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Political conventions could use some excitement

There is an old saying about throwing a party and no one showingup. The Republicans may be doing that this week as they kick-offtheir National Convention tomorrow in Philadelphia.

With no drama for the convention — George W. Bush wrapped upthe nomination months ago — voters are yawning. Even the potentialfor some excitement over his choice of a running mate was pushedaside when Dick Cheney was picked last week.

Ho-hum. Maybe something exciting will happen during the balloondrop!

Even NBC, CBS and ABC have cut back on their broadcasting plans.The Democratic Convention in Los Angeles on August 14 will not beany barn burner either.

It was not always that way. There was a time when the Republicanand Democratic Conventions were the main fare of prime time TV. Theintrigue of the candidates battling for last-minute votes andjockeying for position was as good as anything Hollywood could everproduce.

During my youth I always enjoyed convention time and learned the’ins and outs’ of convention politics from my TV set by watchingWalter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

My first real convention was at the 1976 Republican Conventionin Kansas City. I was there not as part of the Mississippidelegation but as a member of the press covering the events. I wishI could say I spent my time interviewing Gerald Ford or RonaldReagan, but in reality, most of my time was spent in awe of whatwas going on.

Mississippi was in an enviable swing position in 1976. TheReagan and Ford folks were everywhere courting the Mississippidelegates and even the young reporters from Mississippi.

If you had any tie to Mississippi, you were an important person.One Ford aide offered to call me a chauffeured limousine late oneevening after I had missed my ride.

The Mississippi delegation eventually went for Gerald Ford andnever will I forget sitting a few rows from members of PresidentFord’s family and watching them cheer “Go Mississippi” as thedelegation’s vote put the President over the top, giving him thenomination over Ronald Reagan. Ford, of course, eventually lost toJimmy Carter.

The most fun I have had was in 1988 at the Republican Conventionin New Orleans. The other George Bush was seeking the nomination.Yes, I was down on the delegation floor when Bush made his famous”No new taxes” statement.

Now, Bush’s eventual Democratic opponent was Michael Dukakis,and some folks said I had a resemblance to him. I receivedsuggestions during the campaign that I could be his stand in ordouble. One good friend suggested I would be a perfect decoyagainst an assassin and suggested I contact the Secret Service.

I always thought Dukakis was a good looking guy — but Idigress.

Anyway, being dressed in a dark blue suit and walking around adark New Orleans Superdome became interesting. At one point, theSecret Service came to me wondering who I was when I tried to getto a press area without the proper credentials for the night. Othercomments came left and right.

I finally purchased a large button to wear on my lapel. It wasone of those “ghostbuster” type logos over the caricature profileof Dukakis with his, ahem, nose as the most prominent part.

At a function after the nomination, one rather joyful Bushsupporter walked up to me and grabbed the press credential hangingaround my neck. He tapped on my Dukakis button and just startedlaughing.

I have always secretly hoped that Dukakis would make another runfor the White House.