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Live from DNC: ‘Ask Charlie Anything’

Colorado native Charlie Martin continues his Denver diary and takes questions from readers. Latest: Charlie serves as Michelle Malkin's impromptu bodyguard...

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Charlie Martin

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August 25, 2008 - 1:53 am

Aug. 26, 01:22 am

Finally made it home.  Considering that I left downtown Denver at 9:45 for a 45 minute trip, I think you can deduce that the mass transit system is not coping at all well with the convention.

This is just a quick tease, and I don’t know whether it will show up as my last post on Monday (anyone still awake in the office?) or my first on Tuesday, but I can tell you it turned out to be a more exciting afternoon than I expected.  I met Michelle Malkin, and ended up being an impromptu bodyguard while a nut case named Alex Jones (look him up yourself, I won’t dignify him with a link, even to his Wikipedia page) tried to incite his minions to assault her.

Let me be real clear: this paragon of nobility — who is about 5′ 8″ and 270 pounds — was screaming abuse in Michelle’s face while trying to incite his henchmen to physically punish her for what he felt were improper ideas.  When I interposed myself, he tried shoving me around and delivered at least one blow to my back.

And yes, there is video.

It took a while, but I’ve started to get angry.  Not so much at this clown trying to push me around — I don’t push around real easily, and frankly when it takes most of a day before I figure out I should be angry I mostly don’t notice when someone does try — but at this imitation of masculinity threatening a 95 pound woman and needing a mob to do it.  And even more so that a dozen mounted police and a half dozen on foot didn’t interfere with it as he did so, leaving it to a couple of civilians to protect her.

We’ll see what the video shows after I cut my feet out of my poorly-chosen shoes and get some rest, but I’m going to be very curious to catch up with the Mayor tomorrow and ask him if that’s the policy he encourages the police to apply.

Oh, and this is not the “world’s most boring riot” that Michelle referred to — that was later.

And so to bed. 

1:15 pm PST

So, just some quick updates. I went to the press conference with Silver Salazar, Carly Fiorina — well, I’ll just give you the list as it came in the press release:

RNC Victory Chairman Carly Fiorina, Colorado Democrats for McCain Chairman Silver Salazar, Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Penny (MN-01), Wisconsin Hillary Clinton delegate Debra Bartoshevich, and Women for Fair Politics organizer Cynthia Ruccia will host a “Citizens for McCain” press conference today during the Democratic National Convention to discuss why many Independent and Democratic voters are supporting John McCain’s positive vision for America.

It was my first press conference as press, which may not sound like that big a deal but when you get to my age the first times come less often than they used to. In any case, it was interesting; I met Silver in person after he was interviewed in Spanish by a Spanish TV net. (He seemed a little surprised that I’d understood; I was just glad I wasn’t being interviewed in Spanish.) Seems like a great guy, and I hope to catch up with him sometime again.

Also met Carly, who was pleasant but harried. I suspect that, however hysterical this seems to me, it’s got to be a thousand times worse for her.

Annoyingly, I realized that I have seen lots of Republicans so far, but haven’t talked with any Democrats. Emailed Roger and the editors for some contacts, and got a couple of good suggestions for contacts, and a request from Roger. You’ll see the outcome of those soon.

I will say the urge to answer “Wilco, Roger,” is almost irresistible.
* * *

Okay, before I bolt back to the convention, let me catch my first couple of “Ask Charlie Anything” questions.

John from Portland asks: “This may sound like an ‘I-came-to-the-car-race-to-see-a-crash’ type question but, have you seen any altercations between Hillary and Obama supports so far? Are Hillary supporters wearing Hill buttons/hats/t-shirts? I’m curious about the level of civility.”

If you’ve been watching the TV coverage, I’m sure you’ve been seeing that this is the big story today. Clearly (see below) the McCain campaign thinks this is a great idea.

I’ll tell you what I’m seeing. There are plenty of people wearing Hillary paraphernalia, and plenty of people selling stuff, including some of the traditional goofy hats. (One selling a sort of blue Hillary cheese-head; I wish I’d have gotten a picture.)

There are certainly some people at the convention who are still firmly supporting Hillary and hoping something will happen to bring her the nomination. But I haven’t seen any actual altercations; even the “Recreate ’68″ “riot” was pretty tame. (You’ve seen Zombie’s pictures; I’ve got to say, the only thing I saw that was particularly interesting was a number of pretty young women in summery cotton dresses with bandannas over their faces. The “tens of thousands” of demonstrators turned out to be a thousand who were quickly cowed by Denver police on horseback.)

My feeling of the mood is more or less like Taylor Marsh’s, if not quite so definite: what I’m hearing is that at least some of Hillary’s delegates have resigned themselves to Obama and will vote for him in the first ballot. If I’m right, then the first vote will go a lot more Obama’s way than the current numbers suggest.

What you should watch for is if Hillary or one of her strong supporters stands up during the vote and moves Obama be nominated by acclimation. If I had to bet, I’d bet against it, and I wouldn’t want to bet a lot against a floor fight. So far, though, they’re being civil about it.

Missy asks: “Here’s my goofball question of the day. To the casual eye, what’s the ratio of Obamawear to Clintonwear? Any other candidates represented in a “so’s you can notice” kind of way? What’s the ratio of people wearing some kind of candidate-wear to people wearing regular street clothes? Is there a single conventiongoer without some kind of flair – even if it’s just a badge or a hat?”

I’d say it’s about even. There is a big bunch of Ralph Nader supporters trying to get attention down across the street from the State Capitol; I’ll see if we can’t get some pictures of them later. They’re not getting close to the Convention, though.

That doesn’t mean there’s no goofy dress, though. Vests, buttons, funny hats, and so on are all over. (It actually looks a lot more like a science fiction convention that you’d think. More ties, but not many of them.) We’ll try to get some “local color” pictures of those too.

Okay, got to run.

07:10 am PST

Following up on my interview with Silver, below, there are a couple of interesting McCain ads out today. The first ad (YouTube link) “Passed Over” ends up with “The truth hurts, and Obama didn’t like it.” The second one (more YouTube), “Debra”, ends up with “A lot of Democrats are going to vote for McCain. It’s okay. Really.”

I do think we’re seeing the arrival of a theme. McCain’s campaign is going all out for the Hilary voters. Along with that, there’s the second theme of repeating all the bad things said about Obama by his opponents in the primaries.

I claim to be a futurist, so here’s a prediction: if Obama loses this election, the 20212 campaign will start on November 5, but the primary season will start much later than it did this year, and there won’t be any weekly debates.

06:47 am PST — Meeting a McCain Democrat

I got a note from the Republican Online Media director, Liz Mair, mentioning a Democrat from Pueblo Colorado, Silverio “Silver” Salazar. Silver struck me as an interesting guy. He’s from an old Democrat family from the San Luis Valley — from Manassa, home of Jack Dempsey. In fact, Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) and his brother Congressman John Salazar (D-CO 3) are Silver’s cousins. Silver came to Pueblo out of the military, and was very active in the county Democratic party, ending up as a precinct chairman for 20 years.
Now, I’m from an old Republican family from the San Luis Valley. In fact Ken, John, Silver and I were all born in the same hospital in Alamosa. Then my folks moved to Pueblo, where I was first politically active.

This might all seem just too too coincidental, but there are only about 10,000 people total in the San Luis Valley; if you’re from there, your family is certain to know their family.

What it also meant was that I was instantly intrigued — I hadn’t met Silver, but I know of his family and I know what the Democratic machine in Pueblo was like when I last lived there; I was curious, frankly, if anyone had offered to break his legs yet. So I was very interested to chat with him. Arrangements were made, then fell through; I ended up talking with him while Stephen Green and I were circling a block in downtown Denver looking for a place to park.

(Yeah, I know, so what? I want to mention this, though, because as it turned out I wasn’t in any position to take notes. Accordingly, I want you all to know that what I’m writing as coming from Silver is my best attempt at quoting him; if I misstate something, Silver, it’s my fault and I’ll be happy to revise and extend.)

The real question, of course, is why he would come out now as a McCain supporter?

He was pretty direct about it.

He’d been a Hilary supporter. When Hilary lost and Obama won, he started to look at the candidates again. “I looked at Obama, and on all the issues I thought were important — the Iraq war, immigration — I didn’t like what Obama was saying. Then I looked at McCain, and I liked what he had to say.”

When Obama picked Biden as a running mate, that just confirmed what Silver had been thinking.

“I didn’t think Biden was a good choice. And look at what Biden himself had said about Obama. They didn’t seem to be thinking when they picked him.”

I pointed out that the McCain campaign clearly had noticed, since they were out with an ad based on Biden’s criticisms of Obama in a matter of hours.

Silver agreed; he really felt that the Obama campaign was making a lot of mistakes. Between the mistakes, and the ways in which he disagreed with Obama, he just felt McCain was the better choice. “I don’t feel like I’ve left the Democratic Party. I haven’t changed; it’s the party that’s changed.”

So, I asked him how people around him were taking it. Surprisingly, he seemed not to feel he’d gotten a lot of pressure.

“I’ve gotten about 40 phone calls, and two letters, and one of the letters was begging me not to do it, not to change over to McCain. But the other one was very supportive. I’ve converted most of my immediate family.”

“It’s funny — people have assumed Hispanics would just automatically vote for the Democrats, but I don’t think that’s true any longer.”

“In fact, one person called me and said that he’d never voted for a Republican before. He felt he could now — his parents had died, so he didn’t need to explain it to them. We shouldn’t vote Democrat just because our parents did.”

Aug. 25, 01:55 am — Democrats Rock Denver

Some PJ Media readers will know me already — I’ve had several pieces published since Roger Simon asked me to contribute. For those of you who haven’t, I’m a Colorado computer scientist and writer, currently unemployed, having just been caught in a “reduction in force”; I write about technology, about futurist ideas like how the Internet is changing, well, everything; and I write about politics, mostly from the standpoint of trying to apply arithmetic to various silly things political writers and bloggers say.

This week, I’ll certainly have some political things to say, but honestly there are other people whose political ideas are stronger and who are more interested in the political details. What I think I can contribute is a little different. It turns out that my childhood was spent in Colorado, a good bit of it in downtown Denver, 0.67 miles by crow from the location of the convention at the Pepsi Center. I want to concentrate on what the convention is like, what effect the convention is having on Denver, and what effect Denver is having on the convention.

Along those lines, by the way, I’ve noticed that when I watch something like this, I often have some odd questions come to mind. Like “Are there enough bathrooms in that building?” So, for at least the duration of the convention, I’ve set up a special GMail account, askcharlieanything@gmail.com. Send any questions you like; as time and interest allows, I’ll try to answer them, with a few conditions:

First, I’m the one who has to ask the questions, and I’m probably not going to ask any questions that will get me thrown out of the convention or start a fistfight. I pick the questions to answer. Anyone who doesn’t get an answer will have their entrance fee cheerfully refunded.

Second, when you mail me a question, you should get a response from the GMail automatic reply program, at least the first time. Feel free to send as many different questions as you like, but sending me the same question over and over won’t make it more likely I’ll answer it. In fact, it’ll make it less likely, as you’ll quickly end up in a mail filter as spam.

And third, I will be happy to mention your name; normally I’ll just use a first name. If you don’t want even that much mentioned, tell me; I’ll be happy to comply.

So, send in your questions; I’ll try to find interesting things to say.

* * *

If you were watching the CNN coverage this afternoon, you probably saw Wolf Blitzer reporting, concern and urgency in his voice, that there was a tornado touching down “within sight of downtown Denver.” His wording, and the tone of concern in his voice, gave the impression he was getting ready at any moment to dive under the table, although he was reporting that the Weather Service didn’t currently think there was any danger to downtown.

Well, bloody well right there was no danger. The tornado was there, but it was touching down southwest of Parker, about 25 miles from downtown. (You can see some cool video of it here)

I was watching CNN from a lovely small restaurant in downtown (Pi Kitchen and Bar, great wings, decent bacon cheeseburger, two big bottles of politically incorrect Fiji water, and an adorable server who is probably younger than my favorite sport coat.) It was pretty, sunny, dry and bright: not a hint of a storm. Now, tornadoes are no joke; we had a killer tornado here in May. But this one — as you’ll see in the video — was mostly off in open country. Yes, you could see it from downtown, if you knew where to look, but this is high dry country — get up high and you can see to Kansas. Literally.

It made me wonder, though — that serious, concerned, deliver of news of obviously earth-shaking important probably does help bring in ratings, just as I’m sure people more people watch Geraldo because they’re hoping he might get hit with a chair again. But the sense of concern, this time, was really unnecessary: the tornado was over in the next county.

I wonder how often that concerned voice is just a ratings ploy? Certainly the next time I hear Wolf sounding Oh So Concerned, I’ll wonder if he’s once again showing imitation concern about something that really isn’t all that much.

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle
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