Embedded: Day 1

By Zac Farber

Mac Weekly Managing Editor Zac Farber reported from the Republican National Convention at the Excel Center in St. Paul Sept. 1-4. He attended the pre-convention “Civic Fest” Aug. 31 in Minneapolis.While John McCain and George Bush visited emergency workers preparing for Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf Coast on Sunday, GOP delegations from all 50 states wandered across the almost 400,000 square feet of floor space in the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The event, “Civic Fest: A Very Minnesota Celebration celebrating Minnesota and American History, Democracy, and the U.S. Presidency,” was sponsored by a panoply of corporations including Xcel Energy and Google, AT&T and Cargill, Inc. Their charity financed the decadent buffet that featured a carving station and walleye cakes.

It was a warm up act for the spectacle of the actual convention, and the room was full of pomp but free of politicians. In their absence, the RNC pampered the delegates with celebrity treatment: a walk down the red carpet, hors d’oeuvres on platters and an open bar courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and, presumably, Cindy McCain.

It was a Potemkin village of American government and symbols. Delegates lined up to pose with a live bald eagle, examine a scaled replica of the White House and tour an Air Force One fuselage-turned-museum. There were also opportunities to take an oath as a Supreme Court Justice and to sit behind the President’s desk in the Oval Office.

Twenty-somethings in dark suits clustered in circles, their social status indicated by the number of badges and lanyards they had managed to string around their necks. David Freddoso, author of one of the new anti-Obama screeds, signed copies of his book while fans waited for his more famous colleague, Jerome Corsi, to make a promised appearance.

Noticeably absent were images of the Republican candidate, a fact one Southerner noted while touring the CSPAN van, which featured a feed of a beaming Barack Obama. “What’s he doing here at our convention?” she remarked, concluding to chuckles, “I hate Muslim frat boys.