I'm seeing and hearing some chatter that last night's program was a snooze fest because Democrats didn't come out swinging against the GOP. My impression was that last night's program was not for that. It was to pay tribute to some great Democrats and to introduce the Obama family to America.
In that respect I thought it was a huge success.
Jimmy Carter was well received and got some long-overdue respect. And Ted Kennedy, well, it was quite a remarkable moment when he walked out on the stage, and his courageous speech was moving and inspiring.
Michelle Obama's speech was pitch perfect for what they wanted to accomplish. She is an excellent public speaker and will be a tremendous asset for the campaign. And their kids are as cute as they can be. If people were paying attention, they heard and saw that the Obamas aren't a couple of scary radical socialists with funny names or any of that other stuff. They are committed to public service and share the same concerns for their family and our country as other Americans. And judging from the overwhelming reaction, every Democrat in the hall was united and 100% on board.
In that light, going on the attack would not have been appropriate. I predict, though, that tonight will be different and the gloves will come off. That should make the pundits happy.
Speaking of pundits, it's been nice not watching this unfold through the media filter. I didn't miss all the jabbering and made up controversy. It was a warm, respectful, celebratory night in a place where it was safe to enjoy being a Democrat for a change.
My overall impression is, in a word, overwhelming. Not just the speakers and the programs, but the frantic schedules (which two people can't possibly cover), trying to get around with all the security and closed streets, the huge crowds, too much to see and do, and on and on.
Walking around inside the Pepsi Center is pretty amazing, too. You never know who you are going to see next. I saw lots of media personalities (including Dan Rather), the Daily Show crew, Mark Warner, Dennis Kucinich and his wife (they said hi), and lots of others I can't even remember. And when I say "saw," I mean just walking around, sometimes right next to you. The first lesson I learned is always have a camera.
Getting around is complicated. The security perimeter extends way out around the Pepsi center. There are lots of closed streets, and it's about a one mile walk (or more) from any open streets. Even without all that, there are a lot of one-way streets, and a lot of the street design seems random. A GPS is an indispensable time/sanity saver.
Security getting in is also complicated as you can imagine, but despite that it flowed smoothly yesterday. They have Secret Service, local Law Enforcement, and the TSA searching and/or x-raying everything going in. But they kept the lines going and it wasn't too bad. Not nearly as bad as the hike in. The Mrs. is going tonight, and I advised to pack light. I probably won't take the big camera and lenses any more, and will scale back my notebook kit if I even take one.
The DNC provided a power outlet and Ethernet internet hookup right there at the Tennessee seating area. Unfortunately, it's under a kiosk type deal where they have the delegation voting PC, a video monitor, and phones for mission control to communicate with the delegation. So of course, party officials need to be in that space, not bloggers. Most of the time I sat directly in front of the kiosk one row down in the Kansas section. I lost my seat for a while when I went out for a break. Then I got yelled at by a Kansas official when they were passing around a petition to sign and I said I wasn't with Kansas.
Speaking of the phones, the whole program is carefully choreographed. Before each speaker, they bring out signs for that speaker with strict instructions on when to wave them. If a delegation isn't waving properly, the phone lights up. The party officials have to act as part stage director and part cheerleader. It's a lot of fun for everyone though, and the Tennessee delegation did their part to raise the roof.
Between speakers the house band plays (which is a killer band by the way, which you can't really appreciate watching on TV). People go wild dancing, and roaming camera crews single out entertaining delegates and put them up on the big screen. Gray Sasser told me these were "spontaneous" demonstrations, with emphasis on the quotes around spontaneous.
Getting in was relatively painless compared to leaving. They funneled most of the 20,000+ crowd down four escalators through one entrance and out off the grounds through one twenty foot fence opening, causing massive congestion. It was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen, and scary at times. Everybody was complaining, some forcefully. Not sure what the security concept was, but they certainly had everyone all bunched up into an easy mass target. Plus, any kind of incident could have set off a disastrous stampede. Then, after all that you still had to walk about a mile or more to catch a ride. I was not a happy camper.
Anyway, it's been an awesome, overwhelming, sometimes stressful, but totally amazing experience so far. My heartfelt thanks to the DNC for the opportunity and my sincere appreciation to the TNDP for their gracious hospitality.
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