Thursday, August 28th, 2008
FORTY FOUR YEARS OF NATIONAL POLITICAL CONVENTIONS
Some 4000 delegates are converging in
My first Democratic convention was in
I was able to park my car about half a block from the auditorium and walk right up to the front door. A guard asked me where I was going, and I said I wanted to join the
“Are you supposed to be with them?” he asked.
“I sure am,” I said. I might have exaggerated a bit, but I was still hoping to get in the door.
“Well, then welcome to
I stood about fifty feet away from the stage where President Lyndon Johnson kept the crowd in suspense until he announced that Sen. Hubert Humphrey would be his running mate. Johnson was a cinch to be reelected, and the Democrats pulled together as one big happy family. What a contrast to what happened four years later.
In 1968, the Democratic convention was held in
The main party headquarters was at the Sheraton Hotel, which faces Lake Michigan in downtown
Major opposition to the Vietnam War was building, and a large number of protesters had gathered in Grant Park across from the Sheraton. Confrontations were breaking out between protesters and police officers all around the hotel.
I ran into Ingersoll Jordan, an old friend from Tulane who was working for Congressman Hale Boggs, a New Orleanian who was the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives in Washington. Off we went to the Blackstone Hotel close by for dinner. The restaurant at the Blackstone is in the basement. Just as we started our meal, I looked up to see white smoke seeping down the stairs into the dining room. My experience in the military told me immediately that it was tear gas, and I knew we had to get out quickly. The waiter had just put down my filet mignon. I grabbed the steak off the plate, slapped it over my nose and mouth, and dashed up the stairs through the tear gas, losing my friend in the confusion.
By the time I reached the street, riots were breaking out up and down
Sticking my hand out, I introduced myself to John McKeithen. “Governor, I’m Jim Brown from Ferriday.” McKeithen smiled, and he was visibly surprised at my introduction.
“Why Jim, what are you doing up here?” he asked.
“Governor,” I said. “I came all the way up here to support you for vice-president.”
McKeithen laughed, slapped me on the back, and told me he could not be more pleased.
Now for a good Republican Convention story.
It was 1988 in
Dole had lost the nomination to Bush in a heated battle marked by some sharp exchanges. The Kansas Senator had won the first battle in the Iowa Caucuses, with Bush finishing third. But Bush recovered and was unopposed for the nomination at the convention.
“Sorry, I must be lost,” he said. “There’s supposed to be a suite where I can sit a bit, but I’ve forgotten the number.”
“Senator, you are welcome to relax here.” I offered him a drink and we both sat and watched the jubilation and TV commentary. You could tell he was wishing he could have been the nominee taking on Gov. Dukakis in the coming fall election.
“Dukakis is leading in the polls now,” I asked. “Can Bush win?”
Dole paused for a moment, then said: “Yes, I believe he will. But that promise about ‘read my lips….no new taxes.’ That may come back to haunt him in the future if he is elected..”
The Senator was right on the mark. That phrase was a big factor in Bill Clinton’s victory over the incumbent President four years later.
At the Democratic Convention in
As for me, 10 different political conventions are enough. I’ll join millions of Americans at home watching the TV circus, and anticipating a knock down drag out campaign in the weeks to come. And a note to Gustav. Please don’t rain on our parade.
“A political convention is not a place where you can come away with any trace of faith in human nature.’ Kempton, Murray
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers and websites throughout the State of
Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) from