First arrests in Philly

The Republicans start their party as the protesters get ready to rumble.


Alicia Montgomery
July 31, 2000 5:48PM (UTC)

The party started without George W. Bush as the curtain came up Monday on the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Early in the afternoon, Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry dispatched the day's official business when he formally placed Bush's name into consideration for the nomination. Tonight's big speakers are Colin Powell, bringing that all important "diversity" element to the convention floor, and first lady wannabe, normally microphone-shy Laura Bush. The candidate himself plans to arrive at the convention Wednesday after a six-state campaign swing beginning in Ohio.

Take it to the streets
Hundreds of convention demonstrators also celebrated an important event Monday: their first arrests. CBS news reports that a confrontation developed during a protest against the School of the America's, the combat training program run by the U.S. Army for Latin America governments. Some graduates of the school have been accused of using those skills against their civilian political opponents. The police claimed that they were willing to "bend over backward" to accommodate peaceful protesters, but demonstrators persisted in blocking streets until they were arrested. More confrontation could come as an unauthorized protest makes it way from Philadelphia's City Hall to the convention site.

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Cheney chit-chat overshadows convention
The Republicans may want to invite some of the protesters to their party, according to Bill Press. Writing for CNN, Press argues that the GOP made a mistake with the all sugar, no spice format of the convention, which could bore potential voters and has even worse implications for GOP's veep pick. "With nothing else to talk about, the only story in town remains Dick Cheney's record and whether his selection represents Bush's first major gaffe," Press writes. Bush's push for a positive campaign also killed "attack night," the traditional Tuesday evening speeches attacking the competition, which could have provided a welcome distraction from Cheney-mania.

Back on the Cheney gang
Attack night came early for the Democrats, who lashed out at Cheney with a new negative TV ad. In the 30-second spot, the Democratic Party picks apart Cheney's congressional record and finds some votes that are conservative, but not necessarily compassionate. Noting that Cheney voted against the Clean Water Act, the school lunch program and health benefits for people who had lost their jobs, the ad asks: "What does Cheney's record say about their plans?"

Republicans insist that the ad says more about Democratic desperation than about the faults of their ticket. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer claimed that the criticism aimed at Cheney distorts his congressional career. "Dick Cheney voted with Ronald Reagan to reduce the deficit, cut taxes and rebuild our military," said Fleischer.

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The president plays the race card
The Democratic effort to bash Cheney goes all the way to the top, according to the Associated Press. President Clinton added his two cents in Chicago in a speech before big party donors, ripping Cheney for his votes, especially the one he cast against freeing South Africa's Nelson Mandela from jail in 1986. "That takes your breath away," Clinton said. His Mandela rant led the president to criticize the Republicans for what he implied was racist motivation in their refusal to approve a black nominee for a federal judgeship. The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals presides over more black residents than any other court, but has never had a black judge. Clinton has nominated three African-Americans for a spot on the court, but the Republicans have approved none. Clinton claimed the GOP was "so determined to keep an African-American off" that they left judgeships vacant rather than confirm a black judge.

Cheney fuels the fire
Trying to prevent the Democrats from having the last word, Cheney hit the talk show circuit to defend himself. But his attempts sometimes backfired during his television appearances. The Washington Post reports that Cheney disavowed parts of his congressional record during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I would vote today to leave the Department of Education in place," he said. But other exchanges didn't go so well. Cheney abruptly ended an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition" by calling "last question" and saying that he had run out of time. Cheney's toughest time came courtesy of Sam Donaldson on ABC's "This Week." When Donaldson brought up Cheney's Mandela vote, the vice-presidential nominee said, "So what trivial question did you want to ask me?" Donaldson snapped back "Well, a lot of people think Nelson Mandela is not trivial."

Is she gay or isn't she?
Perhaps the Cheneys should have skipped "This Week" altogether. ABC also interviewed Lynne Cheney, former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. During the course of the discussion, Lynne Cheney denied that her younger daughter is a lesbian. "Mary has never declared such a thing," her mother said. "I would like to say that I'm appalled at the media interest in one of my daughters. I have two wonderful daughters, and I simply am not going to talk about their personal lives." Up until this spring, Mary Cheney worked as the lesbian/gay corporate relations manager for Coors Brewing Co.

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Gore gap shrinks
Amid the sound and fury surrounding the Cheney clan, the Bush campaign may get an earful of unpleasant news from the polls. Though USA Today/Gallup/CNN poll last week showed the new Republican ticket with a double digit lead, new surveys from Reuters and the Los Angeles Times show a much closer contest. In the Reuters poll, Bush leads Gore by only 4 points, 42 percent to 38 percent. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader earned 7 percent, while Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party hovered at 3 percent. Bush fared better in a two-way contest, leading Gore by 47 percent to 40 percent. The survey had a margin of error of 3 points.

The Los Angeles Times poll had similar results, with Bush scoring 44 percent support to Gore's 39 percent with a 3 point margin of error. Nader and Buchanan reached 5 percent and 2 percent respectively.

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Poll positions
Presidential race:

  • Bush 42 to Gore 38 (Reuters July 28-30)
  • Bush 44 to Gore 39 (Los Angeles Times July 27-29 )
  • Bush 50 to Gore 39 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 25-26).
  • Bush 48 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post July 20-23).
  • Bush 43 to Gore 41 (CBS News July 13-16).
  • Bush 46 to Gore 40 (Fox News July 12-13).
  • Bush 45 to Gore 41 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Gore 46 to Bush 45 (Newsweek June 29-30).
  • Bush 40 to Gore 39 (Associated Press June 21-25).

    Third-party candidates:

  • Nader 7 to Buchanan 3 (Reuters July 28-30)
  • Nader 5 to Buchanan 2 (Los Angeles Times July 27-29).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 1 (USA Today/CNN/Gallup July 25-26).
  • Nader 7 to Buchanan 6 (ABC News/Washington Post July 20-23).
  • Nader 4 to Buchanan 4 (CBS News July 14-16).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 3 (Zogby July 14-17).
  • Nader 6 to Buchanan 2 (Newsweek June 29-30).

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  • Alicia Montgomery

    Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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