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2008-09-09

Breaking with Convention (Part II): Highlights from the RNC, from the Suites to the Streets to the Convention Floor

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Democracy Now! is back at home in New York after two weeks on the road. We traveled to Denver, then to St. Paul, to bring you our special coverage: Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency. We grilled politicians with tough questions and exposed the backroom corporate suites. We deployed our reporters into the protest-filled streets to broadcast voices of the silenced majority. Today, Part II, with a recap of our coverage of the Republican convention in St. Paul, from the suites to the streets to the convention floor. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re back here at home in New York after two weeks on the road. We traveled to Denver, then to St. Paul, to bring you our special coverage, “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency.” We grilled politicians, exposed backroom corporate suites. We deployed our reporters into the protest-filled streets to broadcast voices of the silenced majority.

Well, yesterday we brought you highlights from week one, the Democratic convention in Denver. There, we got sound bites and a few rebukes from politicians who didn’t want to answer our questions. But last week at the Republican convention in St. Paul, we got something else, as well: handcuffs. Yes, three of us at Democracy Now! — producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Nicole Salazar and me — were arrested covering the protests. We were among several members of the media to feel the police crackdown, in fact a number of media workers.

Today, highlights from the Republican convention in St. Paul, from the suites to the streets to the convention floor.

    MAYOR RAY NAGIN: I am announcing today that we are ordering a mandatory evacuation of the city of New Orleans, starting in the morning.

    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In light of these events, I will not be going to Minnesota for the Republican National Convention.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: So, of course, this is a time when we have to do away with our party politics and we have to act as Americans. It’s a time for action. So we’re going to suspend most of our activities tomorrow, except for those absolutely necessary.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can I ask you a quick question?

    DAVID BROOKS: What? You’re never not working?

    AMY GOODMAN: The possibility of the convention happening as yet another Hurricane Katrina, or Gustav?

    DAVID BROOKS: You can tell me what God wants. My view is that McCain should go down to New Orleans, grab onto a light post Geraldo-style and, you know, do the speech sort of sideways, vertical, holding on while the wind blows him. No, I — you know, it’s a chance for them to make some gesture about Katrina.

    JON STEWART: Well, I’m surprised that God would send a hurricane to New Orleans when the Republican convention is here. So, clearly, all the gays are here, as we all know from the Larry Craig bathroom.

    SILKY SHAH: I just heard that EP and Eileen were in a house that’s being raided. They’re waiting for a warrant.

    AMY GOODMAN: If you would go to the place where Elizabeth is about to be arrested and you film that, we’ll get these cars.

    NICOLE SALAZAR: We’re going to go and shoot that. It’s already, you know, Saturday, and we’ve landed, and things are already going on.

    ANJALI KAMAT: The cops are supposed to come soon, and Denis is now reading an I-Witness statement that Eileen put out from the inside.

    DENIS MOYNIHAN: “This is Eileen Clancy, one of the founders of I-Witness Video, a New York City-based video collective, in St. Paul to document the policing of the protests at the Republican National Convention. The house where I-Witness Video is staying in St. Paul has been surrounded by police.”

    EILEEN CLANCY: They’ve been detaining people for days around here.

    EMILY FOREMAN: The police that stopped us and searched us didn’t appear to know what they were searching for. They looked to be collecting as much information as possible.

    VLAD TEICHBERG: Right in front of the house where we’re staying, we got surrounded by two police cars. Like one came from one side. We thought it was just a regular car passing, but it was — suddenly the lights went on, and another car came. And they — you know, first they said they were investigating people breaking into cars, and they wanted to search us. We said no. They put us up against the car and started searching us.

    LEGAL OBSERVER: This is the fifth raid in about eighteen hours. It appears to be there’s a concerted policy right now by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office and maybe the St. Paul police to target anybody who is planning to demonstrate at the Republican convention.

    LAWYER: Well, I think they held them without a warrant. There wasn’t a warrant on site. We asked to see the warrant at 1:15 and were not shown the warrant. They had the house surrounded.

    AMY GOODMAN: We’d like to go over and interview them. Do you think that’s fine? We’re going to walk over — the press?

    LAWYER: I do not believe my client would have an objection to being interviewed.

    AMY GOODMAN: Mr. Whalen, is this your property? Can we interview you?

    BUILDING OWNER: Yeah.

    AMY GOODMAN: He’s giving us permission.

    UNIDENTIFIED: Sir, he’s giving them permission —

    OFFICER: Step back. I heard you. Step back. We need you to step back.

    OFFICER: After we conclude the warrant you can come in. But you gotta, right now, step back.

    AMY GOODMAN: But this is his property?

    OFFICER: Listen.

    OFFICER: Climb over the fence, then.

    AMY GOODMAN: Well, don’t push me. I’m a journalist here.

    OFFICER: Move back. Move back.

    AMY GOODMAN: Are these people being arrested?

    DENIS MOYNIHAN: Get your hands off her!

    OFFICER SCHUCK: [inaudible] being detained right now. I’m not in a position to say, because I’m not the investigating officer.

    AMY GOODMAN: Did one of the officers have an AR-15 weapon?

    OFFICER SCHUCK: I do believe I see — saw one officer with one, yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was he going to use that for? Is that typical for the St. Paul police?

    OFFICER SCHUCK: I’m sure it was here for scene protection, make sure that we’re all safe, in case something uneventful would occur.

    LEGAL OBSERVER: Last night, when I ask, “Who is the officer in charge from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department?” they repeatedly refused to give any names. None of the officers with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department had badges, numbers or any identifying information other than Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department. Clearly there is an attempt to avoid responsibility.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Thank you. Tonight, I have a privilege given few Americans: the privilege of accepting our party’s nomination for president of the United States.

    RNC DELEGATE: We’ve had so many emotional rollercoaster rides so far on this convention with the Hurricane Gustav, and now everything is picking back up, because it has been — you know, property loss, flooding. But we’re here to get fired up for the upcoming elections.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: What about the difference in vibe between here and Denver? I mean, I know we have the whole hurricane situation, but it also just seems a little bit like a morgue in here.

    JOE SCARBOROUGH: We were just talking about it. It’s so low-key and muted. It’s smaller.

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI: And smaller.

    JOE SCARBOROUGH: It’s smaller. There’s not a lot of excitement, and we really noticed that the first day we got here. You know, that may just be about a party being in power for eight years and owning Washington. And you know what happens? I mean, when a party controls the White House and Congress for a long enough time period, their party gets a bit less excited.

    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: In March, you were talking about how the President had killed the Republican brand. Is that still your opinion?

    REP. TOM DAVIS: Well, there’s no question. I mean, you look at the polling. But John McCain has his own brand, and that’s what’s critical about this election. And as we now shift from Bush to McCain, who will be the face of the party the next two months, I think you’ll see a lot — you’ll see some change in the polls.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Do you think that this is going to have far-reaching implications for the Republican Party, the policies of the last eight years of the Bush administration?

    REP. TOM DAVIS: You know, Senator McCain tonight — I mean tomorrow night — and the Governor Palin have an opportunity, I think, to redirect things the way they need to.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I’ve fought corruption, and it didn’t matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans. They violated their public trust, and they had to be held accountable. I’ve fought the big spenders — I’ve fought the big spenders in both parties, who waste your money on things you neither need nor want.

    RNC DELEGATE: I think Barack Obama is out for a big show. And what, hopefully, we’re here to communicate to the American people is that it’s not just a big show, but hey, can you do the job? That’s really what it comes down to: can they run the company — the country?

    FRED THOMPSON: To deal with these challenges, the Democrats present a history-making nominee for president, history-making in that he’s the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president.

    RNC DELEGATE: Ladies and gentlemen at home today, we have an array of buttons for the McCain-Palin campaign. Let me show you just a couple that you might be interested in. This is actually one of the most popular ones tonight: “Hottest Vice President Nominee from the Coolest State.”

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Tell us about some of your favorite buttons.

    KIMBERLY PETICOLAS: “Jihad This,” yes, a good button. Well, it has a very good sentiment. It kind of gives my exact feelings. It’s a button of an eagle sticking up its middle finger of its claw, and it says, “Jihad This," in red. It’s a great button. And yeah, I mean —

    JEREMY SCAHILL: What does it mean? I don’t get it.

    KIMBERLY PETICOLAS: You don’t get it? What don’t you get? Well, “Jihad This.” I mean, it’s just like, you know — obviously I’m not in support of jihad, and I support my troops, and it’s just saying, you know, out with you guys and in with the new.

    SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, which would have been a disaster for the USA, when colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for our American troops on the battlefield, John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion, advocate the surge, support the surge, and because of that, today, America’s troops are coming home, thousands of them, and they’re coming home in honor.

    IVAW MEMBER: Let this be viewed as an establishment of IVAW’s contact with the Republicans. This is a unilateral movement to take care of veterans. It is not a political issue. It is not a political stance. We are putting pressure on both parties, who are both responsible.

    KELLY DOUGHERTY: When you look at a candidate like McCain, his actions speak volumes over his words. So as much as he says he supports the troops, he still primarily consistently votes against issues that will help veterans, that will provide for an increase in care, an increase in benefits to go back to school. And so, his actions are saying, “Look, I just want to use and manipulate the veterans to support my political campaign, but yet when it comes to taking care of them, I’m not ready to do that.”

    NEE-GON-NWAY-WEE-DUNG: I’m here to stand up to this George Armstrong Custer Bush frontier mentality and John Wayne — John Wayne McCain frontier mentality that exists here in America today and stand with the people. If we don’t do that, there will come a day when we’ll need a permit just to leave our homes to go to something like this.

    PROTESTER: Take your guns and go home. Bye. Take your armor and go home.

    REV. BRUCE WRIGHT: Reverend Bruce Wright with Refuge Ministries, and I’m with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the Tampa Bay chapter of it. And we’re here marching with the Poor People’s Campaign for Economic Human Rights. Today we’re having a march for our lives, representing the needs of the homeless and the poor of our country. There’s been a war ongoing against the homeless and poor, particularly people of color in our country, and we’re tired of it. We’re not going to take it anymore. We believe it’s an issue of justice. As a person of faith, I believe it’s an issue of faith, as well. And that’s why I’m here.

    RICK ROWLEY: As the march ended, the police gave an order to disperse and quickly moved in to clear the streets.

    POLICE CHIEF JOHN HARRINGTON: I believe that, overall, while it was — there were moments of chaos yesterday, what you saw yesterday was control.

    AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, a daily public radio and television program. I was arrested yesterday by the police, along with my two producers. And I want to know what the policy is for reporters. We are fully credentialed, all of us, both from the convention and our own press credentials.

    NICOLE SALAZAR: We saw that there was some activity down on the street, so we grabbed our camera. Basically, what we saw then was just police in riot gear moving down the street. We didn’t see any crowds. So I grabbed my camera, and I ran out the door and just basically followed the police.

    I saw that they were preparing to put on teargas masks, and I was just filming them. Shortly after, Sharif came down, and, you know, he brought my press pass down and put that around my neck.

    SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: It seemed like the police were — they formed a perpendicular line and were pushing back most of the protesters, and on a perpendicular street were doing the same, and basically corralled everyone on that parking lot, which is on Jackson between 7th and 9th.

    NICOLE SALAZAR: I just said, “How can I get out?” because I was moving backwards into those cars, and I said, you know, “Where am I supposed to go?” And at that point, they just, you know, totally rushed me and knocked me down.

    AMY GOODMAN: I was called. I was on the convention floor interviewing the delegation from Minnesota and Alaska. I got a call, the producers are being arrested. I raced down here by foot. I went up to the riot police line. I said, “I would like to talk to a commanding officer.” This is all videotaped. And they took me, handcuffed me immediately, said, “You’re under arrest.”

    What is the crime that the reporters committed but reporting on what is happening?

    POLICE CHIEF JOHN HARRINGTON: And I can’t answer that question, because I haven’t seen your video.

    SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: They kept asking me, “What are you doing here? Why are you here?” I said, “We’re press. We’re here to bear witness to what’s going on, and that’s why we’re in the streets.” And he kept saying, “Oh, you should use a telescopic lens,” or, “You know, when it gets rowdy, you should just stay behind the corner.” I said, “No, that’s not what we’re here to do. You need to respect the fact that we’re media. If someone’s carrying a camera, you don’t tackle them to the floor.” And this is respected widely in most of the world, but there seems to have been, in this country, a violation of that separation, and media are treated very badly, frankly. And this — it seems to be getting worse, especially in this RNC, with these preemptive raids, as well.

    EILEEN CLANCY: Who needs this? Who needs to have, you know, police agents and battering rams show up to your office building? I would understand that a landlord would feel, you know, kind of concerned, and the tenants might feel concerned.

    NLG MEMBER: If journalists, including citizen journalists, including documentarians, including anybody who takes a camera out there to document what really happens on our streets, in our communities, people who do that are protecting political democracy. They’re protecting what we — what governs how we live here. And if we take away the right of people to do that, we really put our political system at risk.

    LES KINSOLVING: I understand they arrested a few journalists, but they were let off. There are a lot of unusual journalists here.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: I saw those guys from Fox News. I cannot believe it!

    GOV. SARAH PALIN: Before I became governor of the great State of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves.

    RNC DELEGATE: I mean, I’m thrilled to have a woman on this ticket.

    RNC DELEGATE: She’s made some tough decisions and never quivered about them. She went forward. But I think we’re all going to learn a little more about her every time she speaks.

    CHRIS NELSON: We’re saying, “Drill here, drill now,” and on the back it says “Pay Less.”

    JEREMY SCAHILL: You want to drill inside of the convention center?

    CHRIS NELSON: Listen, we’ve got to start someplace, but we’d rather you drill in Alaska.

    GOV. SARAH PALIN: To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of the world’s energy supplies or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia or that Venezuela might shut off its oil discoveries and its deliveries of that source, Americans, we need to produce more of our own oil and gas. And take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska, we’ve got lots of both.

    RON PAUL: But it is positively amazing how the war drums can beat and how the propaganda machine can work and how this country is — you know, can be built up to practically want to go to war against Iran. You know, Iran spends — Iran spends one percent as much money on their national defense as we spend. They have no missiles, no airplane, no tanks and no nuclear weapons. The UN inspectors say they don’t have it. And we’re supposed to be intimidated and scared. And we put anti-ballistic missiles on the border of Russia, because the Iranians might shoot missiles at us that they don’t even have.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: Governor Huckabee, dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan war vets marched today on the convention calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Your response?

    MIKE HUCKABEE: Thousands more didn’t. Most of the veterans I know from my state – and that was 95 percent of our Guard – went to either Afghanistan or Iraq, and I would say overwhelmingly they believe that their mission was one that had purpose, meaning. They wanted to make sure that they won and won with honor.

    JEREMY SCAHILL: What about the fact that 70 percent of Iraqis say they want the US out in a year?

    MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, I hope that they have it under control so that that can happen. No one wants —

    JEREMY SCAHILL: You would support that?

    MIKE HUCKABEE: If it’s ready to be able to leave with honor and victory. But the key —

    JEREMY SCAHILL: According to whom, though?

    MIKE HUCKABEE: Well, I think it’ll be pretty obvious when it’s possible for us to leave.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq when it wasn’t the popular thing to do.

    BENJAMIN THOMPSON: One of my prisoners at Abu Ghraib, a place where you saw all those photographs come out — you didn’t know the half of it. Most of our people didn’t live in those cell blocks. Most of the people lived outdoors. They’re killed by enemy insurgents, in our camps. This prisoner — this means God hopes for peace.

    We had ten-year-old boys in my camps. We had an eighty-year-old blind man in my camp. They were killed by enemy fire, because we did not protect them when they were in our custody. They were not worth protecting. The generals that came to my base came with three helicopters apiece. And when they left, they took them with them.

    We were giving them food that made them sick. We were giving them water that gave them kidney stones. We weren’t supplying them with medical attention. They were dying from lack of heart medication that they had been on for twenty years. You never heard about this, ever, because of the [expletive] photographs. The Department of Defense focused all of the attention upon those atrocious acts committed by war criminals, my brother and sister military policemen. And then everything else that happened at that prison, to the other 95 percent of those prisoners, went unreported in the media. This is not OK.

    SEN. JOHN McCAIN: And when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I’d rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.

AMY GOODMAN: “Breaking with Convention,” a look back, produced by Hany Massoud and the whole Democracy Now! team. The charges against the three of us at Democracy Now! — Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Nicole Salazar and myself — have yet to be dropped. The city attorney of St. Paul is continuing to weigh them.

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