Wednesday, September 01, 2004

RNC POSTCARD: MEDIA BISTRO It would be wrong to read too much into the rampant line-cutting outside the New York Yacht Club last night: A long procession of prospective partygoers spilled out from the club's main entrance, dribbling down 44th Street toward Fifth Avenue.

A much shorter VIP line pivoted toward Sixth. And not infrequently, Very Very Important People could be seen breezing right past both lines and into the Distilled Spirits Council-sponsored RNC bash.

As I say, it would be wrong to read too much into the line-cutting.

And yet it's an irresistible metaphor for the ethos of today's Republican party, and its standard-bearer in particular: Crowds of neatly-dressed, carefully-coiffed white people electing themselves too important to step to the rear of the pack and wait their turn.

I mean come on--are lines really necessary? Aren't they the product of proletarian thinking? And probably inferior breeding? Isn't there some less egalitarian way these pesky situations could be handled?

And one wonders: Has there ever--in his entire life--been a line that George W. Bush didn't cut? Has he ever been more than a phone call away from the kind of bureaucratic wrist-flick that would land him in the VIP section, the luxury box, the Texas Air National Guard?

On the toll road that is life, has George W. Bush ever lacked for an E-ZPass?

These are the thoughts that swirled through my head as I stood on 44th Street last night (on the non-VIP line), hoping to make a foray into enemy territory to gather some useful intelligence.

The line crawled along slowly--held up by the heightened security regime and the presence of only a single metal detector at the club's front door. Even some of the more audacious queue-jumpers found themselves stranded on the pavement for half an hour or longer.

As for myself, I passed the time listening to a miffed reveler repeatedly wondering aloud into his cell phone why oh why someone couldn't be sent down to tell the security people that he needed to be admitted Just This Instant.

INSIDE: Once I finally made my way into the dizzyingly-ornate clubhouse, it soon became clear that despite the free booze, the trays of seafood and the complimentary cigars, the party was anything but a deal-making session for elite Republicans. Instead, the place appeared to be full of staffers, hangers-on and media types. Lots of media types.

Photo by Willow Lawson.

New York Times columnist David Brooks, across a crowded room: He's smaller than you might think.

There was Michael Isikoff of Newsweek holding court in a corner, Fred Barnes and Brit Hume of Fox News chatting by the coat check, and David Brooks with The National Review's Jonah Goldberg, talking up a storm.

There was Wonkette posing for photos, Peter Beinart of The New Republic wading through the crowd and NewsHour regular Terence Smith chomping away on a cigar on the clubhouse's outdoor deck.

Sadly, sightings of real-live Republicans were few and far between. I did find myself, if only briefly, within spitting distance of a deeply-tanned Katherine Harris. (I did not spit.) But even a C-SPAN junkie like myself was able to spot preciously few pols.

If the Republicans are having back room meetings after hours at the convention, they must be doing it in genuine back rooms--or at least in gatherings smaller than last night's 1,600-head soirée.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.