Week In Review: GOP National Convention

Scott Simon discusses the week's news with Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr, including the Republican National Convention and the nomination of John McCain for president. Schorr calls Sarah Palin, GOP nominee for vice president, the star of the convention.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. This week, the Republican National Convention wrapped up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Huge audiences tuned in to watch and hear Governor Sarah Palin give the biggest speech of her life, then to hear Senator McCain accept the Republican nomination for president. NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Firstly, welcome back. And you observed your - may I say? - 92nd birthday while you were gone.

SCHORR: Other people observed it for me, but yes.

SIMON: All right. Well, happy birthday.

SCHORR: Thank you.

SIMON: Now we've got some distance from both conventions, looking back, what stood out in your mind?

SCHORR: Well, as I look back, one thing that stands in my mind is that both conventions found unity. That has not always happened in either Republican and especially in Democratic history. But Democrats had the great problem of Hillary Clinton and her supporters not being entirely happy. The Republicans had a problem as to who should be the running mate, and in the end I think that Senator McCain did sort of toss the ball into the air in choosing Governor Palin. But it all worked. They've all gone home. They're going out to various meetings and rallies and so on. But you have two united parties.

SIMON: But that does raise the question, if either of those parties is going to win, they have to reach across.

SCHORR: That is correct. It's very interesting that in the history of political conventions, there are always these little buzzwords. One of the big words is "change," a little bit about "experience." But then you found that it really was that the people wanted something that would take them out of this kind of partisan fight. And in order to do that, you found that your candidates were all busy extending their hands across the invisible barrier.

SIMON: TV ratings were just almost off the charts, and somewhat unexpectedly. Thirty-eight million people tuned in to watch Senator Obama's acceptance speech last week. Even more watched John McCain's speech on Thursday.

SCHORR: That is interesting.

SIMON: Governor Palin came close to both with 37 million viewers. Why are so many people paying attention?

SCHORR: I don't know. I think something generational is happening. I think we're beginning to get the effect of what are called the millennials. Sometime back it was the boomer generation, and so on. Now, we're having a big realignment, I think. And we're getting younger people coming into the television marketplace and at least looking at what's going on. Also, there was - you have to say that sometimes they were a little bit dramatic. I mean, Mrs. Palin was a genuinely dramatic event, so it does attract attention.

SIMON: The Republican Convention was shortened because of the arrival of Hurricane Gustav, and some people have suggested that this might have been the best thing for the convention formula, that maybe they don't need to be spread over four nights. I wonder, what do you think?

SCHORR: Well, the fact that we came down to three, and nobody seemed to mind that it was only three days. Bush delivered his speech to the convention from a remote place called the White House, and it lasted eight minutes. And it's very easy to bring that down into three days without trying. We'll try three, maybe we'll do two.

SIMON: Let me share with you some words that Senator McCain uttered in his acceptance speech on Thursday night. He said, quote, "We were" - we, Republicans - "were elected to change Washington, and we let Washington change us. We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than to reform government, both parties made it bigger."

SCHORR: Interesting.

SIMON: Well, all right. Now, how does somebody run as the party out of power when they've had the White House for eight years?

SCHORR: Very delicately.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: The way a porcupine makes love.

SCHORR: Is how you do it. I mean, Senator McCain is now hung up on the fact that he has supported President Bush and agreed with President Bush and has voted for things that President Bush wants. It is very difficult for him now at this stage to put a lot of distance between him and the previous administration. And so what you read was a very delicate way of saying, listen, so some of those people, I'm not going to name them, did some very wrong things, and so on. And you're not supposed to know that he really is saying, I'm breaking with Bush.

SIMON: But Senator McCain does have a record of breaking with Bush. In fact, the two of them tried to break each other eight years ago.

SCHORR: They have a record of breaking and mending.

SIMON: How did Governor Palin do in your estimation?

SCHORR: I think she did awfully well. I mean, everybody thinks she did awfully well. This woman known in Alaska, not very well-known anywhere else, stood up there, read her speech. Whoever wrote it, it was a good speech and very well delivered. But I must say that for all the main speakers at both conventions, they've all now learned how to speak. Nobody really fell on his face. But I would say that the star was Mrs. Palin.

SIMON: There's something I noticed about these four candidates. The three of them with children above the age of 18, their families all have somebody who has either served in or is on their way to serve in Iraq.

SCHORR: Right. And then of course that was brought forcefully to the attention of the convention and of the world. There is also an enormous emphasis on family. I mean, the families have stood up there before to watch their nominated spouses, fathers, and so on and so forth. But I thought all through this, with so many of them having families, and so on, that they really find that presenting family to the public helps. And it does.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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