Monthly Archives: July 2004

Convention Wisdom

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Until this week, conventional wisdom had it that conventions are no longer relevant. The pundits dismissed them as too scripted, too tightly controlled, endless staged plays with no drama. And when the big three television networks scaled back their prime time convention coverage, it seemed the death knell of a once hallowed tradition. But something funny happened on the way to this year’s forum. There was energy and a rallying cry. Former presidents and future stars spoke passionately of one America, and banner-waving delegates spent a lot of time on their feet. But whether the rest of America was watching, and responding, remains to be seen.


William Powers, media columnist, National Journal

Jay Carney, deputy Washington bureau chief, TIME magazine.

John Kerry, Uninterrupted

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Delegates at the Democratic National Convention waited all week to hear John Kerry tell them, “I’m reporting for duty.”

Kerry’s been tarred as a dreary speaker, so both he and the party had a tremendous amount invested in turning that around. Kerry was also seeking to balance the image of the privileged, shaggy-haired, anti-war protestor, with the sharper lines of a confident commander in chief.

It is a tricky business having to establish the best elements of your own character, and to have to do it on television, knowing that the measure of the party, and its policies and the best alternatives for November can ride on a one hour speech.


Jim Jordan, President of The Thunder Road Group in Washington DC, former Presidential Campaign Manager for John F. Kerry

Todd Domke, Republican Media Consultant

Brian Mooney, reporter for The Boston Globe, and co-author of “John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters who Know Him Best.”

Winning in the Red

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Never in the history of this country have the partisan fault lines been so clear, so deep, and so geographically fixed. First there is the red: the West, the South and Great Plains where Republicans dominate. Then there is the blue: the coasts and industrial Midwest where the Democrats hold sway. But this year there are close to twenty states where the two colors are so mixed they’re purple, and up for grabs. To win the presidency, John Kerry has to make these states his by finding a way to appeal to churchgoing, rural voters in the South, and veterans in the Midwest.


Phil Bredesen, Governor of Tennessee (D)

Alan Bjerga, political correspondent with Knight Ridder Newspapers

Young, Hip and Voting

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While the number of young people on the voter rolls has dwindled since the 70s, many predict this year will be different. The war in Iraq has captured the attention of American youth, soldiers and cynics alike. And with the lesson that every vote counts still fresh from 2000, organizers are hoping that this will be the year that young people replace apathy with activism, and decide to show up and be counted.


Ian Rowe, VP of Public Affairs at MTV overseeing their “Choose or Lose” campaign

Jonathan Zaff, President of 18 to 35, a organization engaged in youth issues

Chris Nowinski, pro-wrestler who is covering the convention for the World Wrestling Entertainment Network;
Stephanie Alves, college sophomore active in politics.

Life on the Road

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Jack Kerouac wrote: “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

His words are the creed of the RV set also known as Tin Can Tourists, Gypsies and Escapees. These ramblers whittle their lives down to the bare necessities, have a yard sale, sell the house, grab the kids, stuff themselves into a thirty foot home on wheels and hit the road.

Some move on every three days, some stay a month or more and work, some home-school the kids parked beside the Grand Canyon. Once they’ve tasted life like this, they don’t want it any other way.


Jamie Hall, author, “Support Your RV Lifestyle: An Insider’s Guide to Working on the Road”

Joei Carlton Hossack, author, “Alaska Bound and Gagged”

Mark Nemeth, consumer affairs manager, Escapees

Samantha, fifteen-year-old home-schooled RVer

Bill Lawson, RV salesman, Emerald Coast Gulf Breeze

The Wide World of U.S. Politics

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Among the 15,000 credentialed journalists in Boston this week are throngs of foreign reporters intent on covering what many people around the world consider the most important U.S. election in decades.

Al-Jazeera has a weekly program on the U.S. presidential campaign, while reporters from Brazil, Benin and Britain are following this election as if it were their own. International media seem to realize that this presidential race affects the future of the world, not just America.


Paulo Sotero, Washington correspondent for O Estado de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Bill Emmett, editor for The Economist

Hafez Al-Mirazi, Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera.

Power Struggle in Gaza

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Kidnappings and gunfights headlined a new wave of street violence in Gaza last week. The unrest is an angry answer to Yasser Arafat’s corruption and nepotism. Palestinians are becoming increasingly fed up with the absence of law and their deteriorating living conditions, and are now pointing the finger squarely at the chairman of the Palestinian authority. Arafat is at his best in times of uncertainty and chaos, but it’s clear that leading up to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, the jostling for power has begun.


Fouad Ajami, Director of Middle Eastern Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University

Rami Khouri, Executive Editor of The Daily Star in Beirut

Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.

John Kerry, The Story

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Although The Democratic Party is confidently poised to nominate him as its candidate for the 2004 Presidential election, John Kerry remains a mystery to some American voters. He is essentially all over the place: a war hero, protestor, prosecutor, father, hockey player, windsurfer and the husband of Teresa Heinz. It’s no secret that politicians are best characterized by one story, like The Teflon Man or The Man From Hope. While presidential conventions are usually about shaping a candidate’s issues, it’s more about shaping the man this year.


Brian Mooney, reporter at the Boston Globe and co-author of “John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters who Know Him Best”

Evan Cornog, Political Historian, and author of “The Power and The Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. Bush.”

Bloggers in the Bullpen

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The revolution may not be televised, but the Convention will be blogged. Television coverage may have consigned political conventions to all the spontaneity of a foregone conclusion, but that’s the opening for the web writers.

Bloggers hope to blow the process wide open. They’re promising to lend fresh insight and unjaded perspective to all the ho-hum huzzahs. Their critics counter that while bloggers may entertain with their online uppercuts, a sharp jab isn’t journalism.

Real-time at the DNC. Three bloggers talk about their convention coverage and discuss the license and limits of unbridled opinion.


Amy Sullivan, blogger for the Washington Monthly and the Gadflyer

Matt Welch, blogger for Reason Online

Patrick Belton, blogger for Oxblog