ST. PAUL, Minn.—According to this city’s lore, a visiting 19th-century New York journalist got such an unpleasant taste of change during a sudden winter storm that he called St. Paul “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.”
I empathized with that journalist, whose name is lost to posterity, when I attended the Republican National Convention last week.
The otherwise sleepy Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis extended their bar-closing times by two hours to 4 a.m. And St. Paul, which is best known most years for its Winter Carnival, was enlivened by hordes of bloggers, protesters and Republican spenders roaming the streets, dodging tear gas and hockey-mom pit bulls.
Even Republican presidential nominee John McCain got into that spirit of change, announcing that “change is coming” (curious, that, given that Republicans have had the White House since 2001, and for 20 of the past 28 years).
Despite all that, not everything was different—or better.
McCain’s introduction of moose-gutting pro-lifer Sarah Palin as his choice for vice president thrilled the conservative base, as in GOP conventions past, which of course complicates his pitch to maverick-seeking moderates. And the police handling of antiwar protests (see WWire for photos) looked more like the riotous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Worst/Best adaptation of an old chant from the ’60s:
Worst: “Drill, baby, drill!” This frequent chant inside the convention by drill-happy Republicans should be “Burned, baby, burned.” Responds U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.): “It is typical of the Republican administration to let slogans rather than viable solutions define the debate.”
Best: At the first day of antiwar protests, a group of Code Pink demonstrators (including a mock President Bush marrying a John McCain in full wedding dress) waved signs that read, “Make Out, Not War.”
Most likely be channeling the 1968 Democratic National Convention:
Portland Street Medics, which traveled to the convention “to provide medical care to the radical community.” Seven medics went to the 2008 Republican convention and performed first aid on activists who had been pepper-sprayed in the eyes by police during antiwar protests. Four of the seven were arrested (for more details, go to WWire).
Biggest hint of a presidential bid:
2012: Opinionated former Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura strongly hinted at a 2012 bid as an independent to the cheers of over 10,000 people at Minneapolis’ Target Center. The crowd was gathered for onetime GOP presidential contender Ron Paul’s “Rally for the Republic” when Ventura, whose long-ago pro-wrestling career included a turn in Portland, said, “If I see it [large public support] in 2012, we’ll give them a race they’ll never forget.”
2036: While her mom, Sarah Palin, used her convention speech to tear into Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama like a grizzly in a Dumpster, adorable 7-year-old Piper Palin one-upped baby-kissing politicians everywhere. To TV cameras’ delight, Piper proved politically precocious when she held 4-month-old baby brother Trig, licked her palm, and lovingly swashed a tuft of Trig’s hair into place.
Biggest party pooper:
U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). Smith skipped the convention because, according to his spokeswoman, Lindsay Gilbride, “It’s a rare week where the Senate will not be in session, and it’s more beneficial for Sen. Smith to focus on the campaign than spend time in Minneapolis.” Also worth noting it’s more beneficial not to remind Obama-friendly Oregon that Smith, whose TV ads these days make him seem Obama’s good friend, was an early McCain supporter. the same,” WW offers these awards from inside and outside the 2008 Republican convention.
Senate Bill 10, the sweeping ethics “reform” bill passed by the Oregon Legislature last year, surfaced in a recent fundraising letter from lobbyist Mark Cushing for state Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Southwest Portland). Burdick, who is running for re-election this fall, agreed to repay $3,000 earlier this year after violating elections law by using campaign funds for personal use. Cushing’s letter to fellow lobbyists says Burdick’s legal fees exceeded $15,000, and notes that SB 10 prevents her using campaign funds to pay that debt. But others can chip in. The result: a lobbyist asking other lobbyists to bail out a senior senator. “I know that Senator Burdick will greatly appreciate your support,” wrote Cushing. Burdick, who in a recent endorsement interview at WW listed voting for SB 10 among her biggest mistakes, says she wishes there were an alternative to Cushing’s letter. Read the entire letter.
No election battle this fall will be bloodier than the war of competing ballot measures on law and order. There’s Kevin Mannix’s Measure 61, which would provide mandatory minimum sentences for property and drug crimes, and Measure 57, a legislative referral that includes more treatment but would be cheaper than M61. Public records gathered by Mannix’s allies now provide a behind-the-scenes look into how Measure 57 came together in the Democratic-controlled Leg after unions and other M61 opponents got this message from pollster Lisa Grove in January: “The Mannix mandatory minimum initiative will pass,” Grove wrote. “Messages to defeat it do not work.” Then there’s this: David Rogers, director of the Portland-based Partnership for Safety and Justice, rejected a suggestion by Kevin Neely, a lobbyist for county district attorneys, to try compromising with Mannix rather than proposing an alternative measure. “I’m much more interested in ending Mannix’s political career,” Rogers wrote. To read all the records, go to oaaoregon.com. M57 backers’ website is betterwaytofightcrime.com.
You’ve asked. You’ve begged. And we’ve responded. Yes, Candidates Gone Wild—always the city’s best political romp—is back. Watch city, county and state candidates squirm under tough questions at the Roseland on Oct. 13, and show off their talents all under the unforgiving gaze of emcee Storm Large. Tickets for the election-palooza, sponsored by WW and the Bus Project, are available for $5 each at WW’s office, 2220 NW Quimby St.