THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 4, 2008: 10am
Sorry for not posting yesterday, but it was a little hectic, so here's a chronological account of Wednesday:
Our morning breakfast was a joint event with the Louisiana delegation. It was at the Crowne Plaza where the Louisiana delegation is staying- however there are two Crowne Plazas in the Twin Cities area. One is in Brooklyn Park and the other is downtown. The bus carrying the Oklahoma delegation went to the wrong one, but we took our car, so we arrived 45 minutes before the rest of the delegation. Former Congressman J.C. Watts Jr. was the breakfast speaker. J.C. had spoken at the church prayer breakfast prior to our event. J.C. had the same problem- his cab driver took him to the wrong Crowne Plaza which delayed the start of the breakfast.
The Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, Roger Villere, related the first time he heard J.C. speak was at the 1992 Republican National Convention. He said it was the single best speech he had ever heard at a political event. "I knew J.C. could throw lightening from his arm (referring to his days as a college and pro football quarterback), but I didn't know he could throw thunderbolts with his mouth."
Villere introduced J.C. who was given a prolonged standing ovation. "People ask me why I left congress, but friends, my 8 oz. cup had about 1.5 oz. in it. I was drained." "I needed to focus on my children, my family and while the cheer of the crowd is seductive, at the end of the day, it's not about us," Watts said. "When you get to the point that you are grading your own tests and we know what happens when you grade your own tests- you make a good grade, that means our focus is wrong," Watts continued.
Watts contrasted the definition of a hero and a celebrity. "Celebrities are famous for being famous- known for being known." Heroes are known for their values and resolve." He talked about the WWII generation and the quite resolve they possessed. "I remember the first time I saw my dad cry (the day that Martin Luther King was shot) and it baffled me." "That generation doesn't express their emotions, but they are the true heroes in our society." "John McCain is from that generation," Watts said.
Watts talked issues as well. "We cannot solve the health care crisis without talking about health." "Maybe we should provide tax incentives for those whose cholesterol stays under 200." "We need to become a more health conscious society that puts the responsibility for health back with the people and not the government," Watts said.
On business and industry, J.C. said, "Capital is a coward and will not go into a hostile environment." "We must create and foster an environment that attracts and grows industry."
In a wonderful illustration of cultural diversity, J.C. had a lady from Louisiana and Gary Jones join him on stage. He positioned the three across the stage, separated by a 4-6 foot distance. "What do you see here?" he asked. You see a white male, a white woman, and a black man." "Separately, you may not like one or all of us," Watts said. He then had the three stand shoulder to shoulder and asked, "What do you see now?" "You see us." "That is the key to diversity- seeing beyond the individuals skin color, gender, or cultural background," Watts concluded.
When he turned to the selection of Sarah Palin as the VP pick, Watts said, "the message I'm getting from the top Democrats is- "you dirty Republicans- I dare you appoint a real person."
Because I was in charge of the SERVICE PROJECT at the St. Paul Citadel Corps Community Center (The Salvation Army) and it started at 11am, Debbie, Jeremy and I ducked out early. We arrived around 11:45 and were met by Lisa Mueller, Captain and Corps Office for the Army. I have long admired the work of the Salvation Army. For my money, they get the most "bang for their buck" for those feeding the poor and helping the downtrodden. The Salvation Army was founded in London in in 1865 by William Booth. Booth is famous for saying, "The greatness of a man's power is the measure of his surrender." We had nine people show up to help in this worthwhile endeavor. We worked until 2:30, painted their dining hall and deep cleaned the kitchen. Without breaks or stops for lunch, the nine labored with a passion to complete the job and do it with quality. Thanks to Lisa and her team for their flexibility (she was on vacation and came back to be with us for the project) and their understanding of our tardiness (the breakfast ran over slightly). Channel 5 from St. Paul was there filming our work as was the regional newsletter director. I can assure you these nine dedicated, hard working political activists didn't do it for a photo opportunity- our goal was to really show our appreciation to our host city for their hospitality. We had to rush back to the hotel to clean up and change to catch the 3:30pm bus to the convention center for the delegation photo.
When we arrived for the delegation photo, Texas was getting theirs shot immediately before us. Because of the size of their delegation- 140 delegates plus alternates, it was difficult to get all in the picture. Ours went smoothly and I must credit Vice Chairwoman Cheryl Williams for organizing the group before we got on the risers. Congressman John Sullivan and Congresswoman Mary Fallin joined the delegation in the photograph. Jeremy, even though he was a guest, was allowed to be in one of the photos. He has enjoyed his experience at the convention and has made friends with several of the delegates. So long as he keeps the "family secrets" secret, we may invite him back.
When I got the the convention floor, my friend and fellow blogger Bobby Cleveland http://thatsjustbob.blogspot.com/ was excited because his normally non-political daughter-in-law, Christine Cleveland, had text messaged him stating that while working at the Cleveland County HQ in Norman, a lot of women had been coming in getting McCain yard signs. They were says the reason was because he had picked Sarah Palin as the VP nominee. "I'm fired up," Christine told Bobby. Bobby had on a second UNCLE SAM hat Wednesday night. One of his grandsons had asked for the dred locks one- even thought he thought his grandpa looked "dorky" on TV with it on. As Bobby described his convention experience- his first- his eyes were full of tears as he talked about the moving National Anthem presentation. "I just got to thinking about what that flag means, " Bobby said.
Senator Norm Coleman spoke first and said we create jobs three ways: (1) We make government more efficient. "The Democrats plan to raise taxes to create jobs is like putting Round-up on your garden," Coleman said. (2) Increase our energy supply. "We must drill, pursue alternative energy sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Coleman said to applause. (3) Reform Health Care and education. The Minnesota Senator is up for reelection against former comedian Al Franken in November.
During the other preliminary speeches, I visited the South Carolina delegation to find a delegate named Mike FAIR. During the permanent rules meeting, their representative had sat by me and told me about him. Mike is a South Carolina State Senator, had been married 39 years, has one daughter and 3 grandchildren. He was up for reelection this cycle, but didn't draw an opponent. He lives in Greenville, SC and when I asked him who his political mentors were, he cited Senator Strom Thurmond, but said the major influence in his life was his father. "Even though my dad and his dad were not political people, they taught me the values that guide me politically," Fair said. He is excited about the Palin pick because one of the most important issues for Fair are pro-life issues. "South Carolina is a very Republican state and I expect this will be a good year for us with McCain/Palin at the top of the ticket." Fair is a rare name and it was nice to meet a "Cuz" at the convention.
The keynote speeches featured Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, whose zinger "I have one solution for energy conservation- keep Al Gore's private plan on the ground." Romney said, "America is strong, not because of government but because of the American people." "The right course is to build the private sector," he concluded.
Next up was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was warmly received by the delegates. He finished second in the primary and is certainly the most articulate of the presidential candidates in 2008- including Barack Obama. "I want to thank the elite media for helping to unite the GOP," Huckabee said to thunderous applause. Sarah Palin has been unmercyfully attacked and maligned since it was announced she was the VP pick. "There are three things we don't want to change in America- Freedom, Opportunity to prosper, and Liberty," Huckabee said. In a swipe at Obama's Europian tour, which Huckabee called OBAMA'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, the Guv said, "Barack forgot he was running for President of the United States, not the world." On Sarah Palin, Huckabee said, "Sarah Palin got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla than Joe Biden running for President."
During a break, I visited with a fellow Oklahoma delegate, Thomas Kiene. Thomas is a retired engineer from Seagate and we have a mutual friend- Sammy & Amber Bishop. Amber underwent a liver transplant a couple of years ago and Sammy's parents are friends of ours in Duncan- Jack & Ann Bishop. Thomas was elected delegate at the Third District Convention. He is married, has two kids and 4 grandkids. "I'm be right up front with you- I'm a Ron Paul supporter," Thomas said. "I believe we have to change the Republican party because when we had both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, we didn't see the changes we were promised during the campaigns." Kiene was against the war in Iraq, which I told him I disagreed with him on. I told him about my political mentor- the late Dr. Gerald Beasley, who introduced me to Dr. Ron Paul several years before. Kiene has met the Congressman and said while Paul is inspiring the movement he said it's not just about Ron Paul. "It's about true constitutional government," Keine said. I found Thomas to be gracious and civil and while our dialogue for fifteen minutes ranged from theological to political, I believe we probably agree more than disagree. Thomas is raising fruits and vegetables(truck farming) now and lives in Piedmont.
Also during the break, fellow delegate David Weston and I talked theology. David is an ordained Southern Baptist deacon and the former State Party Finance Director. David is a good Bible student and the discussion was fun. The only places David and I disagree are where he's wrong. Seriously, I appreciate David's consistent passion for politics and his recommendation to Olvis Kennedy of the Lexington Observer to run my weekly opinion/editorial piece. The Observer article never fails to generate comments each week to my Inbox- some actually positive.
The former Mayor of New York City, Rudolph William Louis Giuliani was the next speaker at the podium. On Obama's record of voting "Present" during his tenure in the Illinois legislature, Giuliani said, "He couldn't figure out whether to vote yes or no- it was too hard." "I have some advice for Obama- the next time you are unsure about making a decision, call John McCain," Rudy said to loud applause. Talking about the Iraq war, Giuliani said,"In the the single biggest policy decision in the this election, McCain got it right and Obama got it wrong." "Our country will be safe in the hands of John McCain," Giuliani concluded.
I took a break to visit with my son and ran into Michael Bates from Tulsa. Michael is a fellow blogger and is blogging from the convention. You can access his site at http://www.batesline.com/. He invited me down to bloggers row and I plan to visit it tomorrow night.
After a moving a Capella singing of the National Anthem, Vice Presidential designate Sarah Palin took the stage. The three minute ovation was impressive. After accepting the nomination of Vice President, Palin talked about her background. "I'm a hockey mom and the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick," she proclaimed to the excited crowd. She introduced her family which included her parents- both educators. "They taught me this is America and every woman can walk through every door of opportunity," Palin said.
On John McCain, Palin said, "As the mother of one of those troops serving overseas, McCain is exactly the kind of Commander-in-Chief I want want leading our troops."
Palin questioned the motives of politicians when she said, "some politicians use change to promote their careers and others use their careers to promote change." Obama is running on a platform of change. In another shot across Obama's bow, Palin said, The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery." "Obama talks about fighting for you, but let's be clear, only one candidate has really fought for you," Palin said to thunderous applause.
Palin was join on stage by her family. She proudly held her special needs child, hugged her husband and children. She was joined on stage by McCain, who proclaimed, "It's clear we made the right choice."
After a short break, it was time to conduct the business of the roll call vote. State-by state announced their results, but Arizona the home state of McCain was called upon they passed. The protocol is to allow the home state to "put the nominee over the stop," so each state passes when that number is reached. The procedure is largely symbolic, but allows the home folks to feel they were the state that actually gave him the victory. After that was done, Arizona announced their votes for McCain and he was proclaimed the 2008 Republican nominee for President. The states that had passed when then given the opportunity to have their votes recorded and state-by-state, that was done. When it reached Oklahoma, outgoing National Committeeman Lynn Windel introduced US Senator Jim Inhofe to read our votes. The votes were 39 for John McCain and 2 for Ron Paul. Due to a pause, Senator Inhofe's mike was turned off and the secretary of the convention stated publicly- "Oklahoma casts 41 votes for McCain" which was not true. Senator Inhofe attempted to have them come back and have Oklahoma's votes restated, but that was not allowed. It could have been due to the latest of the hour, or as some believe, the Ron Paul supporters are not given the respect of other candidates supporters. While I don't know the motives of the persons conducting the roll call, it was clearly a mistake and while not intentional, it did create the perspective in some people's minds that was the case.
Lynn Windel, National Committeeman from Oklahoma, said the official record will record Oklahoma with the 39-2 spilt, but we can't change what happened on the floor.
Arriving back at the hotel, Gary Jones, State Party Chair, asked the Ron Paul supporters in the Oklahoma delegation, who number about 25 to meet with him in the hospitality suite. He asked me to join them. Gary started the meeting by apologizing to the two delegates whose votes were not recorded properly. He stated he would release a press statement concerning the error and would ask the NRC to announce from the podium tonight the error in the recording of Oklahoma's vote. While I understand the disappointment the Paul supporters felt, their spirit of forgiveness for what was clearly human error was not apparent.
Tempers flared during the meeting and accusations concerning Gary Jones from several Ron Paul supporters were inappropriate and uncivil. Gary Jones is not a perfect man or a perfect Chairman, but he is an honest, ethical, principled man whose convictions have cost him financially and politically. He is my friend and I have known him long before he became the Chairman of the Republican Party. To accuse a principled man of being unprincipled is not a tactic that advances a cause. I will likely be attacked and maligned for my support of my friend, but I can not stay idlely by and watch a good man be attacked by the ESTABLISHMENT Republicans and others.
I believe in the principle of Matthew 18 that says Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. This forum in Room 711 was much too public and should have been handled between the two delegates who votes were not reported correctly and Senator Inhofe. That fundamental step was not done and the public forum allows for misunderstandings, resentment and hard feelings to develop. Read my Saturday evening post concerning Debbie and I's attendance at Bethleham Baptist Church where John Piper preached Saturday evening. The message is very applicable to this situation.
Former State Representative Porter Davis and I had a brief conversion after the meeting that I enjoyed. Porter's father is William "Bill" Davis who owned William E. Davis in OKC for years. Mr. Davis is an honest, ethical businessman who sold his company several years ago. Porter and I have several mutual acquaintances, including a distance cousin- Mike Fair who served in the Oklahoma legislature. Porter was a voice of reason and rightly pointed out that there was political passion in the room and new energy and interest in politics. As a long time political activist, who has begged for poltical volunteers, I appreciate passion. I only hope the error is corrected to everyones satisfaction. As I told Porter, I don't take myself too seriously, because after all, I'm not getting out of life alive.
Thursday September 4, 2008- 1pm
Breakfast had several speakers including Congressman Tom Cole who said Palin's speech reminded him of the country music song written by Tom T. Hall called Harper Valley PTA. It was a major hit single for country songstress Jeannie C. Riley in 1968, which is probably before most of the people in the room. The song tells the story of a junior high student who is sent home with a note to her single mother from the PTA of the school decrying her behavior by small-town standards. The mother decides to speak to a meeting of the PTA where she addresses various episodes of misbehavior on the part of several of its members, concluding, "This is just a little Peyton Placce/And you're all Harper Valley hypocrites." Cole was complimentary of all his congressional colleagues.
Congressman Frank Lucus and Congresswoman Mary Fallin spoke as well. Fallin will address the convention tonight in prime time at 8pm. Senator Inhofe spoke as well and he explained what happened at the convention and offered an apology to the two delegates whose votes were not announced correctly. They were not in attendance at the breakfast. Inhofe who is up for reelection said that he was being targeted by the Hollywood elite like Richard Pombo was in 2006. "They spent 4-7 million dollars in his race, busing in college students paying them $18 an hour to campaign for Jerry McNerney, Pombo's opponent. Pombo had served in the House for seven terms and was a target because of his views on global warming in which he agrees with Senator Inhofe. "They don't care who my opponent is, they just want me gone," Inhofe concluded.
Lynn Windel, National Committeman and Bunny Chambers, National Committeewoman, gave their final adresses to the delegation. Both are retiring after the convention. It was moving and emotional for both they and the delegates. They have done great jobs of helping to build the party in Oklahoma from the grassroots up. (See photo at top of post)
Jeremy and Debbie are at the Mall of America and I'm blogging. We have to be in our seats for the convention tonight at 4:30pm, so buses leave the hotel at 3:30pm. Stay tuned- tonight is always the most exciting.