RNC 2004: September 2004 Archives

J. M. Branum quotes approvingly from Margaret Cho's account of the Sunday, August 29, 2004, protest in New York City:

. . . There were police all over the street. More than were necessary, and more than I thought actually existed. I am sure they had a major recruitment rush before this week, because their uniforms were ill-fitting and too new, and they all had an awkward nervousness to them. Every once in a while, you would see a grey suited delegate speedily walking alongside on the other side of the barrier. Often, they would be hiding their badges with their hands as they almost ran back to the safety of Madison Square Garden.

There was a small group of delegates sitting near the entrance, watching the enormous crowd go past, with glum but semi-stunned looks on their faces, as if they were watching their empire crumble, which is exactly what was happening.

Nice attempt at mindreading there, Margaret.

Now this protest occurred on Sunday, the day before the opening of the convention. Delegates didn't go to Madison Square Garden on Sunday. There was nothing for a delegate to do there, and I doubt that delegates would have been admitted. The only thing that would have been happening there on Sunday was last minute preparations for the start of business the following day. Delegates and guests had a separate credential for each session -- numbered 1 through 5. Number 1 was for Monday morning, the only morning session. We didn't have a number 0 credential.

Where were the delegates? Were we being protected from reality, as Mike from Little Axe suggests?

PENNYBAGS.jpg

On Sunday afternoon, delegates were still en route to NYC in many cases. Those of us who had already arrived were going to church, sightseeing, attending welcome brunches, and getting ready to see a Broadway play -- the NYC host committee provided matinee tickets for all the delegations. And I doubt that many delegates were wearing grey suits on a warm summer Sunday afternoon.

After reading some of the protest websites before the convention, I told people that the radicals seemed to think that we would stroll the sidewalks of New York looking like Rich Uncle Pennybags, with cane, top hat, tails, monocle, spats, and furs. All of us members of the Halliburton board of directors, we were undoubtedly assembling to plot the next round of plunder, rape, and pillage, but the mighty protestors would confront us and shock us and send us scampering back to the Hamptons (um, no, all rich liberals out there) or Bel Air (ditto).

So Margaret Cho spotted a hotel manager or a security supervisor or a salesman from Macy's mens' department, taking a break and watching the wackos pass by, and imagined him into a plutocrat quaking with fear at the fall of the ancien regime.

If it makes you feel better, Margaret, you're welcome to believe you made a struck a blow against the system and left a deep impression on the nation's kingmakers, but the reality is that we delegates (who aren't very powerful anyway) were busy having fun that day, and we missed seeing you. Sorry. Better luck in four years. If I see you then, I promise to sneer at you through my monocle, whack you in the shin with my walking stick, and leave you in a cloud of exhaust as my Bentley speeds off, so you can feel properly victimized.

Convention impact

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"The Republicans came to town with the Ten Commandments in one hand and a $100 bill in the other, and they didn't break either." -- New York State Senator John Sabini, Democrat from Queens, in the September 4, 2004, New York Post.

Local politicians love to be able to tell voters that they've created jobs, and for forty years or more, the pursuit of convention business has been a favorite way to spend city dollars in hopes of drawing tax dollars to the city from visitors -- people who come, stay, spend, and leave before they become a burden on the city's infrastructure. Despite plenty of evidence that cities rarely make back in increased tax revenues what they spend on the operating cost of convention centers, not to mention the initial capital cost of building or expanding a convention center, or the extra financial incentives offered to major conventions, local politicians still push for higher taxes to finance ever bigger and fancier convention facilities, adding to a glut of underutilized facilities.

I've followed the antics of convention center promoters for many years. In 2000 I led a successful opposition campaign against a convention center expansion and new arena for downtown Tulsa. The project was to be funded by a city sales tax increase and it was sold as a way of generating new convention business for Tulsa, filling empty hotel rooms, and preventing us from becoming a "fourth-tier" city in the competition for national conventions and trade shows. If we voted for the expansion, we were told to expect $100 million in additional direct spending annually -- a threefold increase over the actual direct spending numbers at the time. In debunking their numbers and making our case, we depended heavily on the research done by Heywood Sanders, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the nation's leading expert on convention center economics, who has made a career of comparing the claims of feasibility studies to the results produced by new and expanded convention centers.

Tulsa's arena and convention center package was ultimately sold to the voters in 2003 as part of a billion-dollar package of corporate welfare ($350 million to Boeing for an aircraft assembly plant), parks, university facilities, street improvements, and assorted other pieces of pork, collectively known as Vision 2025, and funded by a 1% sales tax. In the 2003 vote, promoters talked as little as possible about the convention center and arena, and instead pointed to the city's dire economic circumstances -- second only to San Jose in job losses in the wake of the tech bubble's bursting -- and convinced the voters that "we have to do something," never bothering to provide an economic rationale for their claims that Vision 2025 would pull us out of the doldrums. When they did respond to projections that the convention center would run an even bigger operating deficit after expansion, the convention center promoters would claim that increased sales tax revenue generated by additional visitor spending would more than make up for the deficit.

For all that I've read about convention center economics, I don't often go to conventions, so it's been interesting to have an inside look, as a delegate, at a "pearl of great price" in the convention industry -- the kind of event that cities would give everything to attract. And they often have.

New York City has been a great host, and I would love to come back to New York for the 2008 Republican convention, but I wouldn't blame New Yorkers for rolling up the welcome mat. Mind you, not because of political differences, but because an event of this magnitude may cost far more than any economic benefit.

Early estimates from New York City's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) put the net economic impact of last week's Republican National Convention at $255 million, but the numbers are based on economic models and standard industry figures for delegate spending, not actual receipts, using $220 per person per day for five days as a spending estimate for the 47,000 visitors. And that $255 million is a net number -- $341 million in spending, less $86 million in lost retail activity.

It's hard to tell how close those numbers are to reality. Our room was $155 a night, and I'd estimate that my wife and I spent another $50 a day on food and taxi or subway fare, plus incidentals. Four young women in our delegation shared a single hotel room to save money. A lot of additional money was spent on us by various corporations and politicians at the breakfasts and receptions we attended, but I suspect that would still leave the total well shy of the number used by the EDC. Last month, New York City's comptroller estimated that the city would lose $309 million on the convention, the result of all the disruptions and inconveniences connected with the event.

Looked at through the eyes of a convention planner, a national political convention is an odd combination of a trade show and a SMERF event. SMERF stands for social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations. These are the least coveted conventions, because delegates are attending on their own behalf and are spending their own money, not traveling on expense accounts, and accordingly they stay at budget accommodations (or double up in luxury accommodations) and look for restaurant bargains. Like delegates at most SMERF events, RNC delegates paid their own way to New York, as did thousands of volunteers. But then there were also thousands of media staff, campaign staff, and Republican party staff who were at the convention for business reasons and so were traveling on someone else's dime. Economic impact calculations had better take the dual nature of these conventions into account.

The New York papers have had fun recounting delegate penny pinching. A New York Post article featured complaints from hotel concierges who were getting "God bless yous" instead of gratuities in thanks for their assistance. One indignant concierge blasted the thrifty delegates: "They even ask where the nearest Laundromat is so they can wash their own clothes. Look, if you can't afford to travel, don't come." We didn't go to the laundromat or let the hotel do our laundry -- it would have been cheaper to buy replacements. As a way to save money on drinks, we brought along an insulated, leakproof piece of luggage which can be used as a cooler. We bought 6-packs of Diet Cokes for $2.99 each from a nearby drugstore, and filled the cooler with just enough ice from the hotel's machine to keep the sodas cold.

Merchants and restaurateurs near Madison Square Garden suffered badly during the convention, as did Broadway. I wonder, too, about the impact of a nearly empty Javits Center. The Republican committee meetings the week before the convention used only a tiny fraction of the Javits Center, but the rest of the cavernous center was left empty, presumably for security reasons.

New York City taxpayers bore a large chunk of the security costs of this convention -- as much as $15 million out of an expected total cost of $65 million. (The rest of the money comes from the Federal Government.)

Unlike most cities that chase convention business, New York City can plausibly claim that even losing money on this convention, particularly one that draws from every state in the union, can help the city in the long run. Thousands of delegates who had never been to the city, or hadn't been since the bad old days, pre-Giuliani, came away with very positive impressions of the city and are more likely to return and to excite their friends and relatives about visiting. Someone attending a convention in Wichita, let's say, might feel that he had exhausted the tourism potential of the city in the course of a week-long meeting. Nice city, but no plans to return. Most Republican delegates in New York left with a sense of unfinished business, unable to exhaust the possibilities that New York City offers in the handful of free hours we had each day. We will be back.

Beyond the economic impact, the presence of tens of thousands of Republicans had a positive impact on the small but mighty band of local conservatives. Blogger and political consultant Karol Sheinin wrote, "I love the convention being in my city. All the regular rightwing events are on steroids, with more people than ever and a great vibe." Beyond regular events, like the New Criterion's Tuesday evening gatherings at Fitzgeralds, special events connected with the convention, like the National Review cocktail hour cum mosh pit at Turtle Bay, "The Right Stuff" comedy show, and the Club for Growth's events, gave local conservatives a chance to find each other, as they emerge from the catacombs.

Who knows but that a few more such boosts may help develop a thriving conservative social scene in New York City? Shouldn't the capital city of capitalism be the capital of conservatism, too? Conservatives from the rest of the country should offer, out of the goodness of our hearts, to gather annually in Manhattan for a major political shindig -- not so major that it shuts down whole neighborhoods, but major enough to draw the biggest names and the brightest rising stars, a week-long celebration of conservatism. Just like a national convention, but minus the convention sessions, which just get in the way of all the parties and receptions. Yes, we could have it on some cruise ship in the Caribbean, but it would encourage our New York brethren more to have it in their midst. I'm willing to sacrifice for the cause. How about you?

Protest warriors

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One of the unreported stories of the Republican convention was the effort by a pro-American group called Protest Warrior, who tried to infiltrate the radicals' protests with some contrarian signs:

"Except for ending slavery, fascism, nazism, and communism, WAR HAS NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING"

"Protect Islamic Property Rights Against Western Imperialism -- SAY NO TO WAR!" -- the poster depicts a woman in a burka being dangled from a choke chain.

My wife met one of the Protest Warriors on her flight to NYC -- an aviation science student at Oklahoma State University. He dropped me a line yesterday, pointing me to some links to photos and anecdotes on the Protest Warrior website:

As far as anecdotes, we were called fascist and Nazis quite often which are both leftist theories contradictory to conservative ones and, when trying to explain to them this fact they would turn violent. They don't really care for being cornered in a debate. One notable event that comes to mind is a group of protesters protesting for free speech were telling us we didn't belong there and that we shouldn't be allowed to say what we were saying. Others were saying stuff such as: capitalism is for the greedy and socialism is the only true way to go about things. These are people that have jobs and are consumers of goods and services, plain hypocrisy if you ask me.

The Cool Blue Blog (hat tip to Candace) has a first-hand report of the August 29th march.

Top RNC speech excerpts

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John Hawkins of Right Wing News has his top 10 speech excerpts from last week, plus some honorable mentions.

And the RNC convention website can rewind you to any day of the convention for text, audio, and video of the speeches.

Party poopers

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There were complaints in the press and on various gossip blogs that Republican delegates are a bunch of dull party-poopers -- we didn't stay out late and we didn't attend parties. Here's an item from Friday's Page Six column in the New York Post:

September 3, 2004 -- THE Republican delegates seem to have run out of gas when it comes to parties. An Independence Bank bash at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden was canceled at the last minute yesterday for lack of attendance. "You can't do a party there for less than 125 people at approximately $125 a head. I'm told that 200 to 300 conventioneers were originally expected," said our source. RNC parties at the Bronx Zoo, Snug Harbor on Staten Island, and in Queens were also under-attended. "The only party that was packed today was the governor's event at the Fulton Ferry Pier in Brooklyn, right in front of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory," we're told. Not only the outer boroughs are being shunned. Gov. Pataki invited 800 GOP backers Monday night to Tupelo Grill, right across from Madison Square Garden, to eat, drink and get merry while watching Rudy Giuliani's speech. "Only 50 people showed up," said our informant. "But the gov didn't exactly lose his appetite. Instead of savoring the mini-quiche made especially for the occasion, he demanded a cheeseburger with all the fixings."

And this bit from Cindy Adams in the same paper:

CONVENTIONS run from 7 to 10 p.m. Theoretically. Because BS flows like Niagara, they last through 11 p.m. Result? The after-parties, like for Rudy, Arnold, the Bushes, the gov, all begin at midnight. Everyone's exhausted and hungry. Restaurants lose money, since this kills the dinner hour. The original 7-to-10 p.m. concept was for prime-time newscasts. There's no longer nightly network coverage because no longer are folks glued to the screens unless they're TV repairmen. These rah-rah conventions no longer even have a raison d'etre because all's decided beforehand so I asked "Law & Order" actor/Sen. Fred Thompson why not change that 7-to-10-p.m. deal? And he wisely replied:

"I have no idea."

Cindy's a bit off on the timing -- the convention was planned to end at about 11:00 pm EDT every night. That was not an accident. The aim was to get the main speakers -- Giuliani on Monday, the First Lady on Tuesday, Cheney on Wednesday, and the President on Thursday -- going right at 10:00 pm EDT. That would maximize live viewing across the country -- 7 o'clock on the West Coast, and toward the end of prime time everywhere else. This was typically the only hour carried by the major networks. The President was the only one to go beyond 11, and that just barely, followed by another 15 minutes or so of the balloon drop.

But what worked well for the networks didn't work well for the delegates. After the session it was far easier to get on our buses, rather than wander out into the city beyond the barriers. Monday afternoon at the end of the first session was the one time I tried to walk directly out, and I got stuck trying to cross 34th Street at 7th Avenue, as the police were giving priority to the convention buses -- I finally backtracked and walked around to 8th Avenue.

Particularly from Tuesday night on, with protests near the convention site, we faced the choice of riding on buses with police escorts and traffic priority returning us straight to the hotel, or leaving the secured area on foot and walking into the middle of a police-protester confrontation that might keep us from going anywhere for a while. The easy choice was to take the bus and leave from the hotel if we wanted to go out.

Scheduling and security worked together to dampen attendance at outside events, whether during the day or late at night. The evening sessions gobbled up a six-hour block of time from the time we left the hotel until we returned -- all of which was spent within the security perimeter or on the bus. Once you were inside the Garden, the thought of passing through security again was a strong disincentive to dropping in on another event. For the same reason, delegates tended to avoid MSG during the day -- you showed up as late as possible while still arriving in time for the speakers you wanted to hear.

As for parties, we were invited to some afternoon and early evening events -- all but one of them specifically for the Oklahoma delegation, and that other invite came from our congressman. There were rumors of some great after-parties -- John McCain hosted a "Wednesday Night Live" party headlined by SNL star Darrell Hammond -- but no one I knew was invited. The master schedule we were given at the start of the week had long lists of events, most of them labeled "private". I started to go through the whole schedule and mark interesting possibilities, but so many were marked private that I dropped the idea. We might have been daring and shown up to crash a party, but we were too worn out and hungry to waste time and energy showing up at an event only to be turned away.

That's the general, here are the specifics. Let me take you through my week and I think you'll understand.

Distraction

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To the folks who inhabited Blogger's Corner this week: If you think it was distracting to write in a small poorly lit area, surrounded by a dozen other bloggers, next to the main entrance to the media area, try blogging with Sesame Street's Elmo chatting up a storm on the computer game my daughter is playing in the next room.

Processing.... please wait

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Back home on the non-stop from Newark today with Mikki and a few other delegates including Mayor Bill LaFortune, who spent most of the flight snoozing in an aisle seat near the back. I was envious -- I had only had about 3 hours of sleep but could not sleep on the plane because of the continual traffic up and down the aisle. (I could comment about the irony of the Mayor of Tulsa being on the non-stop flight, which was on Continental -- the result of a company responding to market opportunities -- and not Great Plains, the airline that lobbied for millions in government support on the promise of providing direct flights to the coast, a promise it never fulfilled. But I won't.)

I return home with a pile of newspapers I never got through during the convention. Because I was in the middle experiencing the event directly, I haven't had much time to find out what other observers have been saying. I'm especially interested in the feature stories that have been written -- how the delegates responded to New York and vice versa. I want to take another couple of days to sum things up -- what it's like to be on the floor, how a major convention affects a major city, delegates as party-poopers and lousy tippers, the rumored contenders for '08, the moderates who spoke.

Mikki and I finished packing this morning, shipping a box of convention stuff back and just getting our checked luggage under the weight limit, thanks to all the tote bags and books we were given by various sponsors.

Before catching the shuttle to the airport, Mikki and I had time for a brief visit to Ground Zero, a chance to remember September 11, and to remember Jayesh Shah, a graduate of Tulsa's Memorial High School and the University of Tulsa, who was in his office atop the north tower when the plane hit. Jay left behind a young wife, two daughters and a son, and a younger brother who was his nearest and dearest friend. I prayed silently for his family, and looking at the list of heroes, I picked a name at random and prayed for that family too. We spent some time at the east fence, then walked down to Battery Park to view the globe that once stood on the World Trade Center plaza.

This election is about one thing and one thing only -- winning the war on terror. Whatever other disappointments I may have in the administration, George W. Bush is committed to preemptively defeating terrorism while John Kerry seems to want to wait for another attack.

RNC photos from the Daily Oklahoman

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Finally got pointed to the photos of my wife Mikki that were in the Daily Oklahoman earlier this week. We rode to Newark airport with Oklahoman assistant photo editor Steve Sisney, who showed us a slideshow of the photos he took of the convention, and pointed us to the Oklahoman's online gallery which currently features Steve's photos of RNC events. Mikki's two pictures are here and here. And here's Real Media video from KWTV channel 9 in Oklahoma City.

And you can find an archive of Daily Oklahoman coverage of the RNC by going to their homepage and clicking the RNC tab.

The photos were taken at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, where volunteers from several delegations boxed food Tuesday morning, as part of the convention's "Compassion Across America" emphasis. (Mikki went; I stayed behind to try to get my phone upgraded so I could blog from the convention floor.) Throughout the summer leading up to the convention, each state delegation was asked to adopt a local charity, with every delegate giving time, materials or money to the cause. The organizing committee in New York City was also engaged in service projects around NYC all year long. (Here's a press release about the emphasis.

People who went agreed that the trip was worthwhile, but there was some disappointment because in the end only about 25 minutes was spent working. There were problems finding the location, which added another hour or so to the ride over, and no one had a point of contact to call for directions. Once there, they were given an introduction to the work of the food bank, which was informative, but cut into the time available for work. They had to leave early enough so that the First Lady of Oregon could get back for an event at 2.

A contributing factor to some of the difficulties was the inability of the organizers to meet on Sunday to finalize plans and work out details. The planned meeting at Madison Square Garden couldn't happen because the protest parade had stopped in front of the Garden, and security locked the building so that no one could go in or out.

As Mikki noted in the KWTV story, the people who came for the convention are active back home in their communities in many different ways. This event could only dramatize in a small way the more significant contributions that are made the other 51 weeks of the year back home. I'll add that the political efforts made by the delegates -- running for office, organizing, campaigning, contributing money to candidates, and the giving of time, money, privacy, and energy involved -- are an expression of compassion toward their fellow citizens, even if it can't be deducted as a charitable expense.

Mission accomplished

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100_1413-confetti.jpg

The story of the convention is this: The convention closed last night without a major incident. No attacks, no riots, no explosions. Just a handful of hecklers in the hall, drowned out by delegates who started chanting "Four More Years" at the first sign of a disturbance. The speeches hit the marks and made the points that needed making. In the end, the delegates felt like we were doing our job as well, providing support with our cheers and applause.

New York City did its job. I would have the 2008 convention back here, if New York would have us -- but I would understand completely if the people of this city didn't want to deal with a summer of preparations and a week of serious inconvenience.

I'll write more later. We fly home later today.

Touring around

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There's a lot of competition for the time and attention of delegates - more events and special exhibits than delegate-hours to go around. One of our delegates, Rodd Moesel, went on a "green tour" of lower Manhattan - he was the only delegate along with 15 city officials. He met a rep from General Motors' Allison division, who asked if we might have use for a couple of buses. They were looking for opportunities to show off their new hybrid vehicle technology in the form of these diesel/hybrid buses, particularly to city leaders.

One of the buses took us up to the New-York Historical Society for a tour of their new exhibit on the life and death of Alexander Hamilton. This impressive exhibit includes portraits of his contemporaries by Stuart, Peale, and others, documents from his life and career, and the pistols used in the duel 200 years ago this July. There's a wonderful love letter he wrote to his future wife and the farewell letter he left for her before the duel should he not survive. There are two life-sized bronzes of Burr and Hamilton in firing position - Hamilton is shown wearing sunglasses.

These artifacts give you a sense of the political reality of the day - the turn of the 19th century was not just marble busts and powdered wigs.

The exhibit opens next week and will run for 6 months, then it will tour 40 cities across America, with facsimiles instead of original documents. Mayor LaFortune spoke to the curator about bringing it to Gilcrease - it would be a great fit with Gilcrease's collection of early American documents.


Over on MSNBC's website, they present side-by-side videos comparing delegates dancing at the Republican and Democrat conventions. The Republican video begins and ends with two Oklahoma delegates -- Erica Lewis, a career consultant from Stillwater, and Joy Pittman, an attorney from Tulsa. Joy was also on the convention platform committee.

I got an inordinate amount of camera time last night because I happened to be standing right in front of the two delegates mentioned above and three or four more attractive young female delegates.

Meanwhile, John Derbyshire reports his experience being in the hall for last night's proceedings:

The delegates were whooping and hollering, punching the air, jumping up and down. Readers, **I** was jumping up and down. The heck with that British reserve I'm an American now, and a Republican, and I can holler and jump with the best of them. Zell Miller, unfortunately, is not a Republican but he had explained that point to everyone's satisfaction, and no one held it against him. By the time he finished, nobody in the hall held anything against him. Whatever he was for, we were for. Whatever he was against, we were against. This was a real star turn, the best speech of the convention so far better than Arnie, better than Rudy. It was an honor and a privilege to be in that hall when Zell Miller spoke.

Now if we can just get Derb in a chorus line with the Oklahoma delegation....

(Here's the direct link to the Shockwave file.)

Convention coverage highlights

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Wizbang's Kevin Aylward has a great summary of Zell Miller's responses to Hardball's Chris Matthews and his usual rude interviewing style. Sorry I missed it, but Kevin's selection of quotes from Miller makes me feel like I was there. My favorite: "I wish we lived in the day that I could challenge you to a duel."

Redstate and Captain Ed both wonder whether the Miller speech was too fierce. I really appreciated finally hearing a speech delivered with passion, but I understand that we live in Pony-Tail Guy's world now, and we don't like politicians who say harsh things or speak in harsh tones. The Republicans (me included) loved it. Zell in '08!

That's all for now. Check out rncbloggers.com for more.

and Arlen Specter. Go here to see them both.

Heckler hustled out

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I heard some outcry - not loud at all - and then a rush of security, followed by a rush of press. Whoever it was was quickly hustled out gate 67.

I wonder if it would have been less distracting to let the fool holler. A single unamplified voice doesn't carry very well in here.

Media update

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Big media day for the Bateses. I've been profiled by Gawker. The Daily Oklahoman has a picture of Mikki on the front page, packing boxes at a food bank as part of Tuesday's "Compassion across America" event. If the photo is online, you'll find it at www.newsok.com. I'm told that I'm in a picture of the Oklahoma delegation in the Tulsa Whirled. And Scott Sala of Slant Point has posted an interview with me about last week's committee meetings.

The laptop has been in and out of a coma all day, so I have been unable to update, to fix a couple of glaring errors in earlier entries (apologies to Jay Nordlinger for linking his name to Derb's archive), and to link to the excellent coverage by the other convention bloggers. Go over to RNCbloggers.com for all their latest.

W is officially nominated

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and the MSG floor is bouncing.

Literally.

What's the resonant frequency of this floor?

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the RNC 2004 category from September 2004.

RNC 2004: August 2004 is the previous archive.

RNC 2004: November 2004 is the next archive.

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