Conventions

Rich Galen

8/23/2012 9:30:00 AM - Rich Galen
The Republican National Convention starts on Monday in Tampa, Florida.

I will be there but I have a very, VERY limited range of assignments, so I am likely to spend most of the four days sitting in my hotel room doing my regular work. My first convention was 1980 in Detroit (Reagan/H.W Bush) 32 years ago.

I was not zero years old when I went there as press secretary to Congressman Dan Quayle who was running for Senate from Indiana.

One outlet estimated there will be up to 15,000 journalists in Tampa. There will be 2,286 delegates (if everyone shows up).

According to my iPad calculator about 6½ reporters per delegate.

Happily for the reporters there will also be several thousands of official protesters who will be permitted to officially protest within the official protest area - an area which has been agreed to by the Republican National Committee, the cops, and some loose confederation of protester groups.

This is actually a good thing. The protesters know where they can act out. The cops know the protesters are allowed to act out there; the reporters know where they have to go to get interviews, footage, and/or sound of the protesters acting out and we get to show the Russians that we don't arrest people for acting out; and, people like me can go and remember when we were in college - and fueled by 3.2 percent beer - were fully capable of acting out, too.

In addition to the space rented by the major news outlets - the neworks; the wire services, the major print newspapers and - now - the major on-line outlets there will also be Radio Row, Blogger Alley, and a massive filing center where smaller outlets (like, back in the day, Mullings) will have rented one seat among many at a long table, among many.

I unabashedly lay claim to having invented the "Truth Squad" at the other guy's convention.

It was back in 1984. I was the communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee and I convinced my boss, Joe Gaylord, that I could mount a relatively inexpensive effort to provide alternative programming during the Democrats' convention in San Francisco.

Joe, ahead of his time as always, agreed to let me put together a small team of people and we packed up a couple of IBM-PCs (pretty new at the time), and just about everything else we thought we might need and we headed off to the west coast.

The idea was this: By the time the convention actually starts, reporters have interviewed everyone of interest and by day two they are standing in line to speak to the guy selling Richard Nixon bobble-head dolls.

Newt Gingrich and his Band of Brothers named the "Conservative Opportunity Society" rolled into town behind us and we provided a daily press conference commenting on whatever the Democrats were trying to accomplish.

By the next Presidential Cycle both National Committees recognized the genius of my idea and raised it to the level of satellite trucks and full staffs to the point, next week, when the rumor is the Ds will be sending Joe Biden to Tampa to say something stupid.

The big negotiations have been between the convention managers (read: The Romney Team) and Members of Congress, Senators, and Governors as to will they get to speak and, if they do, about what and when.

When I was growing up the three major networks went crazy promoting the number of people they would have on hand to provide "GAVEL-to-GAVEL COVERAGE" of the national conventions.

Then cable happened and the broadcast networks have been reducing their coverage to only a couple of hours per night.

U.S. Senators who stride mightily across the National Capitol and Governors who are the most mighty in their states are reduced to being (modifying Macbeth)

Poor players, strutting and fretting their hour upon

the stage

And then are heard no more.

It is a tale told by an idiot,

full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

All because they will not have been granted a speaking slot in prime time.

Conventions matter but this is probably the last cycle they will look like they do today.

In an age of looking for every dime to reduce the deficit, it is impossible to believe that in 2016 each of the Republican and Democrat conventions will be bolstered by your tax dollars.

18,248,300 tax dollars this year, to be exact.

Each.

Talk to you Monday from Tampa.