NBC News prepares for the worst

Published July 27, 2004 8:23PM (EDT)

When NBC News employees checked into their hotels in Boston this week, they found a guide on security precautions for the Democratic Convention. There was a list of biological and chemical weapons and the warning signs of exposure, and there were helpful hints to consider in the event that you've been kidnapped. NBC's advice: Don't talk politics with your captors, don't feel bad if you develop a warm relationship with them, and make sure to get plenty of food, rest and exercise.

Hey, Dude with the knife. When we're done making this video, can you get a Stairmaster in here or something?

But for all the talk about security -- and the police are omnipresent in Boston -- the ins and outs of the convention are working pretty smoothly. A protestor with a megaphone outside the Fleet Center warns approaching delegates to "spread you cheeks" for the body-cavity search they'll soon endure. In reality, it's all pretty standard airport-security fare; many of the screeners are TSA employees re-assigned to the event.

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey served on the 9/11 Commission and has warned that Washington must act quickly to avoid another attack. But he's in Boston this week, and he says he has no worries about being here -- if only because death is inevitable anyway. "The last thing I'm going to do is modify my own behavior," Kerrey told Salon inside the Fleet Center. "My own view about this is that none of us get out of this deal alive. Eventually, I'm going to die, so why quit living before that?"

Kerrey said he's surprised that the White House has been slow to embrace the commission's recommendations, although he is beginning to see some movement. "I think they're going to find [that it's hard to delay] once they start hearing from the American people. The House and the Senate sure did. They responded very quickly. The American people said, 'Wait a minute. You've got a week to talk about same-sex marriage, and you don't have a week to talk about making some changes on security?'"

In comments that echoed some of the speeches inside the convention hall, Kerrey said he was saddened that the unity of the country after 9/11 has been lost. "It was the first time in my life when I felt genuine and not embarrassing patriotism," Kerrey said. "I felt united with the rest of the country."

Can the other Kerry bring that back? "I hope so. Whether he wins or loses -- and I hope he wins -- to govern this country he's going to have to be the unifier that Bush promised to be but wasn't."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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