Convention Security ‘Bigger Than The Super Bowl’

Think of it as the hangover after an awards celebration. In the aftermath of winning the Republican National Convention, the magnitude of the security preparations has dawned on state and local officials. Estimates of personnel go between 5,000 and 10,000 police officers, while the Twin Cities currently employ 1,400 combined:

Security will be the biggest concern — and the biggest expense — for the convention, with plans for as many as 10,000 officers to be deployed and $50 million to be spent to protect delegates, media and high-profile politicians.
“Everything we do is different after 9/11,” said Rob Allen, a deputy chief with the Minneapolis Police Department. “A Twins playoff game, a Vikings game, a parade, all are different. You can’t turn back the clock on how you do security.”
Although the Twin Cities has attracted larger crowds — such as at the 1992 Super Bowl — it has never held an event with the importance, scrutiny or magnitude of a modern presidential convention. …
This is probably the first time that a national political convention will be held in two cities, and that large geographical footprint will be one of the biggest security challenges of the event.

Obviously, officials in both cities will have to rely on outside help for staffing, while simultaneously providing all of the normal police services to Minnesota residents. Those will likely come from cities and counties from all over the Upper Midwest and perhaps beyond, and we will need every last one of those who volunteer. Boston used 5,000 police for the Democratic National Convention in a city with the same approximate size as Minneapolis and St. Paul, and in the end that number fell somewhat short of optimum. The lack of personnel forced the city to “lock down” venues.
In New York, I can tell you that the police kept a highly visible presence the entire convention. Large numbers of them could be seen at all times throughout the entire area where Madison Square Garden is located. Streets surrounding the venue were shut down and barricaded, and even foot traffic was curtailed. I got stuck at one such point, which turned out to be the high point of my travel day. That kind of security will no doubt get deployed by the Twin Cities, and it is personnel-intensive.
We have hosted high-visibility events before, such as the 1992 Super Bowl, but that was in a different era. National conventions for either party present very attractive terrorist targets, and the presence of the President (whom I assume will attend) makes it even more so. This will be on a much higher scale than 1992 or any of the presidential visits we often get. The cost will be enormous, although the Star-Tribune reports that the federal government will pick up most of the security tab through the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a mighty challenge, and the Twin Cities will have to work with a wide range of police departments and sheriff’s offices in order to meet it.

Guantanamo On The Hudson?

Lawyers have descended upon New York City to file a flurry of lawsuits over the measures taken by the Big Apple to ensure security during the Republican National Convention. Both the New York Times and the AP file reports today describing the mass detention of 1800 protestors as a “Guantanamo” that amounted to cruel and unusual punishment:

The federal lawsuit claims protesters and bystanders alike were rounded up in mass arrests without cause; were kept without access to their lawyers or families at an old bus depot used as a temporary detention center; and were exposed for days to cruel and inhuman conditions.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages.
“All that was missing were the orange jumpsuits,” lawyer Jonathan C. Moore said. “Under the guise of terrorism and the fear of terrorism, we are all losing our rights.”

The Times reports an even more hysterical set of allegations:

The suit, filed initially on behalf of 24 people who were among more than 1,800 detained during the convention late this summer, contends that their constitutional rights were violated by arbitrary arrests and by harsh conditions at Pier 57, a former bus repair depot where they were held for as long as 48 hours on minor charges. The suit contends that the pier was contaminated with asbestos and toxic chemicals. …
Several of the people suing the city said that they were still suffering aftereffects. For example, Rebecca Stoneback, a 25-year-old jewelry designer and glass artist from Asbury, N.J., showed several blemishes on her face at a news conference yesterday. She said they erupted, along with a rash on her body, while she was sitting handcuffed on the floor at Pier 57.

Yeah, well, one can’t complain about anything to do with the GOP without tossing a bone to the environmentalists. It sounds to me like such a gross exaggeration that it questions the entire motivation of the lawyers and plaintiffs involved.
First, as one who was there, I can tell you that the areas being protected by the police department were only those adjacent to Madison Square Garden and the Pennsylvania Hotel. Police barricaded the streets surrounding these venues for good reason — they didn’t want anyone parking car bombs in front of them. The police forbade protests in this area because they wanted to focus on security, which seems like a reasonable decision to me. Other areas were ignored by the police, as close as a block away, but if anyone came into the secure zone to protest, they were politely asked to leave, and then arrested if they refused. I saw this myself twice during my stay in New York, and in both cases the protestors started quoting the First Amendment over and over again rather than leave.
The detention story got a lot of play even while we were at the convention. The protestors strategized that they could paralyze the police by simply getting arrested over and over again during the four-day convention, lowering the security for the conventioneers by exhausting police resources in moving people back and forth constantly to the jails. However, as anyone who has actually read the law knows, cities can detain people for quite a while without arraigning them, usually between 48-72 hours in most jurisdictions. New York took advantage of this by waiting until the last moment to arraign protestors — a few of which waited too long, getting a strong rebuke from a municipal judge — in order to discourage the revolving-door strategy.
I’m not sure what people expected after they were arrested. The city had to find a facility they could secure, and if that means using “chain-link fences and razor wire”, as the lawsuit sobs, it just means they were successful in doing so. Jail isn’t supposed to be the Hilton, which is why people should avoid behavior which lands them there. These protestors deliberately got themselves arrested; they should quit being crybabies about getting their wish.

Winning The Ratings War, And Why

In a sign that the Republican base may be more fired up than the Bush-haters on the left, Nielsen Media Research reported that the RNC garnered 3 million more viewers than the Democratic Party’s convention in July — and that viewership at Fox far outstripped the three traditional broadcast networks:

Nearly 28 million Americans — more than a quarter of them watching cable’s Fox News Channel alone — tuned in to see Bush accept his nomination for a second term at the climax of the Republican National Convention on Thursday, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Bush’s national TV audience topped Kerry’s speech at the Democratic convention in July by just over 3 million viewers, among those watching Big Three commercial networks ABC, CBS and NBC and the three leading cable news outlets — Fox, CNN and MSNBC.
The Republican meeting as a whole also drew bigger audiences than the Democrats, averaging 22.6 million viewers over four nights at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, compared with 20.4 million mustered by Kerry and his party in Boston in July.

The enhanced interest of the RNC could be chalked up to the security question, but I rather doubt that the people checking the coverage with the car-wreck mentality would have stuck around all three nights of national coverage (Reuters says four, but that only applies to the cable channels). The additional viewership says that the Republicans have motivated their base to stay more active in the campaign, watching not just for the President’s speech but for the keynote speakers every night.
Not only do the raw numbers demonstrate the vitality of the Republican base, but where they turned for coverage underscores their enthusiasm and their intent:

Meanwhile, Fox News continued its unprecedented ratings dominance over this year’s Republican convention, edging out not only its cable rivals but each of the major broadcast networks by drawing 7.3 million viewers to its telecast of Bush’s address.
That marked the third straight night Fox has surpassed its larger broadcast rivals in the first case of a cable channel attracting more viewers than any of the three major networks during a scheduled event covered by all of them, experts said.
NBC ranked second on Thursday with 5.9 million viewers, followed by ABC with 5.1 million and CBS with 5 million. CNN finished fifth with 2.6 million viewers while NBC’s sister cable channel, MSNBC, brought up the rear with 1.7 million.

Fox News Channel – a cable outlet – outdrew all three broadcast networks, a win that shows how dissatisfied mainstream viewers have become with the coverage provided by traditional media in this election cycle. Fox almost tripled CNN’s ratings as well. People are growing tired of the left-leaning media filters being applied to campaign events, including the talking-head analysis that occurs during and after the speeches. Let me explain it this way: no one needs to tune in to CBS to understand that Dan Rather will be unhappy with speeches at the RNC. What’s the point of watching him?
Media analyst Andrew Tyndall explained the Fox News Channel win by reminding Reuters that Fox is more ideologically aligned with Republicans. However, what Tyndall fails to mention is that the other networks — and especially their lead anchors — are much more aligned with the Democrats, and viewers know it. If that results in a cable outlet outdrawing the three main free-signal broadcasters across all three nights of the Republican convention, it sends a powerful message about the state of the electorate in this election cycle.
And if the broadcast networks listen closely, they should hear another powerful message in these numbers. Their audiences have weighed the supposed objectivity of their newsrooms and found it fraudulent. If they plan on recapturing those viewers and rebuilding their credibility, they need to start making significant structural and editorial changes now.

Minnesota Delegate: Colonel Joe Repya

One of the most fascinating parts of going to a convention has to be the people you meet. I met some very memorable men and women at the RNC in New York, but perhaps no one more memorable or admirable as a man who lives almost around the corner from me in Eagan. Lt. Colonel Joe Repya has served his country in five decades of military action, starting as an infantry officer in Viet Nam. Joe became politically active last year as war grew near in Iraq, when he distributed “Liberate Iraq” yard signs around the Twin Cities in response to signs opposing the war effort sent out by groups like International ANSWER.
Joe RepyaJoe did more than send out signs — he also requested a return to active duty, and has traveled to Iraq and met with troops there, working with them to ensure the success of America’s mission. In his late 50s, Joe has more than earned a retirement with high honors, but he continues to do whatever it takes to make his country more secure. He has called in on our radio show on Saturday afternoons, but the first time I ever saw Joe was at the Bush rally in Saint Paul, where he delivered an impassioned speech that was easily one of the most memorable and inspiring parts of the event.
Luckily, I got a chance to meet Joe and speak with him several times during our stay in New York, and he agreed to meet with me and John Hinderaker for an interview at Bloggers Corner.
Q: Colonel, you’ve been politically active for years, but the first time I heard about you was when you came out with the lawn signs. What was the first batch of lawn signs you did?
A: Liberate Iraq … did that in February 2003.
Q: What were you doing before that?
A: I was a military advisor to [Senator] Norm Coleman, because we were friends, and helped him on his campaign against [the late former Senator Paul] Wellstone. But that was the extent of my political activities, those Liberate Iraq signs and making some calls, the March 2003 rally to support our troops. After that came a call from Governor Pawlenty to ask me to be the Vice-Chair of Veterans For Bush. I wound up on the national steering committee for Veterans for Bush, and I became specifically involved in traveling around the country, speaking on behalf of the President, and now I’m about to back on active duty.
Q: You’ve really gotten involved as a result of those signs.
A: Yes. [Laughs] I volunteered to come back to the military on active duty after September 11th because I had a feeling that we would need retirees to help out.
Q: You’re a Lieutenant Colonel, is that right?
A: Yes. I was in Iraq last year, with some of these folks.
Q: What did you see while you were in Iraq? What was your evaluation of how things were going in Iraq?
A: We’re not getting the true story from the media. There’s a lot of good going on over there, a lot of Iraqis that want us there. There’s some bad people around that are trying to upset things, and unfortunately the liberal press, quite frankly, is aiding them in their endeavors in trying to cast these aspersions on the successes we’re having.
Q: What do you think is the greatest untold story in Iraq right now?
A: Untold story?
Q: What do you think the press has really missed in Iraq, one particular story?
A: The fact that most Iraqis want the Americans there. They want freedom. They want to bring together their nation … They’re tired of the dictators, they’re tired of the wars they’ve been forced to fight for Saddam Hussein. They want peace and prosperity.
Q: It was suggested by John Kerry that we could pull the vast majority of American troops out of Iraq —
Q: After we add 40,000 more — [laughter]
Q: Right, after we add 40,000 more, we could pull the vast majority out of Iraq within the first six months of a Kerry presidency. What kind of message do you think that sends?
A: It tells the Iraqi people that we’re not serious about backing them up. Remember, they feel very threatened because back in 1991, when we kicked Saddam out of Kuwait, they thought we’d come to their aid if they initiated a civil war [against Saddam]. Tens of thousands of Iraqis were murdered as a result. So they’re very concerned that we won’t stay the course. It’s very important that we do. We have the greatest men and women, and I’m convinced that will be regarded as this century’s greatest generation. They know what’s at stake in Iraq. They know what’s at stake in Afghanistan. We have the unique ability to bring peace, prosperity, and freedom to that region. If we can get that well-established in Iraq and Afghanistan, other nations will start demanding it soon.
Q: How many troops do you think understand the long-term strategic purposes that the Administration has in trying to establish freedom in order to ultimately reform the Middle East?
A: I can give you an example. When I was here last September, I found a young woman with the 101st Airborne Division, who was a mother of four — youngest one 18 months and the oldest one eight. So I figured that I found anybody that would be really upset about being away from her family, it would be her. Then when I found out that she and her husband had separated and divorced, and that he was watching the kids while she was in Iraq, I knew that I’d found someone that had a real desire to, you know, “get me out of here.” She cut me off halfway through my question. She said, “Listen. Let me tell you like it is. My family will be stronger for this separation. We’ll get over it. But if I don’t fight this war and win it here, my kids will be fighting it in Baltimore in 20 years.” She said,”I know what it takes.” And if you can find a sergeant in the 101st that understands that, and a corporal and a specialist, that tells you that these kids know what’s at stake.
Q: You made a great point there about either fighting the war there or fighting it here. During his campaign, John Kerry has received a lot of criticism for his post-Vietnam War activities with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Do you see a parallel between the retreat that those activities caused in the US and the terror war we’re fighting now?
A: John Kerry is an individual is a man who wants to have both sides of the coin, whichever’s politically advantageous for him at the time. I don’t care what he did in Viet Nam; he served his nation honorably. What he did when he came home troubles me deeply. What he has done in 20 years as a United States Senator convinces me that he is not the caliber of a man I want as Commander in Chief. He has voted consistently to cut, reduce,or eliminate the weapons systems that today are winning the war on terror. He voted against all kinds of military pay raises. He’s voted to cut billions from intelligence agencies that we need to get information on terrorists throughout the world. He voted to go to war in Iraq, then he voted against supplying the ammunition, the body armor for our soldiers in Iraq. I am convinced that he will turn his back on American soldiers again in 2004 like he did in 1971. And I’m not willing to risk that.
Q: I don’t know if you talk politics with these young soldiers in Iraq or not, but do you get a sense of how they view John Kerry? Are they aware of this history? Do they have the same concerns you do?
A: All I can tell you is what a lot of them have told me in e-mails, from Iraq or from when they come home. The vast majority of the active military will vote for the Commander in Chief they really respect, and that’s George W. Bush. And I’ll tell you from a veteran’s point of view that there are 25 million veterans, and when all is said and done, six or seven out of ten will vote for George W. Bush, because we realize how important national security is to the United States.
Q: Joe, when you go back on active duty, will you go back to Iraq?
A: Well, unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll let me fly helicopter gunships any more. … More than likely, I’ll fly a desk or push a pencil somewhere, and that’s fine with me. I’ll contribute.
Q: Is that what you did in Viet Nam, fly helicopter gunships?
A: No, in Viet Nam I was a combat infantry lieutenant. I led a rifle platoon of about 30 young men.
Q: You’re lucky to be alive. The mortality rate among guys who did what you did …
A: Yeah, it was about a week. I went to flight school when I came back, and I flew helicopters during Desert Storm.
Q: Now you’re a delegate to the Minnesota delegation.
A: First time I’ve been a delegate to a convention. It’s wonderful.
Q: What were you looking to hear from this convention, as a delegate?
A: A clear understanding of the vision that George Bush has for the next four years. I know what a track record he has for the last four years, and I think he’s put together a wonderful team of experts. I’m sure on Thursday night we’re going to hear his roadmap for the next four years.
Q: Do you think we’ve heard that so far [this was on Wednesday afternoon] or has he just addressed the accomplishments of the past four years?
A: I think as he’s been out on the campaign trail, he’s mentioned many things he’d like to do over the next four years. I think he’s been waiting until this thing to really lay it out for the American people.
Q: That’s your expectation?
A: That’s my expectation. … Supporting our troops is the right thing to do. My wife and I will never sit back and allow anyone to do to these kids what they did to my generation when we came back from Viet Nam. … If I could put it in simple terms — [holds up flip-flops with slogan written on them] — “I’m not Fonda Kerry”.

Blog Conference: Ari Fleischer, Part II

Earlier this week, I posted part of a blog conference we conducted with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Fleischer gave us quite a bit of his time, and when I posted it, I had not yet transcribed the rest of the interview. Originally I had intended to simply update the post, but after listening to the recording, I found Fleischer’s remarks in the rest of the interview so interesting that I figured it would be a shame to bury them in the archives.
Q: What effect do think the 527s have had on this election?
A: I think it’s almost made a mockery of campaign finance reform. We were warned this was going to happen. The parties are more accountable to the people. These organizations aren’t accountable … People should have seen this coming.
Q: Were you surprised that the Swiftboat ads were effective given their lack of financing?
A: Frankly, this [controversy] has resulted in more money for the Swiftboat veterans. The more controversy, the better they fill their coffers. That’s the reason Senator Kerry never should have picked this fight.
Q: [unintelligible — about his best moment at the White House]
A: I think the best moment is ironic, in bringing this country together, on September 11th. The irony is that such a tragic event like 9/11 led to America’s finest moment. I’m a New Yorker, I was born in the city, and to see people gathered on the highway and cheer the ambulances, cheer the fire trucks, New Yorkers gathered on 42nd Street with signs that said God Bless America, God Bless The USA, Our Prayers Are With You. 42nd Street in my home town, New York, could have been Main Street in any little Midwestern town. This country has an amazing strength of character, which is why we are the greatest country in the world.
Q: You were with the President in Florida that day. I don’t know if you’ve seen Fahrenheit 9/11 or read the transcript, but I just wonder if you had any comment on the kind of stories that people wrote about [his reaction] that day.
Q: Including John Kerry.
Q: Yes, including John Kerry. He’s made this a campaign issue.
A: I used to be a Democrat. I was raised a liberal Democrat in Democratic New York, Upper West Side parents … [laughter and crosstalk] One of the reasons I left the Democratic Party was that strong-on-defense, Scoop Jackson-Zell Miller wing of the Democrat Party shriveled up and went away. We had people apologizing for America around the world. This is what I’m afraid has taken over the Democratic Party, represented in Fahrenheit-9/11 and those who [defend] it. And I’m proud not to be a Democrat any more, because that proud-to-be-pro-democracy, pro-defense wing of the Democratic Party is gone. They’ve become Republicans. It’s too bad. They’ve left reality, and I think that that movie and the people who watch it represent that narrow wing of America.

The Big Apple Does It All

Just as when I arrived in New York, I wound up overcoming a couple of obstacles getting back out. When I woke up this morning ,I had overslept by over two hours, and I barely had time to get showered and packed so I could catch a cab to JFK. For those who don’t know, taking a cab from midtown Manhattan to JFK (in Queens) isn’t a quick journey; there’s a good reason it’s price-fixed at $45.
I just got home and haven’t even yet unpacked anything but the computer, but I wanted to write about my experience in New York before I take a nap. My last visit to New York was in 1974 when I was eleven years old — in fact, I think I turned 11 while I was there, or just before. I recall almost nothing about that trip, or at least I didn’t before I came back on this visit.
New York did an amazing job in hosting this convention. Every native New Yorker with whom I spoke was never anything but gracious and welcoming, even though our presence in their city complicated nearly every phase of their lives. Emergency response agencies were especially professional and courteous, belying the stereotype of hostile and sarcastic police officers and firefighters that has become, thankfully, less prevalent since 9/11. After last night’s events were over, I never wanted to take thousands of people home with me so much as I did those brave men and women who ensured our safety and security.
And I learned a new appreciation of why New Yorkers love their town. I’ve been around several metropolitan cities and their downtown areas, but Manhattan is like no other place I’ve been. “The city that never sleeps” is no cliche, even if the city grew disappointed with Republicans who do, including me. It’s a strange and wonderful mix of high-rise business district, residential area, and shopping mall that stretches across the entire island. I wish I could have spent more time outside of it and experienced more of what makes New York so special, but the convention coverage required 15-18 hours a day, and even then I fell behind.
I’ll write more about New York, the convention, and lots more about interviews and my experiences at the convention later today and all this weekend, so if you think it’s over at Captain’s Quarters, it isn’t, not by a long shot. But first I wanted to give the Big Apple a truly heartfelt measure of my appreciation and gratitude for its sacrifice and hospitality. I’ll never look at New York in the same way after this experience.

9/2 Convention Finale: Sideshow Bobs

My analysis would not be complete — and I’m dangerously low on sleep, so I want to get to ‘complete’ soon — without mentioning the disturbances during the evening in the Garden. Three different protestors managed to get by the extraordinarily tight security at the Garden. One man wound up getting arrested before George Bush even spoke, and found himself rapidly escorted from the auditorium. He exposed an undershirt, I believe, with an anti-Bush slogan and started shouting, but it didn’t take long (a few seconds) before he got taken out the door.
The second and third incidents occurred when Bush spoke to the audience, although if you were watching on TV, you may have missed both. If you recall two times when spontaneous chants of “Four More Years” erupted when it didn’t appear that Bush had paused for an applause break, that’s when the protests took place.
The first of the two was the most unnerving. My friend from the Hennepin County campaign pointed it out just as I noticed a woman getting up from the California delegation and shouting something. She unfurled a sheet with the words BUSH LIED — PEOPLE DIED on it and started shouting the slogan. This occurred about 100 feet or so from the President. Another member of the Golden State delegation ripped it out of her hands and while she fought to get it back, others grabbed her. Bush continued talking through the distubance as Secret Service officers raced over to both arrest her and rescue her, as it looked like the Californians were unhappy and embarrassed enough to shut her up using other means.
Security had to drag her from the room, still screaming her slogan over and over again, but by that time the delegates started shouting “Four More Years” to drown her out. The third incident I only noticed after security had a hold on the protestor, and again the shouting drew the same “Four More Years” chant.
No damage, at least none apparent, and the mouthbreathers can take joy in the fact that their shenanigans forced the security to lose focus on other potential threats. However, since they are likely intractable narcissists who crave that kind of attention, they’ll spend a night one place where they can be sure to get it.

9/2 Acceptance Speech: George W. Bush

As anyone could tell you, this speech carried tremendous expectations for George Bush, and not just because of its national exposure. For one thing, the external expectations of surviving the convention put the onus on the Bush adminstration to ensure security and to eliminate the possibility of having visited another tragedy on New York City. Also, since Bush has a reputation as both a dunderhead and an atrocious public speaker, he needed a flawless delivery and a tone-perfect speech.
I think he succeeded admirably on all counts.
Not that he’s free from all criticism, of course. Most noticeable was the running time of the speech. We had been led to believe that it would be about 45 minutes, about the same run time as his appearance two weeks ago in Saint Paul. Instead, he spoke for almost an hour and a half, and at a couple of points during the speech, the long run time showed. Especially when speaking about the economy, Bush seemed to drop into a laundry-list style that Cheney used on Wednesday in his acceptance speech.
Fortunately, Bush mostly came across as warm, friendly, and determined, and his speech with a couple of exceptions felt as though it was a personal communication. Bush has tremendous personal charm that allows him to rise above his rhetorical problems, especially with prepared speeches, and tonight he displayed those skills admirably. He never got flustered, even when unexpected things happened during the speeches, which I’ll address in a later post. He maintained his composure and projected confidence without arrogance, humor without unseriousness, and warmth without the sticky-gooey “I feel your pain” nonsense that we’ve heard before. Feeling it isn’t good enough; you have to do something about it.
In the main, his speech covered the same basic themes as his recent stump speeches, but he punched it up with some more specifics on economics, health care, and other social issues. He also announced his new agenda on (while signs out in the audience said And of course Bush continued to hammer on security issues, declaring that he will continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend America.
If it wasn’t a home run, and I don’t think I’d go that far, it’s at least a bases-clearing double off the fence. For those who watched, Bush reminded people again that he is constantly underestimated. Hell, he showed up without horns on his head, which makes liars out of half of his opposition these days.

9/2 Keynote Speakers: Gov. George Pataki

Governor George Pataki opened for President Bush, a spot in the lineup guaranteed him by his position as the highest-ranking Republican in the state of New York. Once again, as on Tuesday night, the Republicans may have been better off by eschewing tradition in this convention and swapping Pataki for Giuliani’s Monday-night speech. That arrangement would have allowed one of the weakest speakers in their lineup to play leadoff, where expectations would have been lower, while also putting one of the best speakers in prime time with President Bush, giving a spirited defense of the war on terror.
Not that Pataki was bad — but I would describe his performance, and his voice especially, as weak. At times, at least in the Garden, he was almost inaudible, even though the crowd gave him all their attention. He did manage to mix it up and even became inspiring on occasion, but during the entire exercise, he looked even more uncomfortable than John McCain during his speech.
Pataki opened by noting how other states responded to 9/11, and he expressed his gratitude directly to the delegations. Oregonians, after hearing about the devastation the attacks had on the state’s tourist industry, booked 1,000 rooms and made it a point to visit the state, helping hundreds of workers keep their jobs. Iowa sent 1,500 quilts to warm the volunteers at Ground Zero at night. Pennsylvania had a family of five children give the money that they’d saved to a New York firehouse that had seen eight of its brothers die in the collapse of the WTC buildings. He noted that after 9/11, we were all New Yorkers, which caused the delegates to chant “New York!” over and over.
Pataki also had his funny quips, too. Two of them occurred within moments of each other. “This is a candidate who has to google his own name in order to find out where he stands … This November, we’ll win one for the Gipper, while our opponents will lose one with the Flipper.” He also defended the war on terror and the removal of Saddam, noting that in a world where a box cutter enabled a plane to be turned into a guided missile that killed thousands, a monster like Saddam is nothing less than a walking WMD.
Pataki finished stronger than he started, but his performance seemed pretty uneven and Pataki clearly looked uncomfortable in his prime-time role. It wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t great or even terribly remarkable, with the exception of the touching stories he told at the front end of the speech. It did reinforce the national-security theme that has run through every major speech here at the convention, and in that sense it was a rousing success.

9/2: The Opening Acts — Masters Of Adjustment

As I stated earlier, I was prevented from live blogging by the sudden lack of an unsecured wireless network in the Garden. Instead, I relied on a digital voice recorder and my fresh memories of the speeches that the Republicans presented as a run-up to George Bush’s acceptance speech.
After a few preliminaries, we discovered the first, and rather poorly-kept, secret of the evening: former General Tommy Franks had been added to the program. Franks had publicly endorsed Bush for re-election on Tuesday, an unexpected development first reported by the RNC bloggers. That interview seemed like a warm-up to the speech, as many of the same themes that came through in our talk wound up in his speech.
I anticipated that Franks would be popular with the crowd, but he was even more successful than I’d have guessed. Franks speaks excellently and offered little in smooth words; he sounded like Zell Miller, only more irritated than angry. He finished his speech to raucous approval by announcing the time would soon come that America could welcome all its troops home, including those who served America in Viet Nam. He turned and saluted a group of veterans on the stage behind him.
Left unspoken but understood by all was the reference to the reception that Viet Nam vets got when they returned home over 30 years ago, and John Kerry’s role in creating the environment which caused them to be reviled.
Another last-minute addition to this evening’s agenda was Mel Martinez, who just won the Republican primary for the open Senate seat in Florida. Martinez spoke about his life as an immigrant to this country, mirroring the speech of Arnold Schwarzenegger two nights ago. I suspect that Martinez got added to the schedule not so much to reinforce Arnold’s welcoming message to immigrants but to bolster Martinez’s credentials in what will probably be a tough race. Martinez himself noted that he had just won that primary 24 hours previous to his speech.
Martinez made his way to America with nothing more than a suitcase, and has made himself a success story. He spoke about hard work and the opportunities that America has for those who reach for them. I liked the speech, although I thought he went on a bit too long. Because people knew when the keynote speeches were scheduled, they seemed to be more interested in maneuvering around the arena at first than in Martinez, but by the time he finished, he had their full attention. I’m not sure how it played on TV, but I suspect it worked even better there than live here.
I’m sure adding Martinez helped Bush, or at least made no difference, but the question is this: how successful was Martinez for his own election? Unfortunately, a good deal of his intended audience probably missed his speech. I don’t think it was covered by the networks or the netlets, and even some of those who would have watched on C-SPAN were busily evacuating in the face of the oncoming hurricane.