When the delegates come marching in
Skipping the political convention coverage this week and next? You are not alone. Even the networks plan only an hour of coverage each night for each of the conventions.
I, for one, will take in more than that. I may not be there gavel to gavel --after all, there will be potty breaks-- but it will be close to it. As scripted and stage crafted as the conventions are, I still cannot resist.
I've been watching political soap opera since my college days, when they were more free-for-all than they are now. While the changes have been many, and not all for the good, I still show up.
I sit in the cheap seats and wait for the unscripted moments: the gaffes, the laughs, the bloopers and awkward moments that reduce the whole convention to those 10 seconds. I pay attention to the theater of it all and what the party is trying too hard to say. And I wonder whether anybody is buying it.
Few people recall Jimmy Carter's gaffe at the 1980 Democratic Convention, when in a tribute to former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Carter changed the name to "Hubert Horatio Hornblower." I remember it and still delight in the trip-up of words. The delegates clapped and whooped it up, as if they hadn't heard the error (and they probably didn't). The moment lives on in YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYDNH23c5S8.
That same convention had the awkward, awkward moment of Carter and Ted Kennedy trying to make nice on stage, after Kennedy campaigned against Carter for the nomination and tried to steal his delegates. Body language doesn't lie!
Who can forget Texas Gov. Ann Richards' comments about President George H.W. Bush's propensity for gaffes. "He can't help it," she said with her Texas drawl. "He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!" Delegates ate it up. Although that probably was scripted, it was on the level.
President George H.W. Bush once referred to his grandchildren by Jeb Bush (who is married to a Mexican) as "the little brown ones," though not at a convention. Say what?
More recently, in a weird moment of inclusiveness (the GOP is nearly 90% non Hispanic white), George W. Bush brought on mariachi players at the 2000 GOP convention. He meant well, but everyone, from commentators to delegates, had that "What's up with that?" puzzled look. To his credit, Bush did get a higher percentage of the Hispanic vote. Was it the mariachis?
Another thing you'll see at the GOP convention is television cameras panning the delegates looking desperately for ... a person of color. Happens every time on all the networks. Where in the world is Baldo?
No doubt, you may see awkward displays of affection. Al Gore kissing his wife Tipper was a "eww" moment. It wasn't the lust; it's the "you validate me kiss" that smacks of desperation, the same sort of panic I detected when John Travolta planted a wet one on his wife on the red carpet for the benefit of Hollywood press, following reports that he propositioned several male masseuses. Ewww.
(BTW, NYTimes published a story today on the Gores, titled "End of the line." Read it here. )
Sometimes the overly scripted cute moments threaten to go off script. At the 2008 Democratic convention, Michelle, Malia and Sasha were on onstage talking with a jumbotron Obama. Everything was going well, until Sasha appeared to go rogue and refused to give up the spotlight. She kept talking with her dad, who laughed nervously, until Malia strong armed the microphone away, narrowly escaping a potential kids-say-the-darndest-things moment.
Political conventions generate a few darndest moments. Which ones do you recall?