Volume 17 • Issue 14 | August 27 - September 02, 2004



Snapshots from the convention

By Josh Rogers

Moe Fishman limped up Eighth Ave. Monday morning on his way to protest the opening of the Republican National Convention.

Fishman, 89, lives near Madison Square Garden in Chelsea nd is one of the surviving Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the group of idealistic Americans who volunteered to fight fascists in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 - 1939.

Republican delegates were not just dining in fancy restaurants during the convention. Members of the Indiana and Massachusetts delegations visited the New York City Rescue Mission on Lafayette St. and helped prepare a meal for the homeless. Above, while fellow Hoosiers David and Renee Cox of Indiana served fruit, left, Jean Northenor and Jimmy Dishner also went to work, below.

Downtown Express photos by Jennifer Weisbord

He said 60 million lives could have been saved in World War II had the world realized the dangers of fascism earlier. Told that President Bush would probably liken the war on terrorism to Fishman’s fight nearly 70 years ago, the Penn South resident would have none of it.

“He’s appropriating [the dangers of] appeasement and using it to justify an unjust war,” Fishman said. “In our opinion, the United States has not been involved in a just war since World War II.”

He said the war in Afghanistan was wrong and did little to stop the spread of terrorism. “Al Qaeda lives way beyond Afghanistan and is growing because of these policies,” Fishman said.

He and a friend were carrying a Lincoln Brigade banner to the designated protest area. He said he was expecting to see two of his former comrades outside the Garden.

Fishman was pleasantly surprised in more ways than one when he marched for a few blocks at the large protest organized by United for Peace and Justice on Sunday.

“I was surprised these young people have heard of us,” he said. “They read about us on the Internet. They come up – these young girls – they want you to take a picture with them and they kiss you,” Fishman said with a smile and what looked to be a twinkle in his eye.

***

Most of the convention attendees cheered every Bush compliment and Kerry insult, but one Republican had mixed feelings – Tribeca’s Peter Hort, who is running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler.

Hort, during an interview in the Garden, said he supports Bush’s idea of taking the offensive with terrorists, but opposes the president’s stances on abortion, stem cell research and the environment. He declined several times to say who he is supporting in the race.

“In this district it’s hard enough,” Hort said. “I suspect John Kerry will do very well in the Eighth Congressional distict. The president is not an asset to me in this campaign.”

He said Bush could pull into a sizable lead if he were to moderate his domestic positions. As for Iraq, he said he supports Bush and Kerry who both favor trying to stabilize the country before withdrawing U.S. troops.

Hort said the convention is a great opportunity to showcase New York and he has been steering delgates to some of he and his wife’s favorite Trubeca restaurants and stores. He has also been talking to protestors and participated in the abortion rights march over the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday.

Most of his conversations with protestors have been good exchanges but on Tuesday night, he said several out-of-town demonstrators grabbed and pushed him and police had to intervene so he could enter the Garden and hear Laura Bush’s speech.

***

Monday turned out to be New York City mayor day at the convention with former Mayor Ed Koch introducing Mayor Mike Bloomberg in the morning session and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani closing the evening program with a speech making the case for President Bush and criticizing John Kerry for shifting views on Iraq.

Koch, who is still a Democrat, highlighted his political career and asked aloud what he was doing there.

“Democratic leader of Greenwich Village, Democratic member of Congress, Democratic mayor – why am I here,” Koch asked. “I’m here to convert you . . . but that’s for next election. This year I am for the reelection of George W. Bush,” he said to applause.

In an op-ed piece published in Downtown Express two weeks ago, Koch said he disagreed with the president on every domestic issue but he was endorsing Bush because of his stance against terrorism and in support of Israel.

When Koch called out his trademark question, “how’m I doing,” some delegates shouted back “great.”

Both Bloomberg and Koch encouraged delegates to spend money around town – Koch said, “have a schmear, a slice, baba ghanoush” in a promotional video – and the mayors put in their pitch for New York’s Olympic bid for the 2012 Games.

Bloomberg thanked Bush for his support of Homeland Security funds for New York, and by process of elimination, seemed to blame Congress for New York getting less money per capita than most states.

“Homeland Security funds should always be allocated by threat and for no other reason,” he added.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York released a report several weeks ago that concluded that even when security funds designated for cities are factored in, New York ranks 35th out of 50 states, receiving about $10 per person while the highest-ranked state, Wyoming, receives over $40. Maloney, in a letter to the president, said Bush has discretion over 60 percent of the Homeland Security budget and could direct more money to New York City as well as allocate an additional $840 million more in security aid tied to Federal Emergency Management Agency response funds.

Bloomberg did not appear to be happy with the Dept. of Homeland Security’s allocation of funds last week when he showed agency secretary Tom Ridge around police headquarters to review convention security preparations. Ridge joked that Bloomberg brought up the funding issue repeatedly. “He has already told me that half a dozen times today,” Ridge said, according to a pool press report.

The mayor also accidentally referred to the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower as a “tombstone.” He participated in the cornerstone ceremony marking the beginning of construction for the first office at the World Trade Center on July 4. During many of the debates about rebuilding ground zero, some Lower Manhattan residents raised concerns that the site not feel like a cemetery.

***

With so many police patrolling the area, officers had time to engage in quiet conversations with demonstrators and others after some of early, less contentious protests.

One police officer who stopped into a Ninth Ave. deli after the Sunday march past the Garden, spoke about Iraq with a counterman, who may have been an Arab-American. The clerk told the officer he knew very well that Saddam Hussein was brutal, but the prisoner abuses committed by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib were terrible.

“Compare Saddam cutting people’s heads off to causing people some embarrassment,” the officer replied.

The counterman dropped the argument and continued preparing the officer’s order.

***

One of the thousands of journalists at the convention was Jo Freeman, a freelance writer and Brooklyn resident who said she has been to every Democratic and Republican convention since 1976.

One of Freeman’s theories is Republicans get better press because they tend to feed and treat journalists better. Her theory was tested Friday when she was one of the few to attend the Republican Party’s Rules Committee meeting at the Javits Center.

The food and beverages were placed on the other side of a velvet rope so only committee members could get it and not any visitors. When she mentioned in passing to a staffer how she was reevaluating her theory, the man brought her a sandwich and bottled water. But that action infuriated a press liaison officer who scolded the staffer in front of two reporters.

“I’m not going to take the food out of your hand, but he shouldn’t have given it to you,” the still angry spokesperson told Freeman.

Freeman, who covered the convention for seniorwomen.com, is the author of “A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics.” Not many if any reporters know more about the history of conventions than Freeman. She said that the Republicans have required one man and one woman from each state to be on all of its convention committees since 1944 and the Democrats adopted the same policy in 1960.

“When you hear the Republicans say they are against quotas, just remember they have one woman and one man from each state on all of their committees,” she said before focusing back on the Rules Committee deliberations.

A male member was arguing for an amendment that would have allowed four random delegates to speak at the convention about why they are Republicans. He said it would help make the point that the party trusts the people.

Josh@DowntownExpress.com



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