Saturday, July 31, 2004

Black tea, tusks, and ketchup: Impressions of the DNC

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On Thursday, America stuck the proverbial fork into 2004 Democratic National Convention, the very large pep rally held all week for the Democratic Party and presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards. You can now have your TV back.

Except, even though we stuck the fork in it, the DNC's juices are still coming out pink -- and this after four days of broiling it on high heat. Apologies for the unpleasant metaphor.

What I mean is that people in the media like me have to fill the gaping five-week chasm between now and the Republican National Convention somehow. So we'll probably be analyzing every detail completely out of proportion, from the speeches to the poofiness of Wolf Blitzer's hair to the colorfulness of the confetti.

I monitored the entire shebang either from this paper's newsroom or from my secure bunker located deep in the recesses of my Fall River living room, my feet up and a bowl of Triscuits at the ready.

I'd like to get all that detail work out of the way in one shot, thanks. Enclosed are 10 thoughts on the convention, individually wrapped, and afterward I'll return you to your regularly scheduled lives, already in progress:

1. The people in charge promised us an economic rose garden in Boston. All those hungry delegates and candidates and media people would spend millions of dollars, the organizers said. It never happened -- with all the worries of terrorist threats and the free parties and the traffic hassles, Boston's darkened restaurants took a pretty big financial hit, according to preliminary reports.

Which can only mean one thing: A lot of extra food is going to go bad really soon. I may take a quick trip up there to see if anybody's offering 60 percent off lobster, or buy-one-get-one-free filet mignons.

2. Incidentally, they also said the DNC's golden touch would extend outside of Boston -- that delegates in town for four extremely busy days might be willing to pause in their schmoozing and boozing and nobbing of celebrity hobs to travel to places like Fall River.

I drove by the waterfront, and I didn't see a crush of humanity taking advantage of the Battleship Massachusetts' special $2 off deal for DNC delegates. Not that it was a bad idea to offer it. I'm just glad this city didn't do something drastic, like install extra horses on the carousel.

3. Am I the only person who was gravely disturbed by CNN's "news ticker" running on the bottom of the screen during their convention coverage and containing news unrelated to the DNC? On Day 2, I was watching former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean give his excellent speech when my eyes flicked to the ticker.

I caught the tail end of one news item crawling by: "...had 9-inch tusks."

Suddenly, I lost the thread of Dean's speech and never retrieved it. And for the past few days, the image of Dean with a mouthful of 9-inch tusks has been burned into my brain with no end in sight. Somebody, please help.

4. I dig Ilana Wexler, the red-headed founder of Kids for Kerry. She told DNC delegates that we should give Vice President Dick Cheney "a time-out" for giving that potty-mouthed command to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate floor recently.

Let me be the first: Wexler for president in 2028.

5. It turns out that former Vice President Al Gore can be quite sassy when the mood strikes him. I remember when everyone thought he was a graceless, stuffed-shirt prig. Then when Bush took the presidency in 2000, he grew that beard and was curled in a fetal position in the bathroom for, like, two years.

Now that he doesn't have to worry about earning votes, he re-emerged at the DNC as the second coming of Don Rickles. "By the way," he said, "I know about the bad economy. I was the first one laid off." Yowza yowza yowza!

6. DNC protests were small and peaceful, which was nice. One group was the anti-authoritarian, anti-government and anarchist group the Bl(A)ck Tea Society. They were protesting the DNC because they suspected the DNC had something to do with both authority and government.

I keep meaning to find some anti-government activists and ask them if they used any federal Stafford Loans to go to college. Or if they'll send back their Social Security checks when they get older. Or if they badmouth the fire department when they're trying to save burning houses. Or if they attended public schools.

7. I visited the Bl(A)ck Tea Society's Web site to get the answers to some questions about this anarchist group. Like, what's up with the fucking parentheses? But when the Web page was loading, my computer crashed. I immediately became scared, like I'd stumbled into some sort of anti-Internet demonstration.

8. Also, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society spread its message at the DNC. They make some sense. Vivisecting isn't nice. In fact, if you're vivisecting something right now, you cut it out. This instant.

9. I can't stop. I just looked up "9-inch tusks" and "Dean" on and found just two results. When I opened the pages, I found no stories about tusks. I remain puzzled.

10. Oh yes -- the speeches. I thought former President Bill Clinton accepted the nomination rather gracefully. Teresa Heinz Kerry didn't push her ketchup even once. And Edwards turned on his famous charm and did a splendid job of drawing people to the Edwards-Kerry ticket.

As for Kerry's speech, I was glad he reclaimed the American flag for Democrats who've been reluctant to fly it, for fear of being lumped in with ardent supporters of Bush and his war. He reminded America that patriotism doesn't mean blindly following the president, but believing in the country's ideals and promise. And he turned up the heat on Bush and the veil of secrecy that clouds his administration.

Also, Kerry seems to have gained some mobility in his face, even smiling a few times. Nice touch.

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