Thursday, September 02, 2004

THE REPUBLICAN CONVENTION: CONVENTION NOTEBOOK DAY 3

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Sept. 2, 2004


NEW YORK _ I report. You decide.

And on Wednesday Fox News decided they weren't going to let me in if I was going to report.

Members of New Mexico's delegation to the Republican National Convention had scheduled a tour of the "Fair and Balanced" news network headquarters on the Avenue of the Americas at 49th Street. I'd arranged with state Sen. Joe Carraro of Albuquerque -- a convention delegate -- to tag along.

I arrived early and had a nice chat with members of the state's delegation in the lobby of the conservatives' favorite news organization.

The delegates all had printed name tags. I was told by the receptionist that I'd have to wait for the tour guide, a young woman named Dana, to get the o.k.

When Dana arrived, she looked at me skeptically. "You're just here like the others, to take the tour? You're not going to write about it?"

I had an idea what was coming. Like a politician, I gave an evasive answer. "I'm just here because Im curious," I said.

Dana persisted. "So you agree that everything you see is off the record?"

I couldn't agree to that.

She said she was sorry, but if I was there to report, I would have had to have made arrangements last week.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It's because of security concerns."

So by not agreeing to keep what I saw of the Fox News tour off the record, I'd suddenly risen to the level of a security threat.

The delegation members I'd been talking to vouched for me, but it was to no avail.

As I began to leave, Carraro arrived. He went to bat for me too. "My political career is on the line here," he joked. But not even a senior Republican state senator from New Mexico could get the tour guide to change her mind.

Security is a very serious issue. It was obvious that this reporter was not going to be allowed anywhere near the No Spin Zone.

So I was 86ed from Fox. But they did it in a fair and balanced way.

Kerryphernalia

At the Democrats' convention in Boston there were countless places selling funny anti-Bush buttons, T-shirts and other paraphernalia. While only official, "positive" Kerry/Edwards merchandise could be found inside the convention hall itself, there were tables hawking anti-Bush souvenirs on the streets and even in some of the delegate hotels.

It seemed only logical that at the GOP the shoe would be on the other foot, and there would be an avalanche of funny anti-Kerry novelties.

But no.

For the first couple of days, the only sign of an anti-Kerry button I saw was one being worn by a young person roaming near the media center next to Madison Square Garden. It said, "I Believe the Swifties," apparently referring to the swift boat veterans who question John Kerry's military record.

On Wednesday I came across a souvenir shop on Broadway called Grand Slam. Inside was a table, which had several Bush and Kerry buttons -- both pro and anti for both candidates.

And on the floor by that table were some plastic sandals on which was printed changes in some of Kerry's positions.

You guessed it. These were called "Kerry Flip Flops." They sell for $19.95.

My Place in the Stands

If you watch the convention on CNN and you see Wolf Blitzer or Larry King or Anderson Cooper or Judy Woodruff, chances are this reporter is about 10 yards away, in front of the host just off to his or her right.

As was the case for the Democratic Convention, my assigned work area seat is stage right, several rows above the stage. But in Boston, my assigned place was right by the house band. Looking up and seeing Bob Dole or Pat Buchanan being interviewed a few feet away on CNN isn't nearly as distracting as having a band break out into "Soul Man" or "Respect" every few minutes to introduce a speaker.

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