Sunday, July 6, 2008

Conventional Thinking

It’s probably unfair, but nonetheless tempting, to see something prescient in the problems plaguing the planning phase of the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Read about some of them in today’s New York Times.

One can’t help wondering if the cost overruns, seat-of-the-pants planning, obsessing over all things “green,” kow-towing to labor unions and strange fetish for ecologically-correct culinary choices might not portend things to come if Democrats control both Congress and the White House.

“Some of the Democratic missteps started soon after planning for the event began," reports The Times. "The Democratic National Convention Committee decided not to take cheap office space and instead rented top-quality offices in downtown Denver at $100,000 a month, only to need less than half the space, which it then filled with rental furniture at $50,000 a month. And in a costly misstep, the Denver host committee, early on, told corporate donors that their contributions were not tax-deductible, rather than to encourage donations by saying that the tax-exempt application was pending and expected to be approved.

Overly ambitious environmental goals — to turn the event into a “green” convention — have backfired as only three states’ full delegations have so far agreed to participate in the program. Negotiations over where to locate demonstrators remain unsettled with members of the national news media concerned over proposals to locate the demonstrators — with their loud gatherings — next to the media tent.

And then there is the food: A 28-page contract requested by Denver organizers that caterers provide food in “at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white.” Garnishes could not be counted toward the colors. No fried foods would be allowed. Organic and locally grown foods were mandated, and each plate had to be 50 percent fruits and vegetables. As a result, caterers are shying away.”

Denver Post columnist Dan Haley recently chronicled some additional absurdities. And the headaches the convention has brought for the so-far Teflon Mayor Hickenlooper, a Democrat, also have been interesting to watch. Labor unions are pouring millions of dollars into Colorado -- story -- hoping to turn what was not long ago a solidly red state into something indelibly blue. But the possibility that notoriously independent Coloradans will be put off by all this, rather than flattered and seduced, is very real, in my opinion.

A convention debacle could "reflect badly on the party and raise questions about Democratic management skills,” notes The Times. But when was the Democratic Party ever known for its managerial excellence or fiscal and ideological restraint? Not any time in my memory. If, indeed, the mishandling of the convention is in any way indicative of how Washington will function when Democrats rule supreme, it will be just as anyone with a long enough memory expects it to be.

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