R.W. Apple: My Favorite Convention Year Was ...





R.W. Apple, in the NYT (July 27, 2004):

I guess 1964 was the best year for conventions during my time at bat.

As F. Clifton White completed his conservative coup d'état on behalf of Barry Goldwater at the old Cow Palace in San Francisco, the galleries booed and brayed at their bête noire, Nelson A. Rockefeller, who struggled to make himself heard over the insistent thump of a bass drum. And then the nominee made one of the most memorable and also one of the most self-wounding speeches in modern convention history.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!" he cried. "Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

In Atlantic City, Fannie Lou Hamer of Sunflower County, Miss., and her Freedom Democratic Party brought the untrammeled power of the white barons of Southern Democratic politics to an end. The Freedom Democrats won two seats in their state's delegation and the national party's pledge that never again would delegates be seated "from states where the party process deprived citizens of the right to vote by reason of their race or color."

And then Robert F. Kennedy appeared on the podium, barely nine months after his brother had been murdered in Dallas. The hall exploded in cheers that lasted for 22 minutes, despite every effort to restore order. Standing in the midst of the New York delegation, I could scarcely hear the senator as he evoked his brother's memory with a passage from "Romeo and Juliet."

"When he shall die," he began, "Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine. " All around me, hardened pols wept.

Don't expect moments like that at John Kerry's convention. Fenway Park produced more drama last weekend than you are likely to see at the FleetCenter this week, what with the brawl between the Yankees and Red Sox on Saturday and Senator Kerry's surprise appearance to throw out the first ball on Sunday night. In fact, the most colorful moment so far - great swirls of yellow, magenta and emerald green - was provided by Falun Gong in a parade down Boylston Street on Sunday afternoon.


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