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.”