The 1996 Republican National Convention is already another exciting page in U.S. history. I wanted to cover the convention for Mother Jones, but in order to get my column done on time I had to go down to San Diego before the convention started. (That’s one more strike against the Republicans — they won’t work around my schedule.) But the Mother Jones editor-guy felt that with my investigative expertise and amazing predictive powers I might still notice things that would elude lesser reporters who had the benefit of actually attending the convention.
While I was there, the Republican powers-that-be were still trying to gin up excitement. Mayor Susan Golding said hosting the convention should be a bipartisan effort, as all San Diegans would benefit from the tourism generated by a well-run convention. (I know I like to book a flight to wherever the Republicans have been. I couldn’t get to Houston fast enough after the High Hair Festival at the Astrodome in ’92.)
The Convention & Visitors Bureau was pleading with locals to put on the patriotic dog. Louie & Mousie’s ice cream store was offering “Bob Dole Pineapple,” “Fig Newt Gingrich,” and “Basic Values Vanilla.” Nordstrom was selling leather pumps with an elephant in a hat and “San Diego ’96” on them. (They’re bound to go like Cabbage Patch dolls.) In the porno shop in Jack Ford’s building (Jack is the son of Jerry Ford and executive director of the convention host committee), I think I saw a video cover with a woman going down on an elephant, but that probably wasn’t intended as Republican set dressing.
There were also a couple of oddities shaping up for the convention. Newt Gingrich had plans to pick up hammer and nails to help Habitat for Humanity build homes for the homeless. Abner Mason, the GOP’s first openly gay delegate, was preparing to set foot onto the floor of the convention. And Citizen Dole was unhappy with the convention center’s ceiling height, fearing an inadequate balloon drop. (Nothing gets past this guy.)
While most politicos would never endanger their appearance of expertise by doing what I am about to do, I am submitting, before the convention, my predictions of what will occur there. The editor-guy is locking my predictions in his office, where I’ll have no way of altering them after the fact. If half of these things come to pass, I’d like to be considered a political genius.
1. Bob Dole will be the Republican nominee.
2. The religious right will populate the convention grounds in record numbers.
3. The porno shop in Jack Ford’s building will do record sales.
4. The Guam delegates will not get the best hotel.
5. Abner Mason will not get good directions to any parties.
6. During the voting roll call, the Montana delegate will introduce the state as “Montana, the disaffected sociopathic mathematician refugee state.”
7. Newt Gingrich will talk too much while house-building, and the other volunteers won’t want to hammer near him.
8. The Republican leaders will reach out to include everyone in their party (minorities, gays, reproductive rights supporters, poor people), but they’ll continue to legislate as if they’re the only ones alive.
9. No one will look good in those shoes from Nordstrom.
10. Phil Gramm will run amok in Louie & Mousie’s ice cream shop, pushing the “Phil Gramm Cracker” flavor and telling everyone about the time Bob Dole called him a bug.
11. The platform will include an unusually large section on yachters’ rights.
12. Bruce Willis will show up somewhere and be rude.
13. At least two delegates will be seriously injured in a midnight attempt to photograph themselves in the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.
14. Pat Buchanan will say something unconscionable.
15. Lamar Alexander will storm the podium in his Brawny paper towel outfit to reassert that he’s the only candidate who can beat Clinton since, having fizzled in the primaries, he has the element of surprise.
16. After a disastrous balloon drop, Bob Dole will cling to the microphone before a chaotic hall, a red balloon clinging static-electrically to his head, shouting, “I told you the ceilings were too low.”
This guy knows his stuff.