The Irony-Free GOP

In which our man Durst watches a hyper-white convention get down with its bad self, and John McCain nearly spontaneously combust while making nice with a roomful of his old enemy’s fans.

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PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 1, 2000 — Quick. Put the remote down, get on the horn right now, call the Feds and find out where the GOP is holding their convention this year, because impostors hijacked the First Union Center Monday night. I don’t know who those moderate pro-diversity freako units were, but they had as much to do with the GOP as uranium tailings have to do with strawberry milkshakes.

Definitely not your father’s Republican Party. The entertainment before the prime time speeches was a rhythm and blues break dance team and a gospel choir. Does it seem odd to anybody else that 7 percent of the Republicans’ delegates are minorities while 90 percent of their entertainment is? No, never mind, just me.

And what’s the deal with all this school crap? Kids everywhere. A whole mess of them with inflatable red, white, and blue bang-together thingies that look like those 3-foot beef sticks Hickory Farms sells. Then former school librarian and presumptive First Lady Laura Bush speaks in front of a mock classroom, and finally by satellite George the Younger introduces Colin Powell from a real classroom. I half expected the General to show up dressed as a gym coach. “All right, everybody drop and give me 50.” C’mon, let’s be real, with his record in Texas, George W. is to education what an alligator is to a nest of baby ducks.

The best part was when Mrs. Bush opened her remarks: “I come here tonight to help nominate my husband for president of the United States of America,” and she couldn’t believe it either. Then she ends with “George will make a great grandfather. In the meantime he’ll make a great president.” Oh, thanks lady. Sure, let the guy bide his time waiting for his golden years as commander in chief. Anything to get the old man out of the house, huh? Don’t mind us, we’re just the country involved. Nice speech, though. Wonder if she ran into Colin Powell in the green room and said “Follow that, motherf … ”

After channeling Nancy Reagan with a call for “Just Say No II,” Powell scolded the troops declaring there’s no room in the Republican Party for racists. Wow. I knew there were a lot of them, but I didn’t think all the slots were full. But despite the inflatable three-foot beef sticks, the most amazing thing about Monday night was Powell’s timing. Ended at 11pm on the freaking dot. Proving it was a Republican event after all. Because when it comes right down to it, the message may be significant but nothing’s as critical as finishing in prime time. You’re talking money now.

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 2, 2000 — We all know this mythical convention of happy, shiny Republicans has been officially designated a controversy-free zone, under penalty of banishment to the media tent. But on Tuesday night, it also merited the classification of “irony-free zone” when John McCain, the man who complained during the primaries about having to combat the Bush-financed “Death Star,” was brought up on stage to the soaring strains of the “Theme From Star Wars.” I keep telling you, and you don’t believe me, but you can’t make stuff like this up.

The night was Chapter II in the Smoother Than A Baby’s Butt Dipped In A Poloyeurathane Bath Conclave, highlighted by film footage of Ronald Reagan (expect it to become a perennial like “The Wizard of Oz”), a testimonial from Babs, the Mother of All Mothers, and Elizabeth Dole upping the roboticism ante for Al Gore in LA.

Finally, the man who energized the nation this winter via the Straight Talk Express veered off a cliff and saw his credibility burst into flames as he endorsed his former nemesis with a smile so tight you could almost hear the enamel cracking. The saddest part is, the most exciting portion of the convention was watching to see if an also-ran’s orthodontia would hold up. We are getting desperate. Okay, maybe only I am.

What was most interesting about McCain’s speech was not his good soldier “I will headbutt a steel wall for this man” rap, but what wasn’t said. After all, the Arizona senator is Mister Campaign Finance Reform Himself, and once said of George W.: “If he’s a reformer, I’m an astronaut.” Yet at the convention not one single word was said about money. Zero, zip, nada, nothing. Squat. You’d have thought just the mere mention of any of the words “campaign,” “finance,” or “reform” were secret triggers which would expose the entire hall to the political equivalent of the ebola virus. Meaning, the greatest of all catastrophes: the end to host bar parties.

I guess the point is that there may be a time and a place to talk about campaign-finance reform, but apparently the time is not just after The New York Times has revealed that 739 donors are responsible for over $90 million in GOP donations, and the place is not the site of a blissed-out quadrennial company picnic high on political ecstasy.


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