We've arrived in Denver. I have a soft spot for this town. It's where our two daughters were born, where Sam began his political career, and where for eight years, I wrote for The Denver Post. We always loved this city for its wonderful weather, its social permeability and its laid back pace. But that's not the town that welcomes us today. This week Denver is a city on steroids.
There are no hotel rooms, no available flights and no parking. There are also no homeless, or maybe there are, but they're all spiffed up (free haircuts and grooming thanks to various salons) and given free entrance to movies, museums, bingo games and the zoo.
The Convention schedule is intense. There is a constant struggle to get people to come to competing events that range from the trivial to the self-important to the substantive. Here's a sampling: Rock the Vote is having a rock 'n roll concert -- no surprise here; The Creative Coalition has the Black Eyed Peas and a bevy of Hollywood stars; Impact Film Festival has a screening of "Battle In Seattle"; The National Democratic Institute has programs virtually every hour on foreign policy issues with large numbers of foreign dignitaries; The Truman Foreign Policy Center has discussions with William Perry and Richard Danzig; Project New West has briefings on battleground states, an effort to turn the Rocky Mountain region blue; The Shorenstein Center at Harvard has a panel with Sunday morning TV moderators; The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation has an event with a host of Kennedys, including, it is rumored, Teddy and Victoria; The Colorado Host Committee has a welcome reception at The Palm; The Campaign For America's Future has progressive speakers at The Big Tent; Politico and the USC Annenberg Center have discussions on Politics and the Media; The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a salute to the Speaker featuring James Taylor, John Legend and Tony Bennett; The Democratic National Committee has a performance by Second City and a long series of receptions; Emily's List has a full program of which the hottest ticket is a lunch with Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama; the Solar Energy Industry Association has a SunFest celebration; and Google and Vanity Fair are hosting a closing night party. Then there are events hosted by The Democracy Alliance, The Center for American Progress, The Conference of Democratic Mayors, The National Democratic Governors' Association, The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, The Democratic National Convention Committee, and The Obama National Finance Committee. This doesn't count the events sponsored by the unions, trade associations, lobbyists, publishers and miscellaneous others, nor does it include the official proceedings. Many events can only be attended if you have an invitation or credentials or both. You might think this would be limited to delegates and alternates, but you would be wrong. There are a vast number of hangers on, including the two of us.
There are also loads of free events. Some are put on by these organizations and others will be planned protests, teach-ins and marches -- which you hear a lot more about in the national media than you do on the ground in Denver. The assumption here is that things such as the appalling Hillary support march are just a few cranky people who need to move on and get over it. I'm not sure why this march is necessary since there's agreement that the Clintons will be featured each night at the convention. "We want to rattle the Obama cage a little," said a professional woman and former colleague of mine. "You wouldn't want it to be Obamamania, would you?" Hmmm. Let me see. I'd like to rattle McCain's cage. Isn't the point of a convention to come away with a huge sense of unity, energy, and a bump in the polls? I'm reminded that forty years ago, there was a real issue that split the party, a platform that didn't call for an end to the war, a list of convention speakers virtually closed to opponents of that war, and a nominee who didn't even run in the primaries. This year we have a platform everyone agrees on, an open and broad list of speakers and a candidate who proved himself in the nomination process.
In 1968, my husband Sam was the liaison between the McCarthy campaign and the protesters and was eventually a defense witness at the Trial of the Chicago Seven. He knows what serious protest looks like at a convention, and this isn't it. This week, it's just about sour grapes on the part of a very, very few disgruntled people who refuse to get behind their leader in her unstinting support of the party and the nominee. People we know who've been involved in the negotiations between the Obama and Clinton campaigns describe a congenial process in which Hillary's people had clear direction to reach an agreement which would be good for the Obama campaign and the country, and in which Obama's people had firm direction to be generous.
However, there will be people who are in town simply to disrupt. Within the leadership of the 1968 convention, there were agents provocateurs from the Chicago police and the FBI. This time around, it looks like they may be from the McCain campaign and the kooky right. Tom Hayden reminds me that the trial in Chicago was largely focused on charges that people had crossed state lines to provoke a riot. This year we know there is someone encouraging people to cross state lines to provoke chaos and his name is Rush Limbaugh. He should be subject to a citizen's arrest when he walks out of his studio.
But I digress, the point is every day from about 10:00 a.m. in the morning to 1:00 a.m., there are two to three competing events except for the 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. slot when most, but not all, organizations had the grace not to schedule things during the actual convention. I intend to attend as many of these events as possible, selecting them, as any serious person does, according to star power and menu.
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