TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 2ND: MIDNIGHT
We left the hotel at 5pm on the last bus going to the Xcel Center. We walked to the BNSF/Koch Industries reception. The reception was held at the historic St. Paul library. The buffet table was decorated with Sunflowers in honor of the Kansas flower.
In the buffet line, I met Jamie Woodworth, the 4th district chair of the Kansas Republican Party who also works for U.S. Senator Sam Brownback. We thought it was interesting that we were both 4th ditrict chairs. The speakers at the event were Senator Brownback and Congressman Tom Cole. The Senator suggested the Saddleback Civil Forum format be used to compare the two candidates- one on economic issues, one on social issues, one on Foreign Policy, etc.
Brownback had two requests for the Oklahoma delegation: (1) That Oklahoma would lose to Kansas in football this fall and (2) Work hard for GOP candidates at all levels.
4th District Congressman Tom Cole was introduced by the CEO of Burlington Northern/Santa Fe as "the quarterback of the US House election team." In his role as Chairman of the RNCC, Cole is charged with helping in the reelection efforts of GOP US House members nationally. He said that Kansas has a good chance of picking up two House seats in November- one with current Kansas State Senator Nick Jordan who is running against five term Congressman Dennis Moore. Congressman Cole said he thought Jordan is a clear opportunity to pick up a seat. The other seat Cole said we should pick up is the 2nd district in Kansas where CPA and current Kansas Treasurer Lynn Jenkins is running. Jenkins won a contentious primary. She beat Jim Ryun- the former Congressman- by 1,000 votes in the primary, but Cole said they have come together for the general election. The seat is currently held by Nancy Boyda.
While standing in the security line to get into the Xcel center, we were directed to go to another gate they were going to open up. After we had walked two blocks they changed their minds and we had to walk back to the original line. I struck up a conversation with State Senator Harry Brown from North Carolina. Brown owns a couple of car dealerships in Jacksonville, NC and was elected to the state legislature in 2004. He didn't draw an opponent this year, so he will be returned to office. He is married, has three children and two grandchildren. When I asked him about Palin, he said, "She is a great choice. She will motivate the base and the hoopla about her daughter's pregnancy is something that can happen to any family." "I believe they have handled it well." Kristen Brown, one of our interns from CTI is also from North Carolina and she and the Senator struck up a conversation. His political mentor was the late US Senator Jesse Helms. With all the personality of a salesman, Brown was engaging and personable.
The Convention program began with US Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota. Coleman said of McCain, He has never said no to adversity." The invocation was offered by Miles McPherson. McPherson is the President of Miles Ahead, and Senior Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. He also played professional football for the San Diego Chargers. Using a line that former Congressman J.C. Watts Jr. has used, Character is doing what's right when no one is looking,"McPherson altered it slightly and said we should always understand that God is watching. "There are some times when the National Guard, the Government, your boss, your company or your mother can't help you, but God is always there," McPherson stated.
I then met with RNC Regional Communication Director Campbell Kaufman. Campbell is a volunteer for the convention, but also operates Cornerstone Government Affairs, a PR firm in Washington, DC. Campbell is from Baton Rouge and we have a common acquaintance. He took me through Radio Row where broadcast media was set up. As we walked through the facility, I bumped into former Congressman J.C. Watts and we talked briefly. He asked if I was going to do a live broadcast of Darrell and Leonard, a radio show that State Representative Dennis "Leonard" Johnson and I hosted several years before. We both laughed and went our way. J.C. will speak to the Oklahoma delegation tomorrow morning at breakfast. I met Don Tatro, Dr. Coburn's Press Secretary. Tatro is a polished young man who pledged to add Fair & Biased to his press release list. Campbell escorted me back to the delegate section and I enjoyed the visit with the PR guru. It's obvious he is very professional and well organized. When people of that ability and caliber are volunteering their time, it gives you hope that our side is going to be OK.
The next speaker was Congresswoman Michele Bachman, the first woman elected to Congress from Minnesota. Michele and her husband are raising their family of five children plus they have opened their home to 23 foster children over the years. Bachman remarked, "Some Presidential candidates know more about service than others." "Service survives and thrives best in an environment of freedom." "We want to let you keep more of your hard earned money and give your money to those causes that touch your heart." The Congresswoman concluded her remarks by says, "John McCain doesn't just speak about service- he has lived a life of service."
Wes Gullett, John McCain's former administrative assistant, addressed the convention and related the story of how in 1991, while visiting Mother Teresa's orphanage, Cindy McCain took two young female infants back to the U.S. with her. The Gulletts adopted one- Mickey- and the McCain's the other. When asked about the adoption several years ago, McCain said, "Well it was primarily my wife's Cindy's idea. She was in Bangladesh and she and some of the medical personnel visited Mother Theresa's orphanage to try and help the children there. There were two little baby girls there. One had a heart problem the other a severe cleft palate. Cindy was very concerned about their ability to survive and their need for medical treatment, so she decided to bring them here for medical treatment. She fell in love with both of them. We decided to adopt Bridget. Two close friends of ours adopted Mickey, the other child. As the story of the adoption was related from the podium, Cindy McCain wiped tears from her cheek. Her adopted daughter beamed and looked lovingly at her mother. It was a special moment- particularly to anyone who has been involved in the adoption process.
There was then a tribute to the military. Five former Congressional Medal of Honor winners were in attendance, as were twenty four former POWs. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife Barbara were seated with the Cindy McCain and her mother in law, Roberta McCain, 96, surrounded by these military heroes.
A video about the actions of Master at Arms Second Class Michael Anthony Monsoor was played which detailed his life. Monsoor was a Navy Seal killed during the Iraq War by a grenade which was thrown onto the rooftop by an insurgent in the street below. The grenade hit Monsoor in the chest and fell onto the floor. Immediately, Monsoor fell onto and covered the grenade with his body, saving the lives of three people. Monsoor was critically wounded and, although evacuated immediately, died 30 minutes later. Two SEALs next to him were injured by the blast but lived. For his heroic efforts, Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His sister was in attendance representing the family. A sustained standing ovation honoring her brother was moving and she was absoluted touched by the tribute.
First Lady Laura Bush took the stage and introduced her husband, but before she did, she outlined some STRAIGHT TALK about "W". She listed his accomplishments:
- Test scores for minority students are at an all time high nationally.
- The quality of the Supreme Court Nominees by George W. Bush.
- The partnering with Faith based organizations to aid citizens- a move that has prompted 35 states to emulate the federal program.
- AIDs Relief- When Bush took office only 50,000 people suffering from AIDS were receiving proper medical treatment- today that figure is 2 million.
- AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST- He has kept America safe! There has not been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.
Because of Gustav, President Bush addressed the convention by satellite. He said, "I'm sorry I couldn't be with you in person, but with Laura there, you have clearly upgraded." On McCain, Bush said, "If the Hanoi Hilton can't break John Cain's resolve, the radical left will not be able to either." "One Senator believed the surge would work and that Senator was John McCain." Bush said he and McCain had disagreed occasionally, but he said on the Iraq war McCain had told him, "I would rather lose an election than to see my country lose a war."
After the President, a tribute video to former President Reagan detailed his life. Then following, another actor turned politician turned actor former US Senator Fred Thompson took the stage. Obviously at ease before a crowd, the Law and Order star had the crowd eating out of his hand. You could have heard a pin drop as Thompson described the conditions of McCain's imprisonment as a POW. "We hear a lot about hope today, but John McCain knows about hope- HOPE was all he had in a prison camp in Viet-nam." Thompson continued by saying, "Being a POW doesn't qualify a person to be President, but it does reveal character." "There are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves about John McCain, Thompson said, "Who is this man and can we trust him with the presidency." Thompson concluded his remarks by describing Barick Obama's plan to raise taxes on businesses and not people. "I guess that means if you don't buy gas, or clothes or any goods and services from a business- if you don't get a paycheck from a business, this tax increase will not impact you." Thompson's remarks were well received and the enthusiasm from the crowd was contagious.
Perhaps Thompson's funniest line was when he spoke about VP designate Governor Sarah Palin. "I think I can safely say this is the first major party nominee that can properly field dress a moose-with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt." The crowd roared with laughter.
The final speaker of the evening was Senator Joe Lieberman, the Independent/Democrat from Connecticut. In his slow, deliberate speaking style, Lieberman said, "County matters more than party." Quoting from Washington's farewell address (Link: http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/farewell/text.html) where the Father of our Country said that party would be a determent to our survival, Liberman expalined why he was endorsing someone not of his own party. While certainly not the fiery orator like Senator Zell Miller- the Georgia Democrat- who delivered THE speech of the 2004 convention, it was still historical. Oklahoma delegate Don Burdick from Tulsa remarked, "It's amazing the Democrat nominee for Vice President just eight years ago is now endorsing the Republican candidate." Recognizing the paradox of his being at the GOP convention and endorsing someone not in his party, Liberman said, "If John McCain would just another Republican, I would be endorsing the Democrat, but while Senator Obama is a talented person- eloquence is no substitute for a record." Liberman then turned his remarks to the Democrats and Independents viewing the convention by broadcast media. "To my Democrat friends, this is no ordinary election- these are not ordinary times and John McCain is not an ordinary candidate." I urge you to vote for the person best able to lead our country and not for the party you belong to."
We got back to the hotel at 11pm and went directly to our room. Tomorrow is a busy day with a SERVICE PROJECT from 11-2 at the St. Paul Salvation Army Feeding Center. Twenty five Oklahoma delegates and alternates will paint their dining hall and deep clean their kitchen. This will happen right after breakfast where Congressman Watts will speak.