Blogging Coverage: Open Thread

I received this e-mail from a reader last night when I returned to my hotel room:

You, and all the rest of the bloggers at the convention, are making the same mistake as the bloggers in Boston. You are all sounding like, “whee, look at me! I’m a hick in the “Big Apple!”
Do some professional reporting. Make us proud!

Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts. Bear in mind, however, that conventions rarely generate “news” stories. The value, I think, is in the background we can provide on candidates, issues, and back-scenes machinery that most people rarely see.
I’m anxious to get a sense of what you think, so fire away.

Day 1: Final Thoughts

Our first day on the job provided challenges in droves to Bloggers Corner. For one, the IT connections had not all been established, and it took several hours before all of us were able to reliably get on line and post to our sites. Our strategic placement meant that we could get some good interviews, but that our access to the convention floor was quite limited. In fact, we have to traverse four flights, one down and three up, to get into the main hall, and then we can’t get onto the floor itself. Add in the generally lost feeling of not knowing your surroundings and the overwhelming blitz of traffic coming around our area, add a dash of the tightest security I’ve ever seen, and you get the idea that we could be forgiven a bit of disorientation.
On the whole, after reviewing our work as a group yesterday, I’d have to say that we did pretty well. We stayed mostly focused on the political stories coming out of the convention, and more importantly, we worked together as a unit. One can certainly make the argument that we compete with each other in the marketplace (although I disagree with that somewhat), but we formed a loose bond amongst ourselves pretty quickly. I think you’ll see our product improve as the week wears on.
My lasting impression of the convention itself has to do with the message the Republicans sent last night — they’re not backing away from 9/11 or the war on terror. Speaker after speaker addressed both and made it clear that the GOP will not apologize for liberating 50 million people in Southwest Asia. Nor will they back away from securing America from attack, even when it doesn’t suit the cash flow of countries that make millions and billions by undermining international sanctions against dictators and genocidal madmen.
One clear distinction has already been made between the two conventions. Both conventions talked about war. One party could only talk about one that was concluded thirty years ago, while the other talked openly about the war being waged against the United States by foreign terrorists right now, a distinction that I hope was not lost on those Americans who tuned it to see John McCain and Rudy Giuliani speak. It shows the lack of Democratic focus on the issues facing the country now. They’d rather celebrate the war most of them fought to end disgracefully a generation ago.
One last thought was something I noticed during Giuliani’s speech last night. He spent more time on John Kerry’s Senate record than Kerry himself did in Boston. That should provide another clue to the American electorate about the choices we face in November.

The Keynote Speeches of 8/30: John McCain

I had the opportunity to make it to the floor to see the last three speeches of the day, as bloggers took turns going into the hall to make sure Bloggers Corner remained staffed. Tom Bevan, John Hinderaker, and I sat with the North Carolina delegation to see John McCain speak on behalf of President Bush, in a speech that has been highly anticipated ever since Kerry’s abortive run at McCain for running mate boosted the Arizona Senator’s credibility among both parties.
McCain did not disappoint. I supported McCain in 2000, and while he’s a bit stiff at the podium, his gentle voice played well in invoking the tragedy of 9/11 — a subject that the Democrats avoided in their convention, and one which they will protest the Republicans using in New York. However, how can they avoid it? It would be akin to a failure to mention the elephant in the living room. The terrorist attack on 9/11 was the single worst foreign-based attack in our history, and the response to this vicious act of war should be fair game for reviewing the performance of George Bush.
The Democrats want to attack Bush for taking on Iraq — and McCain had something to say about that as well — but the Democrats do not want people to understand Iraq in the context of 9/11. Iraq not only was a critical piece of the overall war on Islamofascist terror for geographical and political reasons, but also for clear military reasons. After 9/11, we cannot afford to wait for known threats to develop into imminent danger. Even the 9/11 Commission recognized this, and at one point scolded members of the current national-security team in public hearings for not invading Afghanistan in January 2001, even though the 9/11 plot had moved outside of Afghanistan long before that.
McCain focused on 9/11 during his entire speech, and thanks to John Kerry’s earlier courtship, McCain has the credibility to speak to it. In fact, he is only second in that credibility to Rudy Giuliani, who lived through it at Ground Zero, and who spoke later. McCain had a number of ovation-garnering quotes, but what struck me more was the obvious passion and commitment that he communicated to the American people about the necessity of fighting this war:

It’s a fight between a just regard for human dignity and a malevolent force that defiles an honorable religion by disputing God’s love for every soul on earth. It’s a fight between right and wrong, good and evil. …
Like all wars, this one will have its ups and downs. But we must fight. We must.

McCain tried reaching out across the aisle to Democrats in his speech, talking about the similarities in our philosophies in order to reduce the partisan rancor that threatens our war effort. He gave them the benefit of the doubt and honored their intentions and even agreed with their policy goals, to a point:

My friends in the Democratic Party — and I’m fortunate to call many of them my friends — assure us they share the conviction that winning the war against terrorism is our government’s most important obligation.
I don’t doubt their sincerity.
They emphasize that military action alone won’t protect us, that this war has many fronts: in courts, financial institutions, in the shadowy world of intelligence, and in diplomacy. They stress that America needs the help of her friends to combat an evil that threatens us all, that our alliances are as important to victory as are our armies.
We agree.
And, as we’ve been a good friend to other countries in moments of shared perils, so we have good reason to expect their solidarity with us in this struggle. That is what the President believes.
And, thanks to his efforts we have received valuable assistance from many good friends around the globe, even if we have, at times, been disappointed with the reactions of some.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of my Democratic friends. And they should not doubt ours.

But McCain didn’t hesistate to go on the offense with the lunatic-fringe quotient of the Democrats, the hard left that started off supporting Howard Dean. McCain specifically took on the very large target of Michael Moore in a moment that threatened to bring the house down with roars of approval from the Republican delegates. In an unscripted moment, he made an allusion to a “disingenuous filmmaker who would have us believe that Saddam’s Iraq was an oasis of peace” — you won’t find that in his prepared remarks — referring to the kite-flying children’s paradise that Moore portrayed in his film, Fahrenheit 9/11. Fox News reported that Moore (a credentialed media representative here) reveled in the attention, “thrusting his arms upwards” and calling McCain “dumb” afterwards.
This … is the face of today’s Democrats.
McCain finished strongly as he built up to a crescendo at the end of his speech, exhorting the delegates and Americans across the country to keep fighting until victory is assured:

But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against a real enemy, and take courage from the knowledge that our military superiority is matched only by the superiority of our ideals, and our unconquerable love for them.
Our adversaries are weaker than us in arms and men, but weaker still in causes. They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity. We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong.
Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with our President and fight.
We’re Americans.
We’re Americans, and we’ll never surrender.
They will.

McCain delivered one of the most stirring speeches I’ve heard in this election cycle, and I’m glad he’s on our side. It’s just a shame that you missed it if you don’t get C-SPAN.

The Kerry Conundrum Squeezes North Carolina Governor

Last night before John McCain took the floor, I had an opportunity to spend a few minutes with Warren Cooksey, Vice Chairman of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party and an alternate to North Carolina’s delegation. He noticed that I was a blogger, and after introducing myself, Warren proclaimed himself a new but devoted fan to Captain’s Quarters. Naturally, this helped our conversation!
I asked Warren about the selection of John Edwards as Kerry’s running mate and whether that would have an impact on the state in the presidential race. Bush won North Carolina by 13 points in 2000, but that had narrowed considerably this year until just recently, due to the economic conditions in the state. Warren feels that Edwards would have no effect on the outcome in his home state, although it had seemed to give Kerry a little momentum earlier, if you read the polls. As analysts outside of the state have predicted, Edwards doesn’t have much popularity at home.
Warren also filled me in on a problem that Kerry and the Democrats will have in the Tar Heel State. Democratic Governor Michael Easley has to run for re-election this year in a state that has had its share of economic issues and recovered slower than the nation as a whole. The Republican challenger, Patrick Ballantine, has pressed Easley on economics. In order to win re-election, Easley will have to convince voters that the state economy is sound and improving.
That sets up a serious problem of dissonance with the national Democratic campaign. John Kerry has emphasized his economic policies as a cure for the supposed national economic failure of Bush, all evidence to the contrary. When Kerry and Edwards stump through North Carolina, their speeches will talk about economic injustice, joblessness, and poverty — all of the things that Easley has been trying to de-emphasize in order to promote his management of the state during his term.
Easley obviously will be spending all of his time in his state, while Kerry and Edwards may get back for a day or two each month, which means that Easley’s message of economic success will keep battering the national ticket’s contravening message of despair. Warren feels, as do other analysts, that the resulting cognitive dissonance will sinply turn people off of the Democrats altogether (although two weeks ago, Easley enjoyed a substantial lead over Ballantine).
Bottom line, and one emphasized by polling late in August, John Edwards can’t win North Carolina for John Kerry. And if that’s the case, one has to wonder why Kerry chose Edwards over someone with more experience, like Dick Gephardt, who could have made a big difference in a true battleground state. It’s yet another example of John Kerry’s poor judgement that voters nationwide should consider before pulling the levers in November.

Technical Problems Resolved, CQ Back ‘On Air’

Talk about being a victim of your own success! If you tried accessing Captain’s Quarters last night between midnight and 2 AM ET, you probably got a 509 error saying that I had exceeded my bandwidth allotment. Well, I had — by an order of about six times. In the past month, CQ has far outgrown the particular plan that I have at Hosting Matters, one of the lower-traffic plans at that. Unfortunately, the system notices these kinds of things, and last night it did its job.
Any other time, I’d take this as a sign from God that I’ve been working too hard and need a day off. However, I’m sure you can understand the raw panic that flowed through my veins when I tried posting from my hotel room last night and got the same error you saw. Frantic e-mails were sent in all directions to Hosting Matters, offering to pay in gold and silver to get my service restored. Annette, one of the many outstanding people behing Hosting Matters, swooped into action — I swear you could hear the air rush into the vacuum she left behind her — and not only lifted the block on my account but did an emergency upgrade that is eminently reasonable, especially considering the pounding their servers took from CQ traffic this month.
Some of you have asked me about blogging, its cost, and how to get started. Hosting Matters offers top-notch webhosting services, and more importanly, tailors itself to the needs of bloggers. (We’re an odd and cranky bunch.) You can get hosting plans for as little as $6 a month, plus have people like Annette in your corner when you need someone. Many of the largest blogs already host at Hosting Matters, and as far as I’m concerned, so should all the rest.
Anyway, we’re back on the air, and I will catch up to the events from yesterday and last night.

Our Visit With Miss America

You almost have to picture this as a moment of high irony, but the current Miss America, Erika Harold, paid a visit to Bloggers Corner. Why a beautiful and intelligent young woman (as we soon discovered Erika to be) would want to hang out with the computer geeks escapes me, but she gave us a delightful and insightful interview that completely negates any preconceptions about beauty-pageant contestants you ever held.
Erika spoke at length about her battle to speak out about abstinence as a major part of her Miss America mission to reduce the spread of HIV and other diseases, especially in lower-income schools. Erika told us that individuals within the Miss America program became uncomfortable with her approach, taking care to avoid any hint of controversy. However, Erika stuck to her guns, showing the mettle she will need when she starts her first term next week at Harvard Law School as she turns over her crown to the next winner.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that while Erika’s beauty and grace impressed us all at first — you never saw our group move so quickly to an interview — her ideals and her commitment to her values impressed us even more. When asked who she supported in the upcoming election, she emphasized that she supported the President because he shared her values in terms of faith, respect for life, and providing educational choices for less-fortunate children. She spoke with passion about a policy-wonk issue like No Child Left Behind, explaining the importance of Bush’s message to these children. Bush, she said, makes it clear that they mean something to him, and to all of us, a message that they haven’t heard before.
Erika will speak to the convention tomorrow at 8:42 PM ET. The networks will likely not carry convention coverage until just after she speaks, which seems like it suits Erika just fine, but do yourself a favor and tune in on C-SPAN to watch this remarkable young woman. You may as well do it now; you’ll be hearing big things from Erika Harold in the future.

Blog Conference: Ari Fleischer

The bloggers have been assisted by the RNC to bring newsmakers by Bloggers Corner in order to answer questions, and earlier in the day we spoke with former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. The bloggers here have defaulted to an understanding that the guests which all of us want to interview participate in a blogger press conference, where Ari Flesicher we all toss out questions and we transcribe the answers. This is why you’re not seeing ID on the questions; at CQ, I’m treating everyone (including myself) as a generic interviewer. You can hear the audio of these interviews on Blogs For Bush, as Matt Margolis posts them.
Q: Is it a relief to be out of the spokesman job?
A: There are times I miss it. Times like this, when you get the big moments like when the president went to Baghdad, I would have really loved to go to that. But by and large, I’m really happy just raising a family and making my choice in the private sector. Working in the White House is the most wonderful job you can imagine, but it also wears you out.
Q: Can you give us what you see in the difference between how the press is handling John Kerry’s Viet Nam narrative, as opposed to the Bush AWOL that buried us in the early spring and late winter?
A: Well … I think that the press likes nothing more than a big controversy, and I think that some things are inherently more controversial when they affect Republicans than when they affect Democrats. Having said that, the press was very tough on Bill Clinton on a different public issue. They can be tough on both parties, no dount about it, but I think there are some differences that have emerged.
Q: Are you back in the saddle again? Are you here to help out the campaign?
A: I’m here because I believe in President Bush. I’m here in no formal capacity, and I’m proud to be here.
Q: What are you doing now?
A: I’m writing a book, which will come out early next year, about the White House, the press, and my time in Washington, called Taking Heat. [Laughter] And, you know, I work with a couple of clients on public-relations issues and making speeches.
Q: What’s President Bush like to work for?
A: I thought President Bush was the most uplifting, warm boss that you can ever imagine having. His pat on the back is as hard as his kick in the butt. You don’t ever want to let him down, because he treats his staff so well, he is so good to be around. He has the greatest sense of humor, good nature, and when you’re the President, you really want to work hard on someone’s behalf because there’s nothing more important. He’s a wonderful man who works well.
I think that’s why you see such longetivity among his top staff, which is unusual for the White House staff to work as long as they have. [unintelligible] You don’t find that in a modern presidency any more. Karl Rove, Jan Bartlett, Scott McClelland, Judge Gonzalez, Harriet Myers, Josh Bolton. You don’t find this much anymore in a presidency. It’s a tribute to the person at the top. It doesn’t matter what party you are, it’s human nature. He’s a wonderful boss and a wonderful man.
Q: I see three options for the Swiftboat Vet controversy.
A: Yes.
Q: One, to come out and say something mildly positive about them. Obviously, they don’t want to put any [unintelligible]. Two, to stay with the current dodge, you know, we deplore all 527s. Everyone knows what that really means … Three, agree with McCain.
A: I thing Scott’s been saying it exactly right. Scott and the President have been saying the same thing. The President condemns all these kind of ads. You can look “all” up in the book. It’s all-inclusive.
Q: Well, people are saying they’re untrue, not just that they’re 527s. When you condemn all 527 ads, people say “liars” or worse. Is there a difference, or —
A: Well, you know how many ads attacked the President. I don’t know about the 2004 election, but in the 2000 election they had a lot of things that crossed the line. And I don’t remember a lot of outrage about that.
Q: How do you think the President’s been handling himself on this campaign?
A: I think great. The main job is still to lead the country as the President, and part of that obviously is to get a feel for the voters. They want to re-elect him, that’s what he’s doing. Things start to feel good, now that there’s a little momentum coming into the convention.
(more as I transcribe it)

Ken Mehlman on John Kerry: The Rip Van Winkel Campaign

mehlman.jpgKen Mehlman of the Bush campaign stopped off at Bloggers Corner for a quick chat with us. I dropped into the middle of the conversation, in time to catch this priceless description of Kerry’s run from his Senate record:

Here’s the thing. If you spent the last 20 years raising taxes, voting 350 times for higher taxes, and you spent the last 20 years voting against the weapons systems that were the key to winning the cold war, that are key to winning the war on terror, you missed three out of four Intelligence Committee meetings, then voted to pull $5 billion out of intelligence, when you say that a girl in school need parental consent to get [unintellible] but not for an abortion — if that’s your record, you’d also run from it.
From the beginning, their campaign has been the one where the last 20 years didn’t happen, [they’re] going to talk about 35 years ago, because you can’t defend the last 20 years. It’s the Rip Van Winkel campaign – they’ve been asleep for the past 20 years.

So far, that’s the Quote Of The Day here at Madison Square Garden.

Typekey Registration Now Required

Unfortunately, the spammers have discovered Captain’s Quarters along with a bunch of great new readers looking for convention coverage. I have required Typekey registration for comments entry. This will be in effect for the week of the convention, and possibly longer than that.
Sorry for the inconvenience, but I have to either do this or shut down comments altogether.

Mayor Koch Visits Blogger’s Corner

Former New York Mayor and “lifelong Democrat” Ed Koch paid a visit to Blogger’s Corner and spoke about his support of George Bush.Former Mayor Ed Koch The mayor started off informally by asking us whether we would consider his weekly e-mail columns to be the equivalent of blogging, which we unanimously rejected. We think he’ll be blogging in the next couple of months.
The mayor took a few questions from the collected RNC bloggers, which I will do my best to transcribe in this noisy environment:
Q: You came out for Bush early on in this race, Mayor.
A: 2002.
Q: Why so early?
A: I believe I was the first to use the term “Bush Doctrine” in my commentary … I don’t agree with him on any domestic issues, taxes, Social Security, abortion, you name it …
Q: Education?
A: Maybe education, although I think he’s underfunded it. But I said, all of the issues are trumped by standing up to and dealing with international terrorism. That is the Bush doctrine, which he enunciated when he came before Congress, that he would go after the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. … Now, the Democrats don’t have the stomach for this. It’s regrettable, because I’m a Democrat. I believe I represent more Democrats than Senator Kennedy or a whole host of other people like him. … He’s done good things in his life, but he doesn’t represent the heart and soul of the Democratic party … [Senator Kennedy] is an arch ultra-liberal! … The party has been taken over by the Deaniacs, which is what the media called them, not me …
John Kerry got their vote when they realized that Dean couldn’t win, and he [Kerry] tells them what they want to hear. First he voted for the authorization for the war against Iraq, he stood up and he supported it. And then when he went to the various conventions to get delegate support, he changed his point of view! And he said that he had been misled! … Then when he was more recently asked what he would have done if he knew then what we know now, he said he still would have voted for the war. So who do you believe? Which John Kerry? The one who talked to the Deaniacs and said he was sorry that he cast his vote for the war? Or the one who more recently said, “I would have done it anyway”? …
Q: I’m a New Yorker, and saying that you support President Bush because of his stand on the war on terror makes perfect sense to me. Are you disappointed that more New Yorkers don’t share that view?
A: New York is an ultraliberal town. How I ever got elected in New York, I’ve never been able to figure out. [Laughter.] It was always the primaries where I had my struggle, and then when I went into the general election, I would get 75% of the vote, 78% of the vote. Everybody voted for me, irrespective of party. I would say this — I love New York. I love every one of the crazies.
Q: John Kerry says he wants to wage a more sensitive war on terror. What kind of message do you think that sends?
A: [crosstalk] What is a sensitive war? I don’t know what that means. [Laughter] They — the fundamentalist fanatics, not all Muslims — but hundreds of millions of them want to kill us. I don’t want to be killed. And I’d rather kill them, over there, than have our people killed over here. The Christians, the Jews, the Hindus — all the people who don’t accept Islam as supreme — the people who follow Islam have made Osama bin Laden the most popular figure in all of Islam. In all of Islam! I saw a figure, what 99% of Muslims supports Osama. I don’t know, I read that.
Q: Do you think there’s a need to form a third party today?
A: I’m a Democrat. I was born a Democrat, and I’m going to die a Democrat. I’ve voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. I’ve crossed party lines before. Never for a Republican president. I did for mayor — I voted for Lindsay, I voted for Giuliani … You know, I’m 80 years old. I don’t want anything from anybody. I’m never running for anything again. I dont want to be mayor again. I love being a partner in my law firm. … I want to do what’s right for the people of the United States.
Q: All the Democrats say —
A: Who cares?
Q: You don’t care?
A: I will tell you this … I got four letters. That’s all. I got four letters [protesting his endorsement of Bush] and when I answered them, I said I served in public life for 23 years. Councilman, Congressman, and Mayor. I think I know a lot about public affairs. I spent my life doing it. Don’t I have the same right as you have to make a decision as to whom I will support? Now we don’t agree. I doubt that I will be able to convince you, I know you won’t agree with me, but can’t you respect my decision? And I got a letter back saying, “Yes.” This was from someone who had written me a miserable, rotten letter. … [Laughter] I’ve got nothing to lose.
Q: I’ve been a New Yorker for 10 years, and I’m a Republican. Is this convention “here today, gone tomorrow”? Do you see any lasting effect from the convention?
A: What do you mean?
Q: Do you see this as a Republican party-building exercise?
A: No. New York won’t go Republican. Look, I’m a lifelong Democrat. Normally, I want to vote for the Democrat.
(more as I transcribe it)