Where to begin? I guess with the stuff you probably didn’t see on television, since most of you, I’m sure, caught some of the convention coverage last night.
If you did see any on television, you might have seen people in the crowd with hand painted signs that said things like “W 2004” and “Viva Bush.” These were made, in advance, and handed out to people as they sat down. They look hand painted on television but are actually mass produced.
Sean “Puffy” Combs was there, with a security entourage that could have taken down Dubya’s forces in about three seconds in a fair fight, and probably in a fight involving weapons because they looked like they were packing heat. I didn’t scurry out of the way fast enough so as I was walking forward, passed Puffy and his security, my not exactly sleight frame collided with one of his bodyguards. This guy’s frame made mine seem, well, exactly sleight. It was very tempting to want to step back, slap my chest and ask the guy if he was “feelin’ froggy, bee-yatch?” but since I’m here the next morning writing this, you can bet that I didn’t.
We got there early. Never do this. The Garden was mostly empty during the early speeches and they were boring. They had big screens all over the arena, of course, which I’ll call the Neocontron. On the Neocontron, they had fake reporters interviewing delegates (news flash: they like Bush!) and showed endless video after endless video that told us that Bush likes his parents, his daughters, his wife and Latinos. The final video, shown much later in the night, was an atrocity narrated by some guy with a dumb cowboy accent, telling the story about how George Bush was such a hero in New York because he took care of us city-folk after 9-11.
9-11. 9-11. 9-11. 9-11. 9-11. And it struck me that 90% of the people in the Garden were in from out of town (you can tell by their big hair) and should shut the Hell up about it. Because, yes, I was here when that happened and I remember the mood of the city quite well. People were scared and angry, as you’d expect. But they still don’t agree with the current administration’s foreign policy.
Biggest pops of the night:
1) Attacking other countries.
2) Capping legal awards in civil lawsuits (what, has everyone here been sued?)
3) Defending marriage against Homer-sexuals.
1) Kerry (crowd would chant flip-flop at mention of his name)
2) Hollywood. (Ron Silver always shown on the Neocontron)
3) Not attacking A-rabs.
During Bush’s speech, I counted three protesters who infiltrated the Garden. One got very close to Bush, upfront with the delegates. Bush paused three times as protesters were removed. The crowd chanted “Four More Years” as it happened, so if you were watching on television, it looks like Bush paused because the crowd loved him so much. Not so. He’s so hated that three people managed to sneak past the rather stringent security to get into the event.
Security was tight, as you’d expect. I went in through the media entrance and was still searched and X-rayed twice.
New York irony: Every cop in the City was outside MSG last night. They were weary but friendly with both Convention goers and protesters. I saw one playing with her knight stick, tossing it from hand to hand, twirling it, and then dropping it and having to chased it as it got away from her and rolled... right to my feet. I picked it up and handed it to her. First time I’m ever seen an embarrassed cop. I told her I wouldn’t tell anybody. Guess I lied. Oh, here’s the irony: After the Convention, I walked 20 blocks downtown to the Forbes offices and then caught a train home in the West Village. Not a cop in sight down there. I did, however, encounter a man asking if I’d seen a cop because he’d just seen a bicycle stolen across the street.
Okay, now we get to some of the substance of speeches:
General Tommy Frank, who led the Afghanistan operation, said of Iraq: “The President had done everything to protect our troops from the WMD we all expected to find.” Great, Tommy. Too bad he also expected our troops to be showered with flowers and candy after the invasion and did nothing to protect them from the guerilla war that followed. Now, 1,000 of them are dead and 3,000 of them are wounded. What really irks me is that Frank got up there to endorse Dubya when it was Franks who expected the guerilla insurgency in post-Saddam Iraq and asked for more troops to be sent over so they could secure the country immediately. Franks was overruled. The 1,000 dead and 3,000 wounded are a consequence of this administration not listening to Frank. And yet here’s Franks, endorsing the President at a political event. I guess the lives of those under his command don’t mean much to Frank.
Near the end of this speech, I hear “Darth Vader’s Theme” from Star Wars in my head as Dick Cheney enters the building and uses his dark Jedi powers to choke an assistant cabinet secretary. Cheney then turned to another aide and said, “Admiral Veers, you are now Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban development. There can be no mistakes this time.” Veers salutes nervously. “Yes, Lord Cheney!” Sorry, my mind wandered.
New York governor Pataki is rather at ease on the mic. He also tells this whopper about Bush: “He said he’s turn around the economy and create new jobs. He said he’d do it, and he didn’t.” I guess. In fantasyland. Let’s be clear on this. 1.2 million jobs have been lost. I can’t believe Pataki said that with a straight face.
Okay, Dubya’s speech. He didn’t blow it. And this has already been picked to death so here’s my selected commentary:
It was a decent speech. For a guy who was running for President the first time. Bush can’t really defend his record, so he barely tries. The theme is that we’ve been through tough times so things are bound to get better if we just keep doing what we’re doing.
He says he’s going to restrain federal spending, for example. But he didn’t restrain federal spending at all in his first term. That’s one of the reasons why we have a deficit. See, it’s not just that he cut taxes on the rich, it’s that the costs of his foreign invasions were never accounted for and have kept rising. He hasn’t significantly cut any government programs, either, because he knew he wanted to get reelected. Maybe he assumed his tax cuts would so stimulate the economy that the deficit problem would work itself out. It didn’t. So, now, Bush says he’s going to restrain spending. I don’t even think that’s a good thing (cut taxes on the rich and services for the poor?) but, even if you believe that’s good, there’s no reason to believe that this chump will do it.
Bush attacks Kerry for calling his “Coalition of the Willing” the “Coalition of the bribed and coerced.” He says Kerry is insulting our allies. Then he names a few. Bush names El Salvador. Nobody will pick up on this, but... El Salvador? This is one of the most coerced country’s in Latin America. We supported a brutal dictator there as it waged war on its own citizens. CIA trained assassins turned into roving death squads, using Nazi tactics, to torture, intimidate and murder clergy, students and social activists who were trying to improve the lives of El Salvador’s poor. This is a country that will now always do what we ask because they lived for a decade under a regime of U.S.-sponsored terror. News flash, Bush -- a sorority girl with twelve shots of Cuervo in her blood stream can give more convincing consent to getting in bed with us than El Salvador can. As for the other, European members of the coalition -- they’re democracies and their people were against the Iraq war. It’s hard to believe these governments went against the will of their own people without standing to gain through either coercion or bribery. Bush might have realized that Spain’s government was booted out of office by its own voters over this very issue.
In another Latin America howler, Bush mentioned Nicaragua in a list of countries that the United States has helped toward democracy. His foreign policy, see, is all about “expanding liberty.” I couldn’t believe Bush mentioned Nicaragua. We funded a terrorist war against a popular government there. We used economic sanctions to weaken that government. When that government held elections, the country had just been ravaged by a hurricane. The U.S. said, bluntly, that if the incumbent government (who we hated because they were socialists) won the election, the U.S. would continue to hold back on disaster relief aid. The government still won 40% of the vote in a fair election. That’s Democracy? It’s what Iraqi and Afghan voters have to look forward to if they don’t vote our puppets in office.
From the crowd, Bush received tepid responses for his economic program and huge rounds of applause for talk of killing foreigners.
On the domestic front, Bush supports Health Savings Accounts. You save money, tax free, to pay for your medical expenses and the accounts are portable, so you get to keep the money even if you change jobs. Sounds good? It sounds good from him, but think about it -- you already pay insurance premiums. They’re taken out of your check every two weeks. What Bush isn’t saying is that under his plan, you actually pay more! I thought the point of insurance was supposed to be, I pay premiums, the insurance company pays for my medical treatment. Bush’s plan is that I pay premiums and, oh, I also throw even more of my own money into the pile! Thanks, Dubya. And, let’s think economics here: if my insurance company knows it can count on me to start my own Health Savings Account, why wouldn’t it fatten its own profits by cutting back on what it will pay for, assuming my HSA will cover the gap? Very compassionate, George. To insurance companies!
Bush says that under his Presidency, more Americans have owned their own homes than at any point in history. I’d just point out that this was true under both of Clinton’s terms as well. Bush didn’t do this, he’s just taking credit.
I have more, and I’m sure it will filter out in the days to come, but, there’s my uncensored take on the closing night of “The Mullets Take Manhattan.”