Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
I’m going to pretend that ALL the pictures posted here are from the RNC. In reality, the one of me with the Biden poster was taken inside the Pepsi Center in Denver, but I’m trying to keep all of you honest. Likewise, the picture of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a dead-ringer for his father, was from the DNC.
After that, it’s all about the shenanigans in St. Paul. There are several pictures of the “Closeted Gay Republican Tour,” orchestrated by a Los Angeles film crew to publicize a new late-night Fox TV show hosted by someone named “Spike.” Spike is shown, smiling at his executive producer, who is decked out as Abe Lincoln and whose fake beard is falling off in the photo taken with Yours Truly. They invited me aboard the Closeted Gay Republican Bus, but it was going to end up at the men’s bathroom stall at the Minneapolis airport, and, quite frankly, I had dinner plans. (Ahem). I only got out of my car and went over to interview Abe because I thought he was the 6’8″ Lincoln impersonator from Marion, IA, that I had read about in a local newspaper. Au contraire, mon frere. This was a totally different Lincoln impersonator, and I spotted about 5 of them before the week was out.
Then there are the Ron Paul photos, taken at the Target Center in Minneapolis. If the RNC was less-than-thrilled to have me inside the Xcel Center, rest assured that the Libertarians couldn’t have been nicer! You see me fingering my Press Credential badge in one shot.
Mickey’s Diner, a St. Paul landmark, was the scene of many stand-offs between the protesters and the riot-clad Gestapo, whom I picture crossing the street in another scene. If you wonder about the shot of someone taken from the back, that was the Obama impersonator, but I was driving at the time, and it didn’t look good for me to be able to get out of the vehicle. There is also a girl with pink tape on her mouth, who ended up on Conan O’Brien’s show…also a protester.
All-in-all, it was a busy week, with me lost much of the time and trying to get out of the city for what seemed like hours. If you want the “long” version, go read my account of the Closeted Gay Republican Tour on Associated Content, where I actually paid attention to the names of one and all, but, for now, enjoy my photos of the Republican National Convention from St. Paul, MN,…except for the Ron Paul Rally, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and, of course, me inside the Pepsi Center. Woo hoo!
Tonight, I tried to find the Courtyard by Marriott, where an “Iowa” party was being held from 9 to 11, and I would have known Super Delegate Richard Machacek through association with Dave (his Republican brother) and Marcy, my old high school classmate. I came home from the Charlize Theron thing and wrote till 5 and only then took a bath, did my hair and took a nap until I woke up, which, unfortunately, was 9 p.m. I dressed quickly and took my blue Mustang convertible with the GPS downtown, trying to find SOMEWHERE to park it. I was told to “try 17th St.” as 16th Street is a pedestrian mall with “light rail.” So, I saw a big sign that said PARKING GARAGE on Stout Street and entered, drove to the 4th floor and parked. I couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights off, which was a problem that took me at least 20 minutes to solve, and I am driving with what appear to be my “brights” on at all times, as I can’t figure out how to get the “brights” down to “normal” brightness, but the GPS is working like a charm! (Otherwise, I’d be lost the entire week.)
Anyway, after all this, it was close to 11 and the Iowa party was only going to last from 9 to 11, they said. As I exited the parking garage, I asked the attendant how to walk to the Iowa hotel, and she said I couldn’t leave my car there past 10 p.m. ! (It was already 11 p.m.!) I went back UP to the 4th floor, drove my car out onto the street and tried to follow some fairly poor directions about a parking lot that was open air. Just then I saw a place on the street, but what street? I parked and found A Marriott, but not the Iowa Marriott.
However, I knew Illinois was in a Marriott downtown, so I went in there and, sure enough, there was an Illinois party going on and it did not end until 2 a.m. I spent the time with 4 pretty young girls, whom I will feature on my blog. They were very nice to let an oldster like me sit with them. One even bought me my (only) drink. I saw Mike Jacobs and asked Callie King (whose father is the Chief of the Denver Fire Department) to go over with me, as she was a pretty young thing (born in 1984) and I figured Mike Jacobs might actually speak to me if I had a pretty young thing with me. We introduced her as “my chauffeur.” He was quite courtly, speaking primarily with Callie, of course, and he didn’t have a clue who I was. Later on in the evening, he was being fairly loud ebullient with his cronies in the lobby (after the party was over) while I was watching a big plasma TV set, but with no sound, because I let a different correspondent go tonight (Tuesday, Hillary’s night) and I will go again tomorrow (Wed.) and then go to Invesco Field the final night (Thursday).
I’m tired, but it’s fun!
Now comes the typical party. I couldn’t find my car and,, no, I was NOT drinking at all. (I had one glass of zinfandel in about 3 hours). I was drinking diet Coke, which was free. I finally hired a “pedi-cab,” driven by a kid from Wisconsin and we pedaled around until we found my blue Mustang convertible. I paid him $10, but it only took about 5 minutes on a bike to go around in circles. I then programmed my GPS without incident and arrived home only to discover that the local police have banned ALL parking on the side of the street that my 2427 W. 32nd triplex is. Luckily, there was one very small spot left across the street where it is still legal, and I managed to squeeze into that, and then realized that I never had dinner. I made a peanut butter sandwich and am waiting for my camera to “charge” and going to bed.
I’m sure glad I kept the car and also very glad I got GPS, although it cost me extra.
I don’t know, for sure, what I’m doing tomorrow besides going to the convention all night. They don’t have a TV set that works here (!) and there is no AC and the bathroom is smaller than Satch’s first bachelor pad and has a tub that is smaller than the one in my downstairs bathtub and an old clawfooted thing, to boot. Still, it is nice to have a kitchen, and I haven’t spent much at all on food, so far.
The DNC (Democratic National Convention) in Denver, Colorado kicked off on Monday, August 25th, and I was there. I was almost not there, however, because (as outlined in AC content producer Tom Treloar’s story), major highways are all but closed down, including I25, parts of Speer Boulevard, and nearly all the roads that lead one close to either the Pepsi Center, where the nightly meetings take place until Thursday, or Invesco Field, where Obama will make his acceptance speech.
I began my Odyssey towards the Pepsi Center by cab, because previous walking to interview the protesters in Tent City left me lame. I waited for an hour for a cab, as some automated cab numbers did not provide a “live” person to ask for a vehicle, but left you on “hold” for a very long time. Then, the number given me was for a cab service in the mountains. After an hour, a cab arrived, but the driver seemed less-than-informed about street closings. I finally exited the cab, $8 poorer, somewhere in the downtown area.
At this point, things got interesting. In trying to walk to the arena, visible about ½ mile away, yellow crime scene tape limited the ability to walk up the steps provided.
I flagged a city maintenance truck to ask “How do I get from here to there?” (“there” being visible, but not easily reached.) Locals had pointed to a building at least 10 miles away and told me to “walk to that building and come back.” After my merry laughter, I commandeered the maintenance truck and climbed into the front seat between Jorge and Luis, neither of whom spoke much English. Through my gestures, they understood that I wanted to get closer to the Pepsi Center, and, to that end, we nearly drove over some pedestrians on the sidewalks. I yelled, “Ay, Carrambe!” a lot (whatever that means) and they asked, “Hable Espanol?” to which, unfortunately, the response is “No hable Espanol,” [which I probably spelled wrong, as well.] Jorge, Luis and I got close, but no cigar. That is when two men (police? Secret Service?) in a golf cart took pity on me. One got out of the golf cart, I got in, and the golf cart drove me to the front door. (Sweet! Thanks, guys!)
Once inside, my “Hall” level pass allowed me to travel to behind-the-scenes areas, where I stood cheek-to-jowl with Jesse Jackson, Jr., on the “third level,” but, alas, did not secure a photo. I did take a picture of the large room housing at least 400 videotographers and bloggers (only 125 bloggers were allowed inside, I heard), and I crashed the party on the third floor, where larger media like NBC and “Time” (et. al.) is ensconced.
Much of my time was spent in the company of two young students from the University of Akron, who were feeding film for airing on PBS. Jamie Reeves, a junior, and Rebecca Gruccio, a Senior, were staying in Boulder, but getting class credit for their efforts for www.ztvakron.com. Jamie will not wear high heels on Tuesday night.
After the party platform, gaveled into action by Howard Dean, had reinforced that Democrats want the complete redeployment of all troops in Iraq within 16 months, health care for all (a big topic of the ailing Ted Kennedy’s remarks), a new economic stimulus package, and more taxes on those with incomes over $250,000, the crowd began to swell in anticipation of the evening’s Big Name speakers, which included Nancy Pelosi, a video from (former President) Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg (introducing a tribute to her Uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, who appeared in person), former Republican Congressman Jim Leach of Iowa, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and, the piece de resistance, Michelle Obama.
As an Iowa native, I was interested in hearing what a Republican Congressman from Iowa would tell the crowded hall about Barack Obama. Among other things, the scholarly address questioned, “Whether it is prudent to borrow from future generations to pay for today’s reckless fiscal policies or elect a leader who will shore up our budgets and return us to a strong dollar. Whether it is preferable to continue the policies that have weakened our position in the world, deepened our debt and widened social divisions or elect a leader who will emulate John F. Kennedy and relight a lamp of fairness at home and reassert an energizing mix of realism and idealism abroad.” Leach called Obama “a transcending candidate, an individual whom I am convinced will recapture the American dream and be a truly great President.” His delivery was Leach’s usual thoughtful style, and the true crowd-pleasers were Teddy Kennedy and Michelle Obama.
As State Representative and Delegate Shirley Nathan-Eullian from Maryland gushed to me and Finnish reporter Jari Alenius, reporting for Ilta-Sanomat (a Finnish newspaper), “Michelle Obama was articulate. She was fantastical!”
Barack Obama spoke to the crowd and his wife and daughters via a “live” feed from Missouri. He had been in Davenport, Iowa earlier in the day. The Michelle Obama remarks ended the night’s duties, and delegates adjourned to a series of parties across the city.
I chose to attend “Republicans Happy Hour for Hillary,” an event at the Paramount Café at 519 16th St. in Denver, which was scheduled for 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Hillary never showed, but several young supporters wearing her shirts or McCain shirts did.
Alan S. Chartock of WAMC Northeast Public Radio, the owner of 22 public radio stations in the Albany, New York, area, with whom I chatted in the newsroom, said he had interviewed Hillary three times and that she was a “very bright woman,” but that she had “surrounded herself with idiots.” (By this, I believe he meant those who planned her Iowa primary campaign, not Bill Clinton.) While we were speaking, his wife phoned him to tell him that Denver police wear tear-gassing protesters outside the Denver Coliseum near 16th Street.
The evening closed with me getting as close to Barack Obama as I am likely to get, in the person of a cardboard life-size figure at the Paramount Café. Too bad he wasn’t one of the Iowa primary candidates I posed with during that frozen winter. Michelle Obama thanked the people of Iowa for turning out to vote for her husband Barack at the snowy Iowa caucuses, the first African-American with a realistic shot at being President.
Right now, rumors swirl that Hillary will ask for a state-by-state vote when her name is placed in nomination, and that she has brought her own camera crew to cover her appearances. A source inside the Texas delegation says the Hispanic delegates have not yet endorsed Obama’s candidacy, and, as Nancy Pelosi said, “To stay wallowing in all of this is not productive.”
It was just announced that former Republican Senator from Iowa James “Jim” Leach, now serving as the interim Director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard is to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado on opening night (Monday, August 25, 2008).
Trotting out this esteemed thirty-year Republican legislator, who endorsed Barack Obama on August 12th, is a coup for the Democrats akin to the use of Senator Joseph Leiberman, (former Democratic Vice Presidential running mate with John Kerry) at the Republican convention.
Jim Leach is one of the most respected politicians ever to serve. And serve he did…for 30 years, in fact, from 1977 to 2007, when, after being re-elected 14 times, he was upset in the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Iowa by a mere 6,000 votes by former Cornell College Professor David Loebsack.
Leach, a graduate of Princeton, Johns Hopkins and the London School of Economics, and a Davenport, Iowa, native, has been a voice for moderate Republicans ever since he defeated Ed Mezvinsky (who later served time in prison) in 1976.
If all politicians had the integrity, smarts and scruples of James Leach, this country wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in at this time in our history.
Leach was fiscally conservative, socially moderate, but progressive on such issues as stem cell research, which he supported at a time when “W” was banning the use of all but a few strains. Leach also had the integrity to quit during Watergate, in protest over the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Richard Nixon fired Eliot Richardson and Archibald Cox. (At the time, Leach was serving as a delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the U.N. General Assembly). He never accepted PAC money, refused out-of-state contributions to his campaigns, and put limits on how much one individual could contributions.
After 9/11, I was standing in a long line at the Baltimore Airport, trying hard to get a plane back from a Sylvan Learning Center convention to the Quad Cities of Ia/Il when I happened to notice that the man 2 people back in line was Jim Leach, schlepping his own suit over his shoulder in a garment bag. The lines that day, snaking through that airport, were the longest lines I’ve ever seen in an airport. Airports in Washington, D.C. had been closed and planes had been grounded for days.
I struck up a conversation with Leach, saying something less-than-intelligent like, “Hey! You’re my Representative!”
Everyone, at that time, felt as though they wished they could do something to help, and I sketched for Leach my goal of hosting a fund-raiser for the children of the victims of that tragic terrorist attack. When I asked his opinion of the idea, just then taking shape in my mind, he responded with amusement, “You’re way ahead of me.” I forgot to ask him if he would participate, were I successful in organizing such a fund-raiser, but belatedly thought of this coup and sprinted the length of two airport concourses to ask him (breathlessly), “If I get something together, would you come and be the keynote speaker?” He looked a bit startled, but acknowledged that he would do so.
Fast forward to an Iowa football game one month later in a pancake house in Iowa City, Iowa. Who should be there but Senator Leach, wearing an orange sweater. I went over to his table and said, “Remember me? The Sylvan lady? I’m still working on the plans for the fund-raiser. Can I still count on you?” He chuckled, probably wondering if I were stalking him, but responded affirmatively.
I worked out the details of this event between 9/11 and 11/11, Veterans’ Day. In frequent conversations with the Senator’s office staff, I received word that, although he had many speaking commitments that day, he would, indeed, travel all the way from Iowa City (106 miles, round trip) to the Pleasant Valley High School, whose auditorium I had rented for an event we dubbed “Celebrate Citizenship.” I was warned, however, that, since he had at least 7 prior speaking engagements, he would arrive late.
When Jim Leach entered the hall about halfway through the performance(s) by the Glenview Band, he gave a thoughtful report to the assembled citizens about what was being discussed in the halls of Congress regarding the dastardly attack on the World Trade Center. He was insightful, thoughtful, inspiring, just as I expect him to be on Monday night at the DNC in Colorado.
He did not let me down in my hour of need, and, through the generosity of the people of the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities and the forthright goodness of this man of principle, we raised $5,000 for the Scholarship Fund established for the children of the victims of 9/11, (with matching funds from our Sylvan Corporate company.)
This is the James Leach who endorsed Barack Obama on August 12th and who will speak to the nation on Monday, August 25th.
Jim Leach is one of the good ones. Lord knows we need more like him now. I hope that, when he speaks, the nation listens.