COLUMNS

Insider Buzz from the GOP Political Convention

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • August 02, 2000

by Karen Feld

Not to be outdone by Republicans this week in Philadelphia, President Clinton hosted a send off for the media on the South Lawn of The White House the other evening. I tried “parabouncing” in a helium balloon looking down on the “big white house” from more than 100 feet. He told me he’d like to try it as well.

Most of the excitement at the GOP fest in Philly is “off” the convention floor. Some of those who opted to skip Laura Bush and Gen. Colin Powell’s words of wisdom on the opening night twisted the night away with Dick Clark, Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon, and Bobby Rydell on the renovated origin American Bandstand sound stage, compliments of House Commerce Chairman Mike Oxley, whose wife, Pat, was a Bandstand regular.

It was a bittersweet evening for Sen. John McCain’s family and friends at a party in his honor at Buddakan. His mom pointed out her son’s sense of humor – the previous evening, a young man stopped the Senator and said: “I know you, who are you?” McCain didn’t miss a beat and replied, “Al Gore.” Some McCain fans discreetly slipped the decorative covers with McCain’s smiling face off the chairs. They’re not only collectors items, but “make great pillow cases” according to one guest.

New York Mayor-to-be Michael Bloomberg did it again – he threw the top party of the week. Gen. Colin Powell mingled with the guests who downed six cases of Veuve Cliquot Champagne at Striped Bass. Bloomberg, who is currently focusing on his Bloomberg News operation, was non-committal as to his mayor run in 2001, but did acknowledge that although he’s still a registered Democrat, if he runs, he’ll run as a Republican.

New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio arrived at the GOP convention mid-week, and one high level insider explained it as an effort to discreetly distance himself from the “W” and the conservative wing of the party.

The Republicans toasted Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa at a large reception, a rare “union” occasion for the GOP gathering . Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on hand boasting about how much fun he was having in his new role, a TV commentator for Fox this week. But some union workers, the local 98 electrical workers, viewed the GOP differently. While setting up they wore T-shirts that read “local 98” on the front, and “Republican for a week” on the back.

Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson – originally a vice presidential contender himself – on the party circuit, said he thinks Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin would be Dick Cheney’s toughest competitor as number two on the Democratic ticket. “I ‘d have to look at him for three months,” quipped Thompson.

Speaking of Dick Cheney, insiders say that “W” didn’t vet him well enough or his previous House voting record on ERA, Nelson Mandela and other issues that have raised a red flag. Other insiders are saying that candidate Bush doesn’t think some of his father’s aides served him well, and he’s handpicking those to keep around this time. Obviously, Cheney made the cut!

And the two candidates – Bush, Cheney – staying at same Philadelphia hotel is creating not only a Secret Service headache but traffic jams as well. Interestingly, the Secret Service wouldn’t let former President Bush and his son stay at same place.

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