LAYING DOWN THE GAUNTLET
the Fifth and Final Session of the 37th Republican National Convention
Friday, August 4, 2000
RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
The Fifth Session of the 37th Republican National Convention was called to order by Permanent Chairman Dennis Hastert at approximately 6:45 P.M. EDT (2245 UTC), Thursday 3 August 2000. Once again, the Convention was told it would proceed with "Business Out of Order" (meaning the schedule of the evening's events was being rearranged as it had been the evening before). It was also announced that, once the fourth and final "round" of the "Rolling Roll Call" (the second "run-through" of those States which had passed on the first go-round over the previous three nights) would get underway later in the Session, the chairman of the delegation announcing his State's vote would have but one minute to make his or her announcement (which made sense- after all, the States which had passed had already given their long-winded introductions to their vote: or, in this case, non-vote).
The Presentation of the Colors was made by the Korean War Veterans of the Maryland Color Guard and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by University of Mississippi student Nic Lott. Country music singer Lorrie Morgan sang the National Anthem and the invocation was given by Governor Bush's own minister- Rev. Mark Craig of the Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. After the Colors were retired, the Philadelphia Boys' Choir- billed as "America's Ambassadors of Song"- came out on stage to entertain those in attendance in the First Union Center.
The Theme of this Final Night of the Convention was to be "A President with A Purpose: A strong leader who can unite our country and get things done"- the highlight of which, of course, was to be the acceptance speech of the new Republican presidential nominee himself, live and in person. But first, there were still a number of issue-oriented speakers and videos to be presented before the Convention- beginning with Nancy Brinker, a Breast Cancer Awareness Advocate whose sister sadly passed away from the disease two decades earlier. Ms. Brinker's remarks were followed by yet one more "Profiles in Compassion" video, this one about the Saint Luke Free Clinic of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. This was followed by an address by Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee (whose State, interestingly, had been holding its state/local primaries that very day).
Senator Frist, a heart/lung transplant surgeon by training, spoke of such things as prescription drugs which should be covered by Medicare and- along with this- a sensible, affordable health care system. "Change without Access is an empty promise", Frist said, "and Access without Quality is not acceptable to Republicans". He presented a litany of the rights those who might have to access health care should have protected and then went on to claim that "under Governor Bush's caring leadership, we will be able to give these rights to all patients"- adding that "this country needs a President who will not be an obstacle to true Medicare reform."
Frist's remarks were followed by a video about the Good Neighbor Projects, headed by Pennsylvania Senator Santorum and Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts- in which delegates to the Convention were encouraged to give of their time and money to a number of improvements in and around the Convention's host city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Next, Convention co-Chair Henry Bonilla introduced Phyllis C. Hunter, an adviser to Texas' Statewide Reading Initiatives program, who spoke of the program itself but also spoke out against such things as so-called "social promotion", in which children are promoted to the next grade or level in school, even where they have not achieved the necessary requirements to so advance.
Bonilla next introduced International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers member Mike Rantilla of Ohio, who addressed the Convention about private individual retirement plans. He credited Governor Bush with a plan that would "save and strengthen Social Security", one that he claimed would "lock away the current Social Security surplus and will not increase taxes". He was followed by Dave Wenzel- a former National Disabled Veteran of the Year and former Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania- who highlighted George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative designed to help the disabled.
Hollywood celebrity Bo Derek next came out on stage to introduce California Assemblyman Abel Maldonado who began a section of the program dedicated to the Hispanic culture Governor Bush himself was so familiar within Texas (as well as being the culture of the GOP nominee's sister-in-law, the wife of Florida's Governor Jeb Bush). Maldonado addressed the Hall in Spanish, which I found quite interesting as he was addressing the same Republican Party that, at their most recent Convention four years earlier, had retained in their Platform a plank which had called for English being officially recognized as the common language of the country (though, to be fair, that plank also did support the retention of so-called "heritage languages" at home and in cultural institutions).
This led to a video presentation in which various Latinos were seen recounting their impressions of what their heritage means to them. One recounted Governor George W. Bush's marching in the Mexican Independence Day parade in her Texas town and likening it to when the Kennedys would visit the Latino community (so, now Geroge W. Bush was taking on the mantle of the Kennedys? How far the Republican Party had re-invented itself!... then again, the Kennedy clan is not apotheosized in this Party [in-law Arnold Schwarzenegger notwithstanding], so- I suppose- the Texas Governor could get away with this one!). As I watched this obvious play for the Hispanic vote playing itself out on the big screen in this Convention Hall, I could not help but think that- in at least some ways- the words of Dr. Condoleezza Rice (though, as a player on the Bush campaign team, she would surely not see this my way!) in the Hall only two evenings before about "a Party that sees me as an individual, not as part of a group" rang somewhat more hollow now.
There was a brief break during which former President and Barbara Bush, the parents of the Republican presidential nominee, were seated in the galleries before the Convention was entertained by Vicente Fernandez. After this, former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum- who is hearing impaired- introduced a video biography of Texas First Lady Laura Welch Bush, the wife of the GOP nominee, shown on the big screen in the front of the Convention Hall- after which Mrs. Bush's mother, Jenna Welch, was seated in the galleries.
Presently, Convention co-Chair J.C. Watts came out to order the merciful completion of the "Rolling Roll Call". The same two Assistant Secretaries who had been standing side by side for the first "round" would be at opposite sides of the stage (as were the Assistant Secretaries who had conducted the third "round" the previous evening) for this fourth and final "round" in which all the States which had- till now- passed would be called to give their vote, now that Wyoming- as the home state of the Vice Presidential nominee- had had the honor, the previous evening, of putting George W. Bush over the top and formally nominating him for President. This evening, there were no hitches in the completion of the Roll Call of the States.
California noted that former First Lady Nancy Reagan was part of their delegation and had asked the GOP in that State to once again "win one for the 'Gipper' ".
Florida's Governor Jeb Bush, brother of the Republican nominee, noted that his State was "the land of no income tax, where we're building entrepreneurial heaven". He then went on to note- before announcing his State's vote- that he was the only one in the Convention Hall who had had his mouth washed out with soap by a First Lady (his mother Barbara), had been spanked by a President and had "gotten a 'wedgie' from the next President of the United States".
Georgia, one last time, paid tribute to its recently departed Senator Paul Coverdell (I noticed all the signs in the delegation for Mack Mattingly, a former Senator who was elected in the Reagan landslide only to be defeated six years later by the man who would- six years after that- lose to Coverdell. Mattingly was going to now try and get his old seat back in the ensuing Special Election this Fall).
Missouri's Senator Christopher Bond- after reminding everyone that his State was the "Show Me" State- opined that Texas Governor Bush would "show us Prosperity WITHOUT Perjury".
New York's Governor George Pataki got in one last dig at First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate candidacy in the Empire State by noting that the State would "elect one of our own- a NEW YORKER, Rick Lazio- as our next Senator".
North Carolina's vote was read by former Senator Lauch Faircloth, who had lost his Senate seat to Democrat John Edwards in the 1998 mid-term Elections.
Just before Texas cast the final vote of this four-part "Rolling Roll Call", Texas First Lady Laura Bush was seated in the galleries to the sounds of the in-house orchestra playing Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground, which had introduced her own speech to the Convention on the first night of this gathering. When the Lone Star State completed its vote, the Roll Call of the States was finally over... with 1,034 votes needed to nominate: George W. Bush had received 2,058 votes to 6 for former Ambassador Alan Keyes, 1 for Senator John McCain of Arizona and 1 Abstention. By the strange twists and turns of pre-Convention politics, in which McCain finally and firmly endorsed Governor Bush, McCain- who had offered a strong challenge to Bush early on- ended up with 1/6 the vote of Keyes, who was a relatively minor player during the Primary Season (I wonder how Steve Forbes felt!... just kidding!!)
The results of the fourth and final "round" of the Roll Call of the States:
Co-Chair Watts asked if any delegation had not voted (of course, they now all had done so), then he asked if any State wished to change its vote (none wanted to, but the lone McCain delegate from Massachusetts must have been one of the loneliest persons in the Hall!). A delegate from Michigan then made a motion to make the nomination of Governor Bush unanimous (a parliamentary maneuver which would have no legal effect on the final results of the Roll Call of the States itself and, like "nominating by acclamation", a long-standing National Convention tradition). By this time, Co-Chair Henry Bonilla was running the show again and, after the Convention roared "Aye" without a single "No", Bonilla declared that the "Ayes" had it and that George W. Bush was unanimously declared the Republican nominee for President of the United States in the 2000 Election.
The in-house band broke into a version of the Stray Cats' Rock This Town (the Convention orchestra evidently had a curiously limited repertoire) until a video montage of George W. Bush in everyday/campaigning mode- once again to Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered- I'm Yours- was up on the big screen. Soon enough, however, Co-Chair Jennifer Dunn appeared at the podium to introduce Jan Bullock, the widow of the late Bob Bullock- who, though a Democrat, had been Texas Lieutenant Governor during Governor Bush's first term. Mrs. Bullock spoke of George W. Bush's ability to work with Democrats and Independents- "leaving Politics at the State House door while doing the People's Business"- during the time her husband had served with the Texas Governor. She noted that Laura Bush would be "a grand First Lady in the tradition of Barbara Bush".
Next, the Convention heard from Nancy Weiss (pronounced "WEESS") of Lubbock, Texas who had been the wife of Governor Bush's campaign manager during his unsuccessful candidacy for Congress in 1978. Mrs. Weiss spoke of her friendship with the Governor and Laura Bush and her knowledge of him personally. This was followed by yet another musical interlude, with the in-house orchestra breaking into Jumpin' with Symphony Sid.
Co-Chair Dunn next introduced George P. Bush, the son of Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and the nephew of the Republican nominee. The younger Mr. Bush, whose mother is Latino, spoke of his uncle and delivered his address partially in Spanish. He was followed by Congressman Vito Fossella of New York, whose great-grandfather- Congressman James O'Leary of New York- had been one of the authors of the original Social Security Act during FDR's New Deal. After delivering a speech of his own, Fossella introduced 65-year-old Sally Brenner of New Jersey who spoke- by video remote feed on the big screen- about how Governor Bush's Social Security plan would help senior citizens: Mrs. Brenner's granddaughter, 22-year-old Amy Knutsen then addressed the Convention from the stage about how the plan would help people of her generation. Fossella returned to make a few brief closing remarks before co-Chair Dunn came up to the dais again.
It was now time for the big show of the Convention, the process of introducing the Texas Governor to his own Convention so that he could give his speech of acceptance before it. Dunn introduced Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of the Winter Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas- who told the Convention that, like his friend George W. Bush, "I emphasize content rather than labels" and "place Policy above and beyond Politics". Rev. Caldwell was immediately followed by Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the host delegation at this Convention.
Governor Ridge described George W. Bush as someone for whom "public service is a calling, not a career", explaining that the Texan "doesn't look to a focus group print-out to discover his convictions: he looks to his heart". After noting that the question is often asked 'Which candidate do the people trust?' in relation to elections, Ridge opined that the question should, instead, be "Which candidate trusts the people?" He accused the Democrats of too often asking "Whose side are you on?", of forgetting that the U.S. Constitution begins with the words " ' We the People' - not 'Us versus Them' ."
After the Pennsylvania Governor had concluded his remarks, the Convention was treated to the in-house band breaking into a version of the Brian Setzer Orchestra's Jump, Jive an' Wail followed by entertainment provided on the Convention stage by the Country music duo, Brooks and Dunn. Their performance led immediately into a short video biography of George W. Bush- entitled The Sky's The Limit (the motto of the Governor's home town of Midland, Texas)- playing up on the big screen.
As soon as the video ended, the lights in the First Union Center were brought back up and there was the Governor of Texas, the most recently anointed Republican presidential nominee, striding across the stage and then up to the podium to address the Hall. "I proudly accept your nomination", he told the assemblage. "Thank you for this honor: together we will renew America's purpose", he continued- echoing the overarching theme of this Republican Convention. After noting that the Founding Fathers had met, on occasion, in the very city in which this Convention was then meeting, he cited a few of their names- among them George Washington "or as his friends called him", the Texas Governor quipped, " 'George W.' "
The rest of the speech was strangely subdued: those in attendance at the Convention would, of course, cheer- even roar loudly- at times when the Texan paused, but it didn't seem to me to be as vociferous overall as it had been during Dick Cheney's speech the evening before, during which there had been a lot more rhythmic chanting. Then again, the nominee didn't much use phraseology conducive to chanting- there were relatively few catch phrases on which to hang such chants such as could be derived from Cheney's use of Al Gore's "time for them to go" or "help is on the way". The Governor seemed more interested in presenting a straight-talk address, one without many of the usual "hook"s: his voice could rise to a strong, declarative height when making certain points he was fired up about but- just about often as not- when he did reach such "hook"s or applause lines, he rather purposely would gloss into the next clause or sentence before pausing, as if he were trying to dissuade the delegates from cluttering his essential message with their obvious enthusiasm until he was good and ready to give them something for which to really cheer.
This speaking technique forced those watching- whether on the floor of the Convention or before their televisions at home- to actually listen intently to what he had to say and it- combined with a gentle, homespun manner when he was not at one of those relatively few "hook"s- was most effective. It was oddly reminsicent of the speeches of another Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson, except that Johnson would have milked the "hook"s and applause lines in any speech he gave for all they were worth: Governor Bush did not. It gave him an eerie yet subtle command of his audience- for they were beholden to his cadence to know just when and how to react, rather than reacting as a normal audience being addressed by their champion would. This certainly was a side of the Governor's oratory ability that, I would imagine, most Texans would have been quite familiar with by now but which was, I am certain, somewhat new and fresh to the vast majority of the country. It was almost... well... Taoist: allowing those in the Convention Hall to be led by his words and cadence without their even realizing they were BEING led! It suddenly dawned on me that he was showing the country that he was- despite the naysayers- quite capable of careful leadership by so carefully leading those in his audience in the full glare of the television camera.
"I am proud to have Dick Cheney at my side", Governor Bush next declared- later adding that "America will be proud to have a leader of such character to succeed Al Gore as Vice President of the United States". He then expressed his gratitude to his one-time opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona, for his speech two evenings before- noting that "I love his spirit for America" and then thanked his other erstwhile opponents with whom he had contended for the prize that was now his before turning to acknowledge and briefly address his own family: his wife Laura, their two twin daughters, his mother and, finally his father- the former President- saying, at the end, "Dad, I am proud to be your son".
"My father was the last President of a great generation", the Texan continued- referring to those who had fought in World War II. Then turning to his own generation, the "Baby Boom"ers, he queried: "What is asked of us?"- noting that "our opportunities are too great, our lives too short to waste this moment. So, tonight, we vow to our Nation we will seize this moment of America's promise. We will use these Good Times for great goals." He then scored the current President and Vice President (now to be his primary opponent) by noting that "for eight years, the Clinton/Gore Administration has coasted through Prosperity. The path of least resistance is always downhill- but America's way is the rising road. This Nation is daring and decent and ready for change."
"Our current President embodied the potential of a generation", the GOP presidential nominee continued. "So many talents, so much charm, such great skill: but, in the end, to what end? So much promise, to no great purpose". The Texan reminded those inside the Convention Hall that "a little more than a decade ago, the Cold War thawed... that Wall came down."(referring, of course, to the Berlin Wall and, by extension, Ronald Reagan's admonition that "Mr. Gorbachev: tear down this Wall!") "But, instead of seizing this moment", Governor Bush claimed, "the Clinton/Gore Administration has squandered it", going on to score his opponents for an "unsteady exercise of American influence".
"This Administration had its moment: they've had their chance", Bush declared. "They have not led. We will!". To this, the delegates roared their approval. "Our generation has a chance to reclaim some essential values", the Republican candidate continued, "to show we have grown up before we grow old... This Administration did not teach our children, it disillusioned them. And now they come asking for another chance, another shot. Our answer?: Not this time. Not this year. This is not the time for third chances, it is the time for new beginnings!"
"Greatness is found when American character and American courage overcome American challenges", the Texas Governor opined. He referred to the "Eloquence of American Action", citing an example from the American Revolutionary epoch and then World War II before turning to the challenges to which his own generation had already risen when it was yet still very young. Of the Civil Rights movement, he cited it as a cause in which "brave men and women did not say 'we shall cope' or 'we shall see' : they said 'we shall overcome' ". The GOP nominee then added: "America's President must call upon that character". "We resolve", he proclaimed, "to be the Party not of repose, but of reform. We will write not footnotes, but chapters, in the American story. We will add the work of our hands... and leave this Nation greater than when we found it."
Governor Bush then turned to the issues which he hoped would be the focus of the Fall campaign. "Social Security has been called the 'third rail' of American Politics", he stated, "the one you're not supposed to touch... but if you don't touch it, you cannot fix it- and I intend to fix it!". He promised that "President George W. Bush will keep the promise of Social Security: No changes. No reductions. No way! Our opponents will say otherwise: this is their last parting ploy and don't believe a word of it!" As regards private individual retirement plans, Bush proclaimed that "now is the time to give American workers security and independence that no politician can ever take away".
The GOP nominee next scored the Clinton Administration for allowing "too many children" to be "segregated into schools with no standards." He decried so-called "Social Promotion", arguing that "this is discrimination, pure and simple: the soft bigotry of low expectations- and our Nation should treat it like other forms of discrimination. We should end it! One size does not fit all when it comes to educating our children, so local people should control local schools." The Texas Governor opined that "when a school district receives Federal funds to teach poor children, we expect them to learn- and, if they don't, parents should get the money to make a different choice", yet he assured the Convention that he still fully intended to "renew the promise of America's public schools".
Next Governor Bush turned to the issue of tax relief. "Some say that the growing Federal surplus means that Washington has more money to spend", he stated. "But they've got it backwards: the surplus is not the Government's money- the surplus is the People's money!"
He added, "I will use this moment of opportunity to bring common sense and fairness to the Tax Code- and I will act on Principle." "Now is the time", he declared, "to reform the Tax Code and share some of the surplus with the people who pay the bills!" As for military policy: "A generation shaped by Vietnam", said Bush, "must remember the lessons of Vietnam: when America uses Force in the World- the Cause must be just, the Goal must be clear and the Victory must be overwhelming." He then went on to note that "now is not the time to defend outdated treaties but to defend the American people."
"Our Nation today needs vision: that's a fact", the Texan proclaimed- adding, in a clear dig at Vice President Gore: "or, as my opponent might call it, a risky Truth scheme." He went on to explain, "Every one of the proposals I have talked about tonight, he has called a 'risky scheme' over and over again. It is the sum of his message- the Politics of the roadblock, the Philosophy of the stop sign. He now leads the Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt- but the only thing he has to offer is Fear itself. This outlook is typical of many in Washington: always seeing the tunnel at the end of the light." Bush went on to say, "I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect"- but he later sounded a warning to "those who would malign our State for political gain: Don't mess with Texas!"
After citing his own executive qualifications, the Republican nominee stated:"I am prepared for the work ahead. If you give me your trust, I will honor it- give me a mandate, I will use it. Give me the opportunity to lead this Nation and I will lead!" He then turned to the problems of the inner city, noting that "when these problems are not confronted, it builds a wall within our Nation: on the one side are wealth, technology, education and ambition- on the other side of that wall are poverty, prison, addiction and despair... We must tear down that Wall!"
"Big Government is not the answer", the Texas Governor opined, "but the alternative to Bureaucracy is not Indifference... this is what I mean by 'compassionate conservatism' and, on this ground, we will lead our Nation." He cited the efforts of "people reclaiming their communities block by block and heart by heart"- adding that "Government cannot do this work: it can feed the Body- but it cannot reach the Soul. Yet Government can take the side of these groups: helping the helper and encouraging the inspired."
Governor Bush opined that "we must tell our children with confidence that Drugs and Alcohol can destroy you and Bigotry disfigures the heart". He proclaimed that "I will lead our Nation toward a Culture that values Life: the life of the elderly and the sick, the life of the young and the life of the unborn"- this last, the first clear mention of the Abortion issue at the Convention (with the exception of the remarks of Nebraska Senate candidate Don Stenberg during the First Session) leading to a tremendous roar of approval within the Convention Hall. Bush acknowledged that "good people can disagree on this issue" but he made it very clear that "when Congress sends me a bill against Partial Birth Abortion, I will sign it into Law!"
"This must not be remembered as an age rich in possession and poor in ideals", the Republican candidate pleaded. "Instead, we must usher in an Era of Responsibility. My generation tested limits and our country, in some ways, is better for it." I myself, as I heard this utterance, smiled as I contrasted this "Boomer"'s attitude to that "G.I.- gen" Bob Dole had expressed in his acceptance speech at the GOP Convention four years earlier when he chided the Texas Governor's generation (which, of course, was also that of Dole's opponent, President Clinton) as one that had never had to suffer and sacrifice as his own had done. "At times", Bush admitted of his own generation, "we lost our way- but we're comin' home."
"Our Nation's leaders are responsible to confront problems- not pass them on to others", Governor Bush opined. "A President himself must be responsible. So, when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear not only to uphold the Laws of our Land- I will swear to uphold the Honor and Dignity of the Office to which I have been elected: So help me God!"
"I believe the Presidency, the final point of decision in the American Government, was made for great purposes", the Texan continued. "For me, gaining this Office is not the ambition of a lifetime- but it is the opportunity of a lifetime and I will make the most of it. I believe that great decisions are made with care, made with conviction, not made with polls. I do not need to take your pulse before I know my own mind. I do not re-invent myself at every turn- I am not running in borrowed clothes." The GOP candidate promised that "when I act, you will know my reasons- and when I speak, you will know my heart."
"I believe in Tolerance", Bush went on, "not in spite of my Faith- but because of it": as I heard these words, my mind flashed back to the silent demonstration of many of the delegates from the Governor's own home state against the appearance at the dais of openly gay Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona two nights before and I wondered just how much "spite" had colored it, indeed; I found myself sincerely hoping that the State's Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and, by these very words, George W. Bush himself both reflected the better angels of the natures of Texas Republicans. "I believe in Grace- because I've seen it", Bush continued, "in Peace- because I've felt it; in Forgiveness- because I've needed it. I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division: I will not attack a part of this country- because I want to lead the whole of it."
"And I believe", the Republican standard-bearer now declared, "that this will be a tough race- down to the wire. Their 'war room' is up and running- but we are ready. Their attacks will be relentless- but they will be answered. We are facing something familiar- but they're facing something new: we're now the Party of ideas and innovation, the Party of idealism and inclusion, the Party of a simple and powerful hope". Bush opined that "after all of the shouting and all of the scandal; after all of the bitterness and broken faith- we can begin again. The wait has been long- but it won't be long now. He went on to state: "I know the Presidency is an Office that turns Pride into Prayer- but I am eager to start on the work ahead and I believe America is ready for a New Beginning."
Governor Bush closed his speech with the observation that "Americans live on the sunrise side of the mountain: the night is passing- and we are ready for the day to come."
As he stepped back to wave to the assemblage, the red, white and blue confetti began to rain down upon those in the Convention Hall and like-colored balloons also began to fall upon the delirious Republicans inside the Comcast First Union Center. Presently, he was joined by his wife Laura and then, after an interval, his running mate Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne. It seemed to me that not a lot of time was taken for the traditional "nominee and running mate" photo op; there was no real raising of joined hands in triumph for the cameras, as has been traditional in the past. The Bush and Cheney families seemed to appear on the Convention stage so very soon after their parents had and, not too long thereafter, the stage began filling up quickly with a mix of Republican dignitaries as well as many of those not of that caliber of celebrity- even the minor speakers- who had addressed the Convention over its five sessions. It was a strangely low-key ending to the proceedings compared to that of National Conventions of the past.
The celebration did not last long before His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, was brought forth to deliver the last benediction of this gathering. Then, the Convention was entertained by recording artist Chaka Khan performing two of her mid-1980's hits I Feel For You and Through The Fire before Dennis Hastert gaveled the 37th Republican National Convention- "having completed our business"- into adjournment sine die. With that- at just before 11:30 P.M. EDT, Thursday 3 August 2000 (0330 UTC, 4 August), this Convention had now become one for the historians.
George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney had successfully, in my opinion, laid down the gauntlet at their Convention. In the end, Bush was- to simplify things greatly- going to run pretty much as a generational icon: the Republican equivalent of Bill Clinton without the stench of scandal that "Bubba" had swirling around him after nearly eight years in the White House. The Texas Governor had co-opted much of the "New Democrat" message Clinton himself had run on in 1992's Democrats' "high-tailing it" away from the Liberalism of the 1970's which had defeated Democratic Presidential candidates throughout the 1980's and wrapped Clinton's essential message- appealing to the core values of the Baby Boomers who so dominated the Nation demographically- up into a conservative Republican package made palatable to the rest of his Party. Governor Bush was going straight for the Center- where viable candidates must go to win Elections and then, ultimately, successfully govern; it is a Center many members of which feel Bill Clinton had abandoned them- but it is also a Center still containing significant loyalty to Clinton and- by extension- Al Gore. It was, after all, this Center that had largely disapproved- only a year and a half before- of the attempt by the Republicans to remove the President by impeachment, even though this Center did not at all condone his misdeeds: however, although supported by them, the Texas Governor- as he himself implied in his own acceptance speech- was not a part of that group which had voted- in Congress- to impeach Bill Clinton; those who had were- for the most part- strangely absent and largely unseen at George W. Bush's Convention.
Only one man now stood between the Texas Governor and the White House: that man being- of course- Clinton's Vice President, Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. Gore would now have some two weeks to attempt to thwart Governor Bush's strong challenge for the hearts and minds of the generation of which both presidential candidates were a part as he chose a running mate and used his own Convention out in California to define the battle on his terms as best he could. Somehow, I had the distinct feeling that how Al Gore would go about this would be just as important- if not more so- than how well he did so. One slip-up: a running mate perceived as far too liberal, an attack on the GOP much too shrill or too harsh yet, at the same time, an answer to a Republican charge not sharp or pointed enough- anything along these lines- would be the beginning of the end for the Vice President's presidential aspirations. Despite the many flaws, foibles and failings of Bill Clinton- which, given the tone of much in the speeches given before this year's GOP Convention, the Bush/Cheney campaign were, without doubt, going to exploit- it was, basically, still Al Gore's election (as it had been his nomination this year) to lose: as the nominee of the Party incumbent in the White House with things generally perceived as going fairly well (no major economic crisis seemingly on the horizon, no significant and widespread social unrest, no major military or foreign policy debacle [the recent failure of the Middle East peace talks not counting as such, as no one really expected a breakthrough anyway], Gore's superior Bill Clinton having weathered all the scandals of historical proportion possible as his final half year in the Presidency is now under way- Gore himself not yet really touched by same), one still had to give the Vice President the "extra Field Goal" in the "spread"- if only for "Home Field advantage".
But that advantage was, by now, fast slipping away: the opposition had come out of their Convention only one fumble deep in Democrat territory away from a decisive score late in the game. George W. Bush had finally stepped out of the pre-Convention shadows and presented himself to the Nation. Whether one believes the whole production put on by the GOP in Philadelphia was a sham or sincere or (like myself) a mixture- in generally equal parts- of both (as I am sure the other Convention yet to come will also be), Al Gore now had the better part of a fortnight to show himself a leader in defiance of all that the Texas Governor had said about him in his acceptance speech this night or all that Bush's running mate had said about him the evening before. If the Vice President failed at this (or, just as likely, if his Party failed him in the manner in which it comported itself at its own Convention), it would be a long Fall for the Democrats and everything they had hoped for (including their taking back control of the Federal House of Representatives) as they would be then forced to watch the wheels come off their own bandwagon. However, if Al Gore were to succeed, we could very well be in for one HELL of a political ride this Autumn, as two different- yet strangely similar- visions of what the legacy of the Baby Boomers, the "Woodstock Nation" now come to power, should be as we enter the 21st Century would then battle it out on the Electoral Vote map that is the mosaic of American Presidential Politics.
Whatever the outcome of Al Gore's "Quest for Political Self"
this next half month, "The Green Papers" will be watching!