What I saw at the two con­ven­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Ibroad­casted my ra­dio show from both the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can Con­ven­tions. Here are some ob­ser­va­tions: 1. The Democrats in Den­ver were very ex­cited from Day One, just as ex­cited as I saw them at their last con­ven­tion in Bos­ton. They went on to lose the gen­eral elec­tion. But I can see why Democrats find it hard to un­der­stand it when their can­di­date loses. At least at the last two Demo­cratic Con­ven­tions, it has been very easy for Democrats to be­lieve that they have the right man and the right mes­sage.

2. There were some dif­fer­ences, how­ever. In Den­ver, the Democrats wanted to present them­selves as Mid­dle Amer­i­can as pos­si­ble. In Bos­ton, the hero of the Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion was Michael Moore. But in Den­ver, Michael Moore was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Jimmy Carter heard from. And no Jesse Jack­son, ei­ther. Also, del­e­gates seemed more for­mally dressed, and there were more flags and more chants of “USA” than even at the Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion. If one only looked at the con­ven­tion, one could eas­ily have as­sumed it was the Repub­li­cans’.

3. The Repub­li­cans had no Day One be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Gus­tav and John McCain’s de­ci­sion to limit the first night’s ac­tiv­i­ties to oblig­a­tory busi­ness. This helped the Repub­li­cans in­so­far as it elim­i­nated Bush-Cheney po­lit­i­cal li­a­bil­i­ties (nei­ther ended up at­tend­ing), but it had a tem­po­rar­ily damp­en­ing ef­fect on morale — which was not com­pletely un­done the sec­ond night. It was more than un­done the third night with the speeches by, among oth­ers, Mike Huck­abee, Rudy Gi­u­liani and, of course, Sarah Palin. Gov. Palin is as strik­ing in per­son as she is on tele­vi­sion and in pho­to­graphs. It is dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, to over­state the im­pact of her be­ing named the Repub­li­cans’ vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

4. The Democrats have a su­per­star can­di­date who was pre­vi­ously un­known, and the Repub­li­cans have a su­per­star can­di­date who was pre­vi­ously un­known. The for­mer is a young African-Amer­i­can run­ning for pres­i­dent; the lat­ter is a young woman run­ning for vice pres­i­dent. It is un­likely that there is one per­son on earth who pre­dicted the four nom­i­nees.

5. At the Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion, I spoke to a num­ber of blacks, on the ra­dio and pri­vately, who pre­dicted that if Barack Obama loses, most blacks will at­tribute the loss to racism, es­pe­cially if Mr. McCain wins by a nar­row mar­gin. They did not even rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of some ri­ot­ing.

6. On the fi­nal evening of the Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion, I sat in a suite with Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ents. I rarely find my­self speech­less, and never find my­self in­tim­i­dated. I did then. I was in the pres­ence of real hero­ism, of men who re­ally had done great things. I didn’t know what to say to them. I was like a kid seated next to his great­est sports or movie idols. I won­dered, though, how many Amer­i­cans, if given a choice be­tween spending an evening with Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ents or movie stars would choose the for­mer.

7. As noted, the Democrats waved many flags. At In­vesco Field, where Mr. Obama ad­dressed 75,000 sup­port­ers, the Democrats gave all of them an Amer­i­can flag. Ac­cord­ing to The Den­ver Post, thou­sands of those flags were left be­hind or in garbage bags. The Democrats say they in­tended to pick them up days later for other events. I don’t be­lieve them -- not be­cause they are not pa­tri­otic (the peo­ple I was with at In­vesco Field love Amer­ica), but be­cause they are gen­er­ally tone deaf to pa­tri­otic sym­bols. My one sou­venir from the Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion is a flag I found on the floor by my seat at the sta­dium. I in­stinc­tively picked up a flag that had fallen and took it home. That is no longer a lib­eral in­stinct.

8. The exit from In­vesco was chaotic. No pro­vi­sions for trans­porta­tion were made, and tens of thou­sands of peo­ple walked long dis­tances. We were lit­er­ally fenced in un­til some­one tore down a seg­ment of fence, and thou­sands then climbed over con­crete bar­ri­ers to get out.

9. His­tory will judge whether Mr. Obama made a wise de­ci­sion to de­liver his ac­cep­tance in a foot­ball sta­dium in front of 75,000 ador­ing fans. A good ar­gu­ment could be made that it is not his su­per­star sta­tus that he should be em­pha­siz­ing, but his grav­i­tas.

10. Af­ter at­tend­ing the Demo­cratic Con­ven­tion, the lack of blacks (and His­pan­ics) at the Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion was jar­ring. For­mer RNC Chair Ken Mehlman made se­ri­ous ef­forts to bring African-Amer­i­cans into the party, but ap­par­ently to lit­tle avail. Given the trou­bled state of vir­tu­ally ev­ery in­ner city gov­erned by Democrats and the Democrats’ op­po­si­tion to school vouch­ers, one would think more blacks would at least give the Repub­li­cans a try. Not this year.

11. For the first time in gen­er­a­tions, one party’s ticket has no mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence. It does, how­ever, have two lawyers. And nei­ther of the Repub­li­can nom­i­nees is a lawyer. Th­ese facts are not co­in­ci­den­tal.

12. Af­ter my de­bate with Air Amer­ica’s Thom Hart­mann in Den­ver, a num­ber of those present — all Democrats — com­mented on how sur­prised they were at how in­tel­lec­tual the ar­gu­ments I, the con­ser­va­tive, of­fered were. This is only be­cause, in gen­eral, most lib­er­als see, hear or read con­ser­va­tive ar­gu­ments far less of­ten than con­ser­va­tives see, hear and read lib­eral ar­gu­ments.

13. What Sen. Joe Lieber­man did — speak­ing at the Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion on be­half of its pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee — took im­mense courage. It is likely that many long­time friends have aban­doned him. What he did is also quite dra­matic. He was, af­ter all, the Democrats’ nom­i­nee for vice pres­i­dent of the United States just eight years ago.

14. I thor­oughly en­joyed my time at both con­ven­tions. But those watch­ing on tele­vi­sion miss lit­tle. In fact, every­one I spoke to who watched Mr. McCain’s speech on TV thought it more mov­ing than many of us who were there. Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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