Thursday, September 4, 2008

RNC: Templeton working for Gustav victims from Minnesota


Kane Farabaugh
Special to The Times

La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton knows about disaster.

"We had a problem in our own county, in the town of Utica, where a tornado came through and killed nine people and devastated the downtown area. So we found out on a small scale how important it is for people to come together, and they came together there just like they're coming together here."

"Here" is on the floor of an exhibit hall of the Minneapolis Convention Center, where Templeton is elbow deep in boxes, working to fill care packages that soon will be on their way to people affected by Hurricane Gustav.

He is taking part in a hastily assembled relief event sponsored by retail giant Target, the American Red Cross, the Republican National Convention and John McCain's presidential campaign.

Templeton is a delegate from Illinois attending the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. It's his first political convention, and it has so far been anything but conventional. Hurricane Gustav created much uncertainty for Templeton and his fellow Illinois delegates when they arrived in the Twin Cities.

"We were watching and wondering what were they going to do? There were discussions about 'Are we going to cancel, or are we going to just try this another time?' It didn't seem feasible to put all this work into it and get all of this set up just to cancel it. I don't think that would have been a reasonable thing to do."

As plans were put into motion to prepare and ship 80,000 packages to areas affected by Hurricane Gustav, the situation on the ground in the Gulf Coast was rapidly changing. Templeton says it also was changing the outlook for delegates.

"The mood changed, at least in our hotel, in Illinois' delegation, to a much better mood that people down there weren't getting hit as hard as they were before, that there wasn't as much damage as there was before. Still tremendous amounts of damage, but not nearly like Katrina was, so we felt better about things than we had when we got here."

News about Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter soon bumped Gustav off the top of the media radar.

Bristol Palin, 17, who is not married, is five months pregnant. The situation has caused a stir among reporters gathered in St. Paul for the convention, but does not seem to have created a backlash among Republican delegates.

"I don't think it's an issue," Templeton explained, "and I would hope that the public would not think it's an issue. It's a privacy situation."

Palin is popular with Republicans because she supports gun rights, is opposed to abortion and models herself as a "hockey mom," an everyday working parent who former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee believes gives her a strong connection to most American women.

"What Sarah Palin represents is everything family values is about. It's about affirming your family, Families aren't perfect. Families have problems. Everybody's does -- mine, yours and Sarah Palin. It's how we react to them."

Instead of creating a problem, the impending birth of Sarah Palin's grandchild is an issue Templeton thinks Palin could use to her advantage on the campaign trail with McCain.

"She's not ashamed of it, she shouldn't be ashamed of it and I think she's going to be a good candidate," Templeton said. "I think she's going to be a very electable candidate and she's a very strong person."

Templeton knows Republicans have an uphill battle in Illinois as the presidential campaign heads into the final months. It's Democratic nominee Barack Obama's home state. In spite of the challenge, Templeton is optimistic having Palin on the Republican ticket only can help John McCain bridge the gap in poll numbers, and ultimately votes, in Illinois.


Kane Farabaugh is a Midwest-based TV and radio correspondent with Voice of America (www.voanews.com). He is covering the 2008 Presidential election for VOA. A 1995 graduate of Ottawa Township High School, Farabaugh recently returned to Ottawa, where he now lives with his family. He's worked for various commercial TV stations as a reporter and anchor as well as the American Forces Network Europe based in Germany. The views expressed in this column are Farabaugh's and do not represent the views of Voice of America.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gustav, protests lead convention news - The Ottawa Daily Times



Kane Farabaugh
Special to The Times

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It seemed like Monday might have been a nonstory at the Republican National Convention. Most of the schedule for the delegates and speakers congregating at the Xcel Energy Center was cut, with only two hours of mostly procedural moves taking place as the government, and the nation, braced for Hurricane Gustav. Republicans felt it wasn't the right time to have a party.

But it was a holiday, Labor Day. And the weather was nice, with some 5,0000 people not working nor invited nor planning to attend the RNC. And they had an agenda at the steps of the Capitol in St. Paul.

It was humid and hot by the time thousands of people gathered there to listen to protest organizers and speakers rally against the war in Iraq. This was the first part of what was expected to be the largest organized protest during the convention. Police and the people gathering to protest were on edge after reports over the weekend of a raid on an anarchist group that calls itself the RNC Welcoming Committee.

The atmosphere at the protest rally point had the feel of a state fair or festival. There were food stands and a stage as well as waving flags, banners and signs of all kinds that helped the protestors tell a story or give the reason they felt motivated to join the massive demonstration.

In the crowd was James Gilligan, a former Marine who said he'd been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. Gilligan also said he spent the first months home from the war and out of the Marine Corps alone and homeless, unable to get a job or make money. He spoke of how he shuffled through the Veterans Administration health care system, unable to find the appropriate care he needed to treat what ailed him. That was the reason he decided to join the protest, marching with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Gilligan was not the only former member of the military at the demonstration. Gandhi Mohamed is a Somali refugee who settled in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in 1993. He joined the U.S. Army when he came of age to gain his citizenship and serve the country that took him in. His plans to make a career of the military came to an end when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. As a Muslim, Mohamed couldn't reconcile his personal and religious beliefs with the demands of the military, and left the service. It's what drove him out of the service and into a crowd of several hundred fellow Somalis attending the protest, who also were gathered to draw attention to the strife in their native country.

As the protesters marched from a rally to make their way from the Capitol to the convention site, police went on alert as another crowd, a splinter group not part of the organized protest, made its way through the downtown St. Paul area.

I happened upon the group while clamoring to get footage of the hundreds of riot police geared up in the downtown area. The police were expecting trouble from this splinter group, and officers were donning gas masks and armor to prepare for any amount of trouble.

Trouble came not long after. To my right I saw a can of tear gas fired from a vehicle. The intent was to disperse a crowd, and as I ran toward the disturbance, dozens of young people in masks and bandannas were running in the opposite direction.

There would be several incidents where protestors and police would clash. By the end of the afternoon, the patience on both sides had worn thin. Demonstrators downtown broke the windows of a Macy's story and smashed the rear window of a Minnesota state police car. Faced with growing lawlessness, officers began to aggressively pursue the troublemakers and began making arrests. The National Guard was called to help restore order.

By the end of the day, officers made more than 200 arrests. Traffic, already heavy because of the convention, was snarled in most of the downtown area. Delegates attending the convention were held up at the conclusion of Monday's program because buses transporting them away from the Xcel Energy Center were stuck in the protest.

St. Paul police say many of those arrested could face felony charges. And it all happened on a day when the story about the convention wasn't a story at all, until a peaceful protest turned into a demonstration that put several hundred people behind bars.

Kane Farabaugh is a Midwest-based TV and radio correspondent with Voice of America (www.voanews.com). He is covering the 2008 Presidential election for VOA. A 1995 graduate of Ottawa Township High School, Farabaugh recently returned to Ottawa, where he now lives with his family. He's worked for various commercial TV stations as a reporter and anchor as well as the American Forces Network Europe based in Germany. The views expressed in this column are Farabaugh's and do not represent the views of Voice of America.