Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Needs Reality Check, or Maybe Just Reality

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Needs Reality Check, or Maybe Just Reality

Article excerpt

IF I HAD BEEN thinking clearly, I would have known the moment I landed at the airport that something mighty peculiar was going on here. Beach sand drifted across the sidewalk. I bumped into the Rev. Al Sharpton and Ollie North at the baggage claim. I saw my first car, a 1971 Volkswagen beetle, whiz past without a speck of rust on her.

Surely, I'd slipped through a rift in the time-space continuum, or stumbled onto the portal to a parallel universe.

And now, after four long days and four late nights at the Republican National Convention, I'm more confused than ever about the nature of reality, or if it even exists.

In the immortal words of Ross Perot's former running mate, retired Adm. James Stockdale: "Who am I, and why am I here?"

About 14,000 other journalists are asking themselves the same questions, even as they are tripping all over themselves trying to justify their expense accounts. When the obvious fact that there is no news here becomes front page fodder in newspapers across the country, you know you're in la la land.

No doubt the Republican faithful have a clearer sense of the purpose of this convention. There are real issues at stake, which presumably got them involved in the political process in the first place: protecting the rig hts of the unborn, or a woman's right to choose; cutting taxes so they can save enough money to send their kids to college; figuring out how to pay for Grandma's stay in the nursing home; reforming welfare; cracking down on crime.

It doesn't get much more real than that.

But a political convention - this one more than most, I'm told - isn't about reality. It is, by design, part pep rally, part reunion and part beauty pageant.

The real people with real issues must be motivated to sell the fictional "solution" to problems that nobody, including the Democrats, has ever been able to fix.

In order to sell the fictional solution, the Republicans must sell the fictional Bob Dole. The charisma-proof original isn't good enough. The man is a bona fide war hero, a smart, dedicated public servant with a tart wit, vast experience and a wife who could go ten rounds with Hillary, easy. But alas, marketing him to the American public is comparable to selling aspirin in a child-proof bottle to arthritics.

In order to motivate them to sell the Dole fiction, the convention must sell Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Republican of Anytown, U.S.A., the fiction that they are part of something more glamorous than real life.

Celebrity is the coin of the realm, and access is everything, starting with convention seating and ending with . . . parties!

At the Charlton Heston bash hosted by Arena PAC at Planet Hollywood on Tuesday night, there were black tickets and red tickets. If you were a lucky real Republican (Mr. and Mrs. J.Q.R.) or a working journalist, you got a black ticket to stand outside and watch the Republican Somebodies and other celebrities walk inside. …

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