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3 September 2008

Bush rails against angry left

More curious tales from the Republican convention as Matt Kennard continues his reports from St Paul

By Matt Kennard

George W. Bush graced the convention yesterday via video link and took the time to rail against the “angry left” who, he claimed, could “never break” John McCain. He then compared “angry left” opponents of his administration to the North Vietnamese who captured and tortured McCain during the war in Indo-China. So there you go.

As the delayed convention got going inside the action on the outside started to peter out. At the State Capitol there was, however, a music concert which showcased legendary hip-hop act Dead Prez, who rapped their “F*** the Police” and directed their wrath toward what is possibly the most heavily-policed city on earth – at least for the moment.

There was later a rally by the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign in a park near the Excel Center with maybe a 1,000 people listening to more speeches and some performances. I left before the pepper spray came out, which, according to news reports, it did later.

The tension between the serious protesters and a small band of ‘anarchists’ is coming much more to the surface now. There were grumbles from the Poor Peoples Campaign that they hoped their serious march would not be hijacked by militants who are smashing windows around the city and getting themselves arrested. In terms of media exposure, these self-avowed ‘anarchists’ are stealing the show, and have managed to tarnish the protests in the eyes of mainstream America.
***
What might not be clear to people in the UK or the U.S. is how far the Convention season is just an almighty booze-up. There is a narrative that Hurricane Gustav has blunted the party season here, but it’s hard to notice as every night the strip in Minneapolis becomes a bustling Republican Mecca of open bars and live music.

On Monday night I saw Megan McCain, John’s daughter, at one of these social events and a country singer with a new hit “Raising McCain”. Last night I went along to the University of Minnesota to attend a Grammy Foundation fundraiser. The organisation gives the esteemed music award, the Grammy, and when we arrived we were shown three pages of names of Senators and Congressmen and women who would be in attendance. In the end none showed up.

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After the initial clearing of throat, which, at the RNC, usually involves a long list of corporate sponsors, this time including Lockheed Martin, we were given a show by The Abdomen, an anodyne three-piece band that had formed at Grammy Camp, a youth arm of the organisation which wants to put out the next generation of musicians.

With the warm up over there were still only about 100 people, out of an expected 500, in the huge room and the PR manager was looking a bit worried. There was a mound of tuna and some bread for food, and the ubiquitous open bar. Next was the singer-song-writer Greg Laswell. He played a few plaintive numbers, then said, “I used to write sad songs, but then I dreamt that my grandma told me to write happy songs, then I wrote this…” And he played an upbeat track. Then he said, “This song is a lie. Sometimes a lie turns into the truth,” referring to “How The Day Sounds,” a tune he wrote for his parents who were worried about his state of mind.

For the finale, four country singers took the seats, and took it in turns to spin a track. Joe Nichols played “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Cool To Be A Fool”, while Brett James sang his “Jesus Take The Wheel” number, which was about a car crash being avoided when Jesus takes over control of the vehicle, steering it to safety.

Alice Peacock then played her blockbuster “Bliss”, which is now being used by Hershey’s chocolate advertisement, she told us. She even inserted the word “chocolate” into her rendition to push the point. She sang: “Hey it’s really very simple, follow my example, learn to love each other, your sister and your brother.”

At the end of the performances we were ambushed by the PR agent and suborned into interviewing some people.

“We brought out fine top-calibre songwriters – a really unique opportunity,” said Peacock, who is originally from White Bear Lake, Minn. She added: “It’s great to see the convention in Minnesota.”