People You Meet and Questions You Ask at Political Conventions

Part of the experience of a political convention is encountering all types of people in the hallways and on the city sidewalks. Some of the best talking heads the Democrats have are in town this week and on-message with daily talking points on why President Obama deserves a second term. But I think its the rank and file delegates who provide the more insightful conversation.

After a long day of reporting at the Charlotte Convention Center, I stopped off at a restaurant a few blocks down the street to grab a bite to eat and wait on the rain to lighten up before moving on to my next event. I wasn’t looking for an interview when I took an empty seat next to a gentleman and his wife who looked like they were in town for a political event. And I was right. After a few minutes of small talk, they told me they were convention delegates from Iowa. Then the husband asked if I was a delegate. “No, I’m a journalist and I’m in town to cover the convention,” I replied. That’s when I told them I wrote for The Christian Post.

Yep, you guessed it. We started talking about politics and religion. Dennis, who retired as a mathematics professor from Iowa State, wanted to engage me in a conversation on why many Christians favor creationism over evolution, which quickly turned into a discussion on whether Jesus actually existed.

His wife Robin, a retired biology teacher, was curious why Republicans did not support public education by wanting to pay teachers a higher salaries and why conservatives thought labor unions were bad for business.

Anyone who knows me understands that I could discussion any of these issues for hours.

While we failed to come to any sort of agreement on these weighty topics, we parted ways on good terms and swapped contact information so we could send each other articles and books we had reference during our chat.

Then it occurred to me that had I attended the Republican convention in Tampa the previous week there is a good chance I might have encountered a couple who was the exact opposite of Dennis and Robin; conservative and evangelical. I can even think of several couples that would have fit that role to a tee.

The conversation also made me think of another question being asked of Democrats this week and that is “are people better off today than they were four years ago?” The question I want to ask elected officials and delegates tomorrow is “would Christians be better off under an Obama or Romney administration and if so, why or why not?”

Labor Day at the DNC; Wasserman-Schultz Addresses Faith Council

Most of the Delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte have arrived and are wandering around downtown Charlotte in an effort to acclimate themselves to the events of the next three days.

Although it’s Labor Day in at the DNC, you won’t see a big union presence because North Carolina is a right-to-work state and the AFL-CIO reminds the Democrats of that fact every chance they get. A handful of big labor bosses will be in town but they won’t be spending big labor bucks on the convention.

The highlight of the day is the Carolina Fest being headlined by James Taylor.

My only other major convention experience was attending the 1996 Republican Convention in San Diego. If you can’t remember that far back, Sen. Bob Dole and former Secretary Jack Kemp were the party’s nominees. And in case you are wondering, they didn’t win but it was fun nonetheless.

I drove in and parked as close to downtown as I could this morning but still had to walk about 15 blocks to reach the convention center. I picked up my credentials (maybe I’ll write a separate post about that process) before finding the media center. All the big guys are here, Fox News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Politico and the other usual suspects.

However, none will cover the conventions emphasis on faith and religion like The Christian Post. Here’s an example:

I attended the DNC’s Faith Council meeting this morning where Dr. Carroll Baltimore of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and DNC chairlady, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, addressed a group of approximately 150 people. Their primary themes centered on voter suppression and affordable healthcare; two issues that will no doubt be repeated throughout the week. Surprisingly, Rep. Todd Akin’s name or rape was not mentioned in the same breath but I would wager it will be before the end of the week.

What I did find interesting was a comment made by Rep. Wasserman-Schultz, when after describing how she was raised Jewish but in a “secular” home said, “Being Jewish is both a religion and a culture.”

As a Christian, my first thought was, “is this how I view my relationship with God?” Is it both a religion and culture to me? I can see how some Christians could in fact say the same. But some could not.

Both major party’s tout religion in different ways and both try to appeal to the most religious within their ranks while not alienating non-believers. One thing I will be looking for this week is how the Democrats showcase faith and religion at this convention. Rep. Wasserman-Schultz may have given me a preview.

I wonder if I will see more faiths represented in Charlotte than some of my colleagues saw at the GOP convention in Tampa?

Heading to the DNC in Charlotte

As I write this post I’m sitting in the Nashville airport on my way to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Only as a child would I have thought I would find myself attending a gather such as this since my parents were involved in Democratic Party politics during my formative years. Many of my friends and their parents found themselves in the same situation, especially if they grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line.

But I am not covering the event from a partisan perspective; instead, I will be covering it as a journalist.

Besides my parent’s political involvement, my great uncle, Jess Lanier, was the mayor of Bessemer, Alabama and also served as the chairman of his state’s delegation at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois. This is the same convention that saw multiple protests over the Vietnam War and where police roughed up a number of journalism including Dan Rather when they attempted to interview delegates who were being escorted out of the building. Hoping that doesn’t happen to me in Charlotte.

My objective will be simple:

I’ll be covering how religion and faith are presented at the convention and what themes the Democrats will highlight as they respond to last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. For example, some Democratic pundits accused the Republicans of a lack of diversity even through a number of the speakers were women and minorities. Admittedly, most of the delegates at the RNC gathering were white. I’m looking forward to seeing how the DNC audience looks but color aside, I bet it will be heavily weighted toward union members.

If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see covered, feel free to email me at paul.stanley@christianpost.com or follow me on Twitter @authorstanley.

The fun starts on Monday.

CORPORATE WIFE? GIVE ME A BREAK

Below is an outstanding piece written by my friend Penny Nance, who heads up Concerned Women For America. It addresses Fox News correspondent Juan Williams comments about Ann Romney coming across as nothing more than a “corporate wife” during her speech at the Republican National Convention. No further introduction is needed since Penny sums it up so well.

Maybe it’s the fact that we just have too many professional commentators who simply must comment on every little detail at a moment’s notice, but the comments by Fox News’ Juan Williams following Ann Romney’s speech yesterday were just not appropriate and, as a woman, I feel must not go unaddressed. I like Juan Williams as a commentator, he’s a really nice guy, but I think he got this one wrong.

Commenting on her performance, Williams said she looked, “like a corporate wife.”  A corporate wife?  What in the world was he talking about? What could Ann Romney have done not to look like a “corporate wife?” Would a little less make up do it? Maybe if she would have worn her hair in a pony tail? I’ve got it. Maybe she could have worn jeans and a Planned Parenthood t-shirt. Would that have done it?

No. You know why? Because there was nothing wrong with Mrs. Romney’s performance. There is something wrong with liberal prejudice against confident, successful, well-off, conservative women. Their contempt for homemakers is especially offensive.

He continued: “The stories she told about struggles – eh!  It’s hard for me to believe. I mean, she’s a very rich woman, and I know that, and America knows that.” And there it is. That’s the answer. She’s got money.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter what Ann Romney has gone through, how sincere, caring, charitable, loving, hard-working, humble she may be, it will never be enough for some liberals out there. It doesn’t matter what she said or how she said it. She’s not a “real” woman. She has money.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly also seemed to be taken back by William’s bizarre characterization, and so she asked him what he meant. Williams said she looked, “like a woman whose husband takes care of her, and she’s been very lucky and blessed in this life.  She’s not speaking, I think, for the tremendous number of single women in this country or married women. She did not convince me that, ‘You know what, I understand the struggles of American women in general.’”

Now I get it. If I want to speak about the struggles of America and what we can do about them I need to be a single mother who comes from poverty. Got it.

It’s not that any criticism of Mrs. Romney is out of line. You could see she was a bit nervous at the beginning, and so you could see she was reading; but you know what that is also real. Real people get nervous on big stages with lots of people watching. That doesn’t mean she’s somehow a fake and doesn’t know “true” struggle.

That’s why his comments were so out of line. And truthfully, as is so often the case, it showed more about him than about Mrs. Romney.

Frankly, I’m a bit tired of the media labels as a whole. Women are not one monolithic group, blindly following the liberal path like the media expects. We are a diverse group, and we should all be respected and taken seriously.

I am sure, in retrospect, Mr. Williams will think through what he is about to say a little more before putting it in those terms and, perhaps, that’s the lesson we should all take from this. Instead of immediately reacting to someone else based on our own prejudices and dismissing their views because of their background, perhaps we should take the time to actually listen to the substance of their ideas and go from there.

Did Labeling FRC a ‘Hate Group’ Prompt Shooter to Target Christian Nonprofit?

There has been much written about the unfortunate shooting Wednesday at the Family Research Council offices near the nations Capitol in Washington, D.C. The gunman, Floyd Corkins, entered the lobby with a bag that held about 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a 9mm handgun. Corkins shot FRC’s building operations manger Leo Johnson in the arm. Johnson the subdued the shooter until the police arrived. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have exercised that much patience if I had been shot. But Johnson’s decision was the right one.

I’m sure we’ll get more details in the coming days but one remaining issue that warrants discussion is why the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies FRC as a “hate” group, along with the KKK and other neo-Nazi groups. Really – a “hate” group?

Comparing FRC to a group that wants to exterminate non-whites is like comparing Billy Graham to Charles Manson. It is simply hard to wrap your mind around the similarities shared by the two.

But one of the best op-ed’s I’ve read on the issue is by one of The Washington Post’s more liberal writers, Dana Milbank. Just as he makes the point that he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with FRC’s Christian worldview, neither to I agree with Milbank, however he raises some excellent points why FRC does not deserve a “hate” label.

Click here to read Milbank’s article.

Below is an article I penned Thursday in The Christian Post after FRC’s Tony Perkins addressed the group. I hope it gets you thinking about why more civil discourse is needed when we discuss such emotional issues.

FRC Head Accuses SPLC of Creating ‘Reckless Environment’ That Led to Shooting

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, held a press conference Thursday afternoon, stating in no uncertain terms that while the suspected shooter was responsible for wounding the group’s unarmed building operations manager, organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (that label FRC as a “hate” group) created the environment that ultimately led to Wednesday’s shooting at the FRC offices in Washington, D.C.

Perkins held the press conference with the specific purpose of clearing up any misinformation that may be circulating about the shooting and the possible intent of the shooter, Floyd Corkins. However, he first wanted to thank the organizations – many of whom do not agree with FRC on matters of political policy such as traditional marriage – for their outpouring of support. And he also issued a challenge for them to take some additional steps.

“I want to express my appreciation to the groups and organizations that we do not agree with on many public policy issues, who have also expressed their outrage at what took place here yesterday. For that I appreciate it. But I would ask they go a step further and join us in calling for an end to the reckless rhetoric that led to what took place here yesterday.”

Perkins called out the “recklessness” of groups such as the SPLC, located in Montgomery, Ala.

“Let me be clear that Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues and our friend, Leo Johnson,” said Perkins.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Biden Warns That Romney Will ‘Put You Back in Chains’

Speaking to an audience in Virginia on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of about 1,000 – half of whom appeared to be African American – that Republican Mitt Romney would unleash Wall Street and put people “in chains.” The comment drew an immediate response from the Romney campaign, saying the comment was a “new low.”

Biden’s comments came after he took a swipe at what he said would be Romney’s policies during his first 100 days in office if he were to be elected in November. “[Romney] said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks write their own rules – unchain Wall Street.”

Then the vice president offered an even greater prediction. “They’re going to put y’all back in chains,” said Biden.

Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul jumped on the comments, referring to them as “slanderous” and demanding that President Obama confirm if he indeed supports the vice president’s remarks.

“After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama campaign has reached a new low,” Saul said in a statement. “The comments made by the Vice President of the United States are not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama Campaign will say and do anything to win this election. President Obama should tell the American people whether he agrees with Joe Biden’s comments.”

Other notable Republicans were quick to criticize Biden’s comments and suggested that a double standard persists between what Democrats and Republicans can say on the campaign stump.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

The ‘Budget Wonk’ Next Door: Meet Paul Ryan

Mitt Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his GOP running mate on Saturday gave voters a brief glimpse to the 42-year-old, seven-term public servant. Ryan’s focus on the nation’s fiscal issues have earned him the reputation as a “budget wonk,” as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time crunching numbers in an effort to reduce the nation’s deficit. Here are a few more things you might not know about him.

Ryan grew up in Janesville, Wis., where he currently resides with his wife Janna and their three children. The youngest of four children, his idealistic childhood suddenly changed in 1986, when he found his father dead of a heart attack. It was at this point he decided to help support the family by taking a part-time job at McDonald’s.

“I stayed in the back because the manager didn’t think I had the social skills to work the counter,” recalled Ryan in previous comments about his first job. His brother Tobin told The New York times that it was about this time his younger sibling’s political views began to take shape. “Some of his political views did begin to coalesce around the time of my father’s passing.”

His first foray into politics came when he was elected president of his high school and although a former fitness trainer and workout buff, his athletic career was short-lived, consisting of only a single year of high school soccer.

Ryan’s political aspirations soon followed him to college at Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a B.A. in economics and political science. Both disciplines would prove invaluable to him.

Tobin Ryan said his younger brother’s enthusiasm for economics was apparent from the start. “He was a PhD student in freshman clothes. I was an economics major myself; I don’t think I was as enthusiastic,” he said.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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