I came into possession of credentials the way most people who don’t deserve them do – I asked someone of more import if they could get me some. Despite suggesting such a thing was next to impossible, that person managed to come through and on short notice I was handed my personal key to Fort Madison.
Worrisome thoughts plagued me during my approach to the Garden. The New York Times and Drudge Report both had me convinced the city was teeming with violent anarchists and angry protestors eager to attack me in the name of world peace. I had seen the sweltering masses who swarmed by my apartment Sunday, so I was well aware that there were more than a few people unhappy about the convention. My possession of credentials would no doubt make me a soft target. Very soft, actually. I’d just polished off five glasses of wine at a cocktail party.
Security really started to kick in around the Fashion Institute of Technology on Seventh Avenue, no doubt in part because some of the nation’s most valuable fashion secrets are kept there. It’s like Los Alamos, but for blouses. And instead of Wen Ho Lee it’s a bunch of Korean girls copying each other’s skirt patterns.
Speaking of dress, I was nicely attired as I approached one of the most militarized checkpoints this side of the 38th Parallel. Despite having my credentials hidden safely in my pocket I expected at the very least to be recognized as a convention patron and egged or yelled at as a result. At the worst I thought I might be spat at, Molotoved or beaten by 18 year old “socialists” whose utopian worldview is shaped in part by the fact their parents pay for college. Che Guevara they aren’t.
I didn’t see a single ne’er-do-well. No crude sloganed t-shirts. No placards. Nothing. The police presence was overwhelming, making the area a lousy place to commit felonies. My credentials were golden and I was waved by every checkpoint without hassle. Upon arrival at the Garden I was directed to a security zone where I emptied my pockets and was wanded, all quite nicely. Security was painless and quick, and as such was the exact opposite of airport security. Most likely because airport security has the monopoly on incompetent boobs.
I was told my credentials would get me “pretty much anywhere” which included the convention floor where the various delegates from the United States and her territories made camp. I opted not to try to enter the various guest suites I passed and instead wandered down corridors holding my creds up to anyone who looked like they might need or want to see it. Eventually I found myself on the convention floor where I meandered about until I found a space near the teleprompter, right behind the delegation from American Samoa.
I took in the scene as I waited for someone to come out and speak, which I correctly assumed happened at these events. It was then I noticed that the Al Jazeera skybox was right next to Fox News.
Bush haters will be disappointed to learn that the RNC convention floor was not a seething den of fork-tongued demons roasting children on spits and sodomizing grandmothers. Republicans, it seems, are just like everyone else. There were fat ones and pretty ones, tall ones, short ones and some geeky teens in suits. There was no shortage of black people, and the white ones did not point at them in horror and scream. There were Asians and handicapped people and gay guys. It was like any sporting event at the Garden except most everyone there, media excluded, would like Bush to win in November. There was no shortage of buttons, stickers or banners. I scanned the catwalk above for Secret Service guys with sniper rifles but only saw balloons.
It wasn’t long before Secretary of Education Rod Paige took the stage. I don’t know much about the man aside from the fact that he called the National Education Association a “terrorist organization” not too long ago. I can’t say I’d disagree, though I’d have used different words, like “stifling, corrupt union” or “stinkers.”
I’ll be damned if the U.S. Secretary of Education didn’t incorrectly say “there was” instead of “there were” at one point. Moments like that make me wish a temporal TiVo existed so I could rewind and make sure I really heard what I just heard. Regardless, I cherished the irony that I believed I had just witnessed.
The gist of Paige’s speech was the great success of the No Child Left Behind Act. That success is arguable in part because the teacher’s unions he detests have worked hard at making it fail. Nevertheless, he seems genuinely convinced it’s all going swell and he mentioned some kid in Alabama who’d agree. I found the whole topic a little boring to be honest, so I opted to stroll the hallways until the next speaker came along. This was great news to the girl whose view I had been blocking.
It’s always fun to watch people with credentials. People with credentials want to make sure you know they have them, and they do everything they can to shake them in your face without seeming too obvious. In no time, I had passed one man telling some girls how great his credentials were, and another girl loudly announcing that she had all access.
I decided I was hungry and that I would only be sated by a stadium hot dog. For only $7.50 I gained possession of one and a bottle of warm water, taking in Paige’s speech on a TV monitor as I waited. At one point the camera cut to different members of the crowd in an order that reassured me that the director had completed his multicultural sensitivity training. Cut to black girl. Cut to Asian guy. Cut to Asian girl. Cut to black girl. Cut to white veterans. All that was missing was a Native American and a gay amputee.
As Paige wrapped up, I noticed a hand-scrawled banner supporting George Bush and Vice President “Cheny” – presumably written by a Child Left Behind.
I ate my overpriced supper next to a trash can, dutifully trying to memorize details of the people who passed by. Sadly, my memory sucks, but I remember thinking that Republican girls are cuter than Democratic girls, in part because they used the $300 tax refund to buy sexy business suits. And I think there’s more shaving.
A roaring crowd greeted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as he took the stage. I returned to the convention floor, weaving through crowds of people and irate cameramen who were hauling cumbersome equipment through the sea of people. The enthusiastic crowd was well-equipped with “Arnold!” banners and waved them whenever the Governator finished a sentence. Like visual periods. He’s a charismatic guy, no doubt, and his speech was energizing and heartfelt. Though his accent is silly, you couldn’t help but like the tone and feel of the speech which reminded us all that he was an immigrant, World War II was bad, America is the land of opportunity, and so on. Regrettably he used the expression “girlie men” and mentioned we could “terminate” terrorism – very corny dialogue that made me wince a little and clap less. There were no Total Recall references that I am aware of.
Unbeknownst to me, I had located myself behind the Alaska and Kansas delegate section which happened to be in front of George Bush the Elder and his wife Barbara. The big tip-off was when the Bush Girls took the stage and pointed over my head to their Grandma and Grandpa. I turned around and lo and behold – there was the guy who in 1988 annoyed me to no end by constantly repeating the catchphrase “card carrying liberal.” The Secret Service men guarding him were obvious in that they were the only people looking everywhere but the stage.
The Bush Girls delivered an awkward scripted number that reminded me of crap banter from infomercials; unemotional, robotic, read rather than said. The underlying message was run-off-the-stage-and-beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-mallet obvious. The girls had been charged with letting young college kids know that their parents were “with it” and not stereotypical Republican fuddy-duddies. The most painful part of their speech was the suggestion that their parents were familiar with the band Outkast and know the difference between “Mono and Bono.” They even went so far as to make an unfortunate “shake it like a Polaroid” reference. Such poop was obviously written by elder scriptsmen who presumably searched the internet for pop references and used the first thing that Google shat out. Far be it for me to second-guess a master wordsmith, but I wouldn’t in a million years write a Republican speech and incorporate a reference to a bleeding heart Irish dwarf who wanders the desert in blue sunglasses weeping about wheat shortages.
As the girls wrapped up their shtick a man distributed “W Stands For Women” posters to various delegates. Naturally one would not want pockets of folks coming across as hating the ladies, so he made sure to spread the signage evenly throughout the crowd.
George W himself appeared via live video feed from what appeared to be a softball game in Texas. His visage on the Mega Screen elicited all the hootin’ and hollerin’ you’d expect at a convention of people who really like you. After the applause died down he began the introduction of his wife. He wrapped up by suggesting that the greatest gift of all for him in November would be if she gets to be First Lady for another four years. I waited for the wink, but it never came.
Laura Bush comes across as a sweet lady. She’s soft-spoken and would probably not tell anyone to “shove it.” Humble comes to mind. In fact, Teresa Heinz Kerry might be her evil, richer twin.
I believe Laura Bush is a genuinely nice person who’d pick you up if you needed a ride, bake you a pie to cheer you up or watch your cat if you left town – but the Secret Service won’t let her. She’s the girl you like but wouldn’t have sex with because she’s so nice she probably wouldn’t know what to do with a penis. Obviously Jenna and Barbara are proof that she does know what to do with a penis, I’m just saying I wouldn’t buy the video.
As Laura spoke, the crowd waved the “W Stands For Women” signs and I jockeyed for space next to a security guard who wasn’t very good at his job. His backbone had apparently been outsourced, and he spent his time timidly stopping people, asking for credentials and apologizing profusely for doing so. To his credit however, he gave me a healthy get-outa-the-way shove when Jenna Bush walked by. For what it’s worth, she’s quite cute and has the sexy quality that her mother lacks. In other words, I would buy the video.
The First Lady’s speech contained more World War II references, and it didn’t take much of a brain to realize that the writer really wanted to drive home the idea that GWB is the FDR of his time – a reluctant warrior, victim of circumstance, doing what had to be done as a last resort. I buy that at least through Afghanistan.
The end of the speech was effectively the end of the show, but try and tell that to the Harlem Youth Choir. They took the stage and started to sing as folks began to filter out, just like they do during the eighth inning of a blowout. But, like a bad commercial, that was not all. There was even another act to follow.
After the choir stopped their choiring, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor appeared and made even more World War II references, shouting over the crowd. She was ignored by half the audience – the part that was actively leaving. At one point she requested a moment of silence for the victims of the day’s bus bombings in Israel. Those who were actually listening stopped and bowed their heads, while the rest openly wondered why people were looking down and blocking the exits. She had what sounded like a Barbara Walters speech impediment on top of a Hungarian accent, with a tinge of Sally Struthers’s hysteric tone. This made her funny to listen to, well mitigated by the fact that she was talking about bus bombings and the Holocaust.
The end of the convention for that night was officially announced. On my way out I had a grand business idea and began collecting convention detritus. I had come to the convention empty-handed but I was leaving with crap I could sell on eBay: program guides, delegate manuals and hopefully the “Cheny” banner. I was making something out of nothing, a very Republican thing to do. No doubt this was the American Dream that Schwarzenegger was talking about.
Outside Fort Madison there seemed to be even more security, all of whom were delightfully pleasant it should be noted. I’d never been thanked and good-nighted by so many law enforcement officials in my life and most likely won’t be ever again. In a way it’s kind of disconcerting. They’re telling me to have a good night, yet they have the weaponry and ability to decide whether or not I actually do.
Outside the protection zone I tucked my credentials in my pocket and started the long walk home. It wasn’t long before I passed a man in a “Fuck Bush” t-shirt. Part of me wanted to ask him which one and tell him I’d spent the evening with most of the family. But part of me thought better of it. At any rate, it was late and I had a new eBay business venture to launch.