8/31 Keynote Speaker: Laura Bush

10:25 An introduction for the First Lady by her twin daughters has started off very well, although they’re clearly nervous. They’ve poked fun at themselves, their grandmother, their father, Dick Cheney, Sex And The City, Karl Rove, Condi Rice, and Karen Hughes. They’re having fun doing a tag-team comedy routine …
10:30 “We had a hamster, too. Let’s just say it didn’t make it.”
10:32 A surprise — George Bush is live on satellite to complete the introduction. I wonder has this happened before, where a candidate appeared before the nomination? At least during the modern, scripted era of conventions?
10:35 Laura is on now, thanking the Bush family. The former President and First Lady, George and Barbara, held up We Love Laura signs. …
10:37 “Why do you think we should re-elect your husband as president?” An interesting way to frame her speech. It makes sense, as a First Lady usually doesn’t get too involved in the hard politics. And, in fact, she’s starting off with education, the cause she’s adopted for her time in the White House.
10:39 Women-owned business as a model for the ownership society — another pitch-perfect topic. Now she’s moved on to health care, although that gets less enthusiastic. Stem-cell research that respects the “dignity of human life” gets better response.
10:40 Economics gets a mention, only briefly, and in terms of home ownership. She transitioned to national security — not your typical First Lady topic. Laura focuses on the extraordinary contribution of a Colorado family that has three sons enlisted in the service, all deployed overseas …
10:43 Laura Bush speaks in the quiet, dignified manner that befits a First Lady, but I’m wondering whether it wouldn’t have been better to lead off with her and finish with Arnold. The crowd is responding to Laura, but there’s little doubt that the intensity has dropped off.
10:46 Millions more people live in freedom now than four years ago, and especially the women of Afghanistan. This speech obviously targets the women’s vote, especially among the undecided. It’s effective here in the chamber … we’ll see …
10:52 She gets more effective when she talks about her husband, with much more passion. She is technically excellent at speaking when covering other subjects, but she inspires people when talking about George.
10:54 “Because of strong leadership, we don’t hide under our desks any more,” referencing the Cold War and the determination that led the way to victory. A great, if subtle, reference to Ronald Reagan. …
10:56 A good speech, perhaps even an excellent speech, and certainly a dignified and classy endorsement of her husband.
Addendum: You may be missing this at home, but the Harlem Boy’s Choir is performing one of my favorite Civil War songs, Battle Hymn Of The Republic. They are doing a magnificent job, truly a wonderful end to the evening.
Further notes: Another speaker has come out — a survivor of the Holocaust is speaking about her experiences in the camps and her liberation. She is speaking now about Bush’s commitment to battling terrorism, both here and in Israel. I don’t have her name, but she shows the most passion I’ve heard so far tonight.

8/31 Keynote Speaker: Arnold Schwarzenegger

10:03 Arnold is speaking now, talking about his immigrant experiences. He opened with a two jokes about himself and his acting, and one barb at the Democrats.
10:04 However, he now is speaking about the fear he felt as a young child, living in dread of the “Soviet boot” — and he has fired up the crowd, reminding them that the Austrians are only free due to American determination and resolve, the first indication that he will emphasize the need for those qualities now…
10:06 He openly talked about Richard Nixon as a “breath of fresh air” for a young boy yearning for freedom. Interesting; the crowd has no qualms about evoking Richard Nixon.
10:09 Arnold continually refers to his immigrant status. It appears to be his theme, and he’s tying it to a big-tent theme. Of course, Arnold represents the more liberal wing of the party.
Now he’s about to do a series about knowing if you’re a Republican — and it’s pretty effective. (I’ll clip this later from his text.) It’s all about responsibility, personal freedom, and American sovereignty, which has brought the crowd to its feet, whistling and stamping. “If you believe we must be fierce and determined to terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican!”
10:12 “Don’t be economic girly-men!” If you invoke Nixon, a girly-man reference won’t make you quail, of course…
10:14 Attacking the Two Americas theme — this is a theme that has run through all of the keynote speakers. It addresses the optimism that was missing from the Democrats in Boston. Rudy Giuliani utterly laid waste to this theme last night, but Arnold wants to make sure it’s really dead. …
10:17 Back to terrorism, and expect to hear more about this throughout the rest of Arnold’s speech. It’s an ironic moment, having one of the most famous immigrants to the US speaking to Americans about their decency and their goodness. ..
10:21 In the middle of a story about a wounded serviceman Arnold visited, a small disturbance erupted on the floor in front of the VIP box where Cheney and Giuliani are sitting. I didn’t see enough of it to find out what happened, but whatever it was, security forces pushed it off the floor quickly …
10:24 After leading a chant of “Four More Years,” Arnold finishes by thanking the crowd, and even takes a curtain call of sorts. A very good speech, and one that was very popular with the crowd. More later.

Blogging From The Convention Floor – Michael Steele

I am in in the auditorium with the delegates (in the stands, not on the floor), and so far, I have a connection with which to blog. With any luck, I’ll be able to live-blog the two keynote speakers for tonight’s main event: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush.
Right now, I’m watching the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Michael Steele. This man impresses the heck out of me. He connects to the audience in personal terms, but he easily charged up the crowd with a wonderful crescendo as he discussed his values and the values of the GOP. Completely at ease at the podium, he seems to be a man with a future in the party.
Steele works extensively in the media, both alternate and mainstream. He writes for such varied publications as the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Times, and more. He also appears on the radio in his own lunchtime radio show and has made a number of other radio and television shows. He’s got the exposure and the talent to move to the first squad at his next opportunity. Keep an eye out for him.

Lynn Swann Supports Bush!

swann.jpgI grew up a rabid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, ever since I watched the Immaculate Reception in the playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. One of the best players on the team that won four Super Bowls was the incredibly acrobatic wide receiver, Lynn Swann. Despite having gone to USC, Swann had a grace and determination on the field that not only won him a spot in the Hall of Fame, but almost definitely made him one of the best slow-motion reply subjects ever in sports.
We found out yesterday that Swann would be appearing at the convention, one of a number of celebrities that have made their way to New York to support the President’s re-election bid. I’ve been careful about fan-boy posts, but in this case, I hope my readers will forgive me for ensuring that this moment gets archived for posterity.

Hugh Hewitt: Terry McAuliffe On Hugh’s Show

You can listen at this link.
hughmac.jpgUPDATE: Hugh slaughtered McAuliffe. I don’t have any of the audio, but I can tell you from being there and listening, that Hugh took him out. First off, he got McAuliffe to admit that his job is to tell everyone that Kerry’s winning regardless of whether it’s true. He also folded on Christmas in Cambodia. As always with Hugh, everyone parted friends … but those of us who were nearby the interview knew it went badly for McAuliffe. What can he do? He’s been dealt a loser hand.
UPDATE II: More lefty meltdowns, this one from last night (at Wizbang). Apparently Al Franken wants to get elected to the Senate by garnering the bully vote.

General Tommy Franks: I Support Bush For President

franks.jpgGeneral Tommy Franks announced today that he will support George Bush for president at our blog conference at the Republican National Convention.
Q: General, do you support George Bush for President?
A: Yes.
Q: With regards to consistency, did George Bush hurt himself with his remarks on Matt Lauer that maybe we can’t win a war on terror?
A: Absolutely not. We won a Cold War, didn’t we? And we didn’t do that in 15 minutes.
Q: Did Ronald Reagan show that kind of doubt in his effort to win the Cold War?
A: I don’t know that there was any doubt shown at all. I think that we’re talking about consistency, and persistency, and anybody who looks at this thing over the last three and a half years is going to have a heck of a hard time trying to point out when he was not consistent or persistent. You got a lot of people who look at the other side, see, and they’ll say, well, my goodness, he shouldn’t have been so persistent. By gosh, he should have changed his mind. Well, absolutely not.
Q: He did clarify himself on Rush Limbaugh.
A: I didn’t see that. I didn’t hear that.
Q: He did clarify his Matt Lauer comments.
A: What’d he say?
Q: He basically said that he misstated it. Well, he clarified his point that it is a winnable war, it’s not going to have an official end. It won’t —
A: Well, yeah.
Q: It won’t end in a treaty.
A: Yeah, and I think that it’s one of those kind of things where you have to look real hard to find a parade after the Cold War. You know when the wall came down? The greatest standoff of our time. A nuclear standoff crisis that went on for decades. I believe if you had asked any president, during that time, and asked, “What do you think? Is it winnable?”, he might well have said, “Well, I don’t know, it’s kind of standoffish.” But the fact of the matter is that the war on terrorism is winnable. But it’s not winnable in 15 minutes or in 12 months. It’s going to go for a while.
Q: Do you think John Kerry can fight an effective war on terror?
A: Well, I support George W. Bush. You know what? I know what John Kerry is against. I’m having a little trouble figuring out what he’s for.
Q: Is our successful fight against Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf diverting us from the more important effort in Ramadi and Fallujah and the rest of Western Iraq?
A: No, I don’t think so. I think what you have to do in Iraq is you have to play each day at a time. You know, we can criticize ourselves for not having the perfect plan, at any juncture we want to criticize ouselves. We can break out the sackcloth and the chains and all that sort of stuff, but the fact of the matter is when we were talking about 25, 28 million people, and they have been in the circumstances they’ve been in for the last three decades, then what you’re going to find is that fractious behavior by the al-Sadrs, you’re going to find situations like Fallujah, you’re going to find situations in Mosul or Tikrit on a given day. We rise to them as they come up.
Q: General Franks, there has been a lot of criticism with some people saying that President Bush did not have a plan to win the peace. Can you address that?
A: Sure. Of course he had a plan to win the peace. Of course he did. Of course the United States had a plan to build the largest coalition the world has ever seen. And did it. Of course the United States had a plan to lead a coalition to remove one of the most despotic regimes we’ve seen in the last 100 years. Of course the United States of America has a plan to lead the coalition that will permit and assist the Iraqi people in claiming a new Iraq for themselves, a free Iraq. And all of that is going to take longer than a flash in the pan associated with popping a balloon.
You guys OK now?
Q: On the Swiftboat controversy, when you were first asked about it —
A: Yes. I’m still not — I’m still not a big guy into hyperbole. I mean, I’m not a big guy into hyperbole, on either end of the continuum. I think he had two issues, and I think Senator McCain has pointed them out very well. You have situations that went on where the Swiftboat guys were on down in Vietnam, I was in Vietnam, John McCain was in Vietnam, John Kerry was in Vietnam, and the vets were in Vietnam. And I don’t have anything to say about that. On the other hand, my concern is what happened after Vietnam, after Senator Kerry returned from Vietnam, and I may well have something to say about that.
Q: They said that if Kerry would apologize for his 1971 testimony, they would drop all future Swiftboat ads from the campaign. Do you think that’s fair?
A: Oh, in my personal view, it’s not a matter of dropping something. I’ve said right from the start —
Q: That’s what the Swiftvets said today. They offered it to Kerry if he would apologize.
A: Wouldn’t that be great? You know why it would be great? Because the people of the United States of America could focus on what’s important, and that’s our children and our grandchildren and the next four years of leadership for America, where we are faced every day with one of the most serious threats we’ve faced in 100 years and that’s terrorism. We’re going to have to display consistency, character, be persistent in the face of the difficulty. And that’s what America’s going to have to draw from her President. Where are we going to get that kind of leadership? It’s one thing to know what a man is against; it’s an entirely different thing to know what a man is for.
Q: Thank you, General Franks. [Applause]
It appears that George Bush has the fresh troops ready for the final push. Having a man with the credibility of General Tommy Franks on the trail pushing George Bush will raise confidence in Bush’s leadership on national-security issues at the moment when Kerry already sees his support eroding on this critical quality. And it sounds like the former General has plenty to say, now that his retirement allows him to speak out.
UPDATE: Matt Margolis at Blogs for Bush has the audio.

Rumble In The Blogger Jungle: Hannity Vs. McAuliffe

An interesting confrontation took place just in front of Bloggers Corner a few minutes ago. Sean Hannity has a booth just a few feet from our tables, and we’ve had front-row seating for his show yesterday, today, and the rest of this week, too. While on the air, Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe passed by the booth — on his way to the Air America table, no doubt, which is located right around the corner from our booth. The two of them began yelling at each other, with Hannity demanding that Kerry apologize to the vets he smeared since 1971 as war criminals. McAuliffe finally walked off, laughing, but people stood and looked at each other, surprised at having seen real news (of a sort) occur at a political convention.
Georgia Senator Zell Miller is on air with Hannity at the moment, and he looks sharp. I can’t wait to hear his speech tonight.
UPDATE: Hannity has McAuliffe on the air in a moment …
hanmc.jpgUPDATE II: Hannity and McAuliffe went toe to toe on the air, and we got ringside seats. Hannity started off by talking about Unfit For Command, which McAuliffe admitted he has not read. When Hannity pressed him to say whether the 200+ combat veterans were all liars, McAuliffe instead said that he had personally spoken with three or four of Kerry’s shipmates (the band of brothers), and he was convinced they were telling the truth.
Hannity also tried to press McAuliffe for answers on these questions, all of which McAuliffe refused to answer:
* Christmas In Cambodia (several times)
* John Kerry’s support for a nuclear freeze during Reagan’s term
* John Kerry’s vote against the death penalty for terrorists during Bush’s term
Interestingly, just before the last two questions, McAuliffe had complained that Hannity wouldn’t discuss Kerry’s Senate record. As soon as he did, however, McAuliffe kept changing the subject back to George Bush’s National Guard service.
Hypocrisy, thy name is McAuliffe…

Being The Story

While we have not had to deal with the overwhelming media interest that bedeviled the Boston convention bloggers, we are getting our share of attention, especially given our proximity to Radio Row. Yesterday I made a last-minute appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s show, along with John Hinderaker, and we may appear again there. Right now, both of us are being interviewed by our hometown paper, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, by reporter Sharon Schmickle. Later today, I am also scheduled to appear on Kevin McCullough’s show around 2:45 and I’ll also call in to Cam Edwards show around 3:20 this afternoon, and supposedly I’m appearing on Right Talk, but that looks like it’s falling through.
The only danger in getting too caught up in this attention is that we lose focus on our own stories. I think as the convention heats up, everyone but Hugh and Kevin will lose most of their interest in the bloggers. We’ll eventually lose our novelty.
That’s when we’ll really know we’ve arrived.
UPDATE: Just finished doing Kevin’s show, and what a pleasure that was. I’ll be back later on this week to talk more about blog alliances.
UPDATE II: Now I’m being photographed by the Star-Tribune’s Stormi Greener. No, James, I am not making the names up, and they have been very nice to me. When you see my bald head, I may change my mind, of course …

An Oasis In A Dry Garden

One of the challenges we faced yesterday was the lack of beverages available at the Garden, an unusual problem that I hadn’t anticipated. I assumed that we would have all of the concession stands open, but they seem to be closed, presumably to simplify security for the convention.
coffee.jpgStepping into the breach to soothe dry throats is Political Grounds, which describes itself as “America’s Politically-Incorrect Coffee”. They’ve set up a booth giving away free bottled water and very good cups of coffee to anyone who wants to stop by their booth. Julie also gave me a pound of their coffee, which comes in eight varieties. I selected Osama’s Mama, which states that it’s “dedicated to our fighting men and women searching those caves for the evil one who brought us the events of 9-11. Only a mother with a foot-long beard could love this guy. Osama, where’s your mama?”
How can I resist posting about that? Check out their other offerings as well. I’ll tell Julie you say hello.

Kerry Losing Ground On Security: WaPo

Today’s Washington Post reports that John Kerry has lost ground on security issues, falling behind George Bush on an issue in which he attempted to trump the Republican strongest point. The Post notes that Kerry has lost eighteen points on national-security issues since the end of the Democratic convention, and these numbers were taken before the start of the convention:

President Bush holds clear advantages over John F. Kerry on national security issues and leadership in the war on terrorism, largely erasing the broad gains Kerry made at his party’s Boston convention last month, but voters continue to give the president negative marks on the economy and his handling of Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. …
The new poll found that a slight majority of registered voters — 53 percent — say Bush is more qualified than Kerry to be commander in chief, while 43 percent say they prefer the Democratic nominee. At the end of the Democratic convention, Kerry enjoyed an eight-point advantage over Bush on that question. Taken together, the results of the poll suggest that Bush’s recent gains have come from eroding perceptions of Kerry and not as a consequence of improved views of Bush’s performance as president.

Richard Morin and Christopher Muste attribute the precipitous drop in Kerry’s ratings to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack ads and national bestseller, Unfit For Command — a remarkable effect, given that the Swiftvets only ran ads in three markets and spent less than $500,000, compared to the multi-million-dollar onslaught of the 527s on John Kerry’s side. However, the bad news isn’t just limited to the damage done to Kerry by the David-like Swiftvets, as the Post explains:

Bush is viewed as more honest and trustworthy than Kerry by 47 percent to 41 percent — exactly reversing the results of the Post-ABC News poll taken immediately after the Democratic convention.
Bush also is seen by a growing majority as the stronger leader and has narrowed Kerry’s lead from 14 percentage points to six points as the candidate who best understands the problems of people like them. He has tied Kerry as the candidate who best shares their values and drawn nearly even with the Democrat as the candidate who has a vision for the future, two areas where Kerry led immediately after his party’s convention.
On key issues as well as character, Bush has improved his position since the Democratic convention. Kerry is no longer viewed as the candidate best able to deal with the economy — an issue of growing importance to Americans this year, according to the survey. Voters are now evenly divided over which candidate would do the better job with economic issues.
By 52 percent to 44 percent, voters now judge Bush superior to Kerry as the candidate who would be best able to deal with the situation in Iraq. After the Democratic convention, the two were essentially tied.

It’s impossible to tie all of this to the Swiftvets and it augurs real trouble for the Democrats. It’s not unusual to see some of the underlying numbers erode after an opponent’s convention, but to watch them fall like this before George Bush even takes the stage this Thursday indicates that Kerry’s campaign has hit the shoals. No one knows this better than the Democrats themselves — so much so that they’ve been forced to release an internal polling memo which purports to calm the faithful who are watching Kerry slowly sink as their alarm rises:

President Bush has gained ground on Democrat John Kerry in the month of August because of “relatively small but unmistakable” shifts in the political environment, Democratic strategists said in a memo.
The polling memo released Monday by Democracy Corps, a group led by pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville, said the subtle gains by Bush have knotted the race again after Kerry had a slight advantage after the Democratic National Convention in late July.
“There is no doubt that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads (attacking Kerry’s Vietnam service) have had an impact on the race,” according to the Democracy Corps memo. Those attacks combined with the Summer Olympics have combined to “shift the focus away from Iraq and worrisome economic trends.”

The hand of Carville can be seen all over this memo, and the only thing “internal” is probably the stamp at its top. The content is obviously intended for external spin, as the only “worrisome” economic trends are those which show the economy continuing to expand, despite the pessimism of the Democrats. Acknowledging that Kerry has been damaged by the Swiftvets in the face of a monolithic media blockade underscores both the effectiveness of the alternate media, such as bloggers and talk radio, as well as the power of the Swiftvets message itself. Plus, Carville discounts the damage done to Kerry’s campaign by the candidate himself, who was reduced to begging for George Bush’s intervention to stop the Swifties from exercising their First Amendment rights — hardly a becoming position for a man who wants to sell us on his leadership and courage under fire.
And they haven’t even encountered the effects of the speeches by John McCain and Rudy Giuliani last night at Madison Square Garden. What will they say after the next polling cycle? Will John Kerry beg George Bush to ban polling next?