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Conventional City


IF CHICAGO IS THE CITY OF BROAD SHOULDERS,” wrote columnist David Lamb, contrasting this year’s political-convention cities, “San Diego is the City of Tight Abs.”

“The City of Tight Abs.” It doesn’t have quite the ring of “America’s Finest City,” or the promise of “The First Great City of the 21st Century.” But it fits. For four days in late summer, San Diego flexed its abs for all the world to see. And envy. If the November election were between the Republicans’ choice, San Diego, and the Democrats’ choice, Chicago, the Republicans would be planning the inaugural festivities right about now.

From the pre-convention fireworks spectacular over San Diego Bay—staged by the Copley Newspapers for 5,000 or so usually jaded media types—to the New York delegation’s closing-night party at the Santa Fe Depot, the city lived up to all its self-propelled hype. A petulant Ted Koppel, who packed up and beat feet at mid-convention to protest the lack of “real” news, missed the point. The Republican convention wasn’t news. It was an infomercial—for San Diego. Our ConVis Bureau owes the GOP, big-time.

Even such a contentious quartet as the McLaughlin Group managed to agree on one thing. During a TV taping before a City Club/Point Loma College audience here, all four bought into John McLaughlin’s new premise: “All future political conventions, Republican and Democrat, should be held in San Diego.”

Protest groups who anticipated violent confrontation with police must have been as disappointed as Koppel. The most common adjective used to describe the SDPD’s short-pants police patrol was “cute.” The cops’ most arduous task was posing for pictures with the politicos.

Police Chief Jerry Sanders noted there were only nine convention-related arrests during the week of the Republican gathering. That, he quipped, is about equal to one quarter of a Chargers game.

The thousands of volunteers and regular San Diegans who worked behind the scenes for nearly two years to pull it off deserve the lion’s share of praise that’s been heaped on our city in the wake of the big convention. For them, there were no hidden agendas, no dreams of profit, no political payoffs, no aspirations for higher office. For them, sharing San Diego’s enduring charms with the rest of the world was a simple affair of the heart.


“If Chicago is the City of Broad Shoulders, San Diego is the City of Tight Abs. On both scores it was a perfect fit: a blue-collar town with smoke-filled steakhouses versus a seaside community of smokeless sushi bars.”

—David Lamb in the Los Angeles Times

“A postage stamp with a bunch of ants crawling around on it.”

—a CBS-TV vice president, whining about our convention center

“At least two delegates will be seriously injured in a midnight attempt to photograph themselves in the elephant enclosure at the San Diego Zoo.”

—a convention prediction from Paula Poundstone in Mother Jones magazine

“Everything before has been a warmup, a trial heat. But here in San Diego, the real race begins.”

—Bob Dole, arriving in San Diego at Embarcadero Marina Park

“When Adam and Eve were evicted and sent to dwell somewhere east of Eden, God whipped up a second Garden that fell just short of the original, but not by much. Last week not even Republicans in convention gathered did much to spoil San Diego.”

—columnist James Brady

“We’ve done shows in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and these are the most enthusiastic audiences we’ve ever played to.”

—Politically Incorrect’s Bill Maher, backstage at the Lyceum

“Today, this disputatious party of ours needs a truce, a Truce of San Diego. Let us—at least for the next 10 weeks—suspend our battles with one another.”

—Pat Buchanan in Escondido

“Certainly, a copy of the convention-week schedule doesn’t look pretty. The words ‘California beach party’ are in ominous proximity to the words ‘Representative Sonny Bono.’”

—Maureen Dowd in The New York Times

“Sure! What’s his name?”

—perennial candidate/comic Pat Paulsen, asked if he’d like to critique the San Diego mayor’s speaking style

“A school of fish went by, and he cut off their lunch program.”

—Politically Incorrect’s Bill Maher, on Newt Gingrich visiting Sea World

“When he stands up there on the platform with Strom Thurmond by his side, Bob Dole is going to look like the newest lifeguard on Baywatch.”

—John McLaughlin at the City Club

“There was something that just didn’t fit about your governor, Pete Wilson, announcing for president at the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free—and I’ll stick ’em on a bus back to Tijuana.’”

—Mark Russell at a City Club/Point Loma College forum

“Let’s make rhino noises.”

—syndicated columnist and 60 Minutes alum Molly Ivans, during the long wait in line for hot dogs at publisher John F. Kennedy Jr.’s San Diego Zoo party

“Are we going to have a decent discussion on this? Or is this going to be another emergency phone call where we have to make a million-dollar decision with no information?”

—Convention Center director William Roper, on an 11th-hour request by the city for another $1.2 million to underwrite the GOP convention

“Jack Kemp was an inspired choice for vice president. So much energy. If you put Bob Dole and Jack Kemp together you get one normal person.”

—the Capitol Gang’s Mark Shields at the Princess Resort

“Compared with L.A., let alone with the much smaller San Francisco, San Diego still has the feel of an enormous village. [But] the scarcity of dedicated social climbers has been a serious stumbling block for the arts. The symphony, proudly rehoused in a converted movie palace a few years ago, recently went bankrupt.”

—David Reid in The New York Times

“In the year 2050, there could be as many as 1 million people in the U.S. 100 years old or older. That would be one whole city. A quiet city. The only city in the world with no sexually transmitted diseases.”

—futurist/pundit George Will at the City Club/PointLoma College forum

“We can handle the media all right—all 15,000 of them—but God save us from our fellow Republicans.”

—Michael Miller, director of convention media operations

“Yeah, I’m not real keen about being so close to Ollie here.”

—KFMB Radio’s Stacy Taylor, on his position next to Oliver North on the convention center’s “Talk Show Row”

“People in San Diego who worry about immigration say, ‘This is our land; we don’t want anybody taking it over.’ If this was our land, it wouldn’t be called San Diego. It would be called Gus Johnson.’’

—Politically Incorrect’s Chris Rock, at Planet Hollywood

“President Clinton’s convictions have the shelf life of a Big Mac on Air Force One.”

—Susan Molinari, keynoting the Republican convention


—bumper sticker on a VW parked near the convention center

“I went to the zoo today with my daughter. I figured, why not go to two zoos today? So I’m here.”

—Democrat political operative James Carville, who infiltrated the GOP convention after visiting the San Diego Zoo

“When the guards see me coming, they claim to love me; they claim they’ve been watching me for years. And then they go through my bags as if I was a bomb thrower.”

—TV’s Andy Rooney, on convention center security

“Thank you, San Diego. You’re host to the greatest Republican convention of them all—the grandest of them all.”

—Bob Dole, accepting his party’s nomination for president
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