Gary Doer at Both U.S. Political Conventions, Glad-Handing Party Power Brokers

Article excerpt

Doer takes in both U.S. political conventions

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Gary Doer has been on the ground at both the Democratic and Republican conventions over the past two weeks, "flying the Canadian flag" to a barrage of the biggest power brokers in the United States.

"All the people who are going to be making decisions in both parties are here," Canada's U.S. ambassador said in an interview in Charlotte, N.C., during a break in his jam-packed schedule of briefings at the Democratic National Convention this week.

"You meet governors, former governors, congressional representatives, candidates, senators, people who are advising and informing policy on the teams that are standing for the presidency of the United States," said Doer, one of 70 foreign ambassadors who descended upon the conventions.

"So it's a very good place to meet a lot of people very quickly. You just walk down the street and you meet them."

Doer said he's been struck by the vast differences between Canadian and American political conventions as he's taken in the events in Tampa and Charlotte.

"The corporate, special interest lobbying that goes on at both conventions is quite overwhelming," he said, sipping a mug of black coffee a few blocks from the downtown Time Warner arena.

"There is very little debate on the convention floor; you don't get debates about Afghanistan on the convention floor, or debates about trade versus protectionism on the convention floor, like you would see at a political convention in Canada."

Instead, each U.S. convention had a slickly produced, carefully controlled narrative as U.S. President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, his Republican rival for the White House, run neck-and-neck in public opinion polls.

In Tampa, it was all about Romney's likeability, Doer said, while in Charlotte, Democrats tried to get the word out that Obama deserves respect for his foreign policy triumphs and the job he's done dealing with a devastating economic recession.

"You have a disciplined message but democracy, as muddy as that can sometimes be -- you don't see it in as transparent a way as you see it in Canada."

Which convention was best? Doer, ever the diplomat, declined to say, although he did allow that he loved Bill Clinton's speech. He even provided a fleeting -- and bang-on -- imitation of the 42nd president, although he refused to reprise it before a rolling video camera.

"We won't know what is the most successful convention until we see in about a week whether anybody broke out of this tie," he said.

"And even then, after this convention is over, we're moving into the debates, which I think, if things are really close, will be very important. …

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