posted on Aug, 27 2004 @ 09:54 AM
It is not unusual for high ranking politicos to only attend the convention on the day that they are speaking or not at all. In fact, it has become
somewhat of a tradition for the nominee to attend only on the evening of their nomination. Kerry was campaigning in other states until the afternoon
of his nomination and then flew into Boston in time to make his acceptance speech. I think he hung around the next morning to meet with a few
important delegates and do some campaigning, but then he was off again. Bill Clinton was at the DNC only on the night of his speech & then he
returned to his book tour. Typically, the only politicians who are on hand for the whole convention are those who are very active in the party and
serve as spokepeople to the media. Dole & McCain should be at the RNC throughout, as well as NY-based republicans, like Guiliani & Bloomberg.
Having the RNC in New York presents and odd problem for the Republicans as it is clear that they will receive a lukewarm reception. Most politicians
like to use the convention for the potential photo-ops, but it wouldn't surprise me that there might be a few that will opt out of this one.
Anti-Bush billboards have been going up all around town and there are numerous demonstrations that are planned. There is even a super-loud megaphone
installed on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn bridge that will allow anyone to voice their concerns about the country to the whole city. I saw a
huge billboard on The Plaza Hotel yesterday that said "Bush", with an arrow pointing downtown towards the convention site, and then "Truth", with
and arrow pointing in the opposite direction. Many businesses are closing, including those that you would think would benefit from a convention, such
as restaurants, hair salons, clothing stores, etc. Many hotels remain underbooked, shows have sold few tickets, and restaurants' reservation books
are empty because tourists have been scared away, most New Yorkers are leaving in droves, and conventioneers are not known to be big spenders. The
mayor has been crowing about how this is going to be a financial boon for the city, and maybe that will be the case for the delis and hotels in the
immediate vicinity of Madison Square Garden, but the rest of the city will be a ghost town.
In addition, Dennis Hastert added some fuel to the fire by putting out his book last week which included comments about New York using 9/11 as an
excuse for being greedy with federal funds and taking swipes at both NY Senators in their attempts to get NY the proper rebuilding and homeland
security funding after the attacks. This made the front page of both New York rags, The NY Post & The Daily News. The feeling in New York is that we
aren't getting enough federal support for homeland security, especially as both the NYPD & FDNY have been downsized (and guess what?!, the FDNY is
planning to go on strike in the middle of the convention because they have been operating without a contract for 2 years... more fun), so this just
added more fuel to the fire.
The hope is that the demonstrations will be peaceful, but in light of the incendiary comments made by Hastert and because Mayor Bloomberg went against
the wishes of the organizers of the largest demonstration and denied their request for a permit to hold the rally in Central Park (using the excuse
that it would damage the grass and that it wouldn't hold 250,000 people, although concerts of this size have been held in the park before), the tone
is already a little tense. Bloomberg instead granted the permit on the West Side Highway, which is not conducive to a rally, has no facilities, and
will increase the costs to both the demonstrators and the NYPD substantially.
A peaceful demonstration would get the message across in the best light, but a violent riot would portray the demonstrators as raving lunatics, which
is what some are saying is what many Republicans are hoping for. This might explain the reasoning behind Bloomberg telling 250,000 people to stand on
a sweltering highway for hours with no bathrooms or stores nearby to buy water in the middle of August to protect some grass--that's going to piss
quite a few people off. It has also been suspected that there will be agitators paid to infiltrate the crowd with the mission to provoke violence and
arrests. The crazier these people seem, the less potent the message will come off. The NYPD are expecting about 1000 arrests per day.
I also have a friend on the RNC planning commitee and have learned that security at and around MSG isn't as tight as it should be. Although there
will be many bodies in private security uniforms, the Republicans have subcontracted out security to the lowest bidder and these firms don't do any
background checks. They are basically hiring people off the street--the same goes for the drivers of the buses and cars that they are using.
Convention committees are notoriously cheap and although security should be paramount, they are approaching it with a beer and pretzels budget.
Although I love my city and hope that all of this is just hype, like many New Yorkers, I am leaving the city tonight and won't return until after
Labor Day. Hopefully there will be a city to return to.