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Inside Politics

Election Express: Ups and downs from Central Park

By Judy Woodruff
A horse-drawn carriage strolls by the Election Express bus in Central Park.
Election Express
New York

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Whether it's politics, people, talk, culture, or food and drink, there's no place like New York.

We who travel with the CNN Election Express bus as it moves closer to Madison Square Garden, the site of next week's Republican convention, can see that with our own eyes.

Today, for example, the bus was parked at the edge of Central Park, in the center of bustling Manhattan. From here we reported on the ups and downs of the presidential campaign.

As I sat on the park sidewalk, interviewing Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie about the latest attacks on John Kerry's Vietnam War record, and new Census Bureau numbers showing the number of Americans living in poverty has risen, yellow taxis raced by, carriage-pulling horses took a drink of water from giant troughs, dogs barked, joggers stopped to gawk, and mothers held the hands of their children crossing the street.

In other words, life goes on in New York City. When President George W. Bush's campaign first chose New York for its national convention this year, there was rampant speculation that it was done to take advantage of the unique role the city played, as primary victim, on September 11, 2001.

But with the passage of time, and since a controversial war in Iraq, Americans have displayed uncommon sensitivity about how they like they like to be reminded of 9/11. We're told, there will be no highly publicized presidential visit to the site of the World Trade Center.

Mr. Bush will find other, more acceptable ways to draw the connection with that awful moment in American history, when some say he truly learned how to be a leader for the first time.

Americans, and especially New Yorkers, wouldn't have it any other way.

Presidential election, or no presidential election.

Business as usual?

By Lauren Gracco

This banner was removed from the front of The Plaza Hotel by police.

Party conventions can bring a lot of issues to the table. The threat of protests and other disruptions loom, hotels and restaurants are booked solid and expecting to making lots more money. But how much do things really change in a city like New York -- a place that stays up all night and entertains massive numbers of tourists every year.

In Central Park, where the Election Express bus is currently parked, protestors wanted to use the famous land mass and its Great Lawn as a site for a protest Sunday. But the city denied the request and a judge this week backed the city. In all likelihood, the park can maintain its serenity.

But today, just a few blocks down on Central Park East, things were not so quiet at The Plaza Hotel.

A handful of New York police vehicles closed off the hotel's main entrance as people craned their necks see a huge banner above the street. The wind disguised its full message at first, but when it let up you could see the words "TRUTH" with a black arrow pointing toward the park, and "BUSH" with a white arrow pointing in the opposite direction.

Passers-by and people who worked in surrounding buildings came out to see what all the fuss was about. One woman commented that this type of thing didn't surprise her. Another man wondered aloud why they didn't just have a porter take down the banner, rather than calling in a horde of police officers.

But it was the actions, or rather inaction, of a man outside the hotel that may have summed up the sentiments of the crowd - and possibly the city itself. For the duration of the banner episode, clad in a white jumpsuit and rubber gloves, and while helicopters circled and police officers herded the masses, the man continued pressure washing the hotel's fountain as if there was no disruption at all.

Perhaps it's a sign that despite the crowd expected in the coming days, it will be business as usual in New York City.

Fresh city air

By Eileen McMenamin, CNN

Posted 12:45 p.m. ET
CNN Political Producer Eileen McMenamin ouside Central Park on Thursday.

The CNN Election Express bus rolled into Central Park today for some greenery and some fresh air. "Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics" and "Crossfire" will air live from a scenic spot in the park, surrounded by flowers, trees and horse-drawn carriages.

Central Park has a rich history and dates back to 1853, when the state legislature granted authority to the city of New York to acquire more than 700 acres in the center of Manhattan. Today the park is comprised of 843 acres, stretching from 59th Street to 110th Street, and from 5th Avenue to Central Park West. It is made up of rolling hills, fountains, bridges and four transverse roads that carry cross-town traffic underneath the park, so as not to disturb New Yorkers at play, in what is basically their collective backyard.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who was the park superintendent, and Calvert Vaux, an English architect, the layout of the park is based on the romantic tradition of an English countryside. Statues grace the grounds, from Civil War memorials to the Alice in Wonderland statue. Another children's favorite depicts Hans Christian Anderson reading his story, "The Ugly Duckling."

Anyone familiar with Woody Allen movies has seen Central Park featured on the big screen. Other famous Hollywood moments have taken place here, including Michael Douglas' "Wall Street" scene in the Sheep Meadow, and Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan dining at the boathouse in "When Harry Met Sally."

Not to be outdone, Sarah Jessica Parker hopped into one of the horse-drawn carriages with Mikhail Baryshnikov for a snowy scene on the small screen in HBO's "Sex and the City." Maybe today the "Crossfire" hosts would like to go for a cozy carriage ride, as well? Stay tuned.

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