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The Politics Junkie

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"... when a journalist turns into a politics junkie he will sooner or later start raving and babbling in print about things that only a person who has Been There can possibly understand." —Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72

NYT, WP, USAT and WSJ all handle the lack of suspense in different ways, but the imminent GOP lovefest tops — and is splashed across — all papers. NYT and WP go with drumbeat stories, arriving in Philly with Dick Cheney and recounting, like barflies back from a vacation, what a strange trip the last day has been.

NYT does it all in three sentences. One about Cheney — "He spoke for only four minutes at the hotel where he will be joined by Mr. Bush on Wednesday, and he seemed overwhelmed by his reception from a crowd organized by the Bush campaign." One about Bush — "For his part, Mr. Bush continued his slow march toward Philadelphia, campaigning at the replica of the historic Crosley Field in the suburbs of Cincinnati." And one for the other guys: "The Democrats, meanwhile, continued their incessant assault on Mr. Cheney's record today."

The story's hed — "Poll Finds Delegates Are Conservative" — isn't exactly a teaser, but there's a few shining moments. This of Bush: "In a tribute to his political skills, delegates who described themselves as moderate viewed him as one, too, while self-described conservatives called him conservative." And here's the number of the beast: "Forty-two percent of Mr. Bush's supporters across the nation said they supported him with reservations. Only four percent of the delegates said they felt the same way."

WP drumroll hits all the same notes, kicking off droll — "Arriving at the Republican convention as the vice presidential nominee-in-waiting, Richard B. Cheney serenely accepted the cheers of maraca-shaking party members today..."

USAT goes cover with a withering, funny and deeply reported story about the ooze of money and influence at these things, and then hits the hard notes with a nicely phrased "Coming to this cradle of the nation's history with an eye to rewriting their own, Republicans on Monday open a convention choreographed to give George W. Bush the most upbeat send-off of any GOP presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984."

There's also good stuff off to the side, including a nice item about Al Gore's ongoing cries for attention, the latest example being his decision to set Aug. 8 as his running-mate date. Irony, anyone? "Gore campaign spokesman Chris Lehane said the Democratic presidential candidate was determined to conduct the process 'in a businesslike and discreet fashion.' Still, the disclosure of the date was an attempt by the Gore campaign to build some suspense for Gore's choice as the GOP prepares to seize the spotlight with its national convention."

WSJ is arch as always, rolling up all the drumbeat stuff and depositing it in the belly of a national poll story, which leads smug. "George W. Bush holds a modest lead over Al Gore but a striking array of strategic advantages as unified Republicans flock here to launch their drive to retake the White House." The lead, by the way, is 47-42.

And the paper earns its big, bristling space in the convention's tent city by rubbing Cheney — "a cool-tempered veteran of national politics" — on his shiny bald head for luck. "As Democrats launched an ad campaign pressing their assault on his record, Mr. Cheney blasted their strategy of attack. 'I don't think it's going to fly.' So far, the poll makes clear, it isn't."

The Taste Makers: Opinion Roundup In NYT, Bob Dole and Gerald Ford team up for this bit of orthodoxy in "The Wisdom of Choosing Dick Cheney": "We are delighted by the selection of Dick Cheney to help implement Mr. Bush's inclusive vision. Ironically, the shrill reaction of some Democrats to the Cheney nomination only confirms the timeliness of Governor Bush's pledge to restore civility to Washington." And that's about it. The Big Pens must all be en route. So on to...

Best Deadpan Description of the GOP Demographic (USAT) "... a slew of regulated businesses will host a bash tonight honoring committee members at the studio where the television show American Bandstand originated in the 1950s. Dick Clark returns as emcee, and entertainment includes Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell. Philip Morris, the Investment Company Institute, the Edison Electric Institute, Prudential, Merrill Lynch and more than a dozen other companies with issues pending before the Commerce Committee will pick up the $400,000 tab."

Most Poignant Ending to a Convention Drumroll Story (NYT) NYT, after reporting that McCain "gamely asked the audience to vote for Mr. Bush and was soundly booed for his troubles.": "Tears came to Mr. McCain's eyes when he met with his own delegates. He said, 'I need every one of you to give this campaign the same amount of enthusiasm and participation you did for our primary campaign.' He added, by way of warning, 'America doesn't like sore losers.'"

Most Kurtzian Ending to a Media Story About How There's No Story Here (WP) "There's this wonderful incestuousness where the only story is the media being bored," says USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro. "It's just the most self-indulgent thing imaginable. We take these conventions so seriously, even when we're running around frantically in search of no story." Now that's a story.

Best Growling Match (WP)
Cheney to Donaldson on "This Week" Sunday: "So what trivial question did you want to ask me?"
Donaldson to Cheney: "Well, a lot of people think Nelson Mandela is not trivial." TouchÚ.

Most Convincing Impression of a Beltway Outsider (WP) "When I look back at Washington, I scratch my head and ask what the hell are they doing back there." —Dick Cheney, on life in the private sector.

Pondering the Meaning of W.

The Delegates: Seeing Dubya as They Want to See Him "The party has a conservative wing and a moderate wing and both sides are comfortable with him. Republicans are hungry enough that there is, to at least some degree, things that we are all willing to overlook." —Kansas delegate Eric Melgren (NYT)
"I see him as a moderate with some conservative areas." —Maine delegate Georgia Buxton, self-described moderate (NYT)
"I think he's a conservative. More so than his dad." —Maine delegate Elaine Bridge, self-described conservative (NYT)

Donor Logic "I'm assuming, since we've supported him throughout his gubernatorial career, that we'd have an opportunity to go visit if we wanted to." —Austin construction lobbyist Thomas Johnson (WSJ)

Heard at One Protest or Another
"Both the major political parties are puppets of corporations." (WP)
"We're here because we're angry." (WP)
"Honk if you're a virgin!" (NYT)

The Protests, In Sum Quoth the Times: "Devotees of lively political protest, a fading art in recent decades, had something to cheer for and against today as an eclectic, ragtag assortment of causes snaked and howled through the heart of this city, giving pause to Republican conventioneers intent on decorum."

"The organizers have been very cooperative, as have their lawyers." —Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney, who reported no arrests from the day's protests (WP)

Protester Protests "At least the kids are trying, scratching away, although they don't quite have it. It's like watching a cartoon, but it's nostalgic. They're trying." —bullhorn-wielding Christian fundamentalist John Franklin, 58 (NYT) after berating an environmentalist rally for "all the clear-cutting of babies."

Best Journalism-School Description of the Convention by a Seemingly Weary Al Franken, Who I Really Hope Doesn't Mind If I Quote Him: "It's not an onion."