September 3, 2004 | 4:35 a.m. ET

Another guest blogger offers up his impression of MSNBC's set and coverage:

It was hot TV (Robert Cox, The National Debate)

Now that MSNBC's unconventional convention coverage is a wrap I have to concede that my initital read on the location battle was wrong.

Given the intense heat and humidity last weekend, it was hard not to appreciate the other "off campus" cable news network set which offered air-conditioning and a ready supply of french —fries and milkshakes. And as the week went on and the protestors began to intrude—figuratively and literally— some of my concerns about the MSNBC set at Herald Square seemed prescient. By week's end, however, it was MSNBC that won the location war by brining viewers the sights, sounds and taste of the New York street battle that was this week's Republican National Convention in ways that offered up some of the most memorable television from the RNC.

Hardball offered up what was easily the hottest piece of video to come out of the convention all week. It's not often you see a sitting Senator "challenging" Chris Matthews to a duel on live TV . This just edged out the sight of Chris Matthew's near-miss with the sharp elbow of a linebacker-size security guard and the sudden appearance of a phalanx of NYPD officers lined up for what might have been the first cavalry charge since the Battle of Palmetto Ranch at the end of the Civil War.

The show was non-stop "hot" and a great deal of fun to watch. At my house we went through 3 TV trays, 18 bags of microwave popcorn and dozens of hours filled with "Tivo This"  moments. Perhaps the most unique aspect of MSNBC's convention coverage was the fun, informative and sometimes downright wacky After Hours coverage from Joe Scarborough and Ron Reagan. My faves were Joe getting red hot arguing the Swifties with Ron, Larry Gatlin ripping a loud-mouth kid standing behind him, and Janeane Garafolo doing her best to quote Zinn to Ron Silver.

Getting to go "backstage" was great. The folks I met from the show were all super nice and more than gracious about my incessant requests for photos. You can check out some of my pix here.

September 3, 2004 | 10:30 a.m. ET

OB-GYNS of the world unite (Keith Olbermann)

“Now that the Conventions are over…” John Kerry said early in his speech as midnight neared in Columbus, Ohio.

There then came one voice, obviously near the microphone, who timed his bon mot perfectly. “Thank God,” he muttered. That unidentifiable gentleman may be the real voice of America just now.

I needed to do a little reality checking, so when ' Countdown' ended, I subwayed up to Yankee Stadium and took as many temperatures as I could. Sports is a surprisingly homogenous field. The fans and players alike tend towards the right. If sports were a state, it would be solidly red. And they were fed up— not against their side, not towards those they oppose. But fed up nonetheless— with the process.

“Bet this room smells better to you than the Garden,” said a friend of mine, an ardent Republican who plays for the Yankees. “Why did we bring out that Zell Miller guy?”

Those of us who now habitate the hallways outside the modern equivalent of the smoke-filled rooms can get madly caught up in the stagecraft and the process and the battle, and there’s nothing really wrong with that. Unless, that is, we fail to keep it into context: the Conventions are not necessarily the sales tools, nor the glory of the Republic, that the political professionals assume.

The average citizen, I think, wants a couple of straight answers from the campaigns— about their own candidates, not the opposition. Instead of replying in kind to the pounding mallets of the politics of Itchy and Scratchy, John Kerry needs to face the fear people tell me about, that he really would be shakier on self-defense and terrorism than George Bush.

And the President has to explain why so many of the promises of domestic repair he made in his acceptance speech tonight were about things that just happened to have eroded during his time in Washington.

I’ve slapped Chris Matthews on the back a couple of times in this cyberspace and now’s the time to do the same for Joe Scarborough. He made the point Wednesday night— and unfortunately just at that moment, the panel conversation got truncated because there was a live interview to go to— that he could never recall an incumbent president and his spokesmen spending so much of their public time attacking their challenger, rather than proclaiming their own triumphs and plans. Are the Republicans, Joe asked, worried about whether or not George Bush’s record can speak for itself? Cogent analysis, and just as applicable, with the appropriate contextual changes, to the Democratic campaign.

Lastly, listening to the President in the car on the way back from the ballpark tonight, I was left dumbfounded that some of what little of Joe’s questioning advice Mr. Bush seemingly acknowledged, was devoted to the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard said in an acceptance speech by a Presidential nominee . The President talked about keeping doctors— “especially OB-GYN’s” — from having to give up their practices due to rising legal costs.

Especially OB-GYN’s?

No offense to doctors, no offense to that particular specialty.

But with terror alerts now graded by zip codes, Iraq a quandary if not a quagmire, and John Kerry making me reach to check that my wallet’s still there every time he says “My friends” — and there’s a candidate who actually devoted part of his acceptance speech to making America safe for gynecology?
     
E-mail Keith: KOlbermann@MSNBC.com

Catch 'Countdown' at its regular time tonight, 8 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

September 3, 2004 | 3:00 a.m. ET

We welcome guest blogger "Cablenewser":

A visit to Herald Square ( Brian Stelter, Mediabistro's TVNewser)

Stepping out of Penn Station this afternoon, it seemed that every other person was a police officer. I’ve never seen New York like this before, but it sure does feel secure. I’m “covering the coverage” of the convention today, checking out how news organizations are reporting on the GOP’s big bash for my blog, TVNewser.

On some corners, it seems like impromptu street festivals are taking place. It seems that every other person is wearing a T-shirt or holding a sign emblazoned with a political message. In a sense, it’s inspiring to see democracy at work— but on the other hand, a lot of it seems hostile. It’s especially fun to watch the pro-Bush and pro-Kerry folks engage in shouting matches on the sidewalk.

MSNBC’s set in Herald Square is more chaotic than it appears on television. Producers, aides, and runners mill about on the edges, speaking above the din of the crowd. Hundreds of on-lookers are standing across the street along Broadway. It’s amazing that Chris Matthews can hear himself think! It’s also amazing that he spends six hours on the air every evening. I hope he’s getting some vacation time soon!

Next time you tune into Hardball, don’t forget the dozens of staff members who are working behind the scenes to keep it all on the air. It’s a really impressive feat, when you think about it. And I’m sure they, and all their colleagues in the media, will keep it going through the next two months and into Election Day.

E-mail Brian at tvnewser@mediabistro.com

September 2, 2004 | 11:42 p.m. ET

For the love of politics (Joe Trippi)

During the Dean campaign we had an internal slogan that recognized what a miracle it was that we were even in the game and yet, will probably sound exactly right to many of those who delight in emailing me “loser!” messages in response to my Hardblogs.

Nicco Mele, the Dean webmaster would bellow “Joe, we suck, but right now we are the greatest team in baseball”   It was a paraphrase from a scene in the movie “ For the Love of the Game.” Catcher Gus Sinski played by John C. Reilly an incredible actor delivers a similar line at a key point in the movie.

Earlier tonight, I was running late to a taping of the “Charlie Rose Show” that will be aired tomorrow night to promote my book “ The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”  As I entered the green room (the place you get miked and wait with other guests on a show), I couldn’t believe it but there was John C. Reilly the guy Nicco had mimicked so many times when we were hanging by a thread, and the guy that had delivered one of the lines that kept our web team going late at night.  He was there to promote his new movie “Criminal.” 

I have to admit its been tough at times covering both these conventions. Knowing that, yeah we sucked, but for a fleeting moment there Nicco and a bunch of inexperienced kids really were the greatest team in baseball.  That’s how I feel about them.

Tonight as the Republican Convention comes to an end, two teams remain on the field.  There are but little over 60 days left in this campaign.  I think back to “For the Love of the Game” and yes, I love politics— but as I look at the money and attacks of 2004— I gotta tell you, like a lot of Americans, I hate what it has become.

E-mail: JTrippi@MSNBC.com

September 2, 2004 | 11:19 p.m. ET

Musings from a view of the Williamsburg Bridge (John Lichman, the Hardblogger jogger)

Despite the importance of Wednesday, I spent most of it in the heart of the NBC/MSNBC beast: the RF Ready Room, bane of my youth and spiritual adviser to how a convention makes itself known.  I spent a majority of my day at the side of Brian Doherty, a Hardball producer, making phone calls about next week’s shows.  Despite not being fully welcome, it was intriguing to spend a majority of my time at the Garden in the RF room. Sure, I wasn’t hassled by Secret Service for being a rowdy youth; instead, I saw the production of four networks—all the NBC affiliates and Telemundo—go on without a hitch. 

As a bonus point worth mentioning, the RF Ready Room had a catered dinner that included fried chicken and scalloped potatoes.  Believe me, as a man who eats ramen and drinks Fanta, this was a gourmet meal. The ready room was constantly abuzz with activity.

Toward the end of Cheney’s speech, I was handed a floor credential to take in a part of Vice Presiden’s speech. The passion was there, folks, but I could’ve done well without hearing the non-stop attacks. I always figured conventions were for party platforms, and not for bashing the other candidate. Who knew I could be so wrong?

Afterwards came my toughest job throughout both conventions: making sure the 'After Hours' panelists had drinks. Of course, they mainly went between water—and buying Joe Trippi a coke at a bodega on Broadway and 35th.  Trippi promises to deliver me a pink-haired girl, but I question his influence on SoHo.  After all, he’s had it in for me since my “attacks” began. Then again, I only have two blogs (counting this one) left. He has a paid career.

Let’s face it, I’ll be forgotten by most of you come September 3rd.  But will this convention? With today’s ACT UP protest during a College Republican event in The Garden , and another random protester—at writing this, I am not aware of her affiliations—acting up in a pink tutu during Cheney’s speech.

So, this is my second to last blog. It’s nice. I’ll write my next one later tonight, most likely around the same time as this one—which is 4:47 AM if you were wondering, from my apartment next to Mulberry Street. I’ll miss you guys. Especially giving Shuster advice on using his iPod, and making Trippi sweat about the blog competition. I don’t mention Zell Miller, since Mr. Matthews has him handled.

Instead, I’ll just say this: thank you NYPD. You’ve made my trips from 34th to Canal easy, and enjoyable despite the fun hours.

Read John Lichman's previous post.

September 2, 2004 | 10:02 p.m. ET

Day 4 at the RNC (Chris Jansing)

Brian Harkenrider / MSNBC TV
MSNBC's Chris Jansing reports from Herald Square.
The final night of the RNC is just getting underway as I write this.  Some Florida delegates just came up to me in the hallway— understandably worried about the hurricane coming their way . More than a dozen of their delegates have gone home to secure their homes; many of the rest are extending their time in NYC because they can't get flights back home.

I just talked with Jo Ann Davidson, who runs the Bush campaign in four states but most notably, in THE key swing state of Ohio . She says the troops on the ground are already engaged in "hand to hand combat".  Both sides are going after the undecideds— she believes that in Ohio, it may be as much as 6 to 7 percent, though other Bush insiders suggest the true number, not including those leaning one way or another, could be as low as 3 to 4 percent.  Both candidates will be in Ohio in the next 24 hours, which tells you everything you need to know about its importance.  Jo Ann is white-haired, extremely kind and grandmotherly, until you get her talking politics.  A former speaker of the Ohio House, she is a formidable competitor who knows how to run campaigns in the Buckeye state.  She thinks this convention has helped energize the ground game.

Believe it or not, the Hawaii delegation came over to say hello tonight, all dressed in matching Hawaiin shirts and leis. Two things about them: First, they believe their state is now a battleground: that their Republican governor is winning over Democrats.  Talk to the head of any delegation, in this case Brennon Morioka, and their analysis of the contest in their backyards is always knowledgable and insightful and filled with STRATEGY.  It seems that everyone at these conventions, whether they live in a battleground state or not, wants to play a role in this fight.  Second, the Hawaii delegation is also very interested in having us come to visit— still not cleared for that.  But my thanks to everyone who voted to send me to Hawaii !

The Battleground America team is grounded for a few days for coverage of the hurricane, but we'll be back on the road by Labor Day, taking you inside the state races that will decide this national election. 

See you from there...

E-mail Chris Jansing: CJansing@MSNBC.com

September 2, 2004 | 9:30 p.m. ET

How to get into our live audience (Christina Jamison, Hardball producer)

MSNBC TV
I've been asked to blog on "How to get into our Hardball audience at Herald Square." Since tonight is the last night and we're running out of time, I'll keep this brief and to the point so you can come on down and make it thru my line!

Christina's tips for getting in:

  1. No backpacks! 
  2. No oversized signs, no signs on poles, and no signs with profanity!  That said, we really love having people come out with signage and express their views, we just have to adhere to safety and FCC regulations.
  3. Come with political enthusiasm!  I guarantee you'll love being in our audience if you love politics.  You'll meet all sorts of different people with interesting viewpoints. 
  4. Be patient.  We have a small park, and we can take a limited amount of people, but we will do our best to get you in.  We're letting people in a little at a time to keep the line moving.  Think of it as a nightclub—As people leave, we're letting others in.  The cool thing is though, no cover charge!

I've gotta get back out and let some more people in.  Hope to see you here!

September 2, 2004 | 8:10 p.m. ET

Guest blog from an accredited blogger:

Bloggers' corner (Brian Reich, editor of Campaign Web Review)

As one of the dozen-or-so credentialed bloggers, I have spent most of the past three days huddled around a folding table in Bloggers’ Corner.  We get a steady stream of Republican notables passing by en route interviews with Sean Hannity or Hugh Hewitt— Andy Card (who is considerably shorter than he looks on TV), for example, has walked through at least half-a-dozen times. And Terry McAuliffe (who guest blogged on RedState.org, a conservative blog community), has practically taken up residence here.

I don’t want to pull back the curtain too much on what life is like around here, but a few anecdotes stand out:

  • Country crooner Darryl Worley isn’t much of a typist.  He was fully prepared to use just his right index finger to enter his thoughts about the Convention into a guest post on the Bush campaign blog before I intervened.  He only managed two letters when I asked, “Would you like me to type for you?” trying to stop what was turning out to be a slow, and somewhat awkward endeavor.  “That would be fantastic, you can do that?” he replied?  We switched seats, and 96 words later we were done.  “Wow.  How do you do that so fast?” he wanted to know.  “Small fingers,” joked one of the other bloggers sitting nearby, generating a laugh from the crowd gathered around.  “I can’t do what you do,” I noted—“Then we’re even” he replied.
  • Virginia Senator George Allen agreed to sit in for a quick gaggle with the bloggers.  As he moved towards his seat, the Senator opened a box of Krispy Kreme donuts that was on the table in front of him.  He remarked “looks like there is only one low-fat donut left.”  A blogger standing nearby chuckled and said “Low fat— I don’t think so.  Those are Krispy Kreme donuts Senator.” The Senator replied, pointing to the donut in the box— “no, see, it has a hole in it.”  Those Senators can be such jokers. 
    P.S. When asked what the Senator thought the Redskins record this year would be, he said 10-6 was possible.  He also admitted that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were his team of choice, primarily because his brother is their General Manager.
  • Michael Mack, the 35-year old chairman of the "Young" Republicans offered the following assessment of Tuesday night’s speech by Governor Arnold: "I thought Schwarzenegger was positively Reaganesque.”  Um, yeah… ok… I don’t even know what to say to that. But, Ben Domenech and TNR both disagreed.

September 2, 2004 | 5:54 p.m. ET

All eyes on New York (Felix Schein, campaign reporter)

I have just left the DNC's rapid response center on 26th street in Manhattan, and as you might guess, Senator Miller's speech was the focus. Even the hardened veterans of political battle expressed some amazement and the Senator's strong words, at one point calling Mr. Miller "Darth Vader."

Interestingly, it seems the Senator from Georgia even managed to overshadow the Vice President last night, as the Democratic Party operatives here focused on the former's remarks far more than they did on the Vice President's.

That said, all eyes here in New York are now on the President and his speech tonight . The Democrats here are already predicted we'll hear little from the President on the economy, healthcare, education and the environment and are doing their best to argue that the President has a "record to run from, not a record to run on."

I would wage a guess that the crowd in The Garden feels differently.

E-mail: FSchein@MSNBC.com

September 2, 2004 | 4:31 p.m. ET

Zell hit a bull’s eye (Terry Jeffrey, Editor of Human Events)

Is John Kerry’s record on defense issues strong or weak? What are the facts?

Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia—a lame duck who is retiring from public life— went to the Republican National Convention last night armed with facts.  Did Kerry want to cancel the weapons systems Miller cited in his speech last night? The answer is, yes.
Here is one impartial source readers of the Hardblog can check for themselves: The Boston Globe.

In an article published in the Boston Globe June 19, 2003, reporter Brian C. Mooney describes how Kerry ran for the Senate for the first time in 1984, courting the nuclear freeze movement and opposing the weapons system Miller cited in his speech.

“In his zeal to keep pace with [Democratic primary opponent James] Shannon’s leftward drift on disarmament, Kerry supported cancellation of a host of weapons systems that have become the basis of US military might--the high-tech munitions and delivery systems on display to the world as they leveled the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in a matter of weeks,” wrote Mooney.  “These weapons became conversation topics at American dinner tables during the Iraq war, but candidate Kerry in 1984 said he would have voted to cancel many of them--the B-1 bomber, B-2 stealth bomber, AH-64 Apache helicopter, Patriot missile, the F-15, F-14A and F-14D jets, the AV-8B Harrier jet, the Aegis air-defense cruiser, and the Trident missile system.  He also advocated reductions in many other systems, such as the M1 Abrams tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Tomahawk cruise missile, and the F-16 jet.  In retrospect, Kerry said some of his positions in those days were ‘ill-advised, and I think some of them are stupid in the context of the world we find ourselves in right now and the things that I've learned since then.’ But he defended his opposition at the time to the MX missile, the ‘Star Wars’ strategic defense initiative, and some other programs.”

Kerry may now admit— as per the Globe piece above—that many of his positions opposing these weapons systems were “ill-advised” and “some of them are stupid in the context of the world we find ourselves in right now.”  But the point is: They were stupid then, too.
If Kerry had had his way in the 1980s, the United States would never have pursued the policies President Reagan pursued to win the Cold War.  The military/technology buildup that helped win the Cold War, and continued to aid U.S. forces in subsequent conflicts, would never have happened.

Last night on MSNBC, Ron Reagan discussed with Chris Matthews how his father became a great peacemaker.  Ron mentioned his father’s famous boathouse chat with Mikhail Gorbachev at the two leaders’ initial 1985 summit in Geneva.  In his autobiography, "An American Life," President Reagan describes what he told Gorbachev in that boathouse and how it fit into his overall strategy for winning the Cold War.

“When I arrived in the White House in 1981,” wrote Reagan, “the fiber of American military muscle was so atrophied that our ability to respond effectively to a Soviet attack was very much in doubt. I wanted to go to the negotiating table and end the madness of the [Mutual Assured Destruction] policy, but to do that, I knew America first had to upgrade its military capabilities so that we would be able to negotiate with the Soviets from a position of strength, not weakness.”

Reagan also knew the Soviet economy was a “basket case” and that the Soviets could not sustain an arms race with the U.S.  So, in the boathouse, Reagan told Gorbachev: “We have a choice.  We can agree to reduce arms—or we can continue the arms race, which I think you know you can’t win. We won’t stand by and let you maintain weapon superiority over us. But together we can try to do something about ending the arms race.” [Emphasis is Reagan’s.]

As Reagan himself explained it, Reagan built up arms in order to make peace.  By favoring a nuclear freeze (which would have prevented Reagan from deploying intermediate range missiles in Europe to match the Soviets), by opposing SDI (which promised a technology race the Soviets could never keep up in), and by opposing all the conventional weapons he listed for cancellation in his 1984 campaign, Kerry stood against the very policies Reagan used to drive an Evil Empire to its knees and win a bloodless victory in the climactic battle of the Cold War.
That is part of the case Zell Miller was making last night.  That is a legitimate target of good, clean, vigorous public policy debate—and Zell hit the bull’s-eye.

E-mail: TJeffrey@MSNBC.com

Read some of the e-mails viewers have sent in.

September 2, 2004 | 11:05 a.m. ET

Ask not at whom the Zell boils, he boils at thee (Keith Olbermann)

Can’t we all just get along?

In the first fifteen minutes of shared downtime we’ve had since a photo shoot we did last spring, Chris Matthews and I ran into one another smack dab in the middle of Broadway yesterday and, as the old time throng swept past us into Herald Square, we had our usual conversation: politics, movies, a little sports, television executives— all of it punctuated with his laugh (“Ha!”) and mine (“Huh!”).

The process is simple and productive: Give Chris a straight answer, let him talk, pick up your point when he’s stopped talking, share the oxygen with him, and everything’ll be just fine.

Seven hours later, Senator Zell Miller goes all Aaron Burr on him and fantasizes about challenging him to a duel.

Here’s a man who in a historical-blink-of-an-eye ago was calling John Kerry a hero and swearing the Republicans had ‘sold the country out,’ fresh off a fear-mongering speech that made his '92 keynote for Bill Clinton sound like a schoolmarm talking to a bankruptcy referee, and Miller gets mad at Matthews?

The gist of the message from the Democrat and/or Republican was: vote for John Kerry and America will be attacked. And when it’s attacked, it’ll be defended with “spitballs.”

So Chris asked him if he really meant that.

“It’s a metaphor,” Miller replied. “Do you know what a metaphor is?”

Umm, Senator? That’s why he asked. Did you really mean that metaphor? Wasn’t that metaphor over-the-top? Isn’t it predicated on a half-idea: that John Kerry tried to dismantle weapons programs (the ones Defense Secretary Dick Cheney had asked the Senate to dismantle)?

Of course, Senator Miller can’t answer those questions. He's a one-man political revolving door trying to lead the criticism of a flip-flopper. So all of a sudden he’s slapping a white glove, throwing down the gauntlet, and checking the newspaper for the exact hour of sunrise. Senator— you have the first choice of spitballs.

Matthews can talk to anybody, and listen to anybody. You just have to get with the rhythm a little bit. Bend slightly. Flex. You know, the kind of bending and flexing you have to do when you want to come out and condemn both major political parties in the same decade.

And incidentally, Senator, the show is called Hardball, not Spitball.

Although if my bosses are watching, I think we have the title for a new program.

E-mails? KOlbermann@MSNBC.com

September 2, 2004 | 1:57 a.m. ET

From Chris Matthews

I just had this incredible moment with Senator Miller, the Democrat who just gave the Republican keynote.

It was only an hour after his speech, and I guess he came to the interview loaded for bear.

I questioned him about some of his remarks. Knowing what I know about how they vote on Capitol Hill, I tried to get him to talk about how senators all the time, for legislative reasons, vote "No" as a legislative tactic because too much money is being spent, when they couldn't have backed the bill otherwise. This goes for conservatives voting against social programs just as it does for liberals voting against weapons systems.

Senator Miller didn't buy what I was saying.  I can't tell you why.  And I was pretty surprised with his reaction.  Maybe because it was a remote and there was a lot of noise in the convention hall, he just couldn't hear what I was asking. 

I'd hate to leave things where they are without giving him the opportunity to discuss these important issues.  I was glad he said he wanted to come over and meet with me in person, so I hope he accepts my invite to join me at the MSNBC set Thursday evening. 

E-mail Chris: Hardblogger@MSNBC.com

September 1, 2004 | 9:56 p.m. ET

From a secure undisclosed location (Keith Olbermann)

Thoughts that began while watching Laura Bush prove you can give a convention speech that sounds like the Xeroxed letter that comes inside the Christmas Card (“The Western states are doing fine. Utah has met a nice young girl…”) and ending during the underwhelming Barney video :

You’ve seen Chris Matthews anchoring our television coverage the last two nights.

Fortunately, you didn’t see me.

No false modesty here. This is about emergency plans.

The polite protestors of Sunday and Monday (and they were polite ; they got an unfair rap when what looked like a common city street thug beat up a policeman), were things of the past by sunset Tuesday as rumors— and people— ran rampant.

NYPD and protestors clashed on the steps of the Public Library at 42nd Street, with the weapon of choice being nothing more lethal than plastic tube fencing. The police stretched out and moved forward towards those who wouldn't cooperate, many of whom later claimed they’d been permitted by police to move this way or that, only to be arrested for moving, scooped up like dolphins and tuna by a commercial trawler’s net.

Push 'em back, push 'em back, push 'em way back.

By the time I signed off ' Countdown' at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the dark mutterings had begun. This group or that was headed towards Madison Square Garden and our location at Herald Square. They were armed with ice picks. Or maybe it was ice pops. Or maybe they were just planning to stare daggers. You hear a lot of things.

The small Countdown coterie— Senior Producers Denis Horgan and Rich Stockwell and myself—volunteered to standby in the event of the worst-case scenario. We headed uptown towards an alternate anchoring position, asked to be rembered to MSNBC headquarters in Herald Square, and cooled our heels.

By 8 p.m. that night, Herald Square was ringed by policemen mounted on horseback. But excepting one incident, things were quiet then and quieter tonight, presumably because any thinking protestor knows already that merely to invade an outdoor location is not to vault atop the soapbox.

Not just because you’d tick off that particular network, but also because at a moment's notice, the control room can switch to the backup guy.

That would be me.

Uptown.

At a confidential address.

The Dick Cheney of the Anchor Desk.

E-mail Keith at KOlbermann@MSNBC.com.

And catch 'Countdown' tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET from Herald Square.

September 1, 2004 | 9:10 p.m. ET

Cheney speech preparation (Priya David, MSNBC reporter for the Cheney campaign)

The convention hall is starting to fill up in preparation for Wednesday's speakers and it’s a colorful sight which includes: a man all in bright yellow with an American flag covered top hat, and a woman with enormous fake sunflowers pinned all over her black suit. 

I can’t imagine the lines to get in through security, because even at normal times the gauntlet is daunting.  One bomb dog check of my camera, two x-ray machines to run my bag through, dozens of security officers checking my credentials dozens of times along the way, and umpteen escalators and winding hallways to walk.  Tomorrow, sneakers.  Several of the network correspondents are in simple sandals, even flip flops, so I think I can safely ditch the heels.

The Vice President is spending the day with family, for the most part, with just a bit of speech prep.  He also had a closed door meeting with members of the Wyoming delegation which is his home state.  After spending yesterday doing the bulk of practicing his speech and putting the final touches on it, the campaign says he’s focused and ready.

Don’t expect a charismatic performance , because the VP rarely delivers one, but rather expect the word “gravitas” to be on the lips of many analysts post-speech. 

My prediction though, is that the crowd will love it.  He’ll get a bigger cheer than Schwarzenegger.  Dick Cheney has his own special place in the Republican pantheon.  His secret service codename may have once been “Backseat”, but this morning, wife Lynne Cheney didn’t flinch from Matt Lauer’s describing her husband as the “most powerful” vice president. 

His over-all favorability rating may be far lower than Edwards or Kerry, or Bush for that matter— but party faithful think this man is a perfect complement to Bush.  And tonight he will deliver a speech on strength and security— his forte— right on message.

E-mail: PDavid@MSNBC.com

Tune into VP Cheney's speech at about 10:20 p.m. ET, and the post-speech analysis on 'Hardball.'

September 1, 2004 | 7:20 p.m. ET

Maybe being 80 means you never have to say you’re sorry (Andrea Mitchell)

George Herbert Walker Bush sure opened up to Imus today .  Notoriously gun-shy about “going on the couch,”  as he’s always told Maureen Dowd, ‘41  (with whom he told Don “I have a very unusual relationship, you might say”) reacted for the first time to his son’s saying “He didn’t cut and run like they did in 1991.”

“Yeah, I didn’t like that much....I’m sure there was some background around that statement because I saw that and frankly it hurt a little bit...”

And when Imus asked whether the President’s admission that he miscalculated about Iraq had more to do with the Rumsfelds and Cheneys and the other neo-cons, Bush said: “Look, I told you I don’t like to differ with my son, his team, or anything else. I have to surrender. I have to have my own opinions in a blind trust as Doonesbury said about me one time, in which case it’s true. If I said something to you and  I look different from the President, everybody would rush over to the New York Times or to Maureen or to somebody else and say ‘Look, the president differs.’ What do you say down in the White House press room about the nutty father unleashed out there. We don’t need that. I had my chance.”

We want more of the nutty father!  Bush ‘41 is so careful about not getting in his son’s way, but the absence of his foreign policy team (Scowcroft, Baker, Powell, except for Cheney) makes the generational divide pretty clear.

And it’s not just Iraq.  The former CIA Director whose name graces HQ at Langley (Bush) can’t appreciate all the CIA bashing coming out of this administration.

Speaking of generational change, after the Imus show, my producer Libby Leist shared her own first experience with the first President Bush: at Mabel’s Lobster Claw, the Bush family’s favorite  hangout in Kennebunkport.  Libby was with her folks vacationing there in “89 when the president, and the ever-present press pool arrived.  It was a very big deal.  So the family ate their dinner, and as the President was leaving, Libby...then age 10, asked him to autograph a cast on her broken wrist. The president obliged. (While signing the cast, he did ask her not to touch the doggie bag for Millie.)  Seeing the reporters, the whole entourage, meeting a president, all that started her thinking about this crazy business of following politics and presidents.  Just a snapshot from a long time ago...

E-mails, please send to AMitchell@MSNBC.com.

Catch Andrea on Chris Matthews' political panel tonight, 8 p.m. ET, on MSNBC.

September 1, 2004 | 6:17 p.m. ET

Gridlock (David Shuster)

I'm working on a report this week about on motorcades.  It's turned out to be a brilliant television story... and not just because the suggestion came from my boss Rick Kaplan.

You wouldn't believe how many motorcades, reserved travel lanes, and special accommodations have been created to get VIP's from one end of Manhattan to the other.  Plus, we are finding a lot of "regular" city folks who are quite passionate about the inconvenience the gridlock has created.  In any case, here is what we've determined so far if you want to know who the occupants are in a particular motorcade whizzing past:

  • 3-car motorcade: city council member
  • 7 car motorcade, with ambulance and 4 Secret Service war wagons: VP Cheney
  • 2-car motorcade: Former Senate Majority leader Trent Lott.  (Some Senators get no motorcade. We spotted Senator Norm Coleman in an ordinary sedan last night.)  

The president's motorcade hits the city tonight.

As I said, the story tomorrow should be quite humorous... and it will have some great video and sound. 

But in the meantime, here is a question for you: If you were a visiting VIP, say a member of Congress... would you (1) want the full "traffic blocking motorcade," knowing that it could get you across town in minutes at the expense of regular New Yorkers who have to face the gridlock? (2) stand with the people... and spend your time, wasting away in a taxi  going nowhere? or  (3) walk or take the subway? 

Send your thoughts/responses to DShuster@msnbc.com

September 1, 2004 | 5:04 p.m. ET

To protect and serve up 'Thank yous' (Roland Woerner, Ron Reagan's producer)

So there I was last night, trying to work my way back to the MSNBC location in Herald Square, when I got caught in the middle of "sit-in" protest on 6th Avenue and 34th Street.  I momentarily had a front row seat to New York's finest in action.  From where I stood, these cops seemed tired and hot and wanted to be anywhere else than here. Nevertheless, I noticed they worked hard at being polite. 

On a whole, they were almost surrealistically polite as in "Hello, my name is Bob and I'll be your arresting officer this evening".  They used as much force as necessary to carry dead-weight protesters from the sidewalk to the paddy wagon (do they still call them paddy wagons?).  One by one the cops got an aerobic workout carrying these folks away.  It was kind of like when you see an arrest on TV. The cops forcibly take the suspect into custody, then gently protect their head with their hand as they're placed into the back seat of a police car. 

Jesamyn Go  /  MSNBC
Cops control protests on 35th st. and 6th ave. on August 31, 2004.
The other cops assigned to pedestrians herded us into makeshift pens, made with steel barracades and orange day-glow netting, couldn't have been nicer either. They kept apologizing for the temporary inconvenience and told us we'd be on our way as soon as the protest group had been cleared.  

Part of all this street courtesy may have to do with the thousands of video cameras you see on the streets.  I'm not talking about professional news crews, but everyday folks carrying around camcorders of all shapes, sizes, and resolutions.  In fact, there is even a unit of cops that do nothing but videotape arrests and other police actions (Attention networks! 'Cops on Cops,' a new reality show).  So if you have civilians videotaping cops who are videotaping each other, it's kind of hard to get away with something.  Maybe that explains the courtesy on the street. Or maybe New York is getting it's money's worth from the  $76 million dollar security cost, much of which the city will have to pay.

In any case, it'll be up to you New Yorkers to tell us if the RNC courtesy in the streets remains after the invited guests leave the city.  

September 1, 2004 | 3:28 p.m. ET

Sen. Edwards' pre-emptive strikes (Tom Llamas, campaign reporter on the road with Senator John Edwards)

While Vice President Dick Cheney prepares to address the Republican National Convention , his Democratic counterpart Sen. John Edwards is telling voters in battleground Pennsylvania that Republicans are running from their record.

Speaking in Wilkes-Barre to a crowd of about 500 people, Sen. Edwards predicted that Cheney would go negative during his address to the party tonight. “Why would the Vice President of the United States of America spend a chance that he has to speak to the American people with these kinds of negative personal attacks? Well here is the answer: The answer is very simple. The answer are the facts of the last four years,” said Edwards

According to the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, millions of people have lost health insurance or have fallen into poverty over the last four years.  Edwards also said the ongoing conflict in Iraq was not improving.

“More people died in Iraq in August then in July.  More died in July then in June. It’s a mess,” said Edwards. The North Carolina Senator also reiterated his message of yesterday that “Two Americas” is no laughing matter.

“For the last couple of nights they’ve been poking fun at these 'Two Americas' that I talk about. Well, they can poke all the fun they want... and they can poke all the fun they want in New York City. They need to come out here to Pennsylvania to hear what’s actually happening in the real world.”

E-mail TLlamas@MSNBC.com

September 1, 2004 | 2:30 p.m. ET

Phil is a Mets fan (Joe Trippi)

Okay, in the wake of the Yankees being beaten to a pulp last night 22 to zip by Cleveland, I have a confession to make.  Phil hates the Yankees.  Phil is a died in the wool Mets fan.

I only said Phil was a Yankees fan in my posts because I knew it would drive him crazy.

And admittedly it did.  He came in this morning and the conversation went something like this.

ME: “Phil I’ll stop saying you are a Yankees fan when you start putting me on the air” (with a little chuckle to make sure Phil understood I was joking)

20 MSNBC Production Staff in the work trailer:  “Stunned SILENCE”

Phil: “Joe if you ever want to be on the air again – you are gonna make it clear I am a Mets fan.”  (Nothing about his expression led me to believe Phil was joking)

Staff in work trailer: “Unified GASP”  (the expression on their faces told me two things.
1. They had seen this scene before and who ever played my part was no longer with MSNBC.  2. If  I had any brains I would rush to a PC as fast I can and make it clear on Hardblogger that Phil is a Mets fan— and that none of this has anything to do with the Yankees getting creamed 22-to-nada last night.)

So here I sit.  Phil is a Mets fan.  Phil is a Mets fan.  With any luck I’ll be on the After Hours Show tonight midnight to 2am Eastern, wearing whatever Phil wants me wear – but saying exactly what I think about the charade going down at Madison Square Garden.

The great thing about MSNBC is we can poke fun at each other— disagree vehemently with each other at times, but we all really do get along.  So you will read plenty of serious stuff on Hardblogger, but we also intend to have fun here.

And on a more serious note— read today's new "Trippi’s Take Column" that I just posted.  Its time for the Kerry campaign to wake-up and fight!

E-mail Joe at JTrippi@MSNBC.com

September 1, 2004 | 12:24 p.m. ET

Guest blog from an accredited blogger:

A look into the abyss (Brian Reich, editor of Campaign Web Review)

I ventured down to the floor at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday afternoon with a singular mission… to look into the abyss. 

That sounds dramatic, right?  In reality, the “abyss” is just the band platform, a big hole in the convention floor off to stage right.  It is about twenty feet in diameter and surrounded by a thick plexi-glass wall.  In between the speeches, the stage rises up to reveal the feature musical acts of the evening.  In the first two days of the Convention, those acts have included Dexter Freebish, the Christ Tabernacle Choir, Darryl Worley, Dana Glover, and most recently Daize Shayne (who is not only a rock star, she is also the 1999 and 2004 Longboard World Champion in surfing).

One other observation from my visit to the floor: This is not my first political Convention here at MSG —I was at the Democratic Convention in 1992 and remember sitting high up in the rafters watching the speeches.  During Bill Bradley’s speech in 1992 a spotlight fixed on his retired jersey, hanging high above the rafters.  But this year his jersey isn’t there—and neither are jerseys honoring Walt Frazier, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Willis Reed or the other great New York Knicks who have played here.  The place just doesn’t seem the same without the Stanley Cup Champion Rangers teams of 1927-1928, 1932-1933, 1939-1940, and 1993-1994 played here.  I can’t blame the GOP for wanting clear sight lines.  But did they have to remove all the references to the great sporting history of New York?

Click here to read Brian's last blog.

September 1, 2004 | 10:28 a.m. ET

Baby, I’m an anarchist (John Lichman, the Hardblogger jogger )

John Lichman
Well, I’m thoroughly surprised. The response to my pathetic plea was awesome, and it even produced some nifty quotes! Ranging from the Trippi-tastic: “If the former Mayor bored you it's because you're probably a left-winger out of his element,” and more importantly, “I liked your Blog better than Joe Trippi’s.” Not only does this mean I get bragging rights for ten minutes, but I’d like to thank Jenny for informing me that Senator Hatch’s first name is Orrin, not Oren.

If only one of you were a pink-haired punk girl in SoHo. If only.

Yesterday was August 31st, day of massive “civil disobedience” and general uprising by the pseudo-punks in New York. I was surprised to see people who’d normally haunt St. Mark’s Place around Herald Square.  These “anarchists” that most of the print media hyped up were nothing more than your casual protester. Arrests were made, but no one was seriously injured—thankfully. Actually, my pride has been hurt. See, if you can’t tell from the gigantic photo, I’m a bit unkept. I admit, my hair is long and my beard is regaining its’ former presence. So imagine my surprise when a Secret Service agent stopped me at the 7th and 32nd entrance to the Garden.

I had to supply both my DC and NYU ID, along with an MSNBC credential. Further, she questioned why I was using the main entrance instead of the press entrance at 8th and 33rd.  Honestly, it was closer.

But the fun didn’t stop there, as Colin and I waited for country star—and a generally nifty guy— Larry Gatlin in the Media Center.  Guards sized me up, looking at black and white photos while muttering “His hair isn’t long enough” or “I think he shaved.” This was after showing my press credentials and again showing picture ID.  The crowning moment came when a guard sent a convention volunteer to ask me if I knew where the main floor entrance at the Garden was.

Thank you, Secret Service. I’m glad I can be stereotyped as “counter culture” due to the glasses and hair. Of course, if I told them I lived in SoHo, they’d arrest me on grounds of something or other.  Luckily, Mr. Gatlin—who took the time to personally thank every NYPD officer from the Garden to Herald Square—didn’t bat an eye when he met me.  I tell you, when you’re a prize like myself, you get used to the attention given by Secret Service and undercover detectives. They probably assumed I was another Thomas Frampton.

My convention coverage is winding down. My late nights are almost over. Does anyone need a witty blogger in New York? How about paying said blogger with love… and possibly money. Or pink haired girls.

Also, to prove that the almighty Trippi isn’t losing readers due to me:  "Trippi is prolific."

Click here to read the Hardblogger Jogger's last post.


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