John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

Hello Cleveland!

Posted on July 18, 2016
Cleveland_Skyline_Aug_2006(Published on Political Storm)

Hello Cleveland!

Houston was the first convention I ever went to.

I remember it being hot in Houston.  Really hot.

I worked for Bob Michel at the time, and my job was to man the GOP Cloakroom that was housed in the Astrodome.

I was a young kid, and it was my first convention.  I wasn’t particularly politically correct back then.  For example, I thought Pat Buchanan’s speech was hilarious.  Political veterans in the Michel operation were horrified.

Ronald Reagan gave the best speech, though.  He was the master.  He was so much better than H.W. that it really made you wish that he could stick around.

Bush was in such a weak position that he had no choice but to allow Buchanan to speak and then his people blamed the television pugilist for his eventual loss.

If Bush had done a better job as President, Buchanan never would have been as successful in his insurgency.

I went to San Diego in 1996, and worked for Tom DeLay, who used his influence as Whip to organize a flotilla of yachts for Members to lounge around in.

My job as DeLay’s spokesman was to explain why what DeLay was up to was ethically up to snuff.   It was not easy.

The highlight of the San Diego convention, other that San Diego itself, was the announcement of Jack Kemp as the Vice Presidential candidate.

It was pretty clear that Bob Dole wasn’t going to win.  But the Kemp announcement gave everybody a false hope that maybe he could beat Clinton.

Republicans never got the Clinton charm.  They could never understand why a war hero like Dole couldn’t beat a draft dodger like Bill Clinton.

In 2000, I went to the Ed Gillespie convention in Philadelphia.

Gillespie produced the finest infomercial in the history of conventions.

He had my boss, Denny Hastert, open the proceedings from Independence Hall.  Hastert was no television star, but he knocked it out of the park.  Gillespie also made Hastert do a joint appearance with The Rock, a famous professional wrestler.

Hastert was a wrestling coach while The Rock was a famous fake wrestler.  Hastert resisted because he is a wrestling purist and fake wrestling doesn’t cut it.

But Gillespie was unbowed.

The purpose of the Philly convention was to show how diverse the Republican Party aspired to be.  It was widely-mocked for its efforts, but give Gillespie credit.  W. won the election.

In 2004, we were in New York.

New York was a great convention town.  I still worked for Hastert.

He got in hot water for calling George Soros a money-changer on Fox News Sunday.  I had to spend some quality time fixing that with the press.

Doing the convention in New York just three years after the 9/11 attacks was a master stroke.  It showed how America was coming back.  And for the convention revelers, it was just a lot of fun.  Nobody does a big party like the Big Apple.

In 2008, we went to Minneapolis.

That convention was every bit as screwed up as the McCain campaign.  They actually cancelled the first day of the festivities because McCain was scared that a hurricane was going to hit New Orleans, which was about 2000 miles away.

The real hurricane to hit the campaign though, was Sarah Palin.

I didn’t work for anybody at that convention.  I was just trying to help out with the speechwriting.

I remember the Palin speech, which I had nothing to do with.  It was great.  She made a wonderful first impression.  And McCain actually went up in the polls for a while.

But we all know what happened there.

In 2012, an actual hurricane threatened to hit Tampa, which also cancelled the first day of the Romney convention.

Everybody was pretty confident that Obama would lose.  Paul Ryan seemed like a good pick.

The best speech was given by Condi Rice.

The Romney people decided to seize on a phrase uttered by  Obama about how “you didn’t build that,” basically mocking the President for his defense of the role of government.

Romney threw in with that small block of voters who were self-starting entrepreneurs, while letting his 47% comment kind of float out there.

Tampa wasn’t the worst convention, but it seemed to me that it could have been better.

And now we are gathered in Cleveland.

It’s a bit jarring to see people walking around in their pro-Trump tee-shirts.

It just not something that you see every day in Washington DC.

But this is a convention and it is a convention to nominate Donald J. Trump.

The party isn’t quite united on that point, but it wasn’t really united in 1992 or 1996 or in 2008 either.

Cleveland is a great town that has faced some hard times.  It’s a beautiful setting for a convention, right here on Lake Erie.

We will see if this convention will stand out as being special or unique.  And while most people don’t think Mr. Trump will win, I wouldn’t rule it out yet.

Stranger things have happened.