George W. Bush’s Restoration Comedy Opens in Philly

PHILADELPHIA–These proceedings may well be about the restoration of the Bush dynasty, of a certain time in the late 20th century when the sons and occasional daughter of American aristocracy still could keep the meritocrats at bay. But it hardly is about the past alone, and as a confluence of events in the Philadelphia Marriott demonstrated, there are some Republicans who are trying to take the party to new and unfamiliar territory, and others who nurse old grudges like a delegate his $6 beer. The latter, filled with the passions of impeachment, seem a part of the past. The former are among Al Gore’s greatest dangers.

Before the delegates and media assembled for the evening session on July 31, James Hoffa, Jr., leader of the Teamsters union and son of guess who, found himself in the seemingly unlikely position of accepting the plaudits of Republican Congressional leaders and even the party’s chairman, Jim Nicholson. In a year in which the Presidential candidates are the products of a family business, perhaps we should not be surprised to discover that the son of one of the country’s most famous labor leaders has emerged as the campaign’s most courted trade unionist. The room was filled with good spirits and genial chatter; it was as crowded as any shop floorinthe1950’s. Representative Peter King, the Long Island Congressman who manages to be both a social conservative and an economic nationalist in a party devoted to the joys of free trade, looked out at the gathering and decided that it was nothing less than “a total rejection of the politics of Newt Gingrich, who demonized the labor movement,” as he told The Observer . The fallen Speaker was never among Mr. King’s friends–the Congressman famously described Mr. Gingrich as road kill on the highway of American politics, and this was before we learned that the savior of Western civilization was getting a little on the side.

Curiously, Mr. Gingrich himself, so delighted to be in love yet again that he clearly has availed himself of an array of human pleasures (most of them garnished with chocolate sauce), was in the room for a few minutes. Perhaps he saw the bright lights that once shone for him; perhaps he wanted to see what a labor leader looked like. “Half the people in this room,” Congressman King said, “probably have never seen a labor leader before.”

Before long, Mr. Gingrich returned whence he came, from the reception next door honoring two of the most stalwart of impeachment warriors, Representative Bob Barr of Georgia and Representative Dan Burton of Indiana. Joylessness was in abundance at the Barr-Burton affair, and one suspects the receptioneers rather preferred it that way. They had a cash bar, with Woodbridge wine selling for $5.75, Molson beer $4.50 and Miller and Miller Lite going for $4. The same delights were offered for free next door at the Hoffa reception, which no doubt contributed to the contrasting moods.

Neither reception fit the image, or the stereotype, of Bush-style aristocrats yearning to return to the summer palace in Washington. The surly middle-aged men and women (though there was one youngster wearing a Young Americans for Freedom button that one of his parents probably wore in 1970) in the Barr-Burton party seemed just a little too middle-class, a little too raw, for the Bush crowd. The Hoffa gang, well, they were union members–Teamsters, no less. But there seemed no question that the union party was a good deal happier with the party’s new, forward-looking ticket, with speakers and spinners talking about the future rather than fighting the impeachment wars over and over again. “You have to give George Bush credit for this,” said Mr. King, who was reluctant to give Mr. Bush credit for very much during the primary season, when he dumped the Texan for a short but memorable ride on John McCain’s campaign bus. “He was willing to have this party, to reach out to Hoffa and the unions. And Hoffa was willing to talk to a party that had slandered unions in the past.”

Some of the slander-slingers were in the next room. They did not come near the Hoffa reception, content with their own company and dark whispers of the new treasons a Gore administration will bring. Proudly did they identify their co-honoree, Mr. Barr, not as a Congressman from Georgia, or even as an unlikely champion of civil liberties. He was identified simply as an “Impeachment Manager.” They used capital letters, as if it were Mr. Barr’s title. And perhaps to them it is.

In a foyer near the two receptions, the great, limping mass that is Henry Hyde, the scarred, white-haired veteran of the impeachment battle, struggled out of his seat and walked towards the Barr-Burton reception. A few hundred feet away, Peter King, the Republican union sympathizer who voted against every article of impeachment, was having a ball and thinking about the future.

Just Like Home

And on the second day, a little bit of hell broke loose.

The disparate group of protesters who on Sunday and Monday had satisfied their reason for heading to Philadelphia with harmless demonstrations here and there suddenly, on Tuesday began acting out all over town. Cops with riot gear moved in, arresting at least 90 demonstrators throughout Philadelphia before nightfall.

Five arrests were made outside the elegant old Warwick Hotel, on Walnut and Chancellor streets, which was housing the New York delegation. At about 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 1, demonstrators began dragging Dumpsters out of an alleyway to block the roadway, and flinging potted plants.

“I was talking to my sister on the phone,” said Deborah Mayer, a Republican delegate from midtown Manhattan who was in her room on the 14th floor. “I heard all this noise and I opened up the window to look outside. Because I’m from New York City, I was curious.”

Within 15 minutes, police in riot gear had broken up the melee, dividing the demonstrators into two different camps. Five young, white men, hog-tied with plastic cuffs, sat in the midst of about 30 cops carrying batons and wearing helmets.

Watching the scene were some 200 Warwick guests, who were just about to head over to the First Union Center for the evening’s events. By 8:15, police had achieved enough calm to roll an empty, giant tour bus in front of the hotel and load it with the delegates.

Still, nerves were frazzled. A burly security guard paced the Warwick lobby, barking into a cell phone: “Get on the phone. I need two guards for the door for the whole night.”

How ironic is it that this should happen in the midst of the New York crowd? asked Carol Muscarlella from Massapequa, Long Island, a guest at the convention.

“I can’t believe they came down here,” Ms. Muscarlella said. “They knew this was where the New York delegation was, and it takes a lot to scare a New Yorker.”

–Jason Gay

Follow the Buck

Among those Republican donors commonly described as fatcats is a category of especially corpulent givers known as “Regents.” Regents are contributors who have given the party more than $250,000 since January 1999. For their generosity, they get a variety of perks at the convention: They get to go to all kinds of private parties and breakfasts with assorted Senators and Representatives–not to mention Republican superstars like Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and even George W. Bush himself.

When they’re in the First Union Center, the Regents gaze down on the convention floor from the luxurious confines of suites 13 and 14, which are off limits to sweaty mobs of reporters and delegates.

These parties and events constitute a kind of alternate convention, where the people who financially support the G.O.P. get their reward: access to the party’s power elite. The schedule of these events is one of the convention’s most closely guarded documents–so guarded, in fact, that when a G.O.P. official saw that The Observer had a copy, she snatched it out of a reporter’s hands and practically had him led away in handcuffs.

Nonetheless, The Observer obtained the schedule, some of which is reproduced below.

Among the rich and powerful who qualify as G.O.P. Regents are Sam and Charles Wyly, the Texas businessmen who have grown rich on alternative energy; Sam Fox, the chairman of Harbor Group, a Missouri-based manufacturing company, and Kenneth Lay, the chairman of Enron, a giant Texas-based energy and trading company that is among the most generous backers of Mr. Bush. Some of those and others spent five hours on Aug. 1 at the tony White Marsh Valley Country Club, golfing with a bunch of current and former Senators and Representatives.

Many of the Regents stay in Philadelphia’s Four Seasons hotel, which has a special office on its first floor to address their needs. An Observer reporter dropped by, identified himself as a reporter and asked a volunteer for a copy of the schedule. She promptly handed it over.

Several minutes later, the reporter asked an officious-looking Regents organizer named Kari McGarty for a phone number. She noticed what the reporter was holding and immediately lunged for it with both hands and yanked it away. “I’m sorry–I didn’t know you were press,” she said.

When the reporter politely pointed out that she had just grabbed something from his hands, she pretended to smile. “Thank you for understanding,” she said.

The reporter let her sarcasm pass, hoping to get an address from her, which she willingly shared. She began a conversation with someone else as the reporter jotted the address down–then panicked again as she realized he was writing while she was talking.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave, now,” she said. “I can’t have you in here taking notes!”

Anyway, at risk of endangering national security, here, verbatim, is the schedule of top secret events that average Americans can attend–as long as they give a quarter of a million bucks to the Republicans.

Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2000

11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Pre-Gala Reception at the Philadelphia Marriott, Liberty Ballroom, 1201 Market Street. Invited guests: Gov. and Mrs. Bush, Vice Presidential nominee Dick Cheney and his wife, Gov. Jeb Bush

5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

Reception in Honor of Republican Governors

First Union Lobby at 123 South Broad Street

7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.

Evening Convention Session

First Union Center

Hospitality Suite Open

TBD Suite (suites 13 and 14) at First Union Center

11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.

Republican National Committee victory party–”Jammin’ with Jim [Nicholson, the chairman of the Republican National Committee]” at Finnegan’s Wake, 537 No. Third St.

Thursday, August 3, 2000

8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.

Regents-only Breakfast with Dick Cheney

10:00 a.m.-noon

Briefing panel and brunch with former Presidents and Cabinet members at the

Union League Club

5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

Reception in Honor of Former Presidents and Cabinet Members

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.

Evening Convention Session

First Union Center (Suites 13 and 14)

–Greg Sargent

For Once, He Fits In

In his stained Yankees jersey and black shorts, with his curly red hair sticking out from under a floppy Uncle Sam hat, Evan Edwards stood out amid the fidgety upstate delegates, bored reporters and occasional politicians circulating among New York delegates on the convention floor the afternoon of July 31 in the First Union Center.

It wasn’t just his appearance; it was his very demeanor. While Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson droned on up at the podium, Mr. Edwards seemed charged, leaning forward in his seat as if he were sitting in the Yankee Stadium bleachers in the ninth inning of a close game.

Mr. Edwards’ zealousness was perhaps born of being a stalwart among stalwarts, a conservative activist on the staunchly liberal turf around Zabar’s: He is a G.O.P. district leader from the Upper West Side.

As if that were not enough, Mr. Edwards has even been forced into internecine combat within the small community of G.O.P. activists in his district, running on a slate of Bush delegates at a time when most of his colleagues were swept up in the excitement over the glamorous insurgency of Arizona Senator John McCain.

According to Mr. Edwards, he was instrumental in engineering Governor Bush’s victory in his Congressional district. “There was some real competition this year, which is good,” he said. “The Bush slate won on the Upper West Side because of my charm and charisma.”

Now Mr. Edwards was reaping his reward. He would attend as many parties as he could throughout convention week, and was planning to take a side trip to Valley Forge. His unruly facial growth would go unshaven. And he would dress as he pleased, in his velcro sneakers and defiantly “New Yorkish” Lou Gehrig jersey.

“I think on the Upper West Side, it’s definitely a liberal area and I stick out,” observed Mr. Edwards. “But here there’ll be lots of people dressing up in costumes. So I’ll be okay.”

–Josh Benson

Ms. Harrison Takes Over

Republican National Committee co-chair Pat Harrison looked on patiently as actor Robert Conrad shattered the limited window of time allotted for his speech before 2,000 Republicans in a hotel ballroom on July 31. Standing off to his right in an orange dress suit, she smiled politely as he fired up the crowd with his time-tested tough-guy routine. “I know the ACLU is coming after me,” he thundered defiantly, ” ’cause here’s my closer. One … nation … under … GOD!” The faithful roared their approval.

“A star is born again!” riffed an unruffled Ms. Harrison, reclaiming the microphone. From then on, paced by her rapid-fire introductions, the event proceeded briskly, featuring brief speeches on the theme of “what the American dream means to me” from songbird Connie Stevens, celebrity widow and Congresswoman Mary Bono, Richard ( Shaft ) Roundtree, game-show host Ben Stein and, finally, the half-Mexican showpiece of the Bush family, George P. Bush, the candidate’s nephew.

Just a short while ago, it might have seemed unusual for Ms. Harrison to be emceeing one of the convention’s most glamorous political events while her boss, R.N.C. Chairman Jim Nicholson, was several blocks away addressing a near-empty convention center. But in a year in which the G.O.P. is almost painfully desperate to demonstrate the diversity of its membership–hence the litany of minority speakers lined up to address the overwhelmingly white crowd at the First Union Center on opening night–Ms. Harrison is becoming one of their main attractions.

An attractive, middle-aged Brooklyn native of Italian ancestry, her sassy New Yawk schtick makes her an exceptional character among the southern and western accents of her overwhelmingly male colleagues in the national party leadership. She describes herself as having been “the only Republican in Brooklyn” for many years, during which time she developed the conservative-feminist philosophy portrayed in a book she wrote called A Seat at the Table .

She got involved in politics during the Reagan Revolution, when she was so moved after hearing Ronald Reagan speak for the first time as President that she volunteered to raise money for him in New York. Many years and countless cocktail parties later, in 1996, she was elected co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

On a confetti-strewn stage after the feel-good hotel luncheon, Ms. Harrison was basking in congratulations for her big moment. Television crews struggled to get to her, ignoring her unapologetic attempts to steer them towards a stray Congressman looking for a little airtime. Her husky voice dominated all the chattering around her, a stream-of-consciousness monologue on party diversity interrupted by the occasional greeting for an old colleague or a high-volume complaint about her uncomfortable shoes. Three teenage girls muscled into the media scrum to have their picture taken with the new political celebrity.

Suddenly, an aide grabbed Ms. Harrison by the arm to announce that she had to be getting on to her next engagement.

“Right, of course,” she said. “I couldn’t remember what we had to do next. I can’t even remember who I am.”

–Josh Benson

Gingrich Goes Off Message

Out of power, out of the spotlight, no longer serving as target practice for Democratic candidates in all 50 states, Newt Gingrich probably figured his days as a bogeyman were over.

And then Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to run for U.S. Senate.

Her allies, of course, have spent the last few weeks trying to link Rick Lazio to Mr. Gingrich (after trying to do the same to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani before he dropped out of the race).

When he was just another backbencher in the House of Representatives, and even when he attained the Speakership, Mr. Gingrich seemed to welcome partisan attacks. But he seems a little cranky these days. When he was asked about the Clinton effort to morph smiling Rick Lazio into scowling Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker grimaced and turned to that reliable weapon, sarcasm.

“Well,” he said of Mr. Lazio, “I think it’s wonderful to have a native New Yorker who understands New York issues, who actually cares a lot about the state” in the race, he said. “I think if you’re a liberal Democrat who believes in big taxation and a big welfare state and large bureaucracy, you probably don’t like me. The fact is, it was President Clinton who signed welfare reform. It’s a simple question: Would Mrs. Clinton have voted against welfare reform? Would she have voted against the tax cuts that her husband signed? Would she have voted against the balanced budget bill that her husband signed? Those are the things she’s complaining about. Those are the things that Bill Clinton finally signed after a long struggle. So I think she’s got to decide, is she actually the anti-Clinton Clinton?”

For a moment, old Newt was back.

–Andrew Rice

McCain’s Folks Win

Gail Hilson and Deborah Mayer did something quite remarkable last March. They, along with fellow East Side resident James Collins, defeated veteran State Senator Roy Goodman, State Assemblyman John Ravitz and city Finance Commissioner Andrew Eristoff in the Republican Presidential primary. Ms. Hilson, Ms. Mayer and Mr. Collins–political unknowns–were running as John McCain’s delegates in the 14th Congressional District, which takes in the East Side and parts of Queens. Messrs. Goodman, Ravitz and Eristoff were running as George W. Bush delegates, counting on their name recognition and years of service to sweep them to victory. But Mr. McCain won the district, and so Ms. Hilson, Ms. Mayer and Mr. Collins won the right to go to Philadelphia.

Sitting in her place with the New York delegation, Ms. Hilson declined to take credit for her victory. “It was all about McCain,” she said. “He was very popular.”

“But we worked very hard,” added Ms. Mayer (who later in the day would witness a near-riot outside her hotel). “We had a real grassroots organization.”

The night before the convention opened, Mr. McCain formally turned over all his delegates to Mr. Bush. “There was a lot of emotion in the room,” Ms. Hilson said. “He thanked everyone and told us to work hard to elect the Bush-Cheney ticket. We are united now. But John McCain will be around to help our party for a long time.”

Businesswoman Georgette Mosbacher, who was Mr. McCain’s national co-chair, invited Ms. Hilson to a high-roller reception before a Republican National Committee luncheon. But Ms. Hilson turned down the chance to rub shoulders with the party’s high and mighty.

“This is my first convention,” she said. “I want to stay here.”

And so she did.

–Andrea Bernstein

Hail to the Chief

Before protesters acted up and riot police were called in, Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney was able to reflect on a life that ordinary cops refer to as “the job.” On June 30, before sunrise, he mounted his bike and road a few miles, down to the boathouses on the Schuylkill River. He rows every morning, except Thursdays, when a higher ritual calls: his department’s weekly meeting to discuss crime statistics. Mr. Timoney learned to believe in the power of numbers during his years as the top deputy to Bill Bratton, New York’s famously former police commissioner.

On the way down to the river, he ran into Philadelphia’s mayor, John Street, who was out for his daily bike ride. Philadelphia can be a small town that way. Mr. Timoney finished his row–only four miles, rather than the usual six–and was back at City Hall by 7 a.m. for a more formal meeting with Mr. Street. He did some interviews for the 8 a.m. newscasts, went back to his apartment, showered, and by about 8:45 a.m. was back on his bike, riding around Center City Philadelphia.

“I love being a cop,” Mr. Timoney said, in his soft Dublin accent. He recounted how, for two years after he quit as first deputy police commissioner in the wake of the Bratton purge–he left just after calling Mayor Giuliani “screwed up” and current police commissioner Howard Safir a “lightweight”–he worked as a policing consultant in his native Ireland, among other places. “When I got out, I had a nice job making nice money, and I was miserable. I shouldn’t say that. I traveled all over the world, I visited places I never thought I’d visit. And then I’d say, ‘Oh God, this sucks.'”

Mr. Timoney stayed on his bike until around 6 p.m. Sunday. Then he went back to his apartment, on Philadelphia’s elegant Rittenhouse Square, showered again and put on a suit. He was hosting a welcoming reception for the New York delegation that night. Then it was on to New York’s invitation-only bash at the Striped Bass, hosted by Bloomberg News. Mr. Timoney entered like a returning exile.

“Senator!” he said, to Alfonse D’Amato.

Back among old friends, he looked like he was having the time of his life. One wondered how soon he might come back to New York. It has become conventional wisdom that, for all the differences among the candidates who would succeed Mayor Giuliani, they have one thing in common: a desire to lure Mr. Timoney back, this time as police commissioner. Such a move would give the next mayor crime-fighting bona fides–Mr. Timoney, after all, was part of the Bratton team–and would offer the added touch of annoying Mr. Giuliani, who bore no love for Mr. Timoney.

“I mean, look, there’s going to be a change [in City Hall] in a year or so,” Mr. Timoney said the next day, as he sat sipping a cup of coffee at a café on the square, near his apartment. “And there needs to be some fixing.”

By all accounts, Mr. Timoney has had an impressive tenure thus far in Philadelphia. He’s presided over a drop in crime, guided the department through a long scandal over–what else?–statistics (for years, local precincts were downgrading crimes to make things look better than they were), and has become, at least until recently, the most popular public official in the city.

Then, on the eve of the convention, a group of his police officers pummeled a black suspect, an alleged carjacker who had fled, resisted arrest and allegedly fired shots at the cops. The videotape–or at least the very end of the chase–was beamed around the world.

Local African-American leaders rallied against police brutality. But they took care to say that they had deep respect for Commissioner Timoney.

Mr. Timoney credited his early outreach to the black community for carrying him through the rough patch (so far). It’s an approach he said he learned from a former New York police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who used to visit black churches. Mr. Kelly, too, was not one of Mr. Giuliani’s favorites, and his style as police commissioner was regularly derided at City Hall as mere “social work.”

“I thought if I ever become the commissioner, on the issue of race, I’ll follow Ray’s footsteps because it’s important,” Mr. Timoney said. “It’s always there, always there. And you need to build up a reservoir of goodwill. And I’ve made a conscious effort, and I haven’t tried to be underhanded about it. I say, ‘I need friends. I need you to pray with me, help me out.’ …The real interesting part, the most vociferous critics against the department–the NAACP–as they’re criticizing the department, they’re saying, ‘This guy’s the best commissioner we’ve ever had.'”

He didn’t want to comment on the New York Police Department’s handling of its recent crises, the shootings of Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond in particular. “I’m not going to contrast” his own performance with the NYPD’s, he said. “I’ll leave that up to people like yourself.” But later, he said it was “absolutely clear” that the NYPD had mishandled its crises. “You know, they certainly didn’t help themselves. But I’m not going to criticize them. They’ve got to do what they think is best, I’m doing down here doing what I think is best. And I really do. I know I always sound cocky and a braggart, but I think I know a little bit about the game. I think I’m as good as there is around.”

A well-dressed man with a British accent came into the cafe and offered Mr. Timoney a bottle, some kind of special mineral water from Fiji. They spoke amiably for a moment. Afterwards, Mr. Timoney explained that the man was the manager of the nearby Rittenhouse Hotel. “I’ve become a swell,” he said. It’s a long way from Washington Heights, where he lived after emigrating to the States, or the streets of the South Bronx, where he started out as a beat cop. Mr. Timoney said he never expected to leave New York. But he added that he is quite happy where he is. Which isn’t quite the same thing as saying he won’t be leaving soon.

“I’m dead serious I’m having a great time. I love it down here, and I love them. The people here have been very, very good to me. And I don’t want to speculate where I’ll be a few years from now. It’s a very sensitive issue down here … I mean, a day does not go by here when not one, but 10 to 15 people go and approach me and say, ‘You’re not leaving, are you?’ Black and white.”

–Andrew Rice George W. Bush’s Restoration Comedy Opens in Philly