC subcommittee meeting she'd ever attended has opened in that way. A technical correction to rule 7 (adding a comma to terminate a dependent clause) was passed as well.

Rules committee preview

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This morning I'll be in attendance at the 2008 Republican National Convention rules committee meeting. Back in April the Republican National Committee's rules committee endorsed a new primary schedule for 2012. The schedule would formally recognize the first-in-the-nation status of Iowa and New Hampshire, with South Carolina and Nevada permitted to follow closely thereafter. The remaining states would be grouped into four "pods," one of which is specifically for small states and territories. Each of the four pods would be given a starting date for their contests, and the pods would rotate position with each presidential election.

The full Republican National Committee should have considered the issue at their meeting earlier this week. That body and the convention rules committee are both dominated by small states, which have an equal vote in those bodies to large, heavily Republican states. Stay tuned to this blog all day Friday for the latest developments.

Live from Lamoni

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I'm on my way north to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. I stayed last night in Lamoni, Iowa, just north of the Missouri border. I've been spending most of the morning writing at the Linden Street Coffee House, a very comfortable place in the downtown of this small college town.

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As I worked, I was overhearing an Obama campaign intern and his supervisor looking at how to generate voter lists for grassroots campaigning. Both Iowa and Missouri are key swing states; Missouri is considered a bellwether -- almost always the candidate who wins Missouri wins the White House.

MORE: If you're headed down I-35 and need a coffee break, I heartily recommend Linden Street Coffee House, which is about 2 miles west of the interstate on US 69 (South). During Graceland College's school year, it's open from 7 am 'til midnight most days. (It opens at noon on Sundays, stays open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday nights.) Summer hours are 8 am to 9 pm most days, noon to five on Sunday.

I learned about Linden Street via IndieCoffeeShops.com.

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