Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Republican National Convention: Day Four (Part One)
Tuesday was slated to be the busiest day of the Republican National Convention for Angela and I due to our participation in several non-convention forums throughout the Twin-Cities. The Tennessee Republican Party started our day on the right foot by bringing California Congressman David Dreier, Colonel Tom Moe (former POW with John McCain), and Joe McCain, the feisty brother of Senator John McCain. I personally found Moe's testimony enlightening, as it supplemented what I knew about the Vietnamese prisons (particularly "the Hanoi Hilton") from my former co-worker, Jim Warner, who was also with McCain and Moe as a POW, enduring torture at the hands of their captors. It was great to speak with Moe and with Joe McCain, who both graciously provided time after their speeches to talk with me. Mr. McCain eagerly shared John McCain's flight jacket, pictured above, which was hanging in his locker when he was shot down in the skies of Vietnam.
From the breakfast, Angela and I traveled by light rail from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis for an event focusing on education. One of Angela's pet issues is education, her mother being a school teacher in the Kentucky school system. This event, called "Time to Choose: Children or the Bureaucracy?," was hosted by several education groups, chief amongst them American Solutions, Ed in '08, Education Reform Now, and the Education Equality Project. Several speakers were on the agenda, but most noteworthy were Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (whose state has the best schools in the nation by most indexes) and the Reverend Al Sharpton. Pawlenty spoke of the need to eliminate seniority in the school systems, saying that teachers were the only profession with such a protected slotting of salaries and tenure, and that compensation should be connected to results in the classroom. He believes that this, as well as his desire to have pay connected to demand (where physics teachers get paid more than physical education teachers due to there being fewer high school physics teachers) can be accomplished by working with the labor unions. Pawlenty warned that not acting on this soon and in a cooperative fashion would see the deaths of us all before reform occurs.
Then there was Al Sharpton. I didn't expect actual content or sense to come from Reverend Sharpton. I was amazed at what I heard. I heard what could have been conservative talking points coming from Sharpton - the need for parents to be challenged and engaged with their children, the realization that government cannot be charged with the children if parents are not taking time or making the sincere effort at home to have their children educated, individual accountability on all people but especially teachers and their labor unions. Sharpton called for comprehensive reform, saying that there are no sacred cows in the room and that reform could only be achieved if all parties are willingly at the table. He closed with the following: "Who will care what party we were a member of when we are all dead and gone if we do not stop the downward spiral of educational achievement?"
Folks, Al Sharpton got no less than 3 standing ovations from a packed room of nearly 600 Republicans. His ended up being the second best speech I heard all day. It really caused me to remark that if we all agreed on the problems and that solutions were apparent, what exactly are we - as Republicans and Democrats - arguing about?
Angela and I next zipped over to St. Paul for a panel discussion entitled, "Politics & the Media: Bridging the Political Divide in the 2008 Election." Hosted by POLITICO and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication, the panelists included Roger Simon (chief political columnist for POLITICO), Nina Easton (Washington editor of FORTUNE and Fox News on-air contributor), Catalina Camia (political editor of USA TODAY), Mark McKinnon (former chief media advisor for the Bush and McCain campaigns), and Jim VandeHei (executive editor of POLITICO). Admittedly, this event was for my interests, and it delivered. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit would have loved it. There was much talk about the change in media due to technological advances, but McKinnon also hit heavily on how technology has changed campaigns and how information is distributed. Blogs were not demonized (as has been the latest trend by many outlets), although the need for some standard of proof in reporting was emphasized. Genuine disbelief was exhibited by Roger Simon in regards to the reported vetting of Alaska Governor Sarah Palen, and that sentiment was backed up by sources of Nina Easton. According to Easton, the McCain campaign had gone by an old rule - to let the media successfully vet the candidate on political terms - that has passed us by. I could go on about other topics discussed, but I think I should probably save them for another day.
Angela and I then made our way over to a Salute to Veterans event just down the street. The event was sponsored by the Circle of Friends for American Veterans, a bipartisan group that tries to pass various measures in support of our military veterans. We didn't stay long, but we did manage to speak with Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, who has been everywhere during this convention. I never knew he was so outspoken about his belief in his country and interest in politics. One thing is certain - Voight is not shy in expressing his belief that Barrack Obama would lay waste to America's economic strength with his flawed economic plan that includes tax hikes and pie-in-the-sky industrial expansion. I gained a new respect for Voight, that is to be sure.
By the evening, we had finally arrived at the convention site for business. Several recognized conservatives were on the floor, including Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (pictured above), former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
This day's events will be concluded in a second post.