Saturday, September 6, 2008
The only people around the RNC headquarters now are security personnel. Cops of all stripes circulate around the hotel, nodding to one another as they pass, keeping watch mostly on their fellow watchmen. Every once in a while, Charlie's voice crackles over the radio, "Wake up!" and my fellow officers oblige by telling lewd jokes over the line to stay awake. The agony of my ill-fitting cop slacks has given way to a mellow numbness.
I am now posted behind the RNC headquarters, at the back exit, which is an outdoor ledge overlooking a park. It's a lonely perch and the night has turned chilly. Fall is definitely in the air. A man in his mid-60s -- who, to my exhausted eyes, looks a bit like John McCain -- suddenly materializes nearby. Given that I'm dead bored and my eyes have begun playing tricks on me, and that I'm manning a post in the dead of night, I can't help thinking of the ghost of King Hamlet, disturbing the night watch just like this gentleman, with "a countenance more in sorrow than in anger."
All the hotels in the area are dark. Thousands of Republicans stir in their beds, dreaming thousands of dreams about Sarah Palin. But Charles Hunter, an environmentalist delegate from New Hampshire and a veteran of Republican conventions going back to the 1980 coronation of Ronald Reagan at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, can't sleep at all.
"This is my last convention," he tells me, lighting a cigarette.
"I'm a real McCain guy. I served. But I liked the old McCain -- when he was a true hero, before he signed on with the yahoos. I actually believe in 'country first.'"
"Not a fan of Palin?"
"If I were McCain I'd probably bring her onto my ticket, too. That's exactly the problem. I guess I tricked myself into thinking that McCain, even after he watered himself down for the election, could somehow restore sanity. The Democrats tried to paint him as a twin of Bush. Not true. But Palin ... she does remind me of Bush. McCain has made a devil's pact and sealed this party's fate."
Even though he's older, he smokes his cigarette like a young man, with earnest haste, before he flicks it off into the dark.
"That's it," he said, "we're through. Even if we win, we've lost."