Anticipation builds for Barack Obama’s big speech

By Evan Anderson – This is the time when some omnipotent voice comes out of the intercoms shouting, “Def con one. Repeat: we are at Def con one.”

The entire lobby of the hotel has been turned into an Ellis Island émigré holding pen as the non-floor-seated delegates mill about anticipating the moment fast approaching when the shuttles to Invesco field arrive.

Meanwhile the entire Rialto-Starbucks hub has more suits dashing around it clutching Blackberries than a herd of CPAs outside the IRS headquarters. At least the Iowa delegation’s breakfast had wonderfully full-fat bacon, croissants and sausage to sustain our energy levels (we’re going to need it).

Also sustaining the energy of the Iowa delegation was the incendiary speech from AFSCME International’s President Jerry McEntee. Following the seventeen-minute intro from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, McEntee joshed the Iowa delegation, noting that he was asked only to speak for seven minutes. McEntee played a game with the delegates, asking who has attended the most conventions. McEntee won handedly, surprising many as he noted that his first convention was as one of just nine Muskie delegates in 1972.

McEntee praised the DNC and in particular the Iowa delegation for its continued support of labor. According to McEntee, over 25% of the delegates in Denver are union members. McEntee’s sharp words rang across the ballroom more sharply than any speaker yet invited to these breakfast meetings. However, not all of McEntee’s comments were praiseworthy. Iowa Governor Chet Culver was given a verbal reprimand by McEntee for Culver’s recent vetoes against union bargaining rights in Iowa. McEntee made sure the silencer was on his weaponry though, gently reminding Culver that his election was only made possible through the support of unions, including AFSCME.

McEntee also revealed the troubling stories of canvassing AFSCME members and asking those not identifying as Obama supporters what their rationale was. Said McEntee, when union workers told me they felt they could not support Obama because of their concerns over false and misleading claims that Obama might be a Muslim (“not that there’s anything wrong with that” to quote Seinfeld) McEntee said he was incredulous. When McEntee was told by some union workers that they couldn’t feel they could vote for Obama because of his race, McEntee received a minutes-long round of cheering and applause from the entire Iowa delegation with his retort, “That is [expletive deleted].”

Joe Manchin, Governor of West Virginia, stoked McEntee’s sparks and sizzles in his own address to the Iowa delegation. Manchin noted that West Virginia is indeed more conservative than he would prefer it to be, but Senator Obama has come behind from losing to Senator Clinton in their primary from the largest percentage spread in the state’s history, to currently leading McCain by five points in the latest media polling in the state.

This will likely be the last posting from Denver for many hours as the security is so necessarily restricted at Invesco that even toupees are sent through the metal detectors. Watch for many in the Iowa delegation in the upper sections, level 100. We may be leaving soon, but it is expected to take hours, all under the infuriatingly close observation of the sun’s full rays, to trudge through the security ranks.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Gold medalist Shawn Johnson to lead pledge tonight

By Rod Boshart – Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa has been tabbed to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at today’s 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Officials of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama‘s campaign staff confirmed the Iowa gymnast, who one gold and three silver medals in the 2008 Olympic Games in China, will be on hand to lead delegates in the pledge at Invesco Field in Denver.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Iraq vet wears boots as tribute to fellow soldiers

By Rod Boshart – Iraqi war veteran Jacob Krapfl, 24, of New Vienna, has paid tribute to fellow U.S. soldiers this week by wearing his combat boots while attending the 2008 Democratic National Convention as an Iowa delegate.

Krapfl said the boots helps remind him of where he’s been and the people he served with during two tours in Iraq that ended in March 2005. “It’s nothing flashy, it’s silent but potent,” he said of his boot tribute.

Krapfl took to the convention floor to announce that Iowa delegates cast their 57 presidential nominating votes – 48 votes for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and nine votes for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The New Vienna delegate noted that Iowa was “where it all started with Barack Obama.” Before casting Iowa’s votes, Krapfl, a first-time delegate, told a television audience “Back on a cold winter’s night in January, Iowa planted the seeds for a new Field of Dreams for America with Barack Obama’s campaign for change.” Balloting was later suspended and Obama was nominated by acclamation.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Curtis. Is it just a hotel?

By Evan Anderson – The Curtis. Is it just a hotel? Glitterati Patsy Stone would note, “it’s a concept, a destination a way of life” in other words, a really happenin’ scene.

En route to The Curtis, Iowa delegates encountered the first sightings of McCain marchers. Although the Wall St. Journal is reporting today that the McCain strategy in Denver is to flood the DNC sites with McCain-blue shirts and signs, today marked the first time that there has been more than just a sole McCain campaign sign spotting. Unfortunately, the McCain supporters numbered somewhere around ten to eleven, give or a take a body, and were marching just in front of the “Recreate 68” protestors on the 16th Ped-Mall.

Fortunately though, the DNC delegates did not jeer the McCain supporters. Police walking alongside these Republicans were all smiles and waves, no doubt thinking themselves lucky that so far there have been no more violent demonstrations. (However, if you believe what MSNBC would have you believe, that we are mere hours away from learning McCain’s running mate, the current trembling peace between these two houses will soon make civil hands unclean, again.)

No one can say having been at the Denver Convention until they’ve been to The Curtis hotel. The Ohio delegation is camped out there, everywhere there, with an internet wet-bar in the cramped lobby and the MySpace café many floors up above. NPR has a perch on the second floor; however, it is so quiet there one almost wonders if the police standing guard outside the elevators are really librarians in disguise.

The lobby is right out of the playbook from MTV’s idea of a great convention, with paisley designs beamed around the floors and walls and campaign memorabilia, including some risqué action figures and table books, set up along the walls. The glossy shelves in the Ohio delegation’s lobby café have a large Marge Simpson Pez dispenser and quite a lot of vaguely sixties-themed items and art designs. One almost looks around expecting to see Paul Newman or Abby Hoffmann jump out of the polished woodwork and start rallying against Hubert Humphrey.

Several Iowa delegation members attended a luncheon in the Marco Polo Room, up on the third floor of the Curtis. The event, held just doors down from an Ohio delegation reception in the Duck, Duck Goose Room, was hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. A special address to the assembled delegates was delivered by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Iowans attending the event were pleasantly surprised to discover that when the elevator doors open a recorded voice makes whimsical welcoming remarks, “Floor two. Peek-a-boo, I see you!”

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The hotel, restaurants and other scenes around Denver

By Evan Anderson – Just yards from the Iowa delegation’s hotel is an Italian restaurant whose sidewalk cafe is a discombobulating scene, compared to its next-door neighbor, Sam’s No.3 café.

Judging from the sidewalk patrons alone, you can’t even order Evian at the Italian restaurant without producing a receipt proving that you laid down over a hundred dollars for your designer aviator sunglasses.

Contrast this with the bicycle cops from Denver‘s elite riot patrols lunching just yards away at Sam’s No.3 on the corner of 15th and Curtis. The sidewalk venue makes for an interesting picture-perfect respite from the previous day’s clashes between rioters and police.

Some of the delegates from the Ohio delegation pose for pictures with these law enforcement officials, the smiles and jovial scene is a wondrous contrast to a morning’s brush with heated counter-protesters and police.

Some of the guests to the Iowa delegation stepped up the plate and helped diffuse a passionate three-way skirmish between protestors, police and various delegates and Denver youth who were calling for pro-GLBT rights. Iowa Hall of Pride members witnessing the encounter were livid to point out that some of those advocating better treatment of GLBT Americans were not so much protected by police as watched aloofly, cautiously.

The corners of Stout St. and 15th have turned into a big tent circus, missing only the tigers and elephants (although plenty of pins showed elephants and John McCain in, shall we say, very humbling descriptions). Just up the street from the tents are the fake-couture stalls, ironically just across from the local TJ Maxx.

An unofficial caucus of California delegates could easily be achieved across the street from the Grand Hyatt Hotel surrounding well-patronized the fake Gucci, Coach and Armani couture accessories stall. Nearby, the La Boehme “gentlemen’s cabaret” is experiencing a boom of business, judging from the clumps of police that stand around the building.

Speaking of booming business, the lobby of our hotel has remarkably been transfigured into a mangled media crime scene, with photographers and slithering sloughs of cables holding the hotel’s Starbucks and Rialto Café hostage. The crunch for coffee, as Jane Austen said, “working on a weak mind produces every kind of mischief.”

The raised Formica table just steps away from the Rialto café has been mystically turned into a potpourri power scene, with Iowa delegates rapidly chatting with Nevada delegates, reporters, bloggers and the occasional DNC official so proudly wearing their orange “Podium” identification tags.

The only thing missing at this scene are brownies. You can hardly expect to play DNC backroom braggarts on an empty stomach.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Getting down to politics

By Evan Anderson – If, as the hipster song goes, that you “can’t trust that day,” Monday provided the mindless entertainment for the Iowa delegation while Tuesday is looking more and more productive for politicking.

Sadly however, those within earshot of the appropriate people at the breakfast table learned that Senator Tom Harkin will be departing Denver early Thursday and may not be attending Senator Obama‘s acceptance speech at Invesco field. Of course many in Iowa’s delegation were eager to share their trying stories of what security measures are like in Denver at the moment. Such is the state that it would take until Thursday morning, if you left now, to pass through security just to get into the parking lot of Invesco.

Standing committee members who ventured out and about the LoDo area last night shared their adventures over unhealthy white flour muffins and eggs with so-called “spicy” sausage. Apparently the traveling situations are made worse when the bomb squads are out and about, as if characters from either Orwell’s “1984” or else the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.”

During the breakfast, delegates were “pleased beyond punch” to listen to Lt. Governor Patty Judge and Governor Culver punching the air with their passionate endorsements of Senator Obama’s record of experience serving Iowa’s unique renewable energy concerns.

Culver’s wife joking noted to several delegates that in future conventions it might be best to move all the celebratory gatherings from the evening to the morning so the delegation can get their eight hours of sleep. The breakfast concluded with a drawing for credentials to today’s convention. Delegates getting their name drawn for one of what can be described as “cherished” guest passes to Pepsi were suddenly the most popular persons in the room.

Latest updates on the hotel imbroglio: the Nevada delegation gets a coffee bar still smaller than ours, but the pastries served there looked far more heart-friendly. Delegates will need all the healthy foodstuffs they can lay their hands on as we prepare to ship out at O-Fourteen-Hundred hours for the Pepsi center to listen to several Iowans address the general assembly.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Protestors, traffic and security

By Evan Anderson – Who are the real protestors? Denver police certainly believe the Clinton supporters are, despite the fact that the majority of those Clinton supporters walking boisterously along the ped-mall so close to the Iowa delegation’s hotel were women merely trying to voice their justified concerns over the primary process.

Yelling “No secret ballots! No secret war!” These protestors trudged the length of the shopping district as the smug DNC delegates laughed and took pictures, almost goading them on in their smiles.

The opening of the DNC convention is less than half an hour away and yet the bedlam around the hotels will likely continue until well until the evening. Police in black riot gear cling to the sides of their SUVs and Escalades as they roam alongside the protestors, making no more noise than the occasional grunt or yell to watch the traffic lights.

The pro-life protestors just huddle together like a swarm of twirling butterflies around a Butterfly Bush, chanting and occasionally yelling at the Obama delegates, “You were human before you were Christian!”

The Denver police watch these protestors with an appraiser’s carefully honed stare but make no move to corral them. The traffic situation is horrid beyond the scope of surely what Denver had anticipated.

Due to the protestors, as well as police ringing the hotels with cars and dogs, buses have all but been reduce to charging the gauntlet at a snail’s pace. The gaveling in of the convention at three is the first misstep of the convention, most of the Iowa delegation is still crawling through traffic.

The security is so tight around the Hyatt that bomb-sniffing dogs, mirrors to look under cars, magnet wanding and the like reduce any plans to infiltrate the hotel in the noble quest of autographs and candid photos of the DNC elite to vaporous empty sighs.

As the convention begins, we hope that the calm tenor of Obama’s voice eventually brings a little solace back to the agitated boiling on the streets in Denver.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]