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.)