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Inside Politics

Blog, Day 2: Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Editor's Note: Follow all the action at the 2004 Republican National Convention with CNN correspondents, anchors, analysts and guests on this daily Weblog. All times are Eastern Daylight.

One analyst's take


Posted: 11:42 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on the speeches:

Bush twins: "The Bush daughters' appearance was truly hypnotizing. I don't know if it was hypnotizing because it was a train wreck or because it was appealing."

Schwarzenegger: "A careful balance of appealing to the Republicans in the hall, while not alienating his pro-Democratic state."

Laura Bush: "A class act who reflects decency, earnestness, without any sense of artifice about her."

Dole: "Didn't watch."

And what about Wednesday's upcoming speech by Vice President Cheney?

"According to polls, Dick Cheney is a negative. Will he try to change his image, or preach to the choir? That's the challenge with him."

Youth vote

Posted: 11:09 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

The CNN Diner is drawing younger voters who are active in the American political process.

"I think young people need to be awakened to the international threat that we face and the domestic threat that we face," said James Beahr, 22, a Dartmouth student and chairman of New Hampshire Students for Bush. "As our entitlement programs that everyone expects become insolvent, we need to look at market-based reforms. And I think that young people need to be made aware of the situation in the world we live in now."

Readers write ...

Posted: 10:47 p.m. ET
From: Todd Leopold,

More on the convention:

- "I guess the California delegates couldn't find Danny DeVito clones and do scenes from 'Twins,' " writes Erik from Chicago, Illinois.

- "What's the difference between politicizing 9/11, and remembering it? Why are we so afraid of looking back on these events and the heroes related to it?" asks Alexander from Orlando, Florida.

- "The Bush girls do it again. Insulting grand ma ma in front of thousands of Republicans," says Rich from Atlanta, Georgia.

Arnold, 'corporate cyber figure'

Posted: 10:31 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I think he's mutating something like his movie roles into a corporate cyber figure," he told

"He is a bit influenced by his more liberal progressive wife, but his recent statement that he wants to go back to the notorious commodity trading of electricity prices that resulted in fleecing Californians of tens of billions of dollars in high electricity prices years ago is a bad sign, a very bad sign."

Kerry bashing?

Posted: 9:39 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Former Nixon, Reagan and Clinton adviser David Gergen offered a hint about California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech tonight at the RNC:

"I'm told by some people close to him that this will not be a Kerry-bashing speech," Gergen said. "But he's not going to simply rally around Bush. Indeed it's going to be the story of an immigrant coming to this country and finding a country that's embraced him and a party that's embraced him."

Sage advice

Posted: 9:22 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Comic gadfly -- and current "Larry King Live" CNN contributor -- Mo Rocca on what Schwarzenegger has to do to succeed in his speech tonight:

"He has to restrain himself from quoting 'Kindergarten Cop' on behalf of the Leave No Child Behind program."

Sunglasses at night

Posted: 8:58 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to speak later this evening. When he goes on, according to CNN's Sasha Johnson, the California delegation will put on T-shirts that say "I'm with Arnold." They will also put on "Terminator" glasses.

It's official

Posted: 8:41 p.m. ET
From Richard Shumate, Wires.CNN news editor

President Bush's nomination became absolutely official Tuesday at 7:20 p.m., when Pennsylvania cast its votes in the "rolling roll call" of states that is stretching over several days.

But it was hardly a surprise to anyone in the hall. Several states passed, including Oregon, the state right before Pennsylvania, to allow the battleground state to have the honor of putting the president over the top. A phalanx of cameras was in place to capture the event, and tall signs reading "4 More Years" had been distributed across the hall just in time for the moment.

The cowboy way

Posted: 8:35 p.m. ET
From Richard Shumate, Wires.CNN news editor

President Bush's detractors make great use of the image of him as a cowboy. Indeed, some protestors at a rally next to Ground Zero Tuesday were wearing T-shirts reading, "Stop Mad Cowboy Disease."

But the faithful in Madison Square Garden had their own spin on the cowboy imagery. A button spotted on the floor featured a picture of Bush in a cowboy hat and Ronald Reagan in a cowboy hat and read, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys."

One more from the road

Posted: 8:19 p.m. ET
From Andrew Serwer, CNN "American Morning" contributor and Fortune magazine columnist

I got an e-mail from a conventioneer who told me the [GOP] parties have been outrageous. And the best party she went to was when Lynyrd Skynyrd was playing. All right? Who knew that Lynyrd Skynyrd was here playing at the RNC? Very cool, right? The only uncool thing about it was that I missed it. That's uncool.

Readers write ...

Posted: 7:55 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

Blog readers are passionate -- and many are angry. We've received more than 300 e-mails since last night:

- On the speakers: "I was skeptical at what the Republicans would say, but I was sold tonight. Wow," writes Steve from New York. But "after months of promising not to politicize September 11th and the memory of those lost, tonight's speakers did just that," said Victor from Boston, Massachusetts.

- On the "purple heart" bandages: "I wonder how many of the GOP delegates mockingly displaying bandages with purple hearts ever served in the armed forces," wrote John from Denver, Colorado.

- On the blog's balance: "Why does CNN only publish comments from Democrats in the 'Readers Write' section?" wonders Robert from Atlanta, Georgia.

Actually, Robert, we have no identification of writers, just their opinions. Of the missives we've received, the majority thus far are not favorable to the Republicans, and we're trying to reflect that in the blog.

Keep 'em coming, folks.

Nader rates RNC at MSG

Posted: 7:22 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Consumer activist and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader apparently isn't impressed with the GOP digs at Madison Square Garden. He toured the site this evening and then stopped by the CNN Diner to give us his impressions.

"There are a lot of empty seats that are about to be filled with corporatists surrounded by corporate hospitality suites funded by $13 million of taxpayers money," Nader told"That's a pretty sickly witches' brew for a private convention where corporations have poured $100 million into it. The taxpayers should not have to fund these political conventions."

Ground Zero, August 31, 2004, 2:05 p.m.

Posted: 7:01 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

It's a construction site now, three miles south of Madison Square Garden, jackhammers and dust and policemen.

A man gives a spiel about the Day of Destruction. People pose along the security fence, taking pictures, smiling. One sign at the site lists "The Heroes of September 11, 2001."

A Vietnam veteran, part of a "War Resisters League," asks to bring the troops home. Another man walks by with a sign, imploring the Republican convention to "stop exploiting the deaths" of 9/11.

People enter the PATH station, heading to New Jersey. A mournful flute plays "Amazing Grace."

DNC's 'Terminator' strategy

Posted: 6:12 p.m. ET
From Thom Patterson,

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe stopped by the CNN Diner to hang out, relax and to publicly tell moderate Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger he should be ashamed of himself. "The Terminator" is one of tonight's headline RNC speakers.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Bush are so different that if they both were looking at a digital clock they wouldn't be able to agree on the time," McAuliffe said, just before exiting the diner. "Arnold Schwarzenegger is against almost every single issue in [the GOP] platform. Arnold should be ashamed of himself to be exploited and used like this by the Republicans. George Bush governs his ultra-right-wing conservatives outside of the mainstream of America where Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to govern from."

You want fries with that?

Posted: 4:53 p.m.
From Thom Patterson, is blogging directly from the Republican National Convention and the CNN Diner -- Midtown Manhattan's newest hangout for politicos and convention participants. Sorry guys, you gotta have an invite to get in.

Just prior to tonight's edition of CNN's "Crossfire" at the diner, we found political analyst Stuart Rothenberg and asked him about Monday's RNC events -- and what to expect later this week.

"I thought it was a strong night for the Republicans, John McCain talking about national security defense and foreign terrorism," Rothenberg said. "I think Rudy Giuliani did a pretty good job of mixing criticism of John Kerry -- and talking about the president and his efforts on the war on terror. It was a good start. The only question is: How does it build? And will Vice President Cheney and President Bush close the deal?"

The church at Ground Zero

Posted: 4:07 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

It's quieter than usual at the tiny, bucolic St. Paul's Chapel, the church across the street from the World Trade Center site.

"Yesterday, we had maybe 1,400 people. We usually have between three and four thousand [visiting]," said Cheyenne Clagon, a security guard at the church. She attributes the drop to students going back to school and tourists returning to their hometowns.

The churchyard's weathered grave markers -- many dating back to the late 18th century -- stand amid pleasant greenery, beckoning visitors looking for solace and contemplation. It's a far cry from three years ago, when the area was buried in debris from the destruction of the Twin Towers.

Buy Republican

Posted: 3:53 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

If you're looking for that bottle of Bush-Cheney '04 wine, or perhaps a few "Dubya Duds" or "John Kerry flip-flops," the place to be is the Grand Old MarketPlace at the New York Hilton, where all variety of GOP goods can be had.

Bob Levine, known as Button Bobexternal link, says business has been good. "This is button heaven," he cheerfully carnival-barks at the customers.

The capitalistically bipartisan Levine has been selling buttons for 40 years, ever since volunteering for Lyndon Johnson in 1964 as a teenager. His top seller at the MarketPlace? A simple flag button boldly labeled "W '04."

Odds and ends

Posted: 1:35 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold and Thom Patterson,

Splitting mayors department

Turns out former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani didn't change his speech last night. His closing phrase referring to winning the war on terrorism -- which was thought to have been altered because of President Bush's statement on NBC's "Today" show that "I don't think you can win" the war on terrorism -- was simply drowned out by the applause of the crowd.

Bush clarified his comment Tuesday, telling veterans at the American Legion convention in Nashville, Tennessee, that there may never be a peace treaty, "but make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win."

Quick exit department

If Republicans are enjoying small talk during their convention, they must be chatting somewhere besides the floor of Madison Square Garden.

Whereas Democrats often lingered after each night's session of their convention, filling the escalators and concourses of the FleetCenter well after festivities were through, the New York arena was a ghost town within a half-hour of Monday's conclusion.

Ad-vantageous department

New York Times readers -- particularly convention Republicans -- were given a change from the usual lower-right-hand-corner ad in the paper's Op-Ed pages, usually devoted to a message from an oil company or left-wing organization.

Instead, today's ad is from "The Daily Show." "We know the Big Apple was the second choice for your party's convention, but we hope your disappointment in not being able to book San Francisco is allayed by the dizzying, pulsating, throbbing, orgiastic wholesomeness for which our city is justly famed," it reads, adding that "New York is the city that never sleeps, mostly due to ... heightened terror alerts."

Twins sighting

The first twins made a rare public appearance at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square at a press-crammed tribute to their mother, Laura Bush. As the fraternal twins introduced the first lady, young Barbara recounted her dance lessons as a child and then described what it was like more recently teaching her mother some modern dance steps.

Dave Barry's conventional wisdom

New York's hot and muggy weather was momentarily forgotten when ran into syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry on the naked streets of Manhattan. When asked about Monday night's convention events, Barry said, "I was out drinking beer when it happened, so if you tell me what happened, I'll be glad to observe things about it."

Barry's fantasy convention of any political party involves "more entertainment, more singing, more comedy sketches. I think they should do comedy sketches. I know they're not great at it, but I'd watch -- you know, some skits, some jokes -- maybe some funny kids. And it could be set in a living room or an apartment, you know that kind of thing."

Outside this week's convention events, Barry said he plans to "drink beer. But that's kind of my goal pretty much wherever I go."

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