Thursday, September 4, 2008

From the RNC. Today's talk of the town. Hilda Moeller

A little while ago I was eating lunch at Zeldas, a little cafe inside the St. Paul Public Library. While I ate, a reporter from The Washington Times asked if he could interview me about last night's speech by Sarah Palin. I had just been interviewed by Hannah, another reporter from the Washington Times, so I invited him to talk to Cuca, the Panamenian owner of the shop. Cuca told him that she is an Independent, who was quite impressed by Gov. Palin's speech. A middle age woman was sitting at the next table. She wanted to give her opinion, and she did. She thought that Palin was wrong, because she should stay at home and take care of her children instead of putting herself and her career first. An employee of the cafe came in defense of Palin, and a young male customer offered a weak support of the dissenting opinion. It was great to see everybody, invited and uninvited, joining in the conversation. It was exciting to see how many people are paying attention. According to today's news, Obama's speech was watched by 38 million people while Palin's, a name unknown to most until last Thursday managed to gather 37 million viewers, and generate a lot of conversation.
The atmosphere at the Xcel Energy Center was phenomenal last night. The Washington Center got passes to make sure that every student experienced at least one night at the convention with good seats. Last night was my night. I sat just three rows up from the red carpet. Granted, it was a side view, but we had the large screens to see the close ups, while we were close enough to take some pictures. I am at the library's computer so I can't post pictures, but I will do as soon as I can.
The professors and students who enjoyed the priviledged seats yesterday, arrived around four in the afternoon. Shortly thereafter the entertainment started with live jazz music and, compared to the ones later in the evening, insipid speeches by lesser known personalities. It was interesting to see how things work in real life. When I have watched the conventions, I always thought people brought their own handmade banners. For security, or whatever reason, banners are not allowed through the security gates. Before the event starts, young people came out with stacks of different banners that were distributed according to people's choices. There were Catholics for McCain, Hispanics for McCain. I held one that said Women for McCain. There were many others, and also for Gov. Palin. Someone behind me had a "Hockey moms for Palin" banner. They also brought smaller printed banners with McCain-Palin, and others with slogans. They are distributed where they know they will be picked up by TV cameras. By the way, during the speech I got a txt message from one of the students of The Washington Center, and another from my husband in Texas, telling me that they had seen me on TV during the Paling speech. My three seconds of fame!
Gov. Palin wasted no time setting the record straight as to her experience. Since she is running for VP and Obama for president, and they are both fighting against the inexperienced image, it created an interesting triangulation Obama, Palin, McCain. Interestingly, this week the Republican Party seemed to have changed strategy. Intead of distancing themselves from the last eight years, now they are accepting the past. They are talking about the benefits of the surge and how right was McCain in voting for it.
The only problem with the excellent performance by Gov. Palin is that it creates a higher expectation for McCain's speech. She is going to be a tough act to follow.
About 30 feet from the library where I am, there is one of the gates to enter the convention. I have been fortunate enough to be able to come Tuesday, yesterday and today. What a fabulous experience this has been! Next time I will tell you about tonight's events. Until then.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

From the RNC - Go with the Flow - Hilda Moeller

I signed up for a Sunday luncheon with Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. How exciting! Then the luncheon was moved to Sunday at noon. Oh no! I was scheduled to work with Lifetime TV from 11 AM to 6PM. Then I received a call from Lifetime, would I please work from five PM to one AM at the Rock the Vote Party? Yes! I get to go to Cheney’s luncheon. Seven hours later, I got another call telling me that someone had to drop of the program and they needed me back at 11 AM, so I had to cancel my reservation to the Cheney luncheon. Shortly later, it was announced Cheney will not come to the Convention because of Gustav. This is just one example of why Eugene Alpert, the Senior Vice President of the Washington Center keeps telling us to keep our expectations low and to go with the flow. Good advice, otherwise one could get discouraged. (By the way, Daniel, another Texas student got to go to the luncheon today and was nicely surprised to see Mike Huckabee in Cheney’ place as speaker).
During the weekend, I attended several parties. Saturday evening I went to a Media Party where I was able to take the enclosed pictures of the Mississippi River.

Sunday I attended a reception before the private showing of the movie “An American Carol.” After the movie I found myself (by accident, believe it or not) at a great reception given to all the Delegates and their guests. I visited with a number of them, including the Puerto Rican delegation that was most friendly. Every person I talked to was excited about McCain’s pick for Vice President. Apparently, the Republican Party is ready to support an even more conservative vice president than John McCain. It is also apparent that the lack of experience of Gov. Palin is not important at all, as it does not seem important for the Democrats, the lack of experience of Obama. A delegate from Florida told me that there was a lot of excitement for McCain in her state and even more now that they know about Palin.

By the way, I got a picture taken of me with an unexpected guest.

Today, the Convention started. Since it only lasted two hours and my fieldwork did not end until six in the evening I was not able to be at the Xcel Energy Center. However, across the street from where I was doing my field work there was a lot of action. A group of “anarchists” tried everything they could to stop the busses that carried the delegates to the convention from going through the bridge into the Xcel Center. They tried to block the streets with anything they could. They also joined, uninvited, peaceful anti-war protests. Then things turned violent. There were store windows broken, slashed tires, a garbage can set on fire and thrown at a police car and other mischief. Riot officers who carried batons, rifles and tear gas guns were present. Two hundred and twenty three people were arrested across, one hundred and thirty of them with felony charges. During the demonstration, people from the media tried to find out what they are protesting or what they believe in, but they would not say. The police were in high alert and were prepared to stop this self-described anarchist group of people that call themselves “The RNC Welcoming Committee.” This group was not related to the organizers of the peaceful anti-war protests.
Tonight there are many parties around town. However, they have quickly turned into fundraisers. This morning Laura Bush spoke at the Convention and urged people to help those who, because of Gustav, will be needing help and people swiftly followed her advice.
I hope that in my next blog I will share with you my experience at the Xcel Energy Center. See you next time.

From the RNC - Exciting Friday! Hilda Moeller

What exciting times these are! First, we got to watch Obama’s impressive stage production and impeccably delivered speech. Of course, though flawlessly delivered, his speech invited analysis. However, people were just catching their breath to begin commenting on it, when John McCain surprised the nation with his phenomenal choice for Vice-President. By the reaction of my fellow students at the Washington Center, the timing and the announcement could not have been more astonishing. Mrs. Palin automatically added spice to the race. However, this news was being overshadowed by Gustav, a hurricane threatening to cause havoc somewhere between Louisiana and Alabama and threatening the Republican National Convention. We will not know what will happen until probably Sunday. In the meantime, we have a day to catch our breath before the convention.
Yesterday we saw a side of politics that is nothing like the presidential races. Minnesota State Rep. Patrick Garofalo, a Republican, and Minnesota State Rep. Steve Simon, a Democrat, spoke to The Washington Center. They came together, declared to be best friends; (and by the way they joked and teased each other, it is obvious that they are close friends) while at the same time presented their case for a subject that is sensitive in Minnesota: transportation and roads. Politically they could not be in more disagreement. However, they respected each other’s views and told us the way they have worked together to find a common ground to their ideas. I know this is not extraordinary. Anybody who has evere watched the House in session on C-Span knows that in general, that is the way politics is played. At the presidential level, though, it gets ugly.

The students have received their assignments. I will be working with Lifetime TV. None of us has credentials to go into the Xcel Energy Center the days of the convention. We all hope to get them through the organizations with which we will be working. Since we have no guarantee that we will get them through the organization we will work for, we try to meet as many people as we can and see if there are other venues that may provide credentials. Credentials are given a day at a time. Even with credentials, the access has degrees, from very limited to not so limited access. Credentials are needed to attend other events and there are tons of them. There are breakfasts and luncheons people from the media or politicians, receptions to delegates and other dignitaries and evening parties from interest groups. I plan to attend some of the receptions this weekend, and next time I write I will tell you about them. See you then.