The Republicans did come to Boston, you just might not have seen them. They’ve been operating a war room from a self-described “bunker” in a previously undisclosed location (129 Portland Street), two blocks from the Fleet Center. Here they they listen to speeches that no one else bothers to record, take copious notes–seeking contradictions, discrepancies and vulnerabilities at every turn of phrase–and arrange interviews in swing states in an attempt to counter the Democratic spin emanating from the convention hall.
When I first inquired about the location of the daily press briefing, the RNC offered to let me join a conference call but said there was no place for the media inside the building (during the call you could hear reporters in the room asking questions. The Wall Street Journal reported standing-room-only crowds).
Their newly launched Boston website listed only a phone number. Representatives from the DNC and the DNNC couldn’t help. Finally, I obtained the coveted info from a member of Kerry’s rapid-response team. I left a message with RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson asking to attend the Thursday briefing. Failing to receive an invitation, I decided to just show up.
In a confusing attempt at deception, Kerry-Edwards signs hung in the windows of the second-floor RNC “bunker” off Portland Street. Turning right on Valenti Way, toward the side entrance, more signs read “Re-Defeat W,” “Billionaires for Bush,” “C’mon Red Sox, Defeat Yankees,” and “C’mon Kerry/Edwards, Defeat Bush/Cheney.” Only two signs resting on the window furthest away from the main road revealed the identity of the true occupant: “Bush-Cheney ’04” and “Kerry House: Home of the King Waffler.”
My eager entrance into the spin zone hit a road block when the guard informed the waiting press corps that the event had been moved to the decidedly less clandestine Omni Parker Hotel a few blocks away. Unfortunately, once I got to the Omni, an RNC spokesman said I had failed to RSVP early enough on Wednesday, and the press area was full. Instead I camped out at the Spire hotel next door to endure another conference call of the GOP pit bulls. Below are the two-day highlights, which offer a preview of the attacks the Republicans will likely employ in the months ahead:
On the convention:
(Former Massachusetts Governor): This convention is long on entertainment but all steak and no sizzle.
Sen. Mitch McConnell
(R-KY): When you get beyond the spin, the attacks this week have been base and vile. And even if they are delivered with a smile, they’re still attacks.
(Former New York City Mayor): Our convention will be different because we’ll run on our record, not run away from it. They don’t want the American people to know they have the most liberal and fourth-most-liberal voting records…. I knew this would be a reinvention convention.
On John Edwards’s appeal:
(RNC Chairman): I think the notion that rural voters and Southern voters are going to vote for someone who’s so far outside the mainstream in his voting record because he talks with a drawl is condescending frankly.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss
(R-GA): These two folks are simply way to the left of Ted Kennedy, and that means that they are truly out of the mainstream of the American voter.
: All of the credible Democratic US Senate candidates in red states are completely avoiding the ticket.
(Mayor of Charlotte): [Southern politicians] won’t share the stage with Senator Kerry or Senator Edwards because they don’t want inconsistent leadership and flip-flopping.
On national security:
: What you have seen again, not just on the issue of Iraq, but on any number of issues and particularly in the area of fighting the war in terrorism, is a continual flip-flop by Senator Kerry. And that is simply not being discussed at this convention.
: The citizens of my city do not need inconsistent leadership. They need to remain with the same strong, decisive leadership that gives us reassurance and takes the battle to the people that are trying often to destroy our cities.
Sen. John Cornyn
(R-TX): The American people would be shocked to know how many intelligence meetings Kerry and Edwards have missed. I’m calling on them to release their attendance records. Where did the failure of oversight detailed in the 9/11 commission come from? Is it because they failed to show up?
On Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bush’s statements on WMD:
: You’re talking about a party that has Michael Moore sit at the presidential box at their convention.
: I don’t need Michael Moore to tell me about September 11.
On the upcoming presidential debates:
: Kerry is an international grandmaster at the art of changing the subject.
On NASA photo showing Kerry in contamination-proof “bunny suit”:
: It looks like they’re attacking NASA for leaking the photo. Kerry went for a photo op, took a picture and now they’re blaming NASA. That pretty much sums up the Kerry camp.
: Political hate speech is alienating voters in the middle.