by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
July 28, 2004
On the Campaign Trail
BOSTON, July 28, 2004 -- The Rev. Al Sharpton has just wound up a long, passionate and eloquent speech that brought thousands of delegates to the Democratic National Convention here at the Fleet Center to their feet waving arms and signs and cheering their lungs out, and now Sen. Bob Graham of Florida has taken Sharpton's place. Graham is not an evangelist but a very good speaker. The problem, though, is this: How many speeches, regardless of their quality, can you listen to in four days?
For delegates, that's not an issue; they can listen or not, as they please. In fact, the daily press has somewhat a greater obligation to hear most speeches, if only to catch some presidential hopeful in a misstep for tomorrow's headlines, but they probably have just as little inclination and capacity to do so.
In the third-floor media filing room, listening is almost impossible. Panasonic has generously set up four $6,000, 40-inch high-definition tv sets for the press, but inexplicably put them all below the line of sight for all but a lucky few. For the rest of us, watching means either leaving our seats and standing to watch a set at the back of the room, or trying to peer through a forest of laptop screens and bobbing heads at the televisions, all set on low pedestals and apparently immovable - Panasonic also seemed to have put the fear God in the filing room staff, whose director responds to a complaint by saying, "Panasonic hasn't given us the authority to move them."
That only means that about a hundred of the reporters in this very crowded room will have no idea what Sen. John Edwards has to say a few minutes from now when he delivers one of the most eagerly awaited addresses, or what New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is saying at this very moment, and that they completely miss others like Sharpton and the angry, passionate, truth-telling Congressman from Ohio, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, as they chat with each other, file their stories and wait for news.
At a convention where the outcome was never in doubt, one pony-tailed young reporter asks, "When did they stop having conventions where there was a [two-sided] discussion?" The answer would have to be that if this has occurred it has been since the rise of the very diverse "rainbow" coalition that can barely contain all the disparate longings, hopes and desires under one ideological roof.
Squaring the politics of Dennis Kucinich is a difficult task for more than a handful of these delagates - and the thousands of chanting antiwar demonstrators outside - and it is a remarkable testament to the long service of John Kerry in public life that whether or not they accept all of his ideas and positions, they can accept him.
More on this later - they're introducing the former presidential candidates, and I want to get to my seat high in the arena over the musci section, where we can see the speakers on a small plasma screen 30 yards away the conductor uses to mark the start of his selections for each speaker and the interval music. The candidates themselves are small figures in the moderate distance, and we can only watch their backs.