Md. delegate gets close to Bush in N.Y.

The Political Game

Convention: House Minority Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell is rewarded for his work for the GOP with a seat on stage during the president's speech accepting renomination.

September 07, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

YEARS OF TOIL on behalf of Maryland's minority party paid unexpected dividends for state Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell last week.

O'Donnell was plucked from the floor of Madison Square Garden on Thursday night before President Bush delivered his convention nominating speech, and was given a seat on the stage. He stayed for three hours and, at the end, told Bush that the president hit a "home run" with his remarks.

O'Donnell, the House Republican whip from Southern Maryland, was a convention whip - meaning he coordinated with convention staff about the daily message, sign coordination and other details during the four-day gathering in New York City.

He arrived at the Garden at 7 p.m., expecting to join the Maryland delegation for the final night of the convention. Instead, a regional whip, Tiffany Watkins, approached him with an offer of a seat upgrade as a reward for his work.

"I was escorted through about six security checkpoints," O'Donnell said, before he took his place. That's where he remained for the entire prime-time presentation.

"After the president spoke, I got to shake his hand," said O'Donnell, 43. "I said, `Home run, Mr. President.' He said, `Thank you very much.'" O'Donnell also shook hands with Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

While O'Donnell said several friends called him to tell him that they saw him, he said he realized that his exposure was limited.

"I looked at a rerun on C-SPAN, and it was very difficult to see anything," he said.

Dissent at GOP convention meant short shrift, fast exit

During his Wednesday night keynote address, Democratic Georgia Sen. Zell Miller extolled the role of the U.S. military in protecting our freedoms.

"It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest," Miller said.

But that freedom was suspended inside Madison Square Garden during the Republican National Convention, where any hint of dissent was snuffed out with military precision by convention staff.

While New York Gov. George E. Pataki was speaking Thursday night, a protester in the crowd raised a poster that said "Strong But Wrong." Staffers rushed into action. "Get that sign down," barked a New York City police officer into his microphone. The poster was promptly ripped from the hands of the demonstrator, who was rushed from the hall.

An hour later, during Bush's speech, hecklers tried to interrupt. As if on cue, the crowd around them began chanting "USA" and "four more years," so that the viewing audience would not see or hear the dissent.

The hecklers also were rushed from the arena.

Members of the Maryland delegation said later that they hadn't been briefed on how to handle hecklers. The chants of "four more years," they said, were spontaneous.

Sparks musician takes his protest on the road

Sparks-based musician Lea Jones is finding a welcome audience for his political protest songs outside of Maryland.

Jones is leader of Swing States Road Show, a liberal-leaning group that has been playing at Democratic events in - you guessed it - swing states, those toss-up locations where the presidential campaigns are spending most of their energy.

In an e-mail message, Jones said the group is made up of Marylanders and District of Columbia residents, but is spending a lot of its time in places like West Virginia. Their song "Four More Years?" is featured on the NPR compact disc All Songs Considered.

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