[7:03 p.m.] An off-camera announcer on the convention floor introduces "the conscience of the Democratic Party, Senator Zell Miller". Can't wait to hear if that one comes up after Michael Reagan's abortion reference turned out to be a nonstarter. Miller starts off by talking about how homeland security is an adequate reason to cross party lines, something that SC is surprised wasn't a focus of pre-speech commentary, instead of anchors giving each other undeserved compliments.
[7:05 p.m.] Miller has no ear for when to stop for applause lines.
[7:12 p.m.] Miller continues to talk straight through his applause lines, especially bizarre when you listen to the text itself, which appears designed to initiate a sort of call-and-response dialogue with the crowd. John Edwards did this sort of speech much more successfully.
[7:17 p.m.] Miller echoes a rhetorical trope of Barbara Boxer's from the confirmation hearings of John Ashcroft. Boxer said, "I've looked into this man's soul"; Miller just said, "I've knocked on the door of George Bush's soul, and found someone home". Someone must have focus-grouped that phrasing a long time ago and found that it tested well; it conveys connotations of particular intimacy.
[7:20 p.m.] Miller finished quickly, and they moved right on to Lynne Cheney. No time on any of the big three cable channels for commentary. NBC is running John McCain in an interview with Peter Jennings, but the other two broadcast networks are staying focused on the floor.
[7:22 p.m.] That was a quick introduction. Dick Cheney's about to speak.
[7:26 p.m.] Cheney tells a joke that's been in his stump routine for a while: "I understand Senator Edwards was picked for his good looks. How do you think I got the job?". Noooooo...make up a new joke for the convention!
[7:30 p.m.] Cheney's speech is held up a bit on account of a protester rushing the stage. In the meantime, this about says it for Bill O'Reilly. (Yes, I'm being unfair; there isn't an anchor out there who doesn't do the same thing.)
[7:56 p.m.] Dick Cheney just finished his speech. Almost entirely focused on defense and security. Will be interesting to see if the commentary focuses on what he said, or on the things he didn't talk about (although the pre-convention buzz has been that Bush's speech will focus more on domestic issues, so the commentariat might hold off 'til tomorrow).
[7:58 p.m.] Brit Hume has Bill Kristol, Mort Kondracke, Mara Liasson and Fred Barnes on (i.e., his usual cast of characters). Liasson raises the point that Zell Miller's speech was quite fiery, and that such speeches haven't played well on TV (she mentions Howard Dean in particular). Hume runs with this in questioning his panel.
[8:03 p.m.] Tom Brokaw comments that John McCain -- who wasn't shown during Zell Miller's speech -- was uncomfortable with said speech. With no comment for attribution or video record, is this McCain's view or Brokaw's? Tim Russert raises the flip-flop issue, which was a focus of Cheney's speech, and Brokaw addresses it pretty fairly. It'll be a subject of the campaign going forward, in his estimation. Chris Matthews is still emcee of the MSNBC broadcast, and promises to have Miller on. Matthews calls Miller's speech a very personal attack, but gives a Republican (Scarborough) the first opportunity to reply, which strikes your host as fair.
[8:08 p.m.] CNN has Aaron Brown running things again, and he's got Kerry spokesman Tad Devine on to rebut Cheney's speech. Having the opposition on to give a rebuttal is pretty much standard media practice: it happens after every State of the Union, and even after every weekly Presidential radio address (quick, readers: how many of you even knew that there still is such a weekly speech?). Devine is taking the route of attacking what Cheney didn't say, but he hasn't been given too much prompting by the media. Judy Woodruff is busy trying to get Devine onto the subject of the speech. Wolf Blitzer notes explicitly for the viewer's benefit that a similar rebuttal opportunity was given to the Republicans after John Edwards' speech. I would've just assumed this was the case (I missed CNN's coverage at that time), but Blitzer obviously is feeling sensitive to charges of bias.
[8:14 p.m.] Chris Matthews lied. It was 11 minutes, not 10. [This isn't really my notion of a lie, but I'm feeling skittish about being ironic.] He's got Zell Miller on now. Matthews asks if he really meant what he said about Kerry wanting to defend the country with spitballs. It's fair to ask about what he actually said as long as it's kept in context, and Matthews seems to be doing so. The audio hookup is terrible -- Miller keeps shouting "WHAT?" -- so I'm not sure this interview is going where it should. Miller and Matthews seem to be talking past each other. Miller just said "get out of my face!" and then "I wish we lived in the day when you could challenge a person to a duel!". Wow, he's feisty! It's effective, though -- Matthews is the original screamy TV host, but Miller's got him to be very slow-paced, deliberate, and absolutely quiet during answers. I'm not sure Miller went about it the best way he could, but Matthews explicitly acknowledged that he was probably misheard -- and in a fashion that made him sound insulting -- at the end of the interview, and invited him to come in-studio tomorrow instead. Should be fun if it actually happens.
It's 8:30 at this point, and your host hasn't had dinner yet. That was enormously good fun, but not much commentary to be heard after Matthews and Miller got wrapped up in personal animosity. Truth be told, though, it was more exciting than any policy discussion I've seen in years. Hopefully, we'll be able to watch for bias tomorrow, but your host's got a 7:15 p.m. commitment that will preclude covering the last hour.