NEW YORK -- I have never seen so many police -- and for the first time I really understand Rudolph Giuliani's love for "New York's finest." Convention goers are impressed with their hospitality, their politeness and their restraint in the face of some extremely obnoxious protesters. (Many of the protesters, it should be added, comported themselves admirably.) Some of the police and federal agents patrolling the streets, the subways, the busses and trains are carrying impressive firepower. But they are friendly and open. Their bodies say we are ready to confront any enemy -- their eyes say we are disposed to help everyone else. In this, I believe, they are just like American soldiers.
I have mixed feelings about New York City, where I was born. It's too dirty, too noisy, too rude and too liberal to love. But one cannot approach this greatest of American cities without awe. The people who created and sustain this behemoth are full of spirit and courage. They have seen what frenzied, hate-filled terrorists can do, and still they persevere. They know that New York remains a prime target for the Islamist killers, but like Londoners during the Blitz, they soldier on. And some -- one cannot say how many -- have learned the lesson of 9/11. I got a succinct history from a young cab driver, himself a Democrat, about the Democrats' approach to terrorism. "When they bombed the towers the first time (in 1993), Clinton gave them a slap on the wrist and said, 'Don't do it again.' When they bombed our guys in Saudi Arabia, he gave them another slap on the wrist." (He demonstrated -- making his passenger wish he would keep his hands on the steering wheel -- I was fine with the metaphor.) The cabbie is voting for Bush.
I didn't ask him whether he had seen Zell Miller's keynote speech, but if he had, it would have solidified his inclinations. That was a unique and significant moment in American political history -- a politician who had delivered the keynote address at one party's convention 12 years ago now switching sides and addressing the other party's convention. It's quite extraordinary. Liberal commentators were at a loss to explain Miller's change of heart, and attempted to blunt the effect by noting that Miller had praised Kerry a few years ago. But the most likely explanation for Miller's decision is also the most obvious: He is sincere. Like the New York cabbie, he believes that every other issue pales beside national security. He wants his grandchildren to grow up safe.