March 6, 2000: Last Thursday (March 2) we set up a press conference at the National Press club to talk about China – the Most Favored Nation plan for China; China's human rights record and new threats against Taiwan; the whole deal. And, as befits a Reform Party candidate, we made up some nice colorful charts. Various friends in the anti-Most Favored Nation for China camp compiled the data, we did some fiddling and off-the-cuff graphic redesign and had them blown up. I don't know how this kind of thing was done years ago - but now one can work with a computer file (or, more precisely, a tech-savvy 23-year old can work with the file) and it goes on a disk and to the printer. In a real pinch it can be done in 24 hours.
Anyway, Pat decided at the last minute to move the press conference up to Thursday – decided, actually, Wednesday morning. I got on the phones to try to dig up some recent trade figures and the efficient and lovely K. worked with the webmaster to get the charts in order. At about 4 p.m. she was done and took the disk to local Virginia printers.
No dice - too short notice, they say. She calls another printer in D.C. and they said they'd have a look. She brings the disks in, waits while they produced proofs, which turn out fuzzy and unbalanced. She is now sitting there at 8 p.m. with no proofs, no printer, and a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. She calls around and finds still another printer, who produces acceptable proofs by 11 p.m. and tells us we can pick up finished posters at eight o'clock the next morning.
K. arrives from her DC apartment at our Virginia office at 6:30 AM. and with me puts together the press packet. Pat e-mails me that he doesn't need after all a formal statement, but will just speak from his notes. At 7:30 we head back into the District, and at 8:15 pick up our colorful charts: showing how the trade deficit had exploded since 1989—except when there is an interesting spike in Chinese purchases prior to our 1996 elections.
We gather up five 3-by-5 posters, get to the National Press Club and mount them on easels. They look terrific. We get a sign with our web site address on the podium. One of the CSPAN guys tell us a sign behind Pat's head will cause a glare, so we leave the National Press Club emblem up behind him.
Pat enters, accompanied by Reform Party chairman Pat Choate. There are maybe two dozen reporters there - mostly off-camera TV types.
Choate points out that the Clinton administration has classified the full U.S.-China trade agreement; the government has only issued an eight-page summary, preferring to keep the country in the dark about the details.
Pat speaks from notes about the US-China relationship and takes questions for fifteen minutes. When he speaks of Taiwan, it is plain that he is no pure isolationist: clearly he feels more sympathy for the Taiwanese - who have established a genuinely free society - than he does for the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army or the Emir of Kuwait.
At the end of the conference, reporters gather around him and begin asking political tactical questions about Bob Jones University and the like. At one point Pat says (with impeccable logic) that the Reform Party nominee will be the most reform-minded candidate in the race, come fall.
Five hours later, the first AP story is up. Headline: "I'm the Reformer," says Buchanan. Hardly a word about China.
It makes you wonder.
I wonder as well whether McCain would have ventured so deeply into an effort to split evangelical Christians away from the Republican Party without the New York Times' William Safire egging him on. "Make Bob Jones University the site of the Bush surrender" Safire exhorted after the South Carolina primary, McCain tried to do exactly that. Bob Novak attributed McCain's anti-Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell speech to McCain aide Rick Davis, but Safire was pressing for this line of attack weeks before. Maybe columnists are the unacknowledged legislators of our age.