St. Paul Report: David Carr on Why This Will Be the Last Convention of Its Kind

By
Carr as the Carpetbagger. Photo: nytimes.com

Last night's Google/Vanity Fair RNC capper party didn't have the wattage of the DNC equivalent bash, which boasted guests from John Kerry to Susan Sarandon. Instead, we found ourselves milling around with Fred Thompson and Henry Kissinger (both of whom, tellingly, refused to talk about McCain's speech), and a whole bunch of exhausted reporters. It had been a long two weeks on the road. Politico.com's Ben Smith said his kids have started playing a game called "Airport," in which his flights get canceled before he reaches the campaign trail. In another corner, we overheard David Brooks saying his children ask his wife if Daddy is dead. Glynnis MacNicol of Mediabistro's FishbowlNY started off her birthday that day having an early breakfast with Karl Rove. And WWD's Jacob Bernstein was counting down the seconds till he could go home and check on his dog, who had been rushed into emergency surgery for bloat.

But it was David Carr, perhaps our favorite person on earth, who gave us the best, most colorful assessment of what it was like to be a reporter here.

David, when was the last time you saw your family?
I've seen my family sort of intermittently here and there, but I haven't petted my dog Charlie in about a month. I love the pageant of democracy. I love big things. [But] the story tempo in the Twin Cities is one out of four days, and that's not a high-enough average and we [the media] end up sort of chewing on each other. We got blamed for a certain kind of coverage that was going on with Palin, but there was no counter that they offered. Where were the young Republican stars? What did we get? Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman? I've got a feeling that the event, as currently built, is going away.
 
Conventions in general?
Conventions this way. Four days of convention with massive media coverage. Given changes in technology, convention funding, and how party politics is done, it will never happen again.
 
This is the last convention?
It's the last convention of its kind. Obama proved you could jam the emotional content of the convention into a single night. The Republicans proved you could easily lop off two days of programming and nobody would care.  

Did you have more fun at the DNC?
The DNC, as a journalist, had tempo. It had a build over four days and baked-in dramas between the Clintons and the Obamas. It had the will-he-or-won't-he Teddy Kennedy moment.

Not that any of it mattered.
No, it will all be forgotten. Here's what won't be forgotten. They did a two-and-a-half-hour drumroll at Invesco Field. Eighty thousand people waited for the man. And when the man walked out from the back, the man was a black man. And that was — regardless of party politics — that was absolutely thrilling and a moment that will end up being talked about for a long time, whether he ends up being president or not. 

What did you think of McCain's speech?
I thought his speech was awful. It was like watching somebody bungee jump where they forgot to tie the other end on. You could tell right from the start that it would be a long trip down that wouldn't end in a very pretty way. And I'm not happy about that. That's not good for us.