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Stateside: Republican National Convention: Day 0

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Republican National Convention: Day 0

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My coach from Denver at the comfort stop in Ogallala, Nebraska, which is near Lake McConaughy. It’s a popular recreational area, as can be seen by the RV (which was towing a car) and the motor boat pulled up for gas. Super unleaded is $3.95 a gallon.

Radio stations in this part of the country tend to play either contemporary Christian or country music. One radio ad for Toyota pickup trucks features a guy’s voice mocking all those guys “with long hair who call themselves men and drive around in a station wagon with their toys strapped on top covered with stickers telling me to be politically correct. If they could just see how much (long list of realguy toys) and guns-yes, that’s right, I said guns—I can get in my Toyota pickup…. Get yourself a haircut and while you’re at it, have a wash and clean yourself up.”

On Saturday, as I rumbled across Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa towards Minnesota on a 24-hour bus trip, I got an email from the Democratic National Committee inviting me to a 3 p.m. event the next day in Minneapolis. It was the media walk-through of the More of the Same Media Center which the DNC has set up across the street from the Excel Center in St. Paul, where the Republican National Convention is being held. There’d be drinks, food, speechifying from Minnesota Democratic elected officials and the Associate Chair of the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party

On Sunday at noon, the DNC set out another email advising the media that “Each day of the Republican convention, Democrats will outline John McCain's promise of more of the same failed Bush policies at the DNC at the RNC's More of the Same Media Center -- conveniently located directly across the street from the Xcel Energy Center at 411 Main Street. Breakfast will begin at 8:30AM, with the news conference beginning at 9:15AM. The news conference will be made available to outlets around the country via satellite. Reporters who attend the morning briefing will also receive updated flash drives pre-loaded with information related to that day's theme and convention speakers.”

Well, that solved one mystery for me. For months, the Republican National Committee’s research arm has been sending out several emails a day entitled: They Said It! or In Case You Missed It, pouncing on any bit of negative news or opinion or mis-speaking on the part of the Democratic candidates. Since October 18, 2007, I’ve received nearly 600 of them. So where was the DNC response? Well, looks like they waited to target it on those flash drives they’d be handing out every day of the Republican Convention.

Then, at 1:33pm as I was on the transit bus headed to the 3 p.m. DNC event, I got an email from the Republican National Convention press office. They’d be holding an important press conference at-you guessed it!—3 p.m. to announce changes to the convention program on account of Hurricane Gustav’s heading towards New Orleans. By 1:52 p.m. I had an email from the DNC saying that “In light of the situation along the Gulf Coast, the DNC has canceled this afternoon’s Media Welcome reception in St. Paul. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in the region.”

As everyone knows, the Republicans announced at that press conference that they wouldn’t be holding the events previously scheduled for the Convention, and by 5 p.m., the DNC had cancelled their planned breakfast briefing for Monday, September 1, the first day of the convention. Because I didn’t have my RNC press credential with me—not expecting when I set out on the bus at noon to be going anywhere other than the DNC More of the Same Media Welcome, I wasn’t able to get in to the press conference.

Instead, I sat on a park bench outside the Xcel Center chatting with locals Bill and Char Pearson. Bill said he usually voted Republican, but hadn’t in 2004 because he couldn’t stand what “the worst president this country has had in my lifetime—and I’m 67 years old” had done to the United States. When I asked him if the President and Vice President should be impeached, his answer was an unequivocal, Yes. “Cheney is the worst,” he said, “That man is evil.” Bill also lamented that Congress had an even lower approval rating than the President, saying that it made him truly “frightened” for this country that no one has any respect or confidence in the government.

Bill liked McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin because she’s an outdoors person, like him, and was impressed that she’d fought corrupt Republican officials in Alaska, but he wasn’t sure if she was a winning choice. Indeed, the above-the-fold story on the front page of newspapers at the comfort stops on my trip across the Great Plains on Saturday had all used the word “risk” in their headline.

It’s hot here in Minneapolis and also very muggy, and—as in Denver—streets are blocked off and riot police abound, respectively a source of frustration and fascination for local transit riders.

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