Sunday, August 31, 2008

A planned large protest...is on

Protesters -- perhaps 50,000 of them -- say their planned march on Monday will go on. The rally begins around 11:00 a.m. (local time) at the Minnesota State Capitol. It will make its way to the XCel Center before reversing course and ending at the Capitol, where additional speeches are planned.

A smaller rally did take place today, and Roll Call reports it was peaceful.

My commitment to the Washington Center program likely will prevent me from watching Monday's rally and blogging my reactions to it.

Stay tuned, nonetheless.

An attempt at humor

As you are aware, there has been news of late involving anarchist groups that have cascaded on MSP. A couple of days ago, police arrested several people whom they said were part of one such organization.

Alright, an attempt at humor -- if an anarchist group calls for a protest or demonstration, who in that group leads it?

Uh, what of Ron Paul?

There also is no indication on one of Ron Paul's Websites about his plans to cancel or alter his Rally for Liberty and the Republic, beginning tomorrow.

You'll note that this Website (which hasn't been updated in 6 days) indicates a full schedule of activities tomorrow and Tuesday. I presume that most/all the events associated with Mr. Paul's plans will be canceled.

Of course, if I'm wrong...here's a sense of what you'll see.

Convention changes (continually updated)

2:58 p.m.: We should learn momentarily of the changes to the RNC convention schedule. Rumors continue to swirl.

3:00 p.m.: McCain is speaking from Missouri; he seems to have gotten out of the dangerous southeastern United States rather quickly. However, he was scheduled to meet supporters in the St. Louis area, so don't read anything into where he is.

"This is a time when we have to do away with our party politics," McCain said, via satellite.

Most activities relating to convention and McCain's schedule will be suspended today and again on Monday. McCain indicated he would like to resume his normal schedule, but he refused to offer a timetable for that. This holds true for the convention. I'll develop this point later...but this is an uneasy line for convention organizers to follow.

The plan for Monday is based on legal requirements (for lack of a better phrase) -- what will happen is essential to following RNC laws so that the convention delegates can later formally nominate John McCain and Sarah Palin as the 2008 GOP ticket. It wouldn't surprise me if you see no formal business on television (except perhaps C-SPAN); the networks will divert their attention to the Gulf Coast. The convention will open at 3:00 p.m. local time; the estimate is that two hours later convention activities will be suspended at that point.

The roll call of states will not be held tomorrow, which was one of the rumors floating around MSP. "Everything will be considered optional" (except the roll call of states) after the close of business tomorrow, Rick Davis, Sen. McCain's campaign manager, announced.

That means there is a chance there will be no activities on Tuesday. Mr. Davis indicated that daily media briefings will be held at noon; the schedule of that day's activities will be announced. (REACTION -- This is an interesting challenge; it would seem easy to simply follow the previously outlined schedule for that day, but it also would seem unfair to bump important speakers in exchange for those who are of secondary or tertiary positions within the party but who were supposed to appear on a certain day.)

As mentioned, the only other required event is the roll call of states, which formally endorses the political ticket. This doesn't need a full house of delegates in order to move forward. All that is needed is a 50% plus one endorsement of the ticket.

.....

Mr. Davis made something clear in his remarks (which at the time of this posting 3:15 p.m. continue) -- the business of the convention will move forward in as non-partisan and non-political a way as possible. How long this style continues is anyone's guess. The hurricane and its fallout will determine what happens. "We're not making any commitments beyond 5:30 tomorrow afternoon," Mr. Davis told reporters.

At the same time, he wants the various corporate community to be cognizant of the images they give off in this period of uncertainty. If the GOP and the McCain campaign don't want to "party" while people suffer, then they also don't want it to appear that their business partners are doing that.

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The GOP is straddling an uneasy line at this point -- it doesn't want to give off the impression that it is abandoning the convention (thus the call for all convention speakers to remain in MSP and to participate in the convention in any way they can); on the other hand it needs to make clear that the convention is of secondary importance to the hurricane and relief efforts that will follow.

What was discussed by Mr. Davis and the GOP is in line with what I suggested in a previous post -- take care of mandatory business on Monday (check) including the roll call of states (not being done). Tuesday could have been reserved for the acceptance speeches of Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin (not being done).

This is not to say that I'm in opposition to what has been announced today. In fact, looking at it objectively -- what other options existed? All I'm saying is that I'm aware that only a limited amount of "real" business takes place at these nominating conclaves; almost everything else is rhetorical politics -- "red meat" -- as media pundits prefer to call it.

Protesters march...arrests follow

At least nine people have been arrested today -- as a veterans group, protesting the Iraq War, advanced toward the XCel Center.

A story such as this one would have generated substantial national media coverage IF there had been no attention focused on the Gulf and Hurricane Gustav.

For what it's worth (UPDATED)

Neither the John McCain official Website nor that of the 2008 GOP Convention has provided any updates to their sites -- at least not yet.

The former continues to offer volunteer, contributions welcome and other "typical" information. The latter continues to list the original Monday schedule.

UPDATED: As of 4:30 p.m., the GOP's Website still had not updated with the significant changes to the convention. Nor had McCain's official Website.

Changes are coming to the RNC schedule (UPDATES COMING)

11:00 a.m. CT: There will be significant changes coming to the RNC schedule, as a result of the impending hurricane in the Gulf.

There will be multiple updates to the post...so stay tuned.

The first bit of news: President Bush and Vice President Cheney will not attend the convention, although there is a chance Mr. Bush will address the convention and the nation tomorrow night.

.....

11:15 a.m.: Politico also is reporting that there is a strong chance that Sen. John McCain might not make it here to MSP. Here is a snippet of a report from Mike Allen:

McCain is traveling to Jackson, Miss., today with his wife, Cindy, and running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, where they’ll be met Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) for a series of briefings. Officials say they’ll make final calls about the convention after the senator gets those briefings.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis has arrived in the Twin Cities. Campaign and convention officials are talking around the clock.

Convention officials still think an appearance by McCain is LIKELY, although a satellite address from the Gulf coast is possible.


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11:25 a.m.: Good ol' Wolf Blitzer. To borrow a line from former President Ronald Reagan: "There you go again." Blitzer was interviewing an Ohio congressman (who I believe is on the convention planning committee) and Sen. McCain's economic adviser and discussing how the storm might alter the convention schedule. Blitzer suddenly altered the tone of the conversation, and dropped what I thought was an unfair question. He asked the economic adviser (whose names escapes me) about the selection of Sarah Palin as Sen. McCain's running mate.

In other words, he took a conversation that was non-political and made it overtly political. I found that unfair.

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11:43 a.m.: President Bush's impromptu press conference at FEMA headquarters provides some hints to what will happen here in MSP. He urged Americans to donate to the Red Cross and other relief agencies, and he also confirmed that he will not be attending the convention.

His donation remarks (and note he didn't take any questions) strongly suggest there will be a public service component to this RNC. There is a growing anticipation locally as to what will be announced, and when.

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11:50 a.m.: CNN is reporting that a formal announcement is expected in about one hour, but the plan being discussed at this point is to cut at least one day off the convention schedule. John King is suggesting that the convention will start tomorrow -- a requirement in order to formally endorse John McCain as the nominee -- but that a shorter program tomorrow and a possible cancellation of the Tuesday program -- so that delegates and others can engage in a day of service -- before (and perhaps) resuming a normal schedule on Wednesday.

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11:55 a.m.: I hope the Washington Center students (and everyone, regardless of whether they are part of the Washington Center group, for that matter) here in MSP are aware that they are experiencing something very important. I'm choosing my words carefully here -- all of us here are about to gain an appreciation for how detailed planning can be changed because of circumstances no one can control. I'm sure the students are going to be concerned that their ability to gain a full appreciation for a political event is going to be negatively affected; however, what they are about to see is how people come together in short order in order to benefit people they don't know. In other words, they are going to learn the importance of doing something that is larger than themselves, and frankly something that is more important than a political gathering.

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12:07 p.m.: Just had a thought -- what are the myriad protest groups that have gathered here in the Twin Cities thinking, now that it appears that the convention schedule and the entire political conversation of the week is about to change? On one hand, they could go ahead with their planned events, but I wonder what the public's reaction to that will be. On the other hand, they could turn their message toward helping the public.

Mind you, I'm not at all suggesting that the protests not go ahead. But I am saying that only the most naive person would think that the political plan from just 24 or 48 hours ago is now applicable. Everyone in the Twin Cities needs to consider how they will adjust.

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12:15 p.m.: FOX News is reporting that the McCain campaign is offering flights home to the Louisiana and Mississippi delegates.

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12:28 p.m.: My wife and I are strong-willed, opinionated people. And we often disagree (and, yes, agree) on media coverage. Today is one of those days that we disagree. My wife has expressed her disappointment at the almost breathless, repeat-filled reporting that she's seen on both CNN and FOX. At one point she said that while she recognized how important a story Gustav is...and how it will affect the RNC, she wonders why the networks are not offering time to other stories happening in the United States and around the world.

Of course, I couldn't allow her criticisms to go unanswered! I noted that while newspapers are a one-time information source (and I'm acknowledging that the Internet has changed that dynamic), television is a 24-hour news and information source that thrives on covering the most important story of the moment. As such, it will latch onto a big story, cover the "breaking news" moments and then use the times in between to provide analysis, reaction and perhaps other updates. As such, the interviews taking place, the analysis being provided and the ping-ponging from New Orleans to St. Paul and Washington (and other relevant places) is required and necessary.

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1:05 p.m.: The National Weather Service is reporting that it is possible that Gustav could strengthen from its current Category 3 to a Category 5 -- the highest possible on the scale -- before it hits the Gulf Coast. And it could reach landfall as early as tomorrow morning.

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1:15 P.M.: Although Sen. McCain has made clear that there will be substantive changes to the RNC schedule, there are no firm details at this point. Mr. McCain indicated that there will be a general focus on turning the convention from a political event to a public service event. But what is not clear at this moment is how the convention will be organized. This absence of real news indicates to me that the detailed schedule of what will happen...and when...is being constructed now.

Keep in mind something I indicated earlier -- 14-18 months of planning are being tossed aside; new plans are being forced upon convention organizers, who must consider who (if anyone) will address the convention; when any speakers will appear; and whether any kind of regular programming (to borrow a television phrase) can move forward at this point.

It is the equivalent of a television news producer junking the planned newscast because of "breaking news"...and that breaking news happens within moments of the commencement of the news. Tough decisions have to be made. There is an anticipation among many people -- within and outside the newsroom -- to know what will happen, and when.

Cut the convention planners some slack. They deserve it.

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1:58 p.m.: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that conventions planners will hold a press conference in one hour to discuss the changes to the RNC. This story from the newspaper also provides indications that media organizations are adjusting their plans for coverage of the convention.

President Bush and Senator McCain

This is a complex relationship, and in some ways you can draw parallels to the 2000 presidential election. Then the vice president (Al Gore) was attempting to distance himself from the president (Bill Clinton)...but he also knew that a victory would assist in validating the legacy of his boss.

Now, it's a Republican who's squirming. On one hand, and this New York Times article offers more analysis than I am here, the nominee (John McCain) is attempting to run away from the president (George Bush)...and yet the president wants to see McCain win because it would assist in validating his legacy.

There are differences here, no question about that. Maybe the most important is that Gore attempted to keep the spotlight away from Clinton -- for his personal conduct, while McCain is attempting to keep the spotlight away from Bush -- for his professional decisions.

It leaves you to wonder if Mr. McCain would prefer to not have the president here in MSP at all.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

An interesting choice

Both local newspapers -- the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press -- used the same Associated Press photograph featuring John McCain and Sarah Palin on the front page of their papers today. Here's how it looked in the Star Tribune.

The first protest...

...that I saw in connection with the Republican National Convention. Two women were standing at the entrance to tonight's media party at the Guthrie museum. They were protesting the Iraq War and linking America's involvement in it to Sen. John McCain.

It was somewhat surreal to see two other women at the opposite corner holding "media entrance" signs.

The protesters were peaceful, and they waved and said "thank you" whenever someone driving past them honked their horns in support.

.....

One other thing -- kudos to the people of Minneapolis-St. Paul for the warm welcome they are giving many people. The various volunteers I've met have had answers and always with a smile.

More importantly, two people -- attracted to the Washington Center and media credentials I had on at various times today -- welcomed me to the Twin Cities and told me they hoped that I enjoyed my time here.

Bravo.

No changes...yet (UPDATED 2x)

But it shouldn't surprise anyone if next week's Republican National Convention is affected by the weather troubles that are going to hit the Gulf region in a few days.

Already President Bush is taking a proactive approach -- something he and his administration didn't do three years ago -- as Hurricane Gustav barrels in. His efforts could include delaying or canceling his appearance at the convention.

But the larger issue is what will the convention's organizing committee do? It would appear to be impossible to be shown partying while an already economically battered region is going to be struck again.

I offered the following -- albeit radical -- solution to some friends yesterday: Condense the convention to two days. Take care of all preliminary business, including the roll call of states, on Monday. Tuesday would then be reserved for the acceptance speeches by Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain. As I wrapped up my scenario, I suggested that McCain end his speech by encouraging, challenging, and pleading with Republicans and all Americans to make their way to the Gulf region. There, they would help in whatever way they could.

I'm paying attention to the potential of the convention being affected by Gustav. I'll update with news and information as I get it.

UPDATE: Saturday PM: Local organizers remain optimistic that the convention will go on as scheduled and without any delays, but McCain admits that he's worried about the image of his party celebrating while American citizens suffer. And that would be the case if Gustav slams into the Gulf Coast with anything near the ferocity that is feared. Another news report indicates that the GOP might seek to turn the convention into a giant service-oriented event with McCain at its head until he makes a trip to the Gulf.

SECOND UPDATE: Saturday PM: Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the city of New Orleans. As GOP officials meet on Sunday, this news (and the images that will follow it) could heavily influence what Republican officials choose to do with the convention.

A never-say-die attitude

Check out this report from the Boston Globe. The next time a student tells you there's no way he/she can complete the assignment you've given them, ask them to read this:

Extra credit effort

The team from Emerson College's WEBN-TV isn't letting lack of press credentials stop them from getting stories. The four-person crew of journalism students, who missed the deadline to sign up for official coverage at the DNC in Denver, hopped planes last Saturday anyway and have had a blast covering events big and small. They've managed to talk their way into speeches by Hillary and Bill Clinton, and by yesterday afternoon had secured a few hall passes for the big Obama speech. "We're not really sure what they are," joked co-executive producer Magdalena Parker, from a bus yesterday, with the rest her team, co-producer Kailani Koenig-Muenster, Alison Klein, and Josh Miller. "Sometimes we do pull the student card. We say, 'We're students, we just want to see what it's like inside.' We have to work it if we want to get anywhere." So far, the most interesting event they've covered was Monday night, when protesters convened in downtown Denver and were surrounded by police in riot gear. They've also seen their share of semi-celebs, including Fran Drescher, Wolf Blitzer, the Daily Show's John Oliver, and Anderson Cooper. Check out their stories at www.politicalpulse.net; their half-hour television special "WEBN At the DNC" will air on Winthrop Cable.

The countdown continues

You can't escape the political conversations now...they are everywhere here in the MSP area. And I find that exciting.

The area's two newspapers -- the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press -- are filled with political stories this morning. Of course many of them relate to the two big local angles -- Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty not being selected as Sen. John McCain's running mate...and the security plans that are already in place for the upcoming Republican National Convention.

My wife and I have great friends who live in St. Paul. He can't wait to join me tomorrow in checking out everything taking place around the XCel Center (and truth be known I think he's just a touch envious that I'm here as a faculty leader and a blogger...his political beliefs would fit in well with the Republicans, if you catch my drift). His wife is simply going to enjoy having my wife around for about 48 hours.

My plans in my role as a blogger will go beyond simply reporting what is happening inside the XCel Center. You will have the luxury of seeing the speeches on television or online, so I, instead, plan to do my best to highlight what is happening outside, personal reflections on what I see both inside and outside, and doing as much original reporting as I can.

I also will be a guest on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh on Sunday morning (around 6:40 ET) and Monday evening (around 8:05 ET). If you are from Pittsburgh, please tune in. Or access the radio station online!

More later.

Friday, August 29, 2008

6 students...1 faculty member...1 former Congressman

Somewhere, there's a MasterCard commercial here...because that combination turned out to be priceless.

My small group meeting today included former Oklahoma congressman Mickey Edwards, who is the faculty director for the Washington Center's program here at the Republican National Convention. He, at the request of one of my assigned students, joined our small group for lunch today.

It was a fascinating 90 minutes.

You might think that a significant amount of our time was spent talking about the news of the day -- John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. You'd be surprised (perhaps) to learn that although that was one topic of conversation, it did not dominate our discussion.

The students received invaluable advice about networking, how they should present themselves to the delegates and party officials from their home states, and how they can begin to get involved in their state's party.

We also discussed a host of political issues -- ranging from legislative and presidential agendas; the Supreme Court; the interaction of media and politics; and the legacy of various presidents.

The Washington Center leadership has attempted to impress upon our students from day one the importance of keeping a positive attitude and never letting an opportunity to network go to waste. Because of the initiative taken by one of my students, the entire group benefited from a terrific conversation.

As I said, priceless.

TWC program, morning five (periodically updated)

I spent more than an hour discussing the media-political relationship with Mickey Edwards and our Washington Center group this morning.

The conversation was fascinating, and I enjoyed the variety and tone of the questions asked by the students.

Of course, the news of Sarah Palin being selected as John McCain's running mate overshadowed our conversation. We used the fury of speculation and discussion about who would be McCain's vice presidential choice to highlight a variety of topics:

1. Sourcing
2. Anonymous sources
3. Public's right to know
4. Internet and so-called new media technologies
5. Legal and ethical standards

Because of this (unplanned) conversation, I don't know which news organization was first to break the story of Sarah Palin as the running mate; I'll leave it to you to tell me.

.....

Joe Spencer, St. Paul's associate director of arts and culture, spoke for a short time this morning. He told the students that their enthusiasm was among the principal reasons why the Twin Cities was interested in hosting the RNC. He highlighted some of the cultural options available as the convention gets ready to begin. He acknowledged with students' attention geared to the giant projection screen in the room -- as all of us prepare to watch the McCain-Palin rally -- that he was in a tough spot. He did well.

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I came across a story this morning indicating that John McCain would be an advocate for a la carte programming. I've made no secret that I'm a fan of that option.

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As Mickey Edwards and I discussed the political ramifications of the selection of Palin (and he is far better versed in this area than I) I reminded the students that in this current super-tight election race...all Palin needs to do is to carry one state that the Republicans might not have for her selection to have been validated. This, of course, presumes that you put stock in the value of the vice presidential candidate.

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Let's see if the media are careful in how they characterize the selection of Palin. There almost certainly will be analysis of of how she will bring "women" to the GOP side. But this to some extent presumes that women are interested only in seeing one of their own in the White House. In other words, liberal women will have a hard time accepting the socially conservative positions held by Gov. Palin. Moreover, they might not agree with her fiscally conservative positions.

Of course, there will be comparisons to Palin being selected by McCain and Sen. Barack Obama not selecting Hillary Clinton. Are those fair comparisons? On one hand, you could say that the Republicans are delivering a few more cracks to the glass ceiling on top of the 18 million already provided by Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, can Palin be compared to Clinton? They are not in equal political positions; they don't have a comparable political record; and, as mentioned, they are night and day on most political issues.

But it was Clinton and the Democratic Party that put the female vote in a sharp spotlight this year. Palin's addition to the ticket will reinforce that.

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You have to love technology. Our group in Minneapolis is watching a Web video stream of a live event from Dayton...and I'm blogging to you wherever you might be. And now we watch the address.

The Republicans are back to waving the flag -- remember that the Democrats attempted to use that image quite strongly at the just-concluded DNC -- and using it to promote their candidate.

The Democrats were hammered over a near 10-year stretch about how patriotic they were, and for some reason they allowed that to become a valid political issue. They never found the message to counteract that. They turned that around in 2004 (though it didn't stick) and need to use that again in 2008.

The use of the flag by the Republicans this morning is poignant for McCain -- as a decorated veteran it makes sense to use the military and the flag as props for him. (And I don't use prop as a negative term in this case.)

......

McCain effectively introduced Palin; he outlined her record (much of which America knows nothing about), and how she has worked for the things that matter to Alaskans -- and should matter to Americans. McCain made clear that she's tough, but he also let it be known that she's a mother. The appeal to the audience -- both in the hall and throughout America -- should have been obvious.

.....

Did you notice the amount of time Palin spent introducing her husband and family (3 of the five children are in the photo in the aforementioned link)? The image of her husband as "everyman," and the information of her oldest son being in the U.S. military provides a sense of this being a "typical" American family. Put more bluntly -- the Republicans are not going to allow the Democrats to control the "family issue" plank. And they're not going to allow Joe Biden to be the only "typical" person who wants to be the vice president.

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Palin got the loudest ovation from our group when she referenced the "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" by suggesting that McCain and she were putting another crack in it...and maybe, just maybe, they would shatter it.

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Our students were asked to react to the McCain-Palin ticket --
1. Too obvious (courting Hillary females; how many Democratic women will be comfortable with her political positions)
2. Perfect as an outsider (go outside of Washington)
3. Energizes campaign (good counter to McCain's age and experience -- not to mention Obama)
4. Could bring Republican women who might have stayed home to the ballot box
5. Reinforces conservative base (it was skeptical of McCain's commitment to conservative policies)

One student also wondered how much of a difference Palin will make; a president, in this student's mind, has more power. One of my faculty colleagues reminded everyone that there are two types of representation (symbolic and substantive) that voters consider. In the former, the person is like me and therefore I want him/her to be in office. In the latter, the person must represent the values that matter to me.

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CNN vs. FOX (McCain's VP -- updated as needed)

You know this morning that CNN is desperately trying to break the vice presidential decision by John McCain...before FOX News does.

I'm switching back and forth between both networks this morning, and right now CNN might have a slight advantage -- at 6:38 (Central time) I saw a report from Dana Bash indicating that a private plane from Anchorage, Alaska landed in Dayton, Ohio last night. That matters because Alaska governor Sarah Palin -- a Republican and someone who has developed a strong professional relationship with John McCain -- would be a legitimate (though) surprising choice as a running mate.

Stay tuned.

6:46: Another coup for CNN -- it's reporting that Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has told a radio audience that he will not be in Dayton today. CNN quoted the governor as saying "you can draw your conclusions."

6:55: CNN returns to breaking news, but then it offers no real updated news. Instead it goes to a live interview with Bill Bennett. Come on, use the breaking news terminology when it applies.

6:57: Of course, as the media continue to cover this story, they also are dealing with the impending trouble in the Gulf of Mexico. It seems inevitable that Tropical Storm Gustav will become a hurricane in a day or so and then slam into the Gulf (with New Orleans being a possible dead-on hit) another day or two after that. It will be interesting to see how these two competing (though important) stories are covered today and throughout the weekend.

7:00: E-mail received by Politico.com -- Pawlenty is out.

7:02: CNN is live again, and Dana Bash is acknowledging that she and her CNN colleagues are "reading tea leaves" but one of her producers found someone at the airport where the flight from Anchorage landed. It's the "most secretive flight" ever to have landed at that airport, the person at that airport told that CNN producer.

7:05: FOX is reporting live from inside the arena where McCain's rally will be held. Reporter Carl Cameron seems frustrated -- as he wrapped up, he noted that a very unofficial media source already is reporting that Sarah Palin is the nominee.

Need to take a break from this -- time to get my day started. I have a meeting in less than one hour!

7:22: FOX says it won't be Mitt Romney. This is a surprise...he was considered the "safest" of the safe picks available to Mr. McCain. Bob Beckel - a FOX analyst -- is suggesting that if Sarah Palin is selected then there must be an acknowledgment that McCain is attempting to appeal to women. Therefore, he's suggesting that the decision would be "reactive."

7:25: Drudge Report (shown on FOX) is suggesting it IS Sarah Palin. Here's the front page of the Drudge Website.

7:29: CNN repeats information about the flight; the rush to break this first continues. Both CNN and FOX are running lots of file video of Mrs. Palin, who is a popular governor in her state.

7:31: Carl Cameron says the flight landed in Dayton late last night. He's noting that with Pawlenty and Romney (and Joe Lieberman) NOT being in Dayton seems to clarify that Palin will the running mate.

7:35: FOX's Bob Beckel is commenting again -- noting that not only is she squeaky clean but she also is a reflection on the Democrats trying to lock in the female vote over the past generation. This locking in would get unlocked in a hurry, especially with how unhappy millions of women are after the Hillary Clinton scenario.

7:40: Keep this in mind -- NOTHING is confirmed at this point, but it sure appears as though John McCain has done something no one would have expected just 24 to 48 hours ago. It would reaffirm his "maverick" credentials, but Palin also is someone who will reassure conservatives.

7:45 -- Off to my morning meetings. Enjoy watching this game play out on television. And for what it's worth, my money is on FOX breaking this news first. If CNN scoops FOX this time, wow.

More later.

8:30: ABC News is blowing a huge hole in the "it's Palin" theme by reporting that the Alaska governor is...in Alaska this morning.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day and night four of the DNC (periodically updated)

Well, technology reared its ugly head tonight. I planned to meet with my students in the lobby of our hotel; there we intended to watch and discuss the final night of the Democratic National Convention. I sat down, fired up the computer, waited for a wireless signal, and waited, and waited, and now I'm back in my room :-( There is a signal, but my computer couldn't pick it up.

.....

John McCain's "Convention Night" advertisement is a great one, though I wouldn't call it "sweet," as Anderson Cooper did. The advertisement is a stark contrast to the others that the McCain campaign has aired during the Democratic National Convention. Though I wouldn't call all of them negative, I would say that all of them were designed to create a crack in the Democratic message being put forward on that evening. The "Convention Night" spot is refreshing, though one that will not be remembered in a few days.

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CNN also is reporting that there will be no announcement about Mr. McCain's running mate tonight. Don't bet on it...I remain convinced you will see the name "leaked" at some point.

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I've made no secret of my independent status, and as I look at the set up for tonight's address, I'm not comfortable with it. The staging looks ostentatious. The pulsating lights remind me of a rock concert. It doesn't seem appropriate for a political address. I understand what the Obama campaign is attempting to do, but I feel that it reinforces the criticisms of Obama as being elite. My two cents, for what that's worth.

.....

The video presentation that introduced Sen. Obama very early included the word "great." The next voice heard was Mr. Obama's. Whether intended, this implication is that he falls into that category.

The contrast between that and the wonderful connection between mother and son was poignant. It's clear he and his mother had a strong relationship. In many ways I think his positive relationship with his mother is evident in his strong relationship with his spouse. I mentioned to my students here in Minneapolis-St. Paul that my sense is that the Obamas have a successful marriage, one in which family, faith and children are foremost.

I've seen many a political video...the one I've seen produced for Obama ranks among the best. It left me to wonder why more political advertisements can't be produced in similar ways.

.....

And now...the speech.

Mr. Obama's reference to President and Mrs. Clinton early on was a smart move -- it reinforced immediately the theme of unity. He then switched to attempting to link his life as a youngster -- one in which money was not in great supply and where hard work was necessary -- to that of everyday Americans. Another smart move -- in the first 10 minutes of this speech, he's tried to knock out two of the sharpest criticisms that are made of his presidential run. (He later returned to this second point by wondering how John McCain could suggest Obama led the life of a celebrity. About 15 minutes later he returned to this point when he noted that this election was never about him...but instead it was about everyday Americans.)

Mr. Obama's attack on McCain was strong, but it was not negative. He outlined what he believed were the critical differences between the two presidential candidates. I recognize that suggesting McCain was out of touch and somewhat ignorant of the problems facing Americans was strident, but drawing contrasts must be done. He was much sharper in his criticisms of the shortcomings of the Bush administration.

"Government should not solve all our problems, but it should solve those that we can't on our own." I saw this as a powerful statement, and one designed to appeal to independent voters concerned with suggestions that he's a classic tax-and-spend liberals. He reiterated it moments later by saying he would cut taxes for 95% of American families.

The policy plans later outlined by Sen. Obama are likely to appeal to Democrats and Independents. They also give Republicans plenty of fodder for political advertisements and attacking. I think the first line will sound something like this -- "And he's going to pay for it...how?"

Anticipating that, Mr. Obama said that closing corporate loopholes and cutting wasteful spending will be at the forefront in this area. However, there was little in the way of examples or substantive discussion. I saw that as a shortcoming to his address.

He suggested that an "individual" and a "mutual" responsibility also was necessary. Here again, this is an effort to suggest Mr. Obama is not as liberal as others have suggested he is.

His plans to improve America's standing in the world (and, wow, does there need to be some improvement in this area) were laundry-listed and not discussed in any depth. Of course, everyone wants to responsibly end the war in Iraq, to curb any aggressive actions by Iran or other foes, to work with our traditional allies, and to ensure that our newest partners remain strong. He could have done more in this area, but in reality for Obama (or anyone) to go into depth would lose the enthusiasm that he's built throughout the speech.

My immediate reaction -- excellent. Fantastic speech. He laid out the differences and made the case he had to in order to justify his candidacy. Watch the Gallup daily tracking polls -- I saw today that Sen. Obama was up by 6 points. That will shoot up over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Anything you can do...

...I can do, too.

Holding your breath and waiting for the presidential candidate to reveal who is running mate will be? Can't wait to be among the first to know? Wondering why the candidate doesn't just get it over with and make the announcement?

A sizable chunk of the electorate clung to their technologies that would provide them with the all-important text message from Barack Obama -- and then it came at 3:00 a.m. because CNN broke the news. (Hey, don't mess with the media!)

As Obama delayed and delayed and delayed, Republicans were hacked off -- that Obama guy is trying to steal or hog the spotlight!

Hmmm...now tonight? Obama and the Democrats are angry that John McCain and the Republicans have successfully eaten into their news time and trying to steal the spotlight. McCain has made up his mind who his running mate will be...but good luck getting him to announce it tonight. (I still maintain that you're going to have the name leaked tonight. Barring that, one of the networks will figure out who it is.)

And Republicans? They're laughing. They're thinking 'gotcha.' 'You tried to own the spotlight, to play the media like a small child, and to announce what you wanted when you wanted,' they're also thinking. Now we're doing the same to you.

Don't you just love politics?

Uh, oh...it's time to read the tea leaves (TWO UPDATES)

One of John McCain's potential running mates has changed his afternoon schedule. Hmmm. Do you want to read anything into that?

Let's say that if this guy is THE GUY...Minnesotans will be happy people.

The story mentioned above (from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) comes as the major news outlets are reporting that John McCain has made up his mind about his running mate.

This "leaked" information comes as no surprise. I mentioned the Washington Center students assigned to me here at the Republican National Convention that they should expect a report of this type in the late afternoon -- I thought it would come closer to the time of the evening newscasts, but it appears it's happening sooner. I told them that they WILL KNOW by the end of the day who that vice presidential candidate will be.

UPDATED: FOX News is reporting that the Obama campaign has called the potential leaking by the McCain campaign tonight of McCain's running mate as "political malpractice." FOX's Carl Cameron is reporting that the McCain campaign is attempting to keep a lid on the announcement, but it also realizes that the media are feverishly working to determine who the running mate will be.

UPDATE TWO: Conversations continue within the Republican Party on the topic of postponing the Republican National Convention IF Tropical Storm Gustav hammers new Orleans and/or the Gulf Coast. While this decision would be a terrible one to make, it does reflect that Republicans cannot afford to give off an image of partying and having a good time while people suffer. And that is especially true recognizing the (justified) criticism that the Bush administration faced following its horribly ineffective response to Hurricane Katrina.

I'm listening to NPR as I post this, and I just heard an actuality from a safety official (and I didn't catch his name) who said in a group meeting that Gustav -- if it hits the Gulf Coast -- will be the strongest since Katrina. A Category 2 or 3 hurricane is not out of the question. Precautions already are being taken in New Orleans.

A deadly reminder...right outside my window

When I look to the right and out my window of my hotel I see the Metrodome, which is less than a mile from where I'm staying this week. In the line of sight -- and between my hotel and the Metrodome -- is a freeway, on which not a single car or truck has been driven this week.

A traffic detour because of the Republican National Convention? No. It's 35W. And a part of its span -- one that takes traffic over the Mississippi River -- collapsed a little more than one year ago. (Some of these pictures are difficult to look at it...please consider that before you open this link.)

I've got friends who live in St. Paul and they tell me that the road has been repaired. The expectation among the locals I've talked to is that the roadway will re-open by the end of September. But the memories are as clear today as they were last Aug. 1. And each time I look out the window, I pause. Once or twice I've chilled. The portion that collapsed is less than 1/2 mile from the roadway that I can see from out my window. In fact, had my view been to the north (instead of the south) I would be able to see the ongoing repair effort.

In the excitement of being part of the Washington Center program and in the anticipation that the locals and others have about the Republican National Convention, there exists a reminder. A reminder that life is so fragile. We shouldn't forget that. Ever.

Buzz...buzz...buzz

It's impossible not to see the signs that the Republican National Convention is right around the corner. Two banners were placed in the lobby of the hotel in which I'm staying this week -- one welcomes the North Carolina delegation, as it prepares to arrive; the other welcomes the New Mexico delegation.

Huge blue or red GOP banners can be found outside the XCel Center, which as mentioned in a previous post was toured by our group yesterday.

Walkways are being altered, traffic detours are about to go up, and security is ramping up.

I've overheard a few people not connected with the Washington Center group doing their own politicking for Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty to be named John McCain's running mate. It appears that they, Pawlenty and the rest of America will know tonight who that vice presidential candidate is going to be.

Of course, there is plenty of attention about Barack Obama's upcoming nomination address -- interestingly, I've not heard a single person within the Washington Center group say anything favorable about the decision to move the address from the smaller Pepsi Center to the larger Invesco Field at Mile High.

Now, before you attempt to respond to that last statement by saying -- duh, dude, you're surrounded by Republicans...what did you expect? -- please recognize that there are students and faculty of all political stripes here. Sure, a majority of them is Republican, but that's not everyone.

Stay tuned!

TWC program, morning four (periodically updated)

As we gathered in our hotel lobby this morning and again here at Augsburg College, I've overheard multiple comments about last night's speeches at the Democratic National Convention.

The students who are active in the Republican Party seemed to have their talking points ready to go...I'm not implying they received a text/e-mail, etc., but I am letting you know that it is refreshing to hear students discussing politics.

And please don't think that there is a one-sided view of the political spectrum here. Students are engaged here, and they see Republican politics from a variety of perspectives.

.....

In my small group meeting yesterday, I asked my six students which party they felt was better suited to remain united over the next few years. The students who felt the Democrats would be believed that it was because the party could continue focusing on its support for the working man (and woman). Those who thought the Republicans would be suggested it was because the GOP appeared ready to move past the neocon attitudes of the Bush administration.

I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed listening to these six students this week, and I'm confident I'll continue to learn something every day from them.

.....

Presume you are a strategist for the Obama campaign...what would you want the public to get out of this Democratic convention? This question was posed this morning by former Congressman Mickey Edwards to our students. He noted that the Democrats have attempted to paint him as young and energetic, but he also wondered if the policies being pursued seem too closely tied to the Clinton era. They've removed some of the mysteries of Mr. Obama, Mr. Edwards suggested, but they've also attempted to reassure voters that he's going to look back to the successful (depending upon your opinion) Clinton years.

.....

I came across this story this morning -- a television news producer was arrested in Denver last night for taking pictures...as he stood on a public street. Check out the details and be prepared to hear more about this from media sources throughout the day.

.....

The discussion this morning begins around the question -- what makes a great president? Dr. Meena Bose built a list from presidential historians, professors of leadership/management and others. She suggested:
1. The ability to lead and the recognition of greatness are not connected
2. The media and technology environment that presidents deal with today is unlike anything that his predecessors in previous eras had to deal with
3. A president must prove he can deliver on what he's promised; it's not enough to have a strong political agenda
4. In a campaign, the public is seeking a vision, a plan, and an agenda

Mickey Edwards repeated something he said yesterday, as he added to this discussion -- he must be able to inspire, unite and persuade.

.....

Positive/Negative...Active/Passive -- that grid was proposed by political scientist James David Barbour in his book, written in the early 1970s (has it really been that long ago!). Dr. Meena Bose is discussing that book and where presidents fell on that scale. She's using it as a guide to further discuss presidential leadership. On such a grid, where would you place Barack Obama and John McCain?

.....

This issue of character remains integral to our morning conversation, as students and faculty provide question that make clear the term "character" is tough to define. Does it have to do with morality? What about honesty? What about remaining true to his political values?

.....

Wisdom
Intelligence
Approachable/Personable
Honesty/Principled
Delegate (authority)
Lead
Courageous (to which Mr. Edwards reminded us that one of the best pieces of advice he received from a fellow Oklahoman in Congress was to vote according to what he felt was right...and not what the public wanted. Mr. Edwards added that the public mood will swing, as it learns more about an issue and how the situation changes; it is imperative in such an environment that the politician recognize and withstand that pressure.)

These were some of the one-word answers Mickey Edwards received when he asked the question -- pick one word that exemplifies what you look for in a president. In other words, what matters most to you as you decide?

.....

Two Minnesota state representatives -- Steve Simon (DFL) and Pat Garofalo (GOP) -- took over the conversation as we wrapped up the morning.

Mr. Simon began his discussions by saying that he hopes the students quickly see that he and Mr. Garofalo -- both of whom entered the legislature in 2004 -- are examples of how people can disagree on political issues BUT CAN BE RESPECTFUL AND FRIENDLY TO EACH OTHER. (Mr. Garofalo added that he's the lone Republican in his own family. He added that his mother tells him the reason he's wrong on politics is because the doctor dropped Mr. Garofalo on his head when he was just born.)

Their conversation focused on the transportation issues relevant to Minnesota (and these issues likely will sound familiar to people who live in Pennsylvania -- we need to improve our roads, but how do we go about doing it?), and the political differences (tax/no tax, oil supply/cost, electric/hybrid cars, etc.) are clear. However, these representatives are demonstrating that a spirited debate can be had without bashing the opponent. Let's hope this lesson is imparted on these students.

.....

Rep. Garofalo got in the best joke - or at least the loudest reaction - of the hour. As he discussed a successful override (which he didn't support) in 2008 of a transportation bill signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he noted how popular the governor is here. "He'll make a great vice presidential candidate when it's announced later this week," Rep. Garofalo said.

Rep. Simon offered what I thought was the "take-away moment" of the hour. He said, "Distrust is far more toxic than disagreement." In other words, he would much rather see a hearty debate about issues, but the machinery of politics comes to a stop when there is a distrust of the motives taken by a person. "We're always going to have disagreement," but the key is how that disagreement is handled, Simon added.
.....

Stealing the spotlight

So, on Wednesday night -- when Barack Obama was nominated as his party's presidential nominee and Joe Biden delivered his (powerful and effective) vice presidential nomination address -- the GOP "leaks" information that Sen. John McCain has chosen his running mate.

And today we learn that there is a good chance (start laughing -- you know 'good' in this case means 'definite') that more information will be "leaked" late today regarding who will be John McCain's running mate.

This is classic public/media relations working to get "your" message out at the time you want. Of course, the media are being used at times such as this. Educators should consider using this example as a talking point in their classes.

Our tour of the XCel Center

Yesterday our Washington Center group was given a tour of the XCel Center, the location of the Republican National Convention.

As we learned about the features of the facility, tests continued on the lighting, sound system and the gigantic HD screen that will stand behind the speakers at the podium.

Read into what you wish as I tell you -- the name on the screen at the time was Joseph Lieberman. Granted, it was a test session, but a couple of my small group students and I had to resist reading the tea leaves. Someone joked that it actually was Mr. Lieberman trying to use us as a means of getting a subliminal message to John McCain.

Our tour leader told his audience that between 200-300 bloggers (I'm one of them!!) will be attending and covering the convention. For comparison purposes, only 12 bloggers attended the Republican National Convention in 2004. And as for media, almost 15,000 are expected to cover the convention.

And the free speech advocate in me was pleased to hear that preparations have been made in both Minneapolis and St. Paul to ensure that the numerous protesters have a staging area...places to march...and, yes, they will be allowed to get relatively close to the XCel Center -- 300 yards to be specific.

I wanted to take pictures while I was inside, but no one was allowed. And I didn't. Did anyone break that rule? I'm not saying anything (ahem), because everyone follows the rules all the time (ahem).

Reality -- in this fantasyland of politics

Politico reports that GOP leaders are already looking ahead to the weather -- in New Orleans -- as it considers how it will open next week's political convention.

This is something I'm trying to learn more about today. Granted, my access to these people isn't likely...but I can try to find them :-) And if not I can talk to people I can reach to see what they know. Second-hand reporting is not something I'm proud of...but let's see what I can find out.

Why Moscow did it -- from a Russian perspective

Interesting report from TIME magazine as to why Russia chose to invade Georgia and what the Kremlin learned about the West as it (feebly) responded to the Russian actions.

Because of the attention devoted to the two political conventions, this story fell off the news media agenda. It's good to see some news organizations remembering that what happens in the world still matters.

Tim Pawlenty blasts Barack Obama

Doing my morning e-mail and news check and I come across Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who is being interviewed by FOX News.

Reacting to Sen. Obama's plan to give his nomination address at Invesco Field at Mile High -- instead of the smaller Pepsi Center -- the governor suggested that in many ways this represents an "emperor" who speaks and looks regal but behind him the facade is crumbling and there is little of substance.

He also faulted the celebrity status that follows Mr. Obama. And let's not forget that the Democrats are worried about the images that could follow Mr. Obama in the aftermath of this address tonight.

The governor is in Denver, site of the Democratic National Convention, and he refused to bite on any questions pertaining to whether he'll be John McCain's running mate.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day and night three of the DNC (periodically updated)

Late tonight...caught only the tail end of President Clinton's speech -- our Washington Center group attended a reception at the beautiful Landmark Center in St. Paul.

.....

Joe Biden takes the stage at a time when the Democratic National Convention is hitting full stride. There was some confusion in the eyes of some media critics after the initial day of this gathering. Not so anymore. Hammering away at the Bush administration and equating it to what John McCain would do is now standard fare for the delegates to sink their teeth into.

Montana Governor Schweitzer and Mrs. Clinton rocked the convention last night, and my sense is that Mr. Clinton and the other speakers did the same earlier tonight.

Sen. Biden did a remarkable job of invoking family into the initial moments of his address. Was I the only one who seemed on the verge of choking up as he talked about the virtues his mother taught him?

As he continued to speak, I had a sense that Sen. Biden was building an emotional chord similar to that that Gov. Schweitzer did last night. Sen. Biden also built into his speech the answer to the "but you thought he was not ready to be president just a few months ago" by discussing how he's seen the growth of Sen. Obama -- and perhaps more importantly has seen how sincere he is.

Yet, I thought that answer was incomplete. Almost instantly he altered course and spoke of John McCain. The "that's not change...that's more of the same" chant soon took over. While this is important, it came at an inopportune time -- this senator is going to be asked time and again to justify the "he's not ready" line he offered of his running mate.

Setting this aside, the chord I spoke of earlier did continue as he continued. He referenced themes important to Democratic voters -- Iraq, Afghanistan, equality, economics, the environment, etc. And each time he made clear that Sen. Obama would bring about the change necessary (in the eyes of Democrats) at this time. "John McCain was wrong...and Barack Obama was right" -- that's the sentence that most people likely will take away from his address.

Mr. Biden spoke for about 20 minutes, and I think he set the tone that the Obama campaign needs as the final night of the convention approaches. To borrow a sports cliche, the ball is now in Obama's court. As he takes the convention to another location...and to an even bigger arena than has been used so far...it's his time to make sure the ball gets over the goal line.

I'm not sold on the presidential candidates coming out at the end of the evening to offer a pithy comment. And Barack Obama did it tonight. I think Bill Clinton was the first to do it -- and I'll admit that I was enamored when I saw him do it in New York in 1992. Now, it seems tired. I see it much like the "Gatorade bath" football coaches get when their teams win important games.

The stage on the third night should belong to the vice presidential candidate (or incumbent). The appearance of the presidential candidate (or incumbent) steals the show, and it's largely unneeded.

.....

And then as I started to scan the news of the day, I came across this -- I agree this is news, but check out the name of the corporation involved. And remember where the Republican National Convention is next week. A coincidence?

FCC -- a fight for the top?

Reports today indicate that the two Democratic members of the FCC are setting their sites on replacing Kevin Martin...if...if...you know who becomes president.

One of them was in Denver...offering an assessment of the current FCC chair. Hmmm...was he politicking? You think?

TWC program, morning three (periodically updated)

Mickey Edwards began this morning's conversation with our students and faculty by saying that when he was in Congress he kept two things in mind when he voted on a bill -- what is my conscience telling me, and what do my constituents want? He pulled out his wallet and showed the students his member of Congress card, which he still carries.

He then told his students that he often reminded himself that the voters need to know at the end of the day that when he made a decision on a bill, he had them in mind. He was their representative, but he was the one who had to make the decision.

Absent from his considerations was the needs of the Republican Party, to which he belonged (and still does). He added that he believes most voters care about their front lawn/front door issues when they decide whom they want to represent them.

His comments were frank; in fact, in the parlance of today's political conversation he might be called a "maverick."

.....

I came across a local story this morning, as a reporter examined how bloggers are offering their own ideas, thoughts, opinions and reports from the DNC (and yes we'll be here in MSP for the RNC next week). Both parties should be commended for allowing bloggers into the convention halls, in 2008; this is an affirmation of their ability to reach the voters who could make a difference in this election season.

.....

I neglected to mention yesterday that Tim Penny, the former Minnesota congressman who addressed our group, is a former Democrat, turned Independent who is endorsing John McCain. His explanation as to why is outlined in this Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial.

.....

Newsweek is blasting the role of the television pundit. If you expect me to support this idea, forget it.

.....

The conversation involving Mr. Edwards and Meena Bose focused this morning on how Mrs. Clinton did in her speech last night. Each agreed that her address was dynamic and effective, and that she left little doubt that her supporters are now in position to support her. Dr. Bose also acknowledged that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are now in a difficult position.

Sen. Biden speaks tonight, and he will have the unenviable task of following not only Mrs. Clinton...but also her husband who will address the convention an hour or so before Mr. Biden does.

Of course, Sen. Obama speaks tomorrow evening, and perhaps the large stage will benefit him, Dr. Bose believes, especially because he'll be literally in a different place than Mrs. Clinton spoke. The other question lingering over Mrs. Clinton is what will her role be in the Democratic Party in the future.

That question appears to have a huge fork in the fork -- of course, it depends upon what happens Nov. 4. If Barack Obama is elected president, what role would she want in his administration? Or does she wish to remain an active player in the U.S. Senate (that's my guess, for what it's worth)?

But if John McCain wins on Nov. 4, then there appears to be little doubt that she will spend considerable time convincing her party that 2012 has to be paved for her.

.....

An additional intriguing question is how Sen. Obama will reach out to Mrs. Clinton's supporters. Mickey Edwards suggested that one of the most effective ways to do that would be to invite the Clinton campaign activists in each state to become involved in his campaign. What Mr. Edwards didn't say was how that would happen. In other words, what roles would those people have?

.....

Our discussion then moved to the role of the president in war-time and whether he has more power in such periods of uncertainty. Dr. Bose argued that the presidency has increased in power in the past 75 years, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the trend toward increased power. Issues of technology -- both military and media -- offer one reason for this. So, too, does the president's ability to set the federal budget. The president has more staff than predecessors did in the past. And finally there is the deference that recent history has given to the president in foreign matters.

Mr. Edwards suggested that presidential historians have seen the image of the strong president not as one who got his way by fiat. Rather, the strength came from his ability to think rationally, to persuade and the convince people that his positions were correct. He added that the Bush administration has gone further than any other presidency to attempt to lead by simple authority.

He reminded this group that the Congress has ALL legislative power, not just in domestic affairs. In the end, the policy decided upon is not the question; it's what process was used to get to that point.

.....

It finally happened this morning -- fatigue has begun to set in. One student fell asleep as the discussion continued. Too bad -- the conversation was quite good.

Politics...sports...and money

Two interesting stories out of Minneapolis this morning -- one local station has chosen not to send a reporter to the DNC in Denver, but I give credit to the news director for admitting that the decision is financial.

Meanwhile, another local station is shifting tomorrow night's Minnesota Vikings pre-season game to its local, independent affiliate so that it can show the Barack Obama nomination acceptance speech.

True...but peaceful protests will be allowed

Sure, London has a tough act to follow, in the wake of the successful Beijing Olympics. But are the Brits really going to be interested in upstaging the Chinese?

Let's see. To do so, they would have to --
1. Throw people who stage impromptu protests in jail
2. Deny everyone who wants to protest the chance to do so
3. Stage elements of the Opening Ceremonies
4. Prevent a little British kid from taking part in those ceremonies because he/she wasn't cute enough

And that's just for starters. Remember the Brits would want to do MORE than the Chinese did. Maybe throw someone off Big Ben to make a political statement?

McCain to make a safe VP choice?

The answer to that (inadequately phrased) question appears to be -- yes.

I can think of no other potential running mate than Mitt Romney, under this scenario. (And take a wild guess where Mr. Romney was on Tuesday?) Mr. Romney would have the oratory skills of a Joe Biden...the attack dog mentality of a Joe Biden...and a strong economic and financial management background, which are considered the weak points of a John McCain biography.

And perhaps most importantly there is no skeleton in the closet issue associated with Romney. He'll represent the GOP's family values plank, and I could also see an advertisement or two touting how he ran the Olympics (as a not-so-subtle swipe at the Chinese).

Yes, I think I've just convinced myself who Mr. McCain is going to select. We find out for sure in less than two days.

Of course, I could be wrong -- The Hill is reporting that only Eric Cantor is among those believed to be on McCain's short list who is not already in a scheduled time to speak to the Republican National Convention.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day and night two of the DNC (periodically updated)

Well, those fears that the Democrats were too soft on the Republicans certainly has gone out the window tonight.

Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey just hammered away at the Bush-Cheney years, and then he followed that up by suggesting that John McCain would be a continuation of that legacy. His "four more months" theme was quickly picked up by the crowd.

.....

Virginia's Mark Warner has continued the onslaught, as he drew on the "fair shot" theme that he says all Americans deserve. Mr. Warner chose to ignore Vice President Cheney and instead drew comparisons with Bush and McCain.

Bill Kristol has made an interesting comment on FOX News -- he says that Mr. Warner's speech was moved out of the 10:00 p.m. hour because unnamed people had determined that it was not sufficient in its attack on Mr. McCain. If this is true, this is a stunning decision. It suggests that Mr. Warner was supposed to be more vitriolic than expected.

.....

Here in Minneapolis today, I had a meeting with my six students before we headed out on a group tour and a stop at the Minnesota State Fair. The principal question I was interested in getting them to answer was this one: Which party has more to prove in 2008?

The six students split right down the middle -- 3 said the Democrats; 3 said the Republicans. Those who said Democrats in essence said that with all that is wrong in the country these days the Democrats essentially had no excuse not to win the presidency and to increase their lead in the Congress this year. They added that with it becoming more clear that the 2008 presidential election was becoming a referendum on Barack Obama...the Democrats simply had to convince the American public that they were ready to lead.

The students who believed that the Republicans had more to prove believed that the need for political stability in these uncertain international times combined with the Republicans moving past the neo-conservative (and failed) policies of the Bush administration ensured that the GOP had shown it was ready to remain in power.

.....

The anticipation in Denver is palpable even here in my hotel room in Minneapolis. Mrs. Clinton is moving ever closer to taking the podium. CNN is reporting that Mrs. Clinton speech was completed perhaps two hours before it was to be delivered and that a final copy of it was not supplied to the Obama campaign.

Mr. Kristol's comment above and this information delivered by CNN (and attributed to another news organization) indicates that attempts to bring a unified but powerful message to the American public tonight is being derailed.

.....

Earlier today I mentioned that RNC co-chair on arrangements Jo Ann Davidson spoke to our group this morning. She agreed to take a photo with my students from Ohio colleges as well as two others who are being supervised by another faculty leader. On Monday, our group took another photo; the six students you see here are in my small group....yeah, I know, they got "lucky" being assigned to me!

.....

Wow, Montana governor Brian Schweitzer rocked the house. He delivered a speech that I thoroughly enjoyed. Fantastic speech. If Bill Kristol's comment (see above) is true...moving Mr. Schweitzer to prime time was a stroke of genius. His energy, enthusiasm, powerful message and, yes, his devastating critique of the Bush administration and how Mr. McCain would continue many of those policies was brilliant. The convention appeared from my hotel room to be too predictable and clinical; he changed that sentiment.

And he ratcheted up the energy scale just as Mrs. Clinton prepares to speak.

.....

As Mrs. Clinton takes the podium, I've got to think that one thing is going through her head -- I'm delivering a speech two days earlier than I should have been. Oh, what could have been for her. The image of Mr. Clinton standing and with a tear in his eye shows me that their marriage -- though criticized by many for various reasons -- is strong.

Uh, so why then did she say she comes to Denver as "a proud mother...a proud Democrat...a proud senator from New York...a proud American...and a proud supporter of Barack Obama"? Did she forget "a proud wife" by accident?

She left no doubt that she supports Mr. Obama -- "we are on the same team" -- and she made this clear early in her address. She also challenged her supporters to recognize that they were not involved in the campaign for her...instead they were in it to build a better America. And if that's the case they cannot look past the need to vote for Barack Obama.

As I see the cutaway shots of Mr. Clinton, alternately staring intensely then smiling at his wife, I remain convinced that he loves politics. By politics, I mean the process, the legislation, the give-and-take. His critics are numerous (and in certain areas they are justified in criticizing him), but I don't think that anyone can state that he doesn't savor the political process.

Mrs. Clinton delivered a fantastic address. She stated publicly that she wants Obama to win; it seems impossible for her to go back on that. She offered multiple reasons why Mr. Obama needs to be elected. She said that although Mr. McCain is her friend and someone who deserves to be respected, he cannot be elected because he will carry on a legacy that fails women, the lower and middle classes, and the world.

She rallied the crowd. She built perfectly on the energy that was jump started by Gov. Schweitzer. And, yes, she laid the foundation for a run in 2012...if...if...but then again if she sounded and looked like that during the winter months she would have been delivering her nomination speech two nights from now.

How to keep a secret in politics

It might be more simple than you think -- just look at what the Barack Obama campaign did.

TWC program, morning two (periodically updated)

We begin with another beautiful Minneapolis/St. Paul weather day...temps will hit about 80 and the sun is everywhere. (Yes, there is an uh-oh on the horizon...we're expecting storms tomorrow.)

A few students offered their thoughts about night one of the Democratic National Convention. One young man believed that both Sen. Ted Kennedy and Mrs. Obama delivered strong speeches. Another person said that whether they intended to, both people struck strong emotional chords with the audience.

A third student wondered where the "change" message was, although he added that perhaps it was necessary to introduce Mrs. Obama in a softer, more personable tone.

Faculty director and former congressman Mickey Edwards reminded everyone that "nothing that is said on the stage is said by chance." The Democrats this week and the Republicans next week are seeking to deliver a specific message, and that comes through in the words used, Edwards said.

Scholar-in-residence and Hofstra University professor Meena Bose said she didn't accept the argument offered by some media critics that the Democrats wasted last night by not offering a strong contrast between Mr. Obama and Sen. John McCain. Edwards added that it is important to keep in mind that close to half the people in the convention hall did not want Mr. Obama to be the party's nominee.

And this story in today's Washington Post suggests that the tension between the the Clintons and the Obamas is palpable. He never considered Mrs. Clinton as a potential nominee.

.....

Our initial speaker is Jo Ann Davidson, who is the co-chair of the Republican National Committee and chair of the Committee on Arrangements for this year's RNC. Mrs. Davidson, who knows my mother-in-law quite well, is discussing the process of the convention; she's made it clear to everyone that she's not going to deliver a partisan address.

Mrs. Davidson attended her first convention in 1976, when the Republicans gathered in Kansas City. She told students that she quickly learned that loyalty to the people around you is a critical element of long-term success within a party structure. She also indicated that through her numerous times on the party's platform that members of that committee should expect the unexpected. The work that the committee does is not cut and dried, despite what the public might think, Mrs. Davidson said. There are people on these committees who do not agree with the positions held by the presidential candidate.

Mrs. Davidson reminded this audience that the party platform is not simply a statement that reflects the wishes of the presidential candidate. Instead it highlights the consensus of the entire party membership.

The Republicans began the site selection by inviting 34 cities to bid to be the host; 11 responded that they were interested. In the end four cities -- New York City, Cleveland, Tampa, and Minneapolis-St. Paul -- were the finalists. Our students are getting a chance to visit the XCel Center tomorrow; Mrs. Davidson spent some time referring to some of the logistical challenges that are apparent in any selection, including one as new as that one.

Mrs. Davidson added that the selection of the facility and the message that comes out of that building are not connected; in other words, the location of the convention has no role in the messages that are delivered once the convention begins.

Mrs. Davidson spent considerable time taking questions from our students. She told students that women still need to overcome some obstacles as they seek higher office. Davidson said that some women still prefer to wait to be asked to run (instead of taking the initiative to do it) for office, and that women also tend to take fewer chances than men. She agreed with the student who asked the question that women tend to be "demonized" in the media and the public as they seek to advance in the political world.

The political culture of a city is a valid consideration when convention sites are considered, Mrs. Davidson said. However, the quality of the facilities, transportation options, and support within the business and civic community are critical in determining the ultimate site.

Mrs. Davidson did a splendid job of avoiding the partisan minefield that came from some of the students' questions. Perhaps the only partisan statement she made was stating that of course the GOP is committed to drawing contrasts between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama when its convention begins in a few days.

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Former Minnesota congressman Tim Penny also addressed our group this morning. He reminded students that in a year in which "change" is a by word of the election...both parties are involved with it. He asked students to consider whether any of them could have guessed 18 months ago that the least experienced Democratic candidate and the most maverick Republican candidate would turn out to be their party's nominees.

Mr. Penny also said how satisfied he is in seeing the number of young people who have been drawn to the national election this year. He admitted that this involvement began four years ago, principally as a reaction to the Iraq War, but it has sustained itself by demonstrating that a variety of issues matter to the future generations. He suggested that the current generation of leaders bears the blame for the shortcomings of the political culture; "the system is broken" and too many current leaders are responsible for it, he said. Mr. Penny advised the audience that both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama recognize this broken culture and want to work with politicians from both parties to start a new era of politics.

Mr. Penny offered an interesting critique of the media, as he began answering student questions. The loaded issue of abortion, gay marriage and social issues and whether the Republican Party needs to re-address these topics brought about Mr. Penny's reaction to the media. He suggested that the media ought to be more pro-active in challenging candidates who support (as an example) anti-abortion. He reminded this audience that if one is opposed to abortion, then there needs to be an acknowledgment that a woman who has an abortion and/or the doctor who performed it should be held legally liable for that act. (Yes, I know abortion is legal...bear with me here as I try to summarize his statements as best as possible). As Mr. Penny sees it, the media ought to be willing to ask questions such as how would a person who has an abortion be punished if Roe v. Wade were overturned? He suggested that in the current political climate few politicians who oppose abortion really do anything to advance that agenda. Why? Because they fear offending the middle, where a majority of people reside.

Why has the political climate soured in recent years in Washington? Mr. Penny suggested a lack of collegiality, a "full-time" Congress (meaning representatives seeing their role as a long-term career instead of a public service), re-districting, and fundraising and the pressures associated with that are the reasons why.


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And on the other side of the world, the party is over...

...but for the (Communist) Party, the "fun" is just beginning.

TIME magazine offers a valuable read, as it examines where the Chinese government goes from here in the aftermath of the successful Beijing Olympics. There will be consistent calls for freedoms in China, calls that people might not have been emboldened to make just a few months ago.

Michelle Obama -- the media reacts

I've glanced at a few media sources this morning, and all of them have offered positive critiques of Michelle Obama's address to the Democratic National Convention. The consensus seems to be that if her role was to personalize, humanize and normalize (all my words) her husband, she succeeded.

(As an aside, I did not see Sen. Ted Kennedy's speech, as I was having dinner with friends who live in the Twin Cities; but the media reaction to him and what he said also appears positive. The sense I get is that Sen. Kennedy dominated the stage.)

Tonight, the waters at the DNC are bound to get a bit choppier. The 800-pound gorilla that at this moment overshadows this convention is about to enter the room. That gorilla, of course, is the legacy of and reaction of the Clintons. Mrs. Clinton speaks tonight, and her husband addresses the convention tomorrow evening.

Each will be watched, scrutinized and analyzed by the media. Messages that appear to conflict with the theme of unity will be replayed in media discourse, and those messages that appear to support Obama will be especially reviewed. In some ways, the Clintons are in a no-win situation -- if they are profuse in their praise and support of Obama, there will be a sense of the message is fake; if they offer any criticism, there will be controversy.

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The TWC/DNC/RNC in photos

The Washington Center staff are taking multiple photos from the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

Enjoy!

Michelle Obama's speech...(periodically updated)

...as seen from a hotel room in Minneapolis.

This speech provides Mrs. Obama an opportunity to begin to define herself. My impression of her is that she's an honest, strong woman who loves her family and also cares for the people around her. But there is an underlying doubt in the public about both her and more importantly her husband. The doubt about her I think comes from Sen. Obama's attempts at this point to not force his wife into the national spotlight.

That is no longer an option, and yet I'm struck wondering why some women whose husbands run for president are not required to reveal themselves to the public. Going from memory here, I don't recall Barbara Bush, Tipper Gore or Laura Bush being compelled to justify who they were so as to validate their husband's presidential ambitions.

Why is a speech such as the one Mrs. Obama is about to give required (for lack of a better term) in this presidential year? I expect that Cindy McCain will speak at the Republican National Convention next week in St. Paul. But let's be honest, that speech will be a testimonial to her husband. So why is it different for her?

I'll be curious to hear what you think.

.....

Mrs. Obama has begun speaking. She starts with an interesting theme -- I'm traditional. She's referred to her brother, her husband, her daughters and her parents, in the first three minutes of her address. Smart -- I see it as a means of suggesting to the general public that she's no different from other women across the country who care first and foremost about their families.

I also think this is an effort to connect to typical Americans -- people who struggle with family illnesses and meeting their financial needs, while making a better life for their children. Remember that Obama caught flak for his "religion and guns" comment in the lead up to the Pennsylvania primary. Using references to people gathering in big cities and small towns not stopping to rest until they get what they want is offering a sense to all Americans that Mr. Obama is committed to working for them. Over time, we'll see if it connects with voters.

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Hillary Clinton! I confess to being surprised that Mrs. Obama made a reference (albeit a quick one) to the New York senator so soon in her speech. Here again is an example of Mrs. Obama trying to demonstrate traditional values (for lack of a better term) -- it's almost as if she's saying I'm reaching out to Mrs. Clinton and everyone who voted for her to bring about healing...and yes unity within the Democratic Party.

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And she's done. She spoke for no more than 15 minutes, and I admit I thought she'd speak for longer. My initial impression -- oops, I forgot my initial impression...because Mr. Obama has appeared via satellite at the convention. This is a surprise, and I'm not sure how to respond to this. It's unscripted, to some extent. It's also refreshing, meaning that the Obama family get to spend a personal moment with the audience and the country. Yet, his appearance seems to detract from her spotlight.

Did Mr. Obama goof? Did he at one point say he was in St. Louis when he meant Kansas City? If this is so, I'll be curious to see how quickly the MSM and the blogging community jump on this.

What college students are saying about the political conventions

Students from Ohio Northern University and Juniata College are taking part in the Washington Center's political convention seminars in both Denver and St. Paul.

I encourage you to access these blogs, to get a sense of what students who respect and value the political process are saying from and about the two national political conventions.

Young adults are an inspiring group

Almost 100 students with an interest in some facet of the political process are here in Minneapolis-St. Paul taking part in the Washington Center's program spotlighting the Republican National Convention.

These students are divided into smaller groups, to facilitate conversation, analysis of what's been learned, and to provide a streamlined overview of their overall work. My six students are a great lot -- three are from Ohio Northern University, two are from Juniata College, and one from John Carroll University.

As they spoke today -- and I probably did more talking than I should have :-( -- I was reminded yet again of how inspiring young people can be. These three men and three women believe in the political system, regardless of where they fall on its spectrum; they understand the importance of a functioning, healthy government; and they already are proving to me that they will be leaders in whatever they choose to do in the future.

I'm lucky to have the chance to learn from them, and I hope before our two weeks are done here that they will understand that -- a hallmark of good teaching is learning from your students. Many of these students have a keener understanding of the political process than I, and I'm attempting to use our conversations to spotlight how the media and the political systems operate.

Day one of the Washington Center program was a great success. Day two should be more of the same.

Day and night one of the DNC

Here's what to expect as the Democratic National Convention kicks off this evening. The most dramatic -- though not necessarily anticipated -- moment will come if Sen. Ted Kennedy steps to the podium.

The most anticipated event is the speech by Michelle Obama.

TWC program, morning one (periodically updated)

"Get Political...Listen...Engage...and Learn."

Augsburg College president Dr. Paul Pribbenow has identified that statement as the theme to the college's involvement with the Washington Center and the Republican National Convention. Furthermore, he reminded the students and faculty that politics is the way to build alliances, bring about change, and how diverse groups build their future.

Dr. Pribbenow kicked off this morning's session with his introductory address and welcome to Augsburg. Our morning sessions are taking place in the college's chapel (see building 4 in this link). I'm still attempting to find a photo of the chapel. (Stay tuned!)

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Our scholar-in-residence, Dr. Meena Bose, from Hofstra University, has advised the students that the Republicans have an advantage in that they can respond to what comes out of Denver, and they are using the announcement of a running mate as an example of that. By choosing -- deliberately -- to make that announcement on Friday, one day after the Democratic National Convention, the Republicans are attempting to deflect attention from Obama's nomination acceptance speech one night earlier.

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Former Oklahoma congressman Mickey Edwards is our faculty director. Mr. Edwards has been in politics for more than 30 years, and his expertise in policy, leadership, etc. should be valuable to this group. There are almost 100 students in this program, and they come from primarily the eastern half of the United States.

.....

Mr. Edwards spent some of this opening remarks discussing the selection of a vice president, and he made a very important point -- the selection of a running mate is first and foremost about who can help the candidate win. He reminded the students (and faculty, too) that attempting to appease one segment or another of a particular party must be subsumed to the larger question of winning.

.....

Mr. Edwards also noted that there is no such thing as a "head of government" in the United States. That seems obvious, but in times such as these there is an unintended mistake (my word, not Mickey's) to see the election of the president as the election to choose the new head of government. The president is not; he is only at the head of one branch. Mr. Edwards added that no president can do anything by himself; he must work with Congress to get what he wants done. At the same time, he must work with Congress so that it can get what it wants.

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Mr. Edwards also suggested that there are some fantastic parallels between this election and the one in 1980. Then, as now, there was an unpopular president (though in this case he's not seeking re-election) but his challenger was seen as untested and unproven. Because of that there was a need for Ronald Reagan to prove that he was capable, stable and worthy of being president. Now, in 2008, there is deep concern in many quarters about whether Barack Obama is capable of taking over the top spot of the Executive Branch. "Can you make wise, mature and intelligent decisions?" is a question that is always asked, maybe more so in 2008, Edwards said.

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Just learned that one of the students in my group -- Lindsey Lanzendorfer -- is the front page story in her local newspaper. Way to go, Lindsey!!

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We moved into an open forum, q-and-a with Meena Bose and Mickey Edwards. The questions that the students/faculty asked included term limits, the changing (and historical) scope and purpose of the vice president, the vetting process for vice presidential (and to a lesser extent presidential) candidates, the continuing power of the Democratic and Republican parties (for good and bad) to limit the number of presidential candidates and political ideas, run-off elections, energy reform, the primary/caucus season and the value and purpose of the Electoral College.

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One of the more interesting discussions that underscored this morning's open forum was how well the Democratic Party handled the question of whether to sit the delegations of Michigan and Florida. You might recall that the Democratic parties in both states angered the national party by moving up its primary dates, and the party then threatened to deny these states delegate privileges. In just the last few hours, the Democrats announced that both states would have full voting rights. This to some extent ran counter to many issues discussed by the party in the last few weeks of the Democratic primary season. Was this a flip-flop, to bring back a nasty term from the 2004 election? Or was this smart politics? Before you ask that, consider that Obama, in an effort to foster the unity that is central to his campaign, was wise to derail any chance that there would be unrest on the convention floor this week in Denver. Two large states with unhappy delegates would not be an image consistent with a party seeking unity.

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Attention is turning here in MSP and around the country to whom John McCain will select as this running mate, a topic that was raised in our morning session. Politico.com notes that reading one set of tea leaves indicates that Mitt Romney might not be the nominee. At the same time, William Kristol suggests that John McCain might want to consider taking a risk in his choice -- someone, in fact, who's not a Republican.

As you watch the Democratic National Convention this evening...

...look past the language used by the various speakers. Instead look for some of the other signs that will give you an indication of how the convention is going.

Among those things to consider --
1. Are the media focusing too much on the lingering tension between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? The answer to this one almost certainly will be yes. Their decision to highlight this discord is being done for news purposes but also for business reasons. The news component is obvious, but the business rationale reflects that both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton will address the convention later in the week. The networks want to drum up as much interest in those speeches as possible, so as to generate the largest possible audience that they can.

2. What attention is being given to what is happening outside the convention hall? In much the same way that this blog (and many MSM media sites) criticized NBC for failing to address the larger political issues associated with the just-concluded Olympics, so too will their be critics if the networks don't acknowledge the protests and other forms of dissent taking place throughout Denver.

3. Are the messages of the media analysts and guests positive...or negative? Barack Obama believes strongly in the power of the image -- and he wants the image coming out of this convention to be positive, to highlight his vision of change, and to reflect that his administration will do business completely unlike the Bush administration has. However, the media pundits and other guests are under no obligation to follow the company line -- let's see if they go negative by criticizing John McCain, George Bush or anything connected with the GOP.

4. Finally, compare your media sources. It will be tempting to tune to and stay with one network. However, pick up that remote and switch from network to network. You also would be wise to include C-SPAN in your media diet this week; that network will give you more unfiltered information than any other.

Of course, what I've written here applies to the Republican National Convention, which begins in one week. The exact points will change, somewhat in one case and in a large way in at least two others, but the idea is the same -- you become a more discerning media consumer by looking beyond the oratory skills of the speakers.

Enjoy the political conventions.