Working on my first presidential nominating convention in years, and years, and as I sit in my office alone, desk crammed with computer screens and TV monitors, I feel ghosts of conventions past, friends and colleagues, standing calmly at my back, watching, and occasionally laughing or smiling or pointing, but most often pulling at their chins or scratching their heads. I sense what the thinking may be of David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, Charles Collingwood, Catherine Mackin, Doug Kiker, Helen Thomas, Hugh Sidey, and many more now gone. I got to work closely with all these people and none tolerated mediocrity or absence of depth and they all loved the drama of politics. They are thinking how small major political events have become, and the speed of the pace, and how the reporting has turned more to sampling. We are journalist deejays, effectively. And that's called change.
But a lot of the staples are still there: the rambunctious delegates, fewer in the goofy hats but sincere and for real; a belief that the convention system works; a stage where disputes can be folded into displays of unity, sincere or not; and the hope that words will be spoken that both construct a coherent and powerful message, lift the spirits, tie up the package of mate and running mate with a neat unifying bow, and give supporters a solid reason to hail their choices. I wish we were shown more of what is going on outside the arena -- just for local color. This convention feels insular, dislocated, not in any particular city or state, just in a building -- it could be a mall on a production lot. But I will say this for the Tumpvention. When it goes off script (the Melania speech) it gets genuinely interesting.
Donald Trump promised some razzle dazzle and, after two days, there hasn't been too much of that. Mostly a conventional convention. Again, with the exception of the speech controversy, the Colorado delegation speaking up for itself, but maybe the convention managers are saving the real glitz for tomorrow night and Trump's acceptance speech. At the end of the day, though, it is the words that matter. Overall, so far, anti-climactic, and maybe that was what Trump's campaign, and the city of Cleveland, hoped for.
Having the GOP and DEM conventions back to back, I fear, will create a blur for most viewers. My guess is that were it not for the Olympics, there would be a little breathing room between the two, and the Olympics will distract for a moment before the debates. And then Election Day, and its over.
But back to my ghosts. I see my view and their views. Its difficult to explain to them how the world has changed, as it always will, and that politics have been reduced to a small size just like clothing, homes, phones and music. And what's left is jacked to double speed. I'm lucky I got to experience some of the big conventions, such as 1968 in Chicago, 1972 in Miami, and 1976 in Kansas City, and 1976 in New York. But, got to let it go. I hope if you're reading this you also are watching the proceedings on your favorite cable channel.
One last note about the conventions past: I went to some reporting for Time magazine and to some writing for The CBS Evening News, and while we worked hard, the best part of being there were the parties, the lavish dinners, the camaraderie with colleagues, the up all night hell raising and, even, romance. In print, my beat was the protest scene, and that was exciting, sometimes scary, but a great story. One exception, was infiltrating a Young Republicans event to get close to Julie Nixon. In TV, I was in the convention hall, up in the aerie perches of the network stars, and that was a treat. Great memories.
I look forward to getting back to my lonely desk, watching and watching, into the wee hours, trying to find interesting people to come on TV to share and analyze the experience. For me, its a blast. So happy to be part of it, at any speed.