Former President Gerald Ford, who suffered a mild stroke this morning, may have been feeling the effects of an earlier episode when he appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal Tuesday. A C-SPAN staffer tells Whispers that Ford, 87, "sounded very fatigued. He sounded like someone who had a stroke, his speech was slurred." But Ford didn't go to the hospital until later that night. He was released but returned again Wednesday morning, at which time doctors diagnosed the stroke. Ford also looked beat at Tuesday night's session of the Republican National Convention; aides initially wrote it off as the effects of the heat in the hall and climbing up stairs in the First Union Center.
You'd think that the last Republican vice presidential nominee would have VIP tickets to the GOP convention here, but noooo. Minutes before last night's session got underway in muggy Philly, Jack Kemp and his wife were walking up to the white security tent outside the First Union Center when none other than current veep choice Dick Cheney's motorcade drove up. The Kemps and about 50 others were held up by security as the cars whisked by. But even when security let up, the Kemps were stuck at the back of the line and surprisingly few people even took notice of their last pick for No. 2.
George W. Clinton
It turns out that there's a little bit of Bill Clinton in George W. Bush. They both wear cowboy boots, won't drink, and enjoyed a rather randy youth. But get this: Bush "turns out to be more of a policy wonk than I imagined," an insider and fellow wonk told Whispers over coffee and fruit. "He's got a CEO's eye for what is important . . . he filters out a lot of the background."
They won't use the analogy, but Bush insiders are considering the Quayle model for GOP running mate Dick Cheney's campaign travels. Some Bushies have expressed concern that Cheney's a wee bit stiff and "unexciting." As a result, he'll be kept away from addressing big crowds of 5,000 or more, says one Bush associate. The first Bush did the same thing after watching his running mate, Dan Quayle, stumble from the get-go. In 1988, Quayle was initially relegated to cow towns.
Message to Mike
To: Mike Gerson, Bush speechwriter
Mike: Lost your Philly phone number. But I've got a tip on what George W. should do tomorrow night when he delivers his Big Speech at the GOP convention. Had breakfast with pollster Frank Luntz at the Inn at Penn where all the media bigwigs are staying. Saw a blurry-eyed Peter Jennings in a corner whispering into his cellular phone. Frank had only grapefruit juice; I bulked up on eggs benedict. Anyway, Luntz hosted a focus group this week of so-called swing voters so turned off by politics that they had to be paid to watch the nightly convention speeches. But he says they like what they're seeing. By 2 to 1, they're moving to Bush's camp. They're split evenly between independents and those leaning left and right. What's more, they like the Bush campaign's mostly positive message, and they hate Gore's attack strategy. They like Bush's upbeat ads, too. Luntz's advice: Bush should stay positive, ditch any reference to Clinton, and maybe even throw away your script and do like Elizabeth Dole did in 1996mingle with the delegates. "Don't tell them what you think, tell them how you feel," suggests Luntz.
Drink it up
OK, we'll admit right upfront that we're lazy on this one. But we loved this E-mail press release so much we couldn't resist sharing it: "When GOP Convention 2000 settles down to some serious cheerleading this week, check out the California delegation. They ordered and received hundreds of 'Turn It Up' cups, which they plan to use in loud support of the Bush-Cheney ticket. The patented plastic cup holder, created in California, has proved popular with high school and college sports teams and as a fundraiser. It makes a satisfying, clacking, rattling noise and can also be used as a small megaphone. One tip: Drink the soda and remove the beverage cup. It's the plastic holder that makes the noise." D'oh!
C-SPAN turns up the heat
Little C-SPAN is getting feisty in its old age. The public-affairs cable TV channel is challenging claims by rival networks that they're giving the convention lots of airtime. Each night, and updated every 15 minutes, www.cspan.org tallies the minutes the nets devote to official convention proceedings. Last night, the session went 3 hours, 13 minutes. The tally: C-SPAN at 3 hours, 13 minutes; PBS at 1 hour, 57 minutes; CNN at 1 hour, 31 minutes; Fox at 1 hour, 20 minutes; MSNBC at 46 minutes; ABC at 25 minutes; CBS at 19 minutes, and NBC at 16 minutes.
Yummy GOP stuff
Lots of collectibles at the GOP convention. The favorite: a box of Kraft mac & cheese filled with elephant-shaped pasta that features a picture of an elephantdressed in Brooks Brothers, of courseholding a placard reading "Republicans in 2000." Other goodies: bath soap produced by the conservative group American Renewal with a picture of President Clinton over the words "It's time for a bath!"; a first-aid kit filled with Band-Aids, aspirin, and Tylenol; and King of Prussia mints packaged in a snuff box.
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