Day One At The Convention
Posted by Steve Soto
Boston, MA -- Very interesting. That’s the only word to describe the first day of the convention today. A blogger’s breakfast, which at first seemed to have more reporters covering bloggers than bloggers turned into a drop-in event for Howard Dean and former AP national reporter Walter Mears. The contrast between the two in terms of their knowledge of the changes taking place in the media and how the internet in general and blogs specifically couldn’t be starker. Mears, who covered national politics for the AP for decades, told the assembled bloggers that he was a novice blogger himself, and that we bloogers are like the pamphleteers who operated at the start of our democracy, setting a new trail in the media and our politics.
Although I don’t take blogging and our role in the media and politics as seriously as others do, it was good to hear a pro say it. Mears was doing well until he said that the AP was an objective organization, a remark that generated stifled laughter and a rolling of the eyes from some of us, especially after seeing some of the stories filed by Ron Fournier and Nedra Pickler recently.
Howard Dean made a surprise visit at the breakfast this morning, and proceeded to make a wonderful 25 minute speech about the role of the blogosphere in the presidential campaign. To Dean, we’re more important than we think. He also commented on his campaign and his exit and said it wasn’t the media’s fault that his campaign ended. He also said in response to a question that his relationship with John Kerry is very good and relatively close. Dean was very engaging and downright impressive, as he consistently is. I loved listening to him and seeing him up close, and now know why he inspired many of you who supported him early on.
The mainstream press and even TV were all over us bloggers today. As I said earlier, there were reporters from several major newspapers, magazines, and NPR at our breakfast today, wanting to check us out. Any doubts that the conventional media types had about the impact and legitimacy of the blogosphere in our politics were dispelled by Dean's speech, and the effort made by the national party to support our efforts and carve out a role for us at this convention.
There were some really good speeches today, most notably the speech by Jimmy Carter, who gave a direct, succinct indictment of the Bush foreign policy. Carter managed in 15 minutes to lay out a great case summarizing all of the weaknesses in Bush’s overall approach, and it was well received in the hall. Carter’s voice seemed to be weaker than normal, and some of us expressed concern about that. But the force and conciseness of his arguments were a model for many Democratic politicians to follow.
Al Gore gave a relaxed and effective speech, the kind of speech that seemed too often to be lacking during his own campaign in 2000. Gore was well received by the crowd and gave a glimpse of his many gifts and showed a side of his public persona that has always been there but which was inexplicably submerged in that race.
I was unable to see Hillary’s speech, although it is safe to say one thing: every time her name was mentioned or image shown to the crowd, a large cheer went up. To me clearly, she is the most popular person in the hall.
As for the president, Clinton was Clinton. He owned the room, and he frankly is and will be the rock star of this party for years to come. He was able to summarize a case for Kerry and Edwards in clear, catchy language, and pointed out how Bush has squandered what Clinton had left him. And the place buzzes when he is there.
Several things were clear in the hall today. There was a lot of energy amongst the party today, and if anything the convention will serve to reenergize the base after several months of dwindling excitement since Kerry wrapped up the nomination. Secondly, as the time approached for the Carter, Gore, and the Clintons to speak, the hall filled totally up, even up to the cheap seats where we bloggers were sitting. After seeing the hall relatively empty during most of the day, as 7:00 PM approached tonight, a large crowd of folks seemed to storm the hall to get seats. I got to see Michael Moore, Al Franken, Jesse Jackson, an ailing Ted Sorenson, and the usual members of the media hoof it into the hall tonight, including the Fox guys. By the way, everyone is shorter in person than they seem on TV, especially Republicans.
I might note that the job that the Kerry camp and the party are doing managing the convention and the campaign got a big thumbs up from Time Magazine’s Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty on tonight’s Charlie Rose show, which of course aired already here. This is noteworthy since Tumulty was one of Gore’s tormentors in the 2000 campaign. It is clear that she thinks much better of Kerry this time.
A great first day, and I look forward to checking out other events and perhaps Boston itself in the coming days as we head into Wednesday night and Edwards’s speech.
P. S. - In response to some of your "requests" on what to cover while I am here, please understand that I got in late last night and had no chance to cover the protests. Secondly, I understand the concerns of those of you who want bloggers to cover things that the mainstream media may not cover, especially since in some cases bloggers asked their readers to chip in to pay the costs of their trip. As you know, I did not ask for such contributions and footed the entire bill for this junket myself. And there is little chance of my being co-opted by the mainstream guys, as I am too small compared to the big bloggers to even care about this. There was plenty of attitude from both sides this morning at the breakfast, and some edge to the questions from the conventional media at first, but once they realized that a) we weren't monsters from space, and b) were better informed than some of them, we got along just fine.