A tale of two cities

Posted: Sep 02, 2004 12:00 AM

 NEW YORK -- The Bushies have decided to use the Republican National Convention in New York to spotlight George W. Bush as a solid, regular guy. They saw that Boston didn't get the Democrats a post-convention bounce in the polls. They want a bounce.

 My theory: An unexpected consequence of the "John Kerry, reporting for duty" confab is that voters got sick of hearing about how great John Kerry is. They wanted to hear more ideas. They wanted to hear more about America's future (not Kerry's past) and what Kerry could do for them.

 Instead, they heard: Vote for John Kerry, he's better than you are.

 This is how the Republican and Democratic national conventions differ:

 Boston: America meets Teresa Heinz Kerry. John and Teresa's paths crossed because her late husband was a Republican senator. After she became a widow, the two bonded at 1992's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

 New York: Laura Bush had a less complicated and very American love story. She told the nation Tuesday that she met her husband "at a backyard barbecue in Midland, Texas, and married three months later."

 Boston: Delegates did not warm to Heinz Kerry. No surprise. Looks-wise, there was a huge gulf between the would-be first lady and delegates of a certain age and income. I suspect some Democrats thought it wasn't natural for a woman in her mid-60s to look like Teresa Heinz Kerry.

 New York: While many pundits panned Laura Bush, GOP delegates hung on her every word. They were so attentive that you could hear a cell phone ring on the convention floor. (A rarity, I assure you.)

 Boston: Democrats were better dancers than the rhythm-challenged GOP delegates. No question about it.

 New York: The Repubs, overall, dress better than the rumpled Dem delegates. It's not that the Repubs are stylish -- they just respected the event enough to wear pressed clothes.

 Boston: Delegates cheered video vignettes that saluted Republicans who plan to vote for Kerry. They admired the Republicans' independence on principle.

 New York: Delegates cheered Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who plans to vote for Bush. They admired Miller's independence on principle.

 Boston: Even though Boston's Democratic Mayor Thomas Menino sharply limited where activists could demonstrate, protesters were low key -- they behaved as if they did not want to step on the Kerry message. There were fewer than 10 arrests.

 New York: New York's Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered protesters more venues. Activists responded by trespassing, yelling at -- even spitting on -- conventioneers and attempting to block roads; they had few scruples about stepping on other people's rights. The number of arrests was 970, as of my deadline.

 Boston: Rich Dems bashed the rich.

 New York: Rich Repubs bashed "economic girlie-men."

 Boston: Kerry running mate John Edwards returned to his primary campaign theme of the "Two Americas" -- invoking the Democratic mantra of rich vs. poor, black vs. white, citizen vs. immigrant.

 New York: Wrong, chided California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday night. The poor-immigrant-turned-governor noted that he has met U.S. troops fighting abroad and "They believe there is one America, and they're fighting for it."

 Boston: Vietnam.

 New York: Sept. 11, 2001.

 Boston: Kerry talked about Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona as if McCain's good name could rub off.

 New York: McCain talked at the RNC. And he wants four more years of Bush.

 Boston: Top Dems, like former President Clinton, praised Kerry for being better than they are because Kerry volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam, when they avoided service.

 New York: In his Monday night speech, McCain, a former POW, never mentioned Vietnam.

 Boston: Kerry daughters Alexandra and Vanessa delivered serious, politically astute speeches. They, of course, spoke at length about Kerry the hero, who even once saved the life of the family's pet hamster, Licorice.

 New York: Bush daughters Jenna and Barbara told flat jokes, eschewed partisan issues and also had a hamster. The big dif, said Barbara, "Let's just say, ours didn't make it."