I wanted to jot down a few observations about the difference between the President's address to the American Legion Convention in Nashville on Tuesday vs. John Kerry's appearance today. I did not get to see the Kerry speech today (I hope to catch it on C-SPAN later) so I really can't comment on it too much but I did attend Tuesday's speech personally, covering it for the paper I write for.
According to live threads on Free Republic, this one
and also this
, the response to Kerry was much more subdued that Bush's appearance. The Washington Times reports
that Kerry "was received politely" by the vets. Many on the FR threads complained about the lack of crowd shots being provided for the broadcast. I'm not sure if they used a "pool feed" for Kerry, but on Tuesday, the Legion was using the services of a local A/V company to provide sound and video of the event. Let me explain the media setup in the hall so people can get an idea over how it was covered, at least on Tuesday.
The Delta Ballroom of the Gaylord /Opryland Hotel can hold 5000 people, about 250 by 100 yards by my crude estimate, and when Bush spoke yesterday, it was totally packed. There were four enormous projection screens set up in the chamber --two in the front of the hall and two more hanging from the ceiling in the middle. There were also four platforms set up for the media. Video and audio for the production were controlled from an area about 50 feet away from the front of the stage on the left hand side of the ballroom. The A/V company's gear was set up there, with a raised platform for a camera pointed at the stage in front of it. When the "working press" showed up (the group that travels with Bush) they set up their video equipment alongside the single camera being used to feed images to the projectors. About 15 feet behind that area and against the wall, was a table where folks from AP, Reuters, wire services and papers could dial in and file their stories from the event.
Another camera was set up on a much smaller platform directly in front of the speaker's podium about 30 to 40 feet from the stage. When the press that traveled with Bush arrived about 30 minutes before he spoke, two or three videographers set up their gear there. The other two media platforms were for local press and other TV. These were set up on the left and right hand sides of the ballroom, nearly in the middle of the room about 90 to 100 yards from the stage. The platforms had two levels and also seating was provided for journalists from the print media in front of those areas.
Press check-in was from 7 to 8 that morning (security sweep and all that) and I had arrived 45 minutes early. However, veterans and their families were already lined up and being checked out by uniformed Secret Service agents and filing in to the huge ballroom. Everyone had to pass through your standard metal detectors like you see in airports and then have an agent give you the once over with a handheld magnotomitor, while you bags were checked. I had attended three other events such as this when Gore was VP and the routine had not changed much. An agent asked me to switch on my digital camera (Nikon D70 with 300mm lens) and activate the LCD screen to see if it was the real thing. This is done to video equipment as well. After that, I checked in with two more USSS agents, these were plainclothes, and picked up my White House Press Pool credentials which I had applied for the day before on Monday. From there, I was escorted to my choice of either the left or right middle platform.
One advantage of being an early bird was that no other media had even showed up yet, so I picked what looked to be the best spot to get my shots: the left platform, since there seemed to be more of the square signs indicating state delegations blocking the view from the right side. Both platforms already have tripods and wiring set up for live satellite feeds. From that point, it was a nearly three hour wait, since once you get placed in your spot, you don't leave without an escort.
I'd also like to point out that the Secret Service guys were a lot more friendly and accommodating than I have encountered covering previous events of this type. Polite but firm. The crew that protected Gore in 1996-98 seemed to me to be quite rude and arrogant at the time. Only one plainclothes agent asked to see my credentials, but that was only due to the fact that my camera was obscuring it at the time. Very professional.
Other reporters and their videographers started showing up over the next hour and a half. People from Fox News in Washington, (not the network, a local affiliate) HDN, the local Fox station, photographers from AP, Getty and others soon filled up the platform. Good thing I got there early, because this was the one thing I dreaded. Some media folks can get quite pushy and be a real pain, mostly the pool that travels with the president. Fortunately for us, they would set up on the forward platform on the left. On the right media platform in the middle, many other stations set up their gear, including all of the other local affiliates, where live stand ups were performed. The folks that stood with me were very friendly. Some of them were quite young too. Local print journalists sat below us, including a few from The Tennessean
The room filled up pretty quickly and by 9 a.m., the place was packed. The convention kicked off with introductions from the Legion Commander and then several awards were given to servicemen who represented the spirit of the Legion as well as recognition to five youngsters who won various Legion sponsored competitions. There was also a very stirring video tribute that was accompanied by a high school choir from Tifton, GA. The video montage contained images of our armed forces from the start of our nation's history, all the way up to 9/11, which provoked a tearful reaction from some in the audience.
At this point, there was bit of confusion about the credentials of a two-person crew from NHK, the Japanese TV network, that set up behind me. The pair had arrived about an hour after press check-in time and I did not see them escorted in by anyone. A group of about 6 or 7 USSS agents gathered at once and began to check their various media badges over and over. I personally think that part of the reason they were check so extensively was the fact that the cameraman was Japanese, but the reporter was an attractive blond American lady, not exactly what I expected from NHK. Over the next 15 minutes, they were checked and rechecked and it looked like things might have ended up with the crew being asked to leave, but in the end they were allowed to stay....but were closely watched.
The traveling press showed up soon after this and then, at 9:45 exactly, the President of the United States made his appearance.
I did not get to see the entire footage that was shown live of course, and only caught snips on the local news reports later in the day, but the response that Bush got from the veterans was nothing less than thunderous. There must have been 5 to 6 standing ovations during the speech, the loudest one came when Bush said that he would support an amendment against flag desecration. The crowd practically leaped to their feet at that one...and most of these folks were quite elderly. During the parts when Bush was not interrupted by applause, you could hear a pin drop...not even your basic random coughs and sneezes.
Compare that with the friendly, but tepid reaction reported when Kerry spoke this morning.