Skip to comments.Backbenchers in Boston: the Unnoticed Democrats
Posted on 08/02/2004 4:10:04 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
Screechingly dull. A monumental waste of time. Am I talking about the Democrat Convention in Boston last week?
No. Im talking about my assignment, which I willingly accepted last week, to listen to each and every speech, no matter how dreadful or how obscure the speaker, at that Convention. I did this to be prepared for a live radio summary at 5:30 every day with my friend, Jerry Agar. (Hes a good guy. He talked me into it. He rides 50,000 watts on WPTF, out of Raleigh, NC, in afternoon drive time. The piece was called the Fahrenheit Follies of Falsehood.)
Ill skip the speakers that everybody was talking about Teddy Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, John Edwards, John Kerry. Well, thats a bit of an exaggeration. By everybody I mean that the one in forty of all Americans who even noticed this Convention was going on. You political junkies know who you are.
But todays purpose is to discuss the back benchers, the folks that most people have never heard of, the folks who give such lame speeches that you say to yourself, How did he/she get elected to any job higher than Dog Catcher in Dover, Delaware? Yep, there were a whole lot of very short and very bad speeches given at this Convention, and I listened to every last one of them, except when I was on the air with Jerry. Or when I stopped to beat my head against the wall for a few minutes of relief.
Half way through the six hours of the first day of the Convention I realized that there were a couple of themes at work here. The first was how lame the house band was. Imagine a wedding being held on the cheap. Imagine the band that is hired by a bride and groom who are both tone-deaf and rhythm-impaired. Now imagine the substitute band they would send, if their guitar player suffered an incident with a band saw.
Okay, have a clear concept of how bad that band would be? The house band at the Democrat Convention was even worse than that. They werent even ready to toot a few notes and take a bow when Terry McAuliffe introduced them. Nuff said.
Among the back-bencher speakers, there were a few ideas that kept coming up. One came up early in Steve Martins classic movie, The Jerk. Huddled in an alley on Skid Row, obviously down and out, he begins the narration of his life by saying, I was born a poor black child .... Approximately half of all the speakers began by recounting their humble beginnings, as some kind of explanation as to why they deserved the power and money they now have.
Of course, there were some variations on the theme. Some of the poor black children were Puerto Rican (Freddy Ferrer, former President, Borough of the Bronx), or Chinese (Governor Gary Locke of Washington State), or Japanese (Congressman Mike Honda of California), or Hispanic (Congressman Robert Menendez of New Jersey), or American Indian (Stuart Paisano, Governor of Sandia Pueblo, New Mexico), or Caribbean (Delegate Donna Christensen, Virgin Islands), or homosexual (Cheryl Jacques, former Massachusetts State Senator; Chairman, Human Rights Campaign), or crippled (Marca Bristo, President, Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago), or the survivor of a dead child (Patty Wetterling, candidate for Congress from Minnesota), or just a political wife (Christie Vilsack, First Lady of Iowa), or Republican (Steve Brozak, candidate for Congress, New Jersey), or Caucasian (Senator Harry Reid, Nevada).
Some of these stories were truly impressive, like Virginia Fields, Manhattan Borough President, New York. She spoke of a vision that speaks to hope and opportunity, and a long and winding road from Birmingham, Alabama, to Manhattan. An able, well-spoken lady, she said, My mother insisted that I get a good education, and that I know right from wrong. She started with very little, and achieved a good education and earned responsible jobs because of her mothers emphasis on education and morality.
Some of these poor black child stories were apparently window dressing that the speakers thought the audience wanted to hear. But some of them raised serious questions about the truthfulness of the persons speaking.
It would have been much more interesting if Freddy Ferrer of New York had mentioned anything about the $500,000 fraudulent loan from the Bronx foundation that he was under investigation as steering to a campaign supporter. It would have been interesting if any of the 15,000 reporters at the Convention in Boston had noticed that Ferrer was speaking, and looked up his background on the Internet. But he ducked that juicy subject, and so did the press.
But your correspondent, reporting on the events in Boston from a mountain farmhouse in the Blue Ridge, DID pay attention to such details. Another of the backbencher speakers was Congressman Corrine Brown of Florida. Not only was her entire speech sub-literate, her background includes the gift of a $50,000 Lexus to her daughter from an African businessman. In return, Ms. Brown arranged some meetings for the businessman with assorted federal officials.
Was she ever tried, convicted, jailed or anything? Nope. The House Ethics Committee took a look-see at her situation and sent her a letter that said her behavior was questionable. Certainly that was not enough to disqualify her as a speaker to the Democratic Convention.
Lest this be taken as an unrelieved negative review, one of the best, most heart-felt and honest speeches given by anyone at the Convention was done by one of the unknowns, The Rev. David Alston of Columbia, South Carolina. Rev. Alston could have given one of the poor black child speeches. But he did far, far better than that.
He spoke of his days as a young man, serving on a Swift Boat in Vietnam. Then he spoke of what he had learned as he became a minister. But he barely mentioned, much less dwelled on, the process that brought him from where he was to where he is. Instead, he brought the few delegates in the hall at the time to their feet with his impassioned statements. He said, I join you here to celebrate the bedrock values freedom, equality and democracy.
Contrary to a majority of the other Swift Boat commanders, and contrary to a majority of all Vietnam veterans, Rev. Alston was there to endorse the candidacy of the commander of his boat back then. But regardless of his views about the candidate, there was no question whatsoever that Rev. Alston was a good man of great achievement, who had his feet on the ground and his life in order. And the people in the hall responded well to that.
There were three other themes that were so universal that they dont need to be connected to any specific speaker. (Keep in mind that the Kerry Campaign reviewed and approved the text of every speech by every speaker except the big Kahuna, Ted Kennedy, and Al Sharpton, who jumped the fence for 14 extra, unscripted minutes.) Those themes were the Three Vs: Vietnam, values and victory.
At the beginning of the Convention, some of my colleagues on the Internet set up for a drinking game every time anyone mentions Vietnam, take a shot. But it quickly became clear that we would be as drunk as thirty Southern gentlemen in Faulkners words, before the dinner break. Not that I would ever drink on duty, mind you.
The second universal idea was values. Some went back to the shirt heard round the world in Teddy Kennedys words, and the values for which we fought the American Revolution. Others used the phrase, American values. Some used the phrase, family values. But very, very few of the speakers sought to put any content into those phrases, to say what they include or do not include.
Do American values include the idea of popular sovereignty, meaning that all political questions are necessarily decided ultimately by the people, including by amending the Constitution? Or do American values include the idea that judges can amend the Constitution without ratification by the states?
Or if that subject is a bit dry (yes, I saw some of your eyes start to glaze over), try this one. Do American values include the right of homosexuals to get married? Or, did the patriots at Lexington and Concord fire on the British troops because they were denied universal health care? Or, because the British had damaged our self-esteem? Yes, one speaker actually made that absurd comment. It was Congressman Charles Rangel of New York.
And while were on the subject of all-fired dumb remarks made in front of God and everybody at the Convention, some recognition is due to Steve Wesley, the Comptroller of California. A comment early in his speech was a contender for the top honor when he said, John Kerry knows how to win tough fights by inspiring people with bold ideas.
But Steve took the top spot over Charlie Rangel when he supported the national tax policies of the Democrats. Nothing surprising in that; a lot of speakers did the same. But Steve is the only one who, as he said, was the 27th employee of a company that now has more than 8,000 employees eBay. Anyone with that background has to be deaf, dumb, blind and stupid to support the soak-the-rich policies of the Democrats which would strangle such corporations in their cradles, given half a chance.
The third mantra, the third chant of 99.44% of the speakers, was victory. Even though a speaker who was a tree-hugger and a Green could be followed by a another speaker who wanted more nuclear power plants built, all stuck to the theme of victory over President Bush.
Now, there were two other themes which were commonplace, but incomplete. The first is health care, which speaker after speaker treated as absolutely interchangeable with health insurance. It is not. In other nations, people die on the steps of hospitals because they are not admitted if they cannot pay. But not here. Every American who needs health care can get it, regardless of ability to pay.
The other theme was that America had squandered the respect of its allies. Theres an obvious question from that statement. Which allies? Was France, some of whose officials were taking Iraqi bribes, a reliable ally of the United States at any time in recent memory? Is this the source of respect that can be re-earned if America changes its President? Just to mention the word France, or even Germany, would reduce this idea to an obvious public joke. Thats why the allies whose respect could be re-earned were never mentioned by name.
For those who have a strong stomach and are political junkies, I recommend that you try the experience that I just had with the Democratic Convention. Go on C-SPAN and watch the early, unknown speakers at the Republican Convention.
You will hear some things, and some people, that the press will never show you or talk about. And you might get an education favorable, unfavorable, or simply funny if you give that a try.
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About the Author: John Armor is a civil rights attorney who lives in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net
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Lemme know what you think.
I'm auboy and I approve this message.
As my pappy used to say, "you done good, real good." But you must make time for some R & R.:-)
Excellant, as usual, John.
You could ask Howlin to put this on her ping list. I am still getting pings. It is *bump lists* which have changed, AFAIK.
LOL, me too, but unlike you I didn't write down their names.
Excellent so far. Just had to stop there to comment on that sentiment. You were a valuable contrubution to those live Democn threads. I will now resume reading the article.
I think that, no matter what you majored in at Yale, you must have minored in masochism. Geez, you listened to that WHOLE bloodyawful mess? Yeeeesh.
"I'm auboy and I approve this message."
LOL, I wish that somebody in their campaign would say "I McCain/Feingold this message.
I almost...ALMOST...want to go to C Span and replay some of those early speeches, as you suggested. But my eyes glaze over, my hands shake and I rememebr important business elsewhere whenever I think of actually, seriously, going over there to do it.
Thank you for having the courage and fortitude to subject yourself to that excruciating fiasco and actually paying attention to ALL the details.
We certainly never heard ONE suggestion of just exactly WHAT they would do that's different than the Bush administration has done.
OK, I'll bite... what does your tag line mean?
That was pretty bad for the main meal, but desert is coming and looks delicious.
I look forward to your report on the roof raiser to be delivered by Zell Miller.
It's a trade in options on March NYMEX Natural Gas. For a complete description of the trade, and the rationale behind it, see: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1177773/posts
Sorry, it's post #17 in that thread. (memory is the second thing to go, and I can't recall the first...)
very very good. I like the fact that you among very few make the distinction between health care and insurance. You would think that people were being turned away from hospitals and clinics daily. I have always been intrigued by the "right to health care regardless of ability or willingness to pay" and the right of a Doc or hospital to be paid for services rendered.
Your efforts are greatly appreciated.
If you need to introduce yourself, you are wasting time and money. OTOH, reintroductions are perfectly okay.:-)
LOL! True. The brain implants were a rousing success.
Excellent, excellent column.
Excellent work and you have my sympathies for suffering through it.
The part about Corrine Brown being sub-literate was hilarious. You didn't mention her "You people stole the election" tirade in the House a few weeks back nor her plan to have the UN oversee the Florida polls "to insure it never happens again".
One question: did anyone mention 9-11-2001? Anyone at all?
Judging from that evidence alone, a Martian attending this Convention would have thought that the Iraq War was forty years ago, but the Vietnam War was being fought right now.
John / Billybob
Same as always.
I'm another one who absolutely hates the idea that these two are the same. I applaud your efforts to make the distinction. I wish more people would.
Check out Freerepublic.com's and North Carolina's own Congressman Billybob's summary of the DNC convention!
What a great essay!
I can understand watching C-SPAM - it's interesting. But the backbenchers of the convention???? Have you thought about checking into a clinic???? ;o)
Another wonderful column!
I, too, tried to watch the convention. All I can say is that you are a better man than I. My boots kept filling up, and the stench... whoooo!
Now on to the Republican convention. Should be better, at least more palatable.
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