FLORENCE GILKESON: More of Conventions Than I Wanted to See
After two back-to-back national political conventions, I'm confused. I no longer know the meaning of the word change.
That's not the only source of confusion, but I am relieved that it's all over -- the convention part, that is.
I'll be frank with you, I wouldn't have watched anywhere near as much of the Democratic and Republican national conventions as I did had I not worked for The Pilot. The editors decreed that I was to keep tabs on our delegates at both conventions and was to report their reactions before, during and after all the formalities and festivities.
That meant that I had to have some inkling about what was going on; otherwise, how would I know what questions to ask?
Then there was our renewed emphasis on The Pilot's Web site, which strives, with editorial approval, to stay timely and scoop us old-fashioned ink-stained wretches.
Thus, I was calling and pestering Democrat Tessie Taylor and Republicans Do Shaver and Jim Taylor night and day. I was writing long stories for Editor Steve Bouser and Managing Editor David Sinclair and short items for Online Editor Hunter Chase. The latter task meant that Hunter found tantalizing tidbits to deal with at all hours as well.
Public TV was the channel I watched. Other than CNN and CSPAN, it was the only network that covered the 8-to-11 p.m. events daily. ABC, CBS and NBC set aside only the 10 p.m. slot most nights. No doubt they figured their reruns would draw bigger audiences.
If I had not watched the Democratic National Convention in its entirety, I would have missed the hot news when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton released her delegates. I don't think she ever conceded, but at least she freed her delegates to change their votes to the obvious winner. It was a dramatic time, and of course it merited a special story for the Web page.
Had I not watched the Republican National Convention in its entirety, I would have missed some red-hot rhetoric -- what media analysts were calling "red meat."
Former Sen. Fred Thompson, the actor and former presidential candidate, tossed out the first red meat with his dramatic speech. But his offering was little more than a meatball compared to the prime rib served rare by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin when she accepted the vice-presidential nomination.
It's become a clich to mention the horrors of watching sausage in the making, but the clich surely runs true at these conventions.
From the comfort of the recliner in my den, I could nibble cookies while taking notes and watching the frenzied delegates shout, cheer, boo and chortle. It occurred to me that delegates must have a phenomenal amount of energy to participate in these quadrennial extravaganzas.
The TV viewer probably enjoyed more entertainment than the delegates. Human interest pops up as the camera pans into the crowd from time to time. It's fun when you spot occasional yawners and the folks actually frowning during speeches. And wasn't it fun watching Palin's youngest daughter, Piper, as she spit on her hands to wipe down the head of her baby brother?
Do not be fooled. The speakers -- or rather, their speechwriters -- were plenty clever. Remember the address by Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York and former presidential candidate? He kept repeating the security issue about Islamic extremist terrorism until it became a rallying cry. He would say it and the crowd would echo his language.
Giuliani very cleverly asked why Democrats refuse to use those specific words to describe IET. Political correctness? Well no, of course not. The message he was sending had nothing to do with misplaced PC. It was a sly between-the-lines message designed to stir uncertainty about the religious background of Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, who is a Christian.
This rallying cry backs up the nasty stuff that floats around the Internet and various blogs these days and feeds our fears and bigotry.
The delegates from Moore County were not fooled by the cheering and the shouting and admitted as much in our frequent telephone interviews. Tessie Taylor rather wryly pointed out that convention activities were thoroughly orchestrated. Do Shaver said delegates were told which sign to hold up and when to do it.
Moore County's delegates, both Democrat and Republican, are not dummies. They're too smart not to catch on. I figure that one main difference between a delegate and a regular party member is energy plus stamina.
Delegates are truly dedicated. Participation is expensive and time-consuming, and at times they must feel like extras in a film epic. The payoff comes with the opportunity to be part of the inner workings, to mingle with party devotees and to meet luminaries, perhaps even a future president.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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