I am angry because I am a patriot.
I am angry because the President of the United States is a coward. He and his sidekick Dick Cheney decided not to attend their own convention this year, because they claim they need to focus on hurricane relief in the gulf coast. My response? You absolutely have to be joking. They have let the city of New Orleans rot in the tropical sun for three years. They had no problem with the poor and the unemployed living in shoddy trailers full of toxic chemicals. They have no problem with the fact that there is still a murder almost every day in a city that has a population of less than 300,000 people (yes, do the mathon any given day, a resident in New Orleans has about a 1 in 1000 chance of being shot and killed). But now, suddenly there is a little rain and wind, and they have to focus their energies on the recovery effort. Seriously? Let’s be honest they aren't worried about what is going to happen in New Orleans; it's what is happening at the other end of the Mississippi River in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that has them hiding with their tails between their legs. Keep in mind, the last time a sitting president didn't attend his own party's convention was 1968. The president was Lyndon Johnson, and the war was Vietnam.
Cycling officers (photo: Jon Berry)
Guess Who Suddenly Cares About New Orleans...
So many things about the RNC have blown my mind this year. The chosen location is beyond stupid; the USA is a very large country, with many large cities that would provide a friendly, welcoming, and sympathetic population. Cincinnati, Atlanta, Dallas, Salt Lake City, etc., the list of cities whose populations are politically right of center goes on and on. If they wanted to push a voting bloc their direction, they could have chosen any number of cities with more centrist populations as Indianapolis, New York, Saint Louis, etc. Instead, they chose a metropolitan area that is among the most liberal in the country: Minneapolis/Saint Paul. It would be difficult to choose a city more hostile to the RNC. Baghdad would be approximately as friendly to the Republican cause as the Twin Cities.
I think that the RNC realized this, although the realization came long after the hotel rooms had been booked and the police overtime had been approved. Last week, the city began taking steps to provide security for the event, and lessons learned from securing the Green Zone in Baghdad were applied. Freeway access to downtown Saint Paul was restricted, and then the perimeters were set up. A security perimeter was set up in the immediate area around the Xcel Energy Center, the venue for the convention, which meant concrete barricades and 5 meter high, heavy gauge steel fences, with riot police armed to the teeth guarding the entry and exit points. A softer security perimeter was set up several blocks out from the inner perimeter, with concrete barricades and a 5 meter high chain link fence topped with razor wire. The wider perimeter allowed some motor and foot traffic, but the entry and exit points are still guarded around the clock by police, although these officers are in their normal uniforms and are carrying their normal weapons. The officers guarding the soft perimeter have the authority to detain and search anyone they feel is a potential threat. Probable cause in this scenario could be just about anything.
The Secret Service, which up until recently was a fairly tame and respectable federal law enforcement agency whose duties were the protection of the president and the investigation and apprehension of currency counterfeiters, has been in the cities for at least the last few months. Characteristic of executive branch agencies under the Bush administration, the Secret Service has taken on additional powers in recent years. In the Twin Cities, they have been working long and hard to infiltrate local dissident groups. This infiltration came to fruition last week when they raided several local houses and arrested the occupants on the vague and ethereal charge of conspiracy to incite a riot, a charge that is Orwellian in the extreme and virtually impossible to prove in court without an explicit confession. But they aren't going for prosecution here; the goal is simply to get them off the streets until there is no longer a threat. Baghdad hasn't been the only learning experience for this administration; Guantanamo Bay has been quite educational as well.