Democratic Convention stumbles in Democratic fashion; Update: Howard Dean responds
posted at 12:50 pm on July 6, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
The woes of the DNC continue in Denver, and even the New York Times has taken notice. In some ways, it provides an excellent manifestation of Democratic governance. Underfunded, overspent, and chock-full of unrealistic mandates, the entire enterprise appears on the brink of failure — and Team Obama has six weeks to attempt a rescue:
Some of the Democratic missteps started soon after planning for the event began. The Democratic National Convention Committee decided not to take cheap office space and instead rented top-quality offices in downtown Denver at $100,000 a month, only to need less than half the space, which it then filled with rental furniture at $50,000 a month. And in a costly misstep, the Denver host committee, early on, told corporate donors that their contributions were not tax-deductible, rather than to encourage donations by saying that the tax-exempt application was pending and expected to be approved.
Overly ambitious environmental goals — to turn the event into a “green” convention — have backfired as only three states’ full delegations have so far agreed to participate in the program. Negotiations over where to locate demonstrators remain unsettled with members of the national news media concerned over proposals to locate the demonstrators — with their loud gatherings — next to the media tent.
And then there is the food: A 28-page contract requested by Denver organizers that caterers provide food in “at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white.” Garnishes could not be counted toward the colors. No fried foods would be allowed. Organic and locally grown foods were mandated, and each plate had to be 50 percent fruits and vegetables. As a result, caterers are shying away.
For the Democratic Party, the danger is that a poorly run convention, or one that misses the mark financially, will reflect badly on the party and raise questions about Democratic management skills. And more worrisome for the Obama campaign is that it will be left with the bill for overruns or fund-raising shortfalls, and that the candidate will have to compete in raising money against a convention effort desperate for cash.
On the last point, Barack Obama has only himself to blame. He could have kept his word and accepted the public financing that every major-ticket presidential candidate has used since Watergate, including Obama’s opponent, John McCain. Instead, Obama abandoned the key part of the political reform he says he supports — and now will have to compete against the DNC and Hillary Clinton for funds among Democrats.
As for the rest, who could have hoped for a better demonstration of Democratic mismanagement? First, the host committee overspends while at the same time struggled to raise money for the convention. For a party that rails about deficit spending, they certainly don’t have a problem running up bills they cannot pay. Next, they let the nanny-state extremists in the party dictate the available food, rather than let the delegates and the guests make their own decisions on their diet, driving off private enterprise. They failed to reckon with the states when dictating environmental requirements, which sounds quite familiar indeed for those opposed to federalist principles. Most notoriously, they issued eco-friendly specs for fanny packs that demanded a product that didn’t exist.
Best of all, they put the demonstrators next to the media. Even for Howard Dean, that seems exceedingly stupid. Did the DNC want the theme of unity to receive the most coverage, or did the committee want demonstrators to get the 24/7 coverage from the national media instead? And did no one consider the annoyance factor and how it would affect media coverage of the convention?
The convention is shaping up to be a disaster. They have already had to scale downwards on events, and now reports have the DNC considering a shortened schedule to shave a day off the event. If the Democrats can’t pull together a four-day convention in two years, how can anyone expect them to run a federal government of infinitely more complexity?
Update: Howard Dean and DNCC CEO Leah Daughtry respond to the New York Times by denying practically everything in their report. Read it all, but here are a couple of highlights:
The New York Times states that “overly ambitious environmental goals” from Convention organizers have backfired, citing a lack of interest from delegates in the effort. That is false. In fact, hundreds of delegates have already signed on to the “Green Delegate Challenge,” and we anticipate recently selected delegates to join in the weeks ahead.
I’m not sure how this rebuts the Times. The article states that delegates from three states have adopted the pledge, and if those states are California, New York, and Oregon, for instance, that would be “hundreds of delegates”. The Democrats have over 4400 delegates attending this convention, and having agreement from “hundreds” sounds pretty thin — and they have only seven weeks left to get more to sign the agreement.
The New York Times implies that the Convention has imposed eating restrictions on delegates to the Convention. That is false. Democrats at the Pepsi Center and other official Convention venues can have all the fried goodies they can stomach. Talk of anything to the contrary is just plain silly.
I imagine that the normal concessionaires at the Pepsi Center will sell whatever they want to the attendees, but the DNC doesn’t have any control over that anyway. The issue is the mandates imposed on the food provided by the DNC during its functions, and the caterers have testified on the record to the DNC’s strange and costly demands. Dean in his conclusion derides the concerns of Denver and the Times over the color of foods, but it was the DNC’s odd obsession with it that created the interest.
Dean and Daughtry also dispute the Times’ reporting on the costs and lack of funding reported in the article, but they don’t provide any substantiation for their rebuttals. Nor do they dispute the cancellation of dozens of DNCC events, or explain the cancellation of the media walkthrough last month. Instead, in somewhat of a non-sequitur, the two proclaim the importance of “prudent budgeting and financial management” in their goals, but never quite say they’ve succeeded at either — which doesn’t address the Times’ reporting on their alleged failure.
Finally, it seems a little ironic that the Democrats would be complaining about unfair reporting in the New York Times. It’s certainly possible that they’re correct, but Dean and Daughtry do nothing but spin in this response, leaving the central reporting untouched.