INSIDE THE BELTWAY: Once upon a time, political conventions were a place to debate issues. Now it’s just spin vs. spin

Traditionally, way back in the last century, the national political conventions were interesting - even exciting - as delegates actually voted, platform (and even credentials) battles were fought over real issues, a nominee was selected and - as a bit of an anticlimax - he then proceeded to select a vice presidential nominee.

Traditionally, way back in the last century, the national political conventions were interesting - even exciting - as delegates actually voted, platform (and even credentials) battles were fought over real issues, a nominee was selected and - as a bit of an anticlimax - he then proceeded to select a vice presidential nominee.

Traditionally, way back in the last century, the national political

conventions were interesting - even exciting - as delegates actually

voted, platform (and even credentials) battles were fought over real

issues, a nominee was selected and - as a bit of an anticlimax - he then

proceeded to select a vice presidential nominee.



Now, with the parties’ frenzy for TV ratings and seemingly unslakeable

thirst for campaign contributions, the primaries are front-loaded to the

point that our candidates are known by March, any serious policy issues

are thrown to minor candidates (are the Green Naderites pro-choice or

pro-life? Is Buchanan for permitting replacement of strikers?), and the

time from March until August is taken up with reporting fund-raising

totals and speculating about vice presidential candidates.



No wonder the public is bored out of its collective skull and the

networks are opting for ’reality’ programming over live coverage of the

conventions.



One network wag has suggested a compromise - cover the conventions,

limit the number of delegates to one or two per state and require them

to select one of their number each day for execution (by lethal

injection, of course, and off-camera). We can expect such a version by

2004, I’m sure.



The stage is full of strategists and consultants, each seeking to pass

to some journalist a story favoring one candidate - or as the Bush

people demonstrated recently with John McCain’s last-minute bid for the

VP nod - strongly disfavoring another.



It was a grand exercise, by spinners (paid publicists) working all the

stops. Confronting a ’dead’ weekend, the McCain folks, still harboring

post-primary resentments, began what amounted to a full-court press,

offering up McCain for the vice presidential nomination.



The purpose was almost certainly to embarrass Bush and make him seem

ungenerous - even risking defeat - if he ’turned down’ McCain. But each

side knew such a ticket was as impossible as politics could be - for the

simple reason that each heartily dislikes the other.



Nevertheless, the McCain people eagerly let selected reporters in on the

(manufactured) secret that their man had said he would accept if Bush

offered the spot. Outmaneuvered, the Bush people carefully - and a bit

nastily - let their favorite sources know the Governor relied on the

Senator’s earlier refusals.



But the McCain ’boomlet’ remained. So the Bush strategists trotted out

Dick Cheney to publicly change his voter registration from Texas (where

he lived) to Wyoming (where he once lived) and leaked to anyone who

would listen that Cheney was the choice.



Hippocrates might say, ’Spin Physician, heal thyself.’



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