by Paul Tullis
Well, ignoring the campaign hasn't been as easy as I'd hoped. I guess that's the idea behind 30-point C Franklin Gothic headlines. I feel a bit like Michael Corleone: "Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back IN!" Nor did I anticipate the extent to which my friends would utterly not give a fuckdespite the fact that most of them are also journalists. I thought all the coffee houses, bars, and movie linesand if you know me, you know that's where I spend all my timewould be a-chatter with running campaign commentary. But, alas, my friends and fellow San Franciscans just aren't that interested. I think this may be a function of being in a city that is considered so far gone to Clinton that we don't get any of the ads, attack or otherwise. However, I haven't seen much evidence of this being a Clinton strongholdjust a few bumper stickers here and there. (They look exactly as they did in '92; don't mess with success, I suppose.) Then again, the only Dole sticker I've seen this summer was on a Mercedes Benz in New Orleans.
I was out to dinner with friends tonight (Vietnamese, yummy, thank you) and Larry, a journalist, told me his roommate, an AIDS activist, had asked him to videotape the Republican convention. I am reminded of Newton: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
According to some pigmented friends, Gen. Colin Powell spoke at the Republican convention yesterday and all the Republicans could do was pat each other on the back about how great it is that they have black people in their party.
I just learned that Ted Koppel packed his bags and bailed on the convention: something about feeling like he was a tool of the Republican Party and, "There's no news here." I feel validatedI am not alone.
There were a number of articles in The New York Times this past week about how some members of the Khmer Rouge are defecting and negotiating with the Cambodian government for their surrender. Each article contained a paragraph recap of events in Cambodia during the last 20-odd years (the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge, etc.) None of these paragraphs mentions the role the United States played (indirect though it was) in bringing the Khmer Rouge to power. I find this distasteful and distorting.
Today is my birthday. I am 28 years old. I was born in Chicago in 1968, a few days before, and a few blocks away from, the site of the Convention riots. I have always held this as a source of pride.
Today, I read an article in the September issue of George (don't ask) the one with Drew Barrymore as Marilyn Monroe on the cover (isn't it a little odd to cash in on your Catholic father's infidelity?) about the cops involved in the riots. It's an interesting subject (one I had thought of doing for Might, in fact.) The George article, however, is the most toothless, apologetic piece of shit I can imagine. The cops whine like they did nothing wrong, and the writer fails to point out that they outnumbered the protesters three to one, and that the cops were armed while the protesters were not. A bag of piss does not equal a billy club. It's a simple equation.
On NPR (yeah, yeah. It wasn't my fault that this election-related news seeped into my consciousness. I was in my car and changing stations would have imperiled me and my passenger) I heard that more than half of the male journalists covering the Chicago convention make over $80,000 a year, while more than half of the female journalists make less than $40,000. God Bless America.
Busted! Waiting to fly standby out of Seattle, I'm forced to sit in an area where I can hear my name called on the PA. Unfortunately, this also falls within earshot of a TV that's blasting CNN's "Inside Politics" . I have no choice but to overhear Clinton speaking. Fortunately, he says nothing memorable.
Flipping channels, I come across a replay of Christopher Reeves' Academy Awards speech. The Hollywood glitterati, I notice, are into silly hats this year. Wait! What's that sign say? Shit, this is the convention! I change the channel. Ahhhh "Baywatch."
Last night at the office, someone expressed distaste for the Reeves tearjerker the previous night. "I don't object to the blatant sentimentality, and it's not even that they're exploiting him and his affliction. It's that every time he pauses, the cameras flash to someone in the audience in a wheelchair." But isn't that what they did when Powell spoke at the Republican convention? "Camera 2, find that black guy in the Florida delegation. Quick, while he's still talking about affirmative action!"
Relief! At last I got to talk about the election with somebody who actually cares: a friend who's on Clinton's campaign staff in Los Angeles. "This election bullshit is pushing me to the private sector, I swear," Jim confides. He was in charge of the Democratic "war room" at the Republican convention, making sure that there was a Clinton/Gore presence in San Diego despite the fact that it was overrun by Texas Christians. "The strategy is to let them know that California is Clinton countryit might as well be Arkansas." To this end, Jim put up thousands of posters all over downtown. The posters ended up on the local news. He says the Democrats hope that in the next two or three weeks the Republicans will be so far behind in the polls that they give up and move out of California entirely. "Either they're gonna throw everything they have into Californiawhich would be a huge waste, in my opinionor they'll concede. Ten points is a shitload to make up, and they're down twenty, without a lot of time or money." Jim is really a nice guy who wouldn't hurt a fly, and I'm surprised that I can almost see him foaming at the mouth at the prospect of handing his foes a humiliating defeat. I tell him this, and he says he notices for the first time that campaigning is bringing out a side of himself he didn't really know existed. (It should be noted that Jim takes everything I say with grave seriousness because I once saved his life, and he trusts me.) But mostly I think he just hates the hours.
A note from my editor Margie has arrived. Apparently Mikki has some problems with my method:
Re: Your first diary installments (August 12 - September 2)
While your entries prove how difficult it is to avoid the campaign '96 coverage, this insight makes evident your own lapse into MEDIA MADNESS. Since you have been unable to keep your head lodged firmly in the proverbial sand, we, your kind and loving editors, have decided to keep you on a shorter leash. So....from this day forward you will be subject to editor reprimands and punishments.
That said, I forward this note from Mikki as your first reprimand.
>Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 12:20:42 -0400
>Subject: Re: diary
>It's a little weird to me. Paul listens to the radio,
>watches CNN, and watches the conventionsisn't this
>what he said he wasn't going to do?
>He should not watch ANY TV or radio, etc. I want to
>see Polaroid's of all his UNPLUGGED appliances, and
>his pile of UNREAD newspapers. WE WANT GOSSIP
>HEARSAY AND RUMORS DAMMIT NOT REPORTAGE.
Yes, it is unfortunate, but it seems that toast must be an innocent casualty of your media gag.
Next Week: Read about Paul's blissfully campaign-free September.
Baby and statue image © Zee, Picture Network International, Ltd.
Paul Tullis is senior editor of Might magazine. He lives in San Francisco.