Republican National Convention
Tuesday, August 01, 2000

No time for star gazing

        PHILADELPHIA — A friend of mine, a Republican, said she hoped I'd have a good time in Philadelphia, but I shouldn't expect to see any stars. “I'm afraid the Democrats got them all.”

        I wasn't worried. I'd rather bump into Colin Powell than Warren Beatty. And some of the fun, for me at least, is to see some of my favorite journalists at work.

        I'd rather share a Philly cheesesteak with David Broder than Alec Baldwin. And I think Maureen Dowd is more interesting than Barbra Streisand.

        But I will never find them.

        There are 16,000 journalists at this convention looking for work, scrambling for news from delegates and during convention sessions. And at parties, breakfasts and lunches.

        First word, as we arrived, was encouraging. Porta Potties in the media area were deemed almost as good as regular restrooms. Except that we did not admire the single-ply tissue. But, we're professionals. We will soldier on.

        The First Union Center where the convention is being held is a basketball and hockey stadium at the edge of town — about a 20-minute bus trip in traffic. That's if your hotel is in Philadelphia. Delegates and press are scattered over three states. Ohio is in Center City, the heart of downtown, right across from City Hall.

        Kentucky delegates are about 25 miles from town, across the river in New Jersey. “There's an Olive Garden across the street. And nothing else,” groused one journalist. Well, more than one journalist. “You going to do a Kentucky in the middle of nowhere story?” asked a colleague. “Me too.”

        We are herded into buses, which are stopped at the entrance to the convention site. Security officers search luggage compartments under the buses. Everybody has to show credentials and ID and walk through metal detectors, then surrender cell phones and laptops.

        The media area is temporary. And amazing. Enormous white vinyl tents line up in the parking lot. The structures were built over nearly five months and provide 350,000 square feet of work space — equivalent to a 25-story building. Lots of telephone hookups and computer terminals, lots of journalists.

        Everybody is looking for a story. On top of everything else, people who are technically pols are competing with us for time and space. The ubiquitous Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell carries around his own earpiece, “for CNN emergencies.”

        Things are just getting started, of course. Balloons are still nestled in nets at the top of the domed stadium, looking like giant red-white-and-blue wieners. Waiting for the main event. And we may yet get to see somebody like the young Ronald Reagan launching a political career here. Or maybe somebody unexpected will stir things up — a Barry Goldwater. Some new — some unexpected — stars might make their way through the carefully scripted show here.

        But anyway, I think I spotted Peter Jennings trying to get a cab.

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GOP stresses inclusion
Bush riding high through Ohio
Taft: It's up to Ohio to deliver
Chao makes Kentucky proud
Tonight's convention schedule
Prime time coverage
- PULFER: No time for star gazing
WILKINSON: Power plays go on over breakfast
CROWLEY: Republicans unite for cause
Whitman: Abortion plank meaningless
McConnell rallies troops: Keep the Senate
Unity push gets platform passed
GOP presses PACs to donate 75 percent
Notebook: Convention tightens up security
Protesters, police keep problems to a minimum
Roll call gets rolling
Scenes from Philly