She stood when he reached the Iraq portion of the speech.
President Bush had waded through ovation-producing paragraphs
on "frivolous lawsuits" (there being no Republican
lawyers, of course ) and the "complicated mess"
of a tax code "filled with special interest loopholes"
(which no Republican would ever create or benefit from). Now
Bush started to talk about how it was only out of necessity,
and with great reluctance, that he'd ordered the invasion
of Iraq. On the convention floor to his left, there were shouts
and a scuffle, quickly drowned out by chants of "Four
more years!" Bush paused and smirked for a moment, then
He didn't see the woman in a pink slip standing in Section
220 roughly 100 yards behind him. She was directly in front
of the reporters from Paris Match, Der Spiegel,
the Observer, Education Week. And me. She was
tall with long red hair, and the words "Code Pink"
written on the front of her slip in black marker; "End
the Occupation of Iraq" was scrawled on the back. For
five tense minutes she stood absolutely still; Bush might
have described her as possessing "resolve." Six
security guards stood within arm's length, but none of them
showed any sign of noticing her. She didn't speak a word.
The only time she showed any reaction was when Bush intoned,
"In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat." The woman
in pink shook her head slowly and sadly.
That's when they jumped her.
The first security guard knocked her off-balance, then pinned
her arms to her sides. She didn't resist, but he shoved her
along the press row and headlong into an aisle, where three
or four more bulky men surrounded her and pushed her up the
stairs and toward an exit. We lions of the press didn't move
or yell to the security guards to take it easy. The Republicans
in the obstructed view seats behind us booed. One of the woman's
low-heeled black shoes fell off and was seized as evidence.
It's silly to try to summarize a week experienced differently
by each of the tens of thousands of delegates, protestors,
and just plain bystanding New Yorkers this week. But the short,
nasty episode with a silent Code Pink demonstrator embodied
many of the main themes of convention week: Overwhelming,
pre-emptive security; a smooth Republican pageant; and an
underlying sense of unease that won't go away, even when the
last of the visiting Republicans is long gone.
Certainly the vast majority of the delegates had a good time.
Wyoming's Greg Schaefer says he's willing to send his now-15-year-old
daughter to college here. Bobby Humphryes from Pleasant Grove,
Alabama will always treasure witnessing the Yankees take a
historic 22-0 beating, and he vows to return to New York to
see all the sites he missed this time. Karen Kelly of Chicago
loved shopping tax-free at Saks, and shouting back at demonstrators.
These are the kinds of ambassadors that Mayor Bloomberg is
counting on to boost tourism in the long-term. Bloomberg started
talking up the future economic benefits to the city about
two weeks before the convention opened, a sure sign that the
immediate business benefit was going to be underwhelming.
Still, Bloomberg has to count the week as a success. He seems
to have avoided appearing in public with Bush. And the police
and fire departments kept midtown safe for Republicans, while
their contract complaints drew precious little attention.
The NYPD maintained order with flexible tactics and flexible
orange plastic netting, but mostly by following the Ray Kelly
Doctrine: Arrest first and ask questions later. The strategy
could end up costing the city millions in wrongful-arrest
lawsuits, but that's years away. At least the delegate busses
got to the Garden.
George Pataki had a rougher ride. The governor threw a pretty
good party at Elaine's the night before the start of the convention,
but his big speech introducing Bush tonight was a dud on the
floor. The governor seemed to be suffering from a sore throat,
or maybe he was trying to achieve a breathily emotional tone.
Regardless, the delegates found him difficult to understand,
and even when they did applaud, Pataki would rush on to the
next sentence, instead of pausing to let any momentum build.
Perhaps the biggest loser of the week, though, was the media,
excepting Fox News (each night at the Garden, Republican hecklers
would yell "Watch Fox News!" as ancient Larry King
attempted to conduct interviews). All those pre-convention
stories asking, "Would the Republicans exploit September
11?" look laughably naive now. From Giuliani on Monday,
through tonight's maudlin appearance by the guy who wrote
the Friends theme-song, and continuing with Thursday's
Bush introductory videowhose style borrowed equally
from Leni Reifenstal and Ken Burnswhere the president
becomes a glorious hero by throwing a ceremonial first pitch
at the 2001 World Series, the GOP used every available minute
trying to turn the city's worst tragedy into Bush's greatest
It was a heckuva show. It's a relief that it's over. What's
unsettling, however, is that the Republican convention was
really only an opening act in a drama with two months left
to run. The woman in pink was a reminder that, for all the
stagecraft and sloganeering, there are lives at stake in this
big, bizarre campaign.