The first political convention I can remember watching was the 1964 Republican at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. As a 12-year old my first thought was, “are you kidding me? They’re gonna nominate a candidate for President in a place called the Cow Palace?” It seemed more appropriate as a venue for judging heifers and goats at a state fair. After two days of viewing on our 19-inch black and white Zenith TV, it became apparent it was exactly the right place since the delegates were packed together as tightly as canned hams and the nominee, Barry Goldwater, was throwing out conservative red meat to the crowd poised to gobble up every morsel of anti-Communist paranoia. Sidenote: many years later when I was a weatherman at KGUN, Tucson, Arizona, Goldwater came walking thr0ugh the studio as I was preparing my map. He stopped and joked, “you’re not gonna make it rain this weekend, are you?” “Oh no, Senator. This is Arizona. We don’t do rain,” was my lame reply. He kept walking.
I don’t remember much about the Democratic convention that year. It was held in Atlantic City where we vacationed each spring break with another family long before the casino/parasites sucked the once quaint beach resort dry. LBJ was the Dem’s nominee having benefitted from taking office after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I do, vaguely remember Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s running mate, being pushed to the sidelines and made to appear as the strong-willed Johnson’s man servant.
1968 didn’t happen for me. Of all years. I was 16 and working for a camp that took disadvantaged inner city kids from New York City, camping and canoeing and hiking in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. White Mountains of New Hampshire and Baxter State Park in Maine. While the upheaval and violence was going on at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, I was fending off a 10-year thug at a campsite in New Hampshire who pulled my own jackknife on me. He wasn’t hard to disarm but I had to escort him on a Trailways bus back to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan and deposit him with his parents who just couldn’t believe their darling Julio could do such a thing.
The closest I ever got to actually covering a convention was in 1988 when I worked for CNN. The Democrats did their thing at the old Omni Arena in Atlanta, which was about 10 steps from CNN Center. That made things very convenient. I was assigned to work, most of the week, in one of our trailers below a viaduct between the Omni and CNN Center. I honestly don’t remember exactly what I did but I do remember two things: Al Franken walking glumly through the trailer after being fired when his “humorous” commentaries fell flat, and the unbelievable large quantity of pigeon droppings that adorned our little metal workplace. When I wasn’t working in the trailer I was the Supervising Producer in the actual newsroom in CNN Center. It was a cool time. All sorts of celebrities toured our complex. The one I remember clearly was CNN’s own Larry King. I’d never seen him in person before but if “The Walking Dead” had been a thing in ’88, he’d have been either the star, or the inspiration for the series.
Over time, of course, the long death march primary system has replaced the conventions as the method whereby candidates actually win the nomination, but I still enjoy watching them. For one, I get the greatest amount of joy seeing some low-level official attempting to capture the delegates’ attention while giving a speech at 4 p.m. I confess, desperation has its allure, when it’s not mine.
So I look forward to the unusual arrangement of both conventions running back-to-back this time around. Someone is bound to do something foolish or personally destructive, but on the other hand a new political star may be born. Just ask Hillary Clinton about one such star who wowed the crowd at the 2004 convention in Boston, then outshined her own candidacy in 2008 and is completing his second term. Is it her turn, finally? Will Donald Trump rock Cleveland…or turn it into a casino/condo development? Don’t know but I have a better TV now and I can’t wait to watch…in color.
Updated October 31, 2015
Instead of debates, I think we’d see the true measure of the Presidential candidates through their trick or treating techniques, since an important aspect of being an effective politician is begging for handouts.
Hillary Clinton: “Trick or Treat! I’m counting on a fair appropriation of your sugary assets to sweeten my bulging campaign treasure chest and add to the goodies my party and I already promise to re-distribute once I’m elected.”
Donald Trump: “Are you a moron? This is no comic book trick or treat! You hand me minuscule Hershey Kisses when someone of my immense business acumen and ego is worthy of no less than a king sized Kit Kat bar. When I’m President losers like you and anyone with a foreign accent will be choking on M&Ms while true Americans will be dining on Snickers and Toblerones! In fact, I intend to build a wall around your lousy subdivision!”
Jeb Bush: “Trick or treat….please. My costume? Oh…I’m supposed to be masquerading as a viable candidate for President. At this point any donation will be appreciated. By the way, unlike my opponent Marco Rubio, I show up EVERY Halloween to beg for candy.”
Marco Rubio: “Hey, Bush Boy, you didn’t complain when John McCain missed a few Halloweens. Besides..t’s getting late. My mom says I have to get home, but could you toss in a Milky Way?”
Dr. Ben Carson: Person at door: “What? What? Speak up man!” Carson: “Hey! That’s a ‘gotcha question!’ But if you insist, I’m here in hopes you might toss a bon bon or two in my bag. I firmly believe any variety of violent war crimes and the attempt to exterminate a race could have been avoided if the victims came supplied with Tootsie Rolls rather than Mary Janes. I’m sure you see the logic in that.”
Bernie Sanders: Doesn’t solicit sweets. Knocks on doors and gives out free candy to anyone who wants it.
Political handicappers and other hacks are predicting the 2016 Presidential election will come down to Clinton vs. Bush. This gives rise to the possibility a second Clinton and third Bush in the White House and the first time an ex-President’s spouse will have become the nation’s Chief Executive.
Let’s take those scenarios one at a time.
Third Bush in the White House. Would be proof the voters have adopted a diet heavy in milquetoast and political jams. It would also be disturbing that the name the leader of the free world prefers to go by, Jeb, is an acronym for his actual name, (John Ellis Bush) which could spark a rush of likewise naming newborn babies during his administration giving way to a generation of kids named Inc., Ltd., and SNAFU. That’s a dealbreaker for me.
Ex-President’s spouse as current President. I have no obvious objection to this, but it does make me think of the former Los Angeles Rams NFL team.
Georgia Frontierre inherited ownership of the team when her husband died and moved it twice: first from the LA Coliseum to Anaheim. Not her fault. Her late husband made that deal. Then she moved the team all the way to St. Louis.
I would not be in favor of moving the United States of America to St. Louis and would ask journalists to make that an issue at every campaign stop.
One also wonders what an ex-President does when his or her spouse is busy doing their former job. A little bit of research reveals the most successful strategy is resisting the urge to insert the phrase “well, I’ll tell you what I would have done,” when asked for an opinion about the current officeholder’s latest move. Not that the Clintons sleep together anyway, but this would cause connubial cloture.
None of this, however, has a single thing to do with Clinton’s qualifications to be POTUS, even if she does have to block out time on her calendar to throw hard objects at the First Bubba.
A President Acronym Bush, however, would have no such distractions since his family has shown its members are quite adept at holding high office while perfecting the art of the benign. Finish off Sadaam during Gulfwar 1? Naah..great set up for a Gulfwar 2. Do the right thing for victims of Hurricane Katrina? Naaah…let Brownie mishandle it.
There’s a long way to go before this thing is decided but it’s clear at this moment a tough political battle will ensue and you know, if the second time is the charm for Hillary Clinton it won’t be because she emailed it in.