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.

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.

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)

Inside Blogger’s Corner

We’re busy setting up our connections here on Blogger’s Corner and having the normal IS issues experienced by anyone who uses LANs. The convention is making their best efforts to get the problems straightened out, but in the meantime I’ve found a wireless portal that works for the moment. Right now I’m sharing a table with some pretty impressive bloggers — Kevin Aylward from Wizbang, Matt Margolis from Blogs For Bush, and Scott Sala from Slant Point.
I already caught up with Generalissimo Duane and we’re sitting directly across from the Salem booth. I’ve met Tony Snow from Fox, who immediately recognized my name — which floored me. I’ll report later on the breakfast with Matthew Dowd and the interesting speech and Q & A we had this morning.

The Calm Before The Storm

I had an opportunity to get out on the street early this morning when I went downstairs to get a much-needed cup of coffee to bolster my blogging. I took a few pictures that were necessarily a bit fuzzy, as the light was still pretty faint and the flash resulted in poor illumination of the scenery.
You can see the calm on the streets that likely will be absent during the day today, as more traffic and protests will jam the sidewalks around the convention site. The first picture is from the hotel looking down 33rd, and has the Empire State Building in the background. You can see that the street itself is completely barricaded:
Empire State Building
This picture is straight across from the Hotel Pennsylvania, where they’re allowing vehicle traffic for the moment. I expect this to be barricaded later on today:
In order to get in and out of the protected area, I have to show my photo ID and my room key at all times. They are serious about securing this event, and believe me, it’s comforting.

Takin’ It To The Streets

The New York Times reports on what I missed with my late arrival yesterday, the day before the opening of the Republican National Convention, but the unnerving effects of having a half-million people in the street certainly accounts for the tension I felt on my arrival:

A roaring two-mile river of demonstrators surged through the canyons of Manhattan yesterday in the city’s largest political protest in decades, a raucous but peaceful spectacle that pilloried George W. Bush and demanded regime change in Washington.
On a sweltering August Sunday, the huge throng of protesters marched past Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention opening today, and denounced President Bush as a misfit who had plunged America into war and runaway debt, undermined civil and constitutional rights, lied to the people, despoiled the environment and used the presidency to benefit corporations and millionaires.
The protest organizer, United for Peace and Justice, estimated the crowd at 500,000, rivaling a 1982 antinuclear rally in Central Park, and double the number it had predicted. It was, at best, a rough estimate. The Police Department, as is customary, offered no official estimate, but one officer in touch with the police command center at Madison Square Garden agreed that the crowd appeared to be close to a half-million.

Robert McFadden glosses it up just a bit when he calls it “peaceful”, as the police department had to contend with protestors throwing ball bearings and marbles onto the street where their mounted units deployed, and spot incidents of violence occurred along the two-mile protest. Later on, of course, the hard-core protestors that couldn’t be satisfied with merely marching had to come back for more:

After the march, hundreds of protesters in a more belligerent mood made their way to Times Square and blocked the entrances of two Midtown hotels, while another group harassed Republican guests at a party at the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park. … At a news conference last night, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said there had been about 200 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct, though nine people were charged with felony assaults on officers who were seizing a 10th suspect for setting a small fire outside the Garden, and 15 members of an anarchist group called Black Block were arrested after they knocked down police barriers and hurled bottles at police lines at 34th Street and Avenue of the Americas.

What we have here is the last gasp of the people who have been proven wrong by history over and over again — and I think they know it. United for Peace and Justice, as McFadden reports, organized nuclear-freeze protests all during Reagan’s terms in office, attempting to achieve peace through appeasement. (Hugh Hewitt noted last night that counterprotestors should carry pictures of Neville Chamberlain, but at least Chamberlain finally learned from events.) The anarchists likely participated in the Seattle-WTO protests last decade, and they still insist on protested free trade even though it helped advance the American and world economy for more than a decade now.
Now we have all of the foaming political Luddite masses in one place here in New York, and the nation can see what they represent — a retreat not just to September 10th, but a return to isolationism and protectionism that died with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Most of the protestors were born into a world defined by American power, as I was. Unfortunately, most of them have never studied the history of the world before that, where international power vacuums encouraged by the illusions of “internatoinal law” promoted by weak multilateral organizations led to chaos, war, genocide, and the deaths of tens of millions of people.
I’m sure I’ll see plenty more of the chaotic and barely peaceful protests while I’m here. I’ll bring you pictures of anything that comes up, but I can tell you that nearby the hotel and Madison Square Garden, the NYPD are on the job and not taking anything for granted. In fact, after further reflection, the two most welcoming people in my long odyssey last night were the young officers on the barricades who kept me from getting to the hotel but took the time to chat with me about the city they obviously love.

Several Unfunny Things Happened To Me On The Way To The Forum

NEW YORK CITY, 10:56 PM ET: I have finally eaten dinner on what had to have been one of the longest and most frustrating travel days in my life. The fact that I’m blogging is in itself a minor miracle.
Earlier today, while I was airport blogging about the vacuity of Dan Rather, I received a very kind and generous e-mail from two CQ readers (husband & wife) who wanted to make a large donation for the trip but had been stymied by the Amazon system. They wanted to pay for part of my hotel room instead, so I told them where I was staying. Fortunately I was on line when I got a reply. They had called the hotel and found out that they’d canceled my reservation — and the airport had just announced preboarding for my flight.
I got on my cell phone and called the Hotel Pennsylvania’s reservation desk to find out what the hell happened. They informed me that since I had not shown up for Saturday night, my reservation had been cancelled. I informed them that I had called Saturday morning and confirmed my reservation, starting Sunday night August 29th through Friday morning. After a long and tense conversation, the manager finally stepped in and reinstated my reservation just as I boarded the plane.
The flight was mostly uneventful, and we landed at JFK in Queens at about 6:15 ET. I had dinner plans with several other bloggers at a Brazilian restaurant in Manhattan for 8, and I knew I’d be pushing it no matter what. I made my only mistake at this point and called a SuperShuttle rather than a cab or a limo, which would have taken me right to the hotel. Instead, I got bundled in with several other travelers coming into Manhattan, including a nice Minnesota college graduate who is moving to the East Village to work in the apparel business. It took until 8:30 for the driver to drop me off, and thanks to the street closings around Madison Square Garden and the Hotel Pennsylvania, he dropped me off two blocks from the hotel.
Tonight is warm and just a bit muggy but not bad walking weather, so I cheerfully set out to walk the last bit. Several police officers cheerfully stopped me and asked for my ID and proof of my hotel reservation, and since I didn’t print out my e-mail (who knew?), they would not let me pass. I called the hotel on my cell phone and asked them to send someone down to rescue me. The two young NYPD officers were complete gentlemen, keeping me company with small talk and pointing out some of the landmarks from 33rd and 6th. After a half-hour, I started to think that help was not on its way, and called the hotel again. They told me that the PD wouldn’t let them come down that way to get me, but the other end of the hotel was open to street traffic and that I could walk down to 34th and come in on 7th.
So off I trudged.
After finally arriving at the hotel, I made a beeline for the desk, thinking I could still make it for drinks if I hurried. When I try to check in, of course, no one could find my reservation. The manager had to come out and get it straight, which took no griping from me, and I went up to my room, exhausted. The first thing I wanted to do was to access my e-mail so I could find out where the group was planning to go for drinks … and that’s when I’d discovered that my room had no Internet access.
Bear in mind that the entire point of my being here is to blog the convention, and you’ll get an idea of the desperation I felt at this point.
I call the desk, who connects me to someone else, and the conversation goes like this:
Me: I don’t have an RJ-45 connector in my room.
Helpful and Concerned Hotel Employee: Uh-huh.
Me: How do I get Internet access?
HCHE: You can use dial-up.
Me: No I can’t, I don’t have a dial-up account. I’m staying here because you have high-speed Internet access.
HCHE: We only have DSL on two floors, sir.
Me: Then move me to another floor.
HCHE: We don’t have any more rooms available, sir. You can use the WebTV system in your room if you want to access the Internet.
Me: I need to use my laptop.
HCHE: The WebTV is the only high-speed Internet access you can get from your room.
Me: How much is that to use? [The high-speed access is $10/day.]
HCHE: Five dollars.
Me: A day?
HCHE: For thirty minutes.
Me: Let me speak to your manager.
After repeating much the same conversation with the manager, I finally blew up and said, “The Republican National Committee invited me here to report on the convention, which requires me to have Internet access. I suspect that they reserved me a room with it, which I probably had until you guys cancelled my reservation on me.”
They moved me to another room, and a nicer one at that, and so I’m blogging now. However, I will be hitting the sack in a few minutes so I can get up early for the bloggers’ breakfast tomorrow — otherwise I won’t get my credential, and I’ll spend my week being the chew toy for Gunther The Killer Canine Officer instead of bringing you the best of the RNC.
I should have a better day tomorrow, because Lord knows, it’ll be hard to top this one.

Why Can’t Kossy Read?

After the Wall Street Journal published its profile of the accredited bloggers to the Republican National Convention, I expected a bit of blogosphere critique on the selections. After all, with so many excellent bloggers to be found, arguments can be made for inclusion at the expense of any of us who were fortunate enough to be chosen for the privilege.
What I didn’t expect was silly, superficial, and factually deficient crabbing like this found at the Daily Kos, this one from Kos himself. Here’s Kos’ idea of insightful commentary:

Boy, did those conservative bloggers whine, whine, whine when the Big Bad DNC didn’t accredit enough of them at our convention. Yet the Democratic Party did invite several conservatives, as well as non-political tech-focused bloggers.
None of that at the RNC convention. Not that they should allow Dem bloggers in (I was always clear that only partisan bloggers should’ve been admitted to the DNC convention), but boy, I remember all that whining. Yet suddenly, those same dufuses aren’t so concerned about ideological litmus tests anymore.
Oh, and are there any prominent non-white conservative bloggers. That’s a pasty bunch.

Apparently, Kos either can’t read or chooses not to, since at least one blogger profiled — Brian Reich — publicly stated that he intended to vote for Kerry. As far as I recall, that is one more than the DNC bloggers who proclaimed a solid choice for Bush. Another, David Adesnik, has not made up his mind, while a third chose to keep his decision to himself. Nor is this list complete, as Elizabeth Weinstein did not get responses from all of the RNC bloggers, as she notes in her sidebar:

Accredited bloggers who responded to our questionnaire. Links go to their entry.

Kos asserts that “the Democrats invited several conservatives,” neglecting to mention that most were disinvited shortly afterwards. Bill from INDC Journal lost a few hundred dollars in non-refundable travel expenses thanks to that flip-flop from a disorganized organizing committee.
Finally, Kos tries to ignite a little racist war by noting the complexions of those bloggers who sent pictures as a subset of those who responded to the Wall Street Journal’s profile requests. Three profiles don’t have accompanying photographs of the bloggers. But more importantly, we weren’t asked our ethnicity when we applied. It’s not like we’re on TV, and most of us don’t display our picture on our website, at least not on top. All Kos had to do was ask one of us how we got picked, but instead of actually finding out how it was handled, he prefers to just call people bigots instead.
Mean-spirited, ignorant, and lazy — Kos gives you everything the hard Left has to offer.