How to Cover the GOP

How to Cover the GOP

Since they got all the megastories wrong in Denver, here’s a primer for the media horde as they descend on St. Paul.


The media horde has left Denver. But the travel toothbrushes won’t stay dry long. Now it’s off to Minneapolis-St. Paul to do the same thing all over again for the Republican National Convention.

The Democrats lasted only four days in Denver, but the twenty-four-hour news cycles made it feel like a month, and even the thought of reliving it again is draining. But we will relive it again, right? The media always applies the same standards to Democrats as Republicans, we’re told, so it should be the same coverage all over again.

If so, I humbly submit some juicy, made-for-television storylines to keep journalists busy all week:

Party Disunity

. This, as we know, was a very fruitful topic for the media in Denver. The barometer of mainstream opinion, The Note, was obsessed with the issue (see Tuesday’s piece). And reporters seemed to have nothing else on their minds–for example, immediately after Speaker of the House and convention chair Nancy Pelosi gave a rousing, McCain-bashing speech, NBC News’s Ann Curry peppered her with six straight questions about jaded Hillary supporters. In fact, given the chance to interview Pelosi, Senator Charles Schumer, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs, and former President Jimmy Carter, NBC and MSNBC correspondents used eighteen of their twenty questions to ask about supposed Clinton- Obama tension.

Surely this is even more fertile ground in St. Paul, no? Why is the sitting Vice President given one of the worst slots in the whole convention: non-primetime, on the first day, which happens to be Labor Day? Why is the current President, an ostensible leader of the party, on the same day? Why is Bush now making noise about possibly not attending at all, with the paper-thin premise that he has to monitor Hurricane Gustav?

Imagine if Bill Clinton–note, no longer the President–skipped the convention because he had some business to attend to. Can we find some diehard Bush supporters who are angry about these speaking slots? Can we get some body-language experts to analyze if Bush really means his speech in support of McCain? Is there a rift between the current and prospective Republican Presidents–I mean, they already won’t be seen on camera together.

Also, why are so many prominent Republicans not attending the conference? What’s with this party disunity? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger may not go. Furthermore, Senators Elizabeth Dole, Gordon Smith, Ted Stevens, Susan Collins, Pat Roberts and Senate candidate Bob Schaffer definitely aren’t going. Senate candidates John Kennedy and Steve Pearce are undecided, as is Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. John Sununu and Sen. Jim Inhofe. (Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman is going, but “if the convention wasn’t in St. Paul, I wouldn’t be at the convention.”)

Speaking of Hurricane Gustav.

New Orleans is being evacuated. The last time that happened, how did the featured party handle it? Maybe the networks should dig up the footage…

Is John McCain ready to lead?

Last week, we were relentlessly told Barack Obama needs to prove he is ready to lead the country. Surely the same can be asked of John McCain. Rudy Giuliani, a primary contender and key McCain surrogate–who is also giving the convention’s keynote address–said that “the reality is that this is not the time to have somebody who has no executive experience as President of the United States.”

Well, that excludes McCain. Sen. Thad Cochran once said that, because of McCain’s temper, “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine.”

McCain aside–is Sarah Palin ready to assume the presidency? The media is surely anxious to hit this softball out of the park. McCain ran a year-long campaign based on the virtue of experience, and then chose a vice-president who, the last time there was a presidential election, held Mayor of Wasilla as her largest electoral accomplishment. (Wasilla’s population is 6,175, and the biggest economic project appears to be the future creation of a town center. On Saturday morning in shul I met a nice old bubbe who was president of her co-op in Jackson Heights. It has more members than Wasilla has inhabitants. “Why shouldn’t I be Vice President?” she asked me.)

Cindy McCain’s Speech.

Can she prove she is one of us? After all, she is worth millions of dollars and has somewhere around seven homes–not very typical, I’d say. Bill Schnieder at CNN said Michelle Obama’s speech was successful because she showed “normal, middle-class American values.” Will Cindy pull it off, too?

Are the Republicans promoting John McCain enough?

We heard all last week that the Democrats weren’t attacking McCain enough. “This is an extremely damaging story line that the Obama campaign needs to address immediately, now, pronto. If Democrats don’t start talking about McCain/Bush very quickly, they will all be talking about John Kerry shortly–and not in a good way,” said The Note.

But here’s a question: will the Republicans praise McCain enough? From my vantage point, this campaign has been all about attacking Barack Obama. Will we see enough promotion of McCain in Minneapolis?

The polls.

Obama’s poor standing in the polls was big news last week. “Were you surprised at the daily Gallup tracking poll today, showing McCain gaining steam? He’s up by two after Biden was announced. Were you surprised–it surprised me,” Bill O’Reilly said. Chris Wallace, also on Fox, noted that “[McCain]’s gotten closer in the polls, asking the question, Is Barack Obama ready to lead?” Bob Schieffer claimed on CBS’s Early Show that “what’s really worrying the Obama people, [is] they’re not in the polls where they ought to be.”

But surely Obama will gain in the polls following the convention–in fact, he’s already up 6 in the Gallup tracking poll mentioned above. Surely this will be of great concern to Republicans, no?

Who else won’t be there?

Aside from the several previously-mentioned politicians who apparently have a problem with the party and/or McCain, of course. But as Fox News reminded us (repeatedly), “The embattled Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, is one Democrat who will not be here in Denver. The mayor cannot leave Detroit as a condition of his bond on two assault charges.” And Carol Costello also notes that “the Obama campaign [is] no doubt relieved Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will not be attending the party’s convention.” Hmm. Is the McCain campaign relieved that the following Republicans won’t be at the convention?

•Former Rep. Bob Ney (Abramoff. He just got out of prison, so he’s available.)

•Former Rep. Bob Ney (Abramoff. He just got out of prison, so he’s available.)

•Former Rep. Mark Foley (sex scandal)

•Former Rep. Duke Cunningham (accepted defense contractor bribes, still in prison)

•Former Rep. John Dolittle (Abramoff, under investigation)

•Former Rep. Rick Renzi (Abramoff, FBI raided his house)

•Former Speaker of the House Tom DeLay (indicted for money laundering)

•Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (resigned, shown to have role in U.S. Attorney firings)

•Rep. Don Young (Abramoff and VECO scandals, under investigation)

•Sen. Ted Stevens (Just VECO, but he’s just been indicted)

•Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons (under FBI investigation, bribes)

•Former Rep. Curt Weldon (home raided by FBI, business dealings)

This isn’t even a full list. But note, these Republicans all committed their misdeeds during the past eight years, and were all federal office holders. Surely more relevant than the mayor of Detroit, I’d think.

What will Larry King do? All this week, King hosted all-Republican panels that responded to the Democratic events of the day, just as he did in 2004. Will we see an all-Democratic panel next week? That didn’t happen in 2004, says FAIR , but that must have just been an oversight.

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