Tonight will be a speech by Arizona’s own Raúl Grijalva, who had a prominent role this year as one of the few congressional endorsers of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. This prominence has induced an epidemic of dyslexia among our national media, which manifests itself in some rather confounding pronunciations of his name.
(Memo to Rachel Maddow: It’s Ra-OOL Gree-HAL-Vah. Not that hard.)
Raúl’s first appearance before a national convention was back in 2004. That year, he was extensively courted by the John Edwards campaign, but he chose to go with Howard Dean owing to his strong identification with opposition to the war in Iraq. Despite Raúl’s work on behalf of Dean, Edwards had Raúl give his nomination speech for Vice President.
We in the Arizona delegation were all holding up Grijalva signs, even though I think a couple of delegates from Phoenix didn’t know who he was since he was still relatively new. Grijalva gets up there to speak, and as he got out his first words, he stumbled and seemed a bit confused.
I felt bad for him, even though he gave a pretty rousing speech after that, echoing Edwards’s “two Americas” theme and asking “where’s the compassion?” It was only weeks later that I found out a bit of the back story on the speech’s opening.
Raúl had a hard hitting speech written, but it was kiboshed by the Kerry campaign. After all the edits, he ended up with a rather dull recitation of pre-approved talking points. He went up to the podium to give the speech, he started reciting the first line and looked up to realize that his original speech was the one in the TelePrompTer. He was a bit startled at first, but happily read the speech he wanted to give in the first place.
The way I got this story is a reminder to me of sometimes how little you know about the back stories while you are in the convention hall. Sometimes the big stories are hard to find out about too while you are in the delegate bubble. My brother wrote about the resignation of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. In this age of ready social media, that stuff can get out to delegates quickly. But it wasn’t long ago that it was actually harder to get news in the hall than outside.
In 1992, I was an usher at the convention. My job was to stand at the entrance to a large hospitality suite and only let congressman, senators, governors, big city mayors in with one, yes sir we said one, guest in. I got to find out two things at that time: how many governors and mayors think they needed a phalanx of their own armed security with them in a hospitality suite surrounded by Secret Service, DC Capital Police and NYPD, and that DNC staff, at that time anyway, didn’t count Phoenix as a “Big City.” I still remember a couple of people turning away a confused Paul Johnson.
I chatted with Secret Service and other volunteers, usually about bad encounters with politicians. But, I didn’t hear much news. On Thursday, Ross Perot dropped out of the Presidential race. It was the biggest political news of the day. It would have been the talk of everyone, right? Especially in a gathering of half of the most addicted of political junkies in the country.
Me? I only found out about because they gave two of us a break and told us we could go into the suite and watch Bill Clinton’s acceptance speech. In the speech, Clinton dropped a quickie line about welcoming Perot’s supporters. I turned to the other volunteer.
“Did he drop out?”
He shrugged. I didn’t know for sure until I picked up one of the free “convention special” editions of National Journal on the way out.