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Conventions Past And Present

The demeaning of the national conventions goes on...and on. That doesn't mean it progresses. But it does mean it regresses. I frankly don't care how cheap and tinselly the gathering of the Republican party will be like.  

I do care about what the Democratic convention will be like. I was at the Los Angeles convention as an Adlai Stevenson volunteer in 1960, Adlai Stevenson for a suicidal third run . It was, in its own way, quite unruly with Eleanor Roosevelt and Herbert Lehman leading an oh, so slightly disguised anti-Catholic campaign against J.F.K.  

In 1968, I was a big man in Chicago helping the McCarthy campaign to expire gracefully.

Then, in 1972, I went to the McGovern convention in Miami, gave him some money but in the end -- I am very proud to admit -- I did not vote for him. McGovern was then and still is a copy of Henry Wallace.

Four years later, I was at the New York convention that nominated Jimmy Carter whose only wise act as president was to make my student and great TNR editor Rick Hertzberg his speechwriter. I suppose I voted for him in 1976. But, as I recall, in 1980, I cast my third party ballot for John Anderson. On the other hand, maybe that year I didn't vote at all...

In 1988, I worked for Al Gore in the primaries. But I did not go to the convention: I did not want to see Mike Dukakis nominated. I also knew that he would lose. You can look up some of my articles  in TNR.

Then in 1992 I went to Los Angeles to see Gore nominated for vice president. He and the top man on the ticket won, you recall. I never liked Bill Clinton, and I turned out to be right. He never liked me and neither did his wife.

I skipped the 1996 convention, conveying my good wishes to Al on the phone.

Los Angeles was convention city when Gore was nominated in 2000. I was there. The presidency was stolen from him by the Bush mafia headed by someone I never, never liked or, heaven forbid, admired, James Baker. Years ago, I recall Al chastising me for my harsh words, circa 1989, about Baker. Al, I was right.

My home is in Cambridge, MA. But I did not attend the 2004 Boston convention which nominated John Kerry. I was sure he would lose, absolutely sure. No Skull and Bones man will ever again be the Democratic nominee for president. Oops, I forgot: I did attend a cocktail party the first night of the convention with veterans of the Gore vice presidency. Then I went to the Cape. I thought I might watch some of it on the tube. But the first time I turned the TV on there on the screen was Michael Moore sitting as Jimmy Carter's guest at his ex-presidential box. That was the last I saw or cared to see. You may remember that Kerry lost, and no one robbed him of the goal of his lifetime except himself.

I will not be going to Denver but I will certainly watch the placing of Hillary's name in nomination at the Obama coronation: I wouldn't want to miss the Clinton family ritual that's been imposed on the Democratic Party. The ritual, as she put it, will be cathartic, and that's what she needs. Believe me, it won't be cathartic enough.

I will also watch with interest and some anxiety the candidate's address to an audience of 75,000.

And now I read in an AP dispatch today that six "real people" will also address the convention. Who will have written their speeches?

Were you wondering whether Jimmy Carter will also speak? You don't have to wonder any more. He will. Maybe they will edit his speech beforehand. But he's sneaky enough to deliver the words he wrote whether they do or don't. Will he mention Israel, attacks on which is how he makes his living these days?

I am not going to the convention. I will be doing some surrogate speaking, however, and I will mention Israel.