by Scott Simon
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Philadelphia, August 3 -- Where is the Reverend Pat Robertson? I've seen him on television once or twice, on one of the sets beaming in our workspace here. But with the sound turned down, I couldn't hear what he was saying through his smile; and his smile seemed to me to look a bit strained -- the instinctive grin of a star who has just lost the Oscar, but knows the camera is trained on his face.
Congressman Henry Hyde is here. We've interviewed him on the floor. But the man who logged the most television time in leading his party's efforts to convict President Clinton hasn't been awarded so much as a mention from the podium, much less a featured speech. Mr. Hyde professed to take no offense that the party's new inclusiveness has not, so far, seemed to include him. But he allowed that he and his fellow congressional Republicans feel a bit overlooked.
For that matter -- where is Bruce Willis? The actor and party activist was scheduled to introduce the video tributes to the former Republican presidents, but got stuck on a movie set. New York Governor George Pataki stepped in to the role, and did not flub a line. But he would still not be favored to replace Mr. Willis in Die Hard VI.
For that matter -- where is Charlton Heston? The actor was once welcomed to party conventions for lending a note of Hollywood luster to bedrock conservative principles. Has his activism against gun control made an actor too controversial for a political convention?
A convention used to be planned to give precious prime time exposure to the party's rising political stars. But this convention has had more singers, star wrestlers, and sit-com stars. Rick Schroeder, The Rock, and Jon Secada, singing and stepping in his leather pants, have gotten more time on the rostrum than Rick Lazio, Lindsay Graham, and Asa Hutchison combined.
Politics and show business have always been in business together. But stars from Ronald Reagan and Everett Dirksen (who used to be a small-town Shakespearean actor) to Warren Beatty and Helen Gahagan Douglas (we can forget that the first former actor in congress was a Democrat) applied their theatrical popularity to politics because they believed devoutly in certain principles.
What you can miss amid all the pizzazz onstage here is real passion-the true dramatic property that drives politics. Dick Cheney conveyed some of that conviction last night, in suggesting that the Clinton administration has betrayed shabby morality.
But where were any traditional ringing Republican calls to oppose gun control? Why haven't we heard any impassioned and eloquent denunciations of abortion? Is the show onstage each night meant to dramatize the party's message -- or distract voters from hearing it?
-- Scott Simon
Scott Simon joined NPR in 1977 as
chief of its Chicago Bureau. Since
then, he has reported from all 50 states, covered presidential campaigns, seven wars, and reported from Central America, Africa, India, the Middle East, and the Caribbean.
From civil wars in Bosnia and El
Salvador, to hospital rooms, police
stations, and America's backyards,
National Public Radio®'s Peabody
Scott Simon brings a well-traveled
perspective to his role as host of
Weekend Edition Saturday.
Simon has a new book,
Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan was published in the spring of 2000 by Hyperion.