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Diplomacy in Action

2016 Elections: What To Expect At The Conventions

Melinda Henneberger, Editor-in-Chief, Roll Call
New York, NY
May 26, 2016




Date: 05/26/2016 Location: New York, NY Description: Roll Call's Editor-in-Chief Melinda Henneberger talkS about what to expect at the 2016 conventions and gives advice on how to cover them. - State Dept Image

2:30 P.M. EDT

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s good to see you. Good to see you. We’re glad you can be here. I actually spent the first half of my day working on the logistics for the Foreign Press Center’s media and briefing space that we’ll have both in Cleveland and Philly. And so now I’m delighted to introduce Melinda Henneberger, who is the editor-in-chief of Roll Call, who will be briefing on the upcoming conventions in both sites. We have a full room here in New York and also friends in D.C. So when it’s time for Q&A, please make sure you have the microphone so we can hear you on both sides. And without further delay, please hand the mike to Ms. Henneberger. Hopefully, she’ll start with a story from her first convention that she covered in 1988 in Atlanta. I love that story, so.

MS HENNEBERGER: Thank you. Thanks a lot for having me. So I was asked to tell if – is there one story about all these many conventions you’ve covered since 1988 that stands out, and it really was from my very first convention on my very first night.

So it’s 1988 and it was the Democratic Convention in Atlanta. That was the year that Michael Dukakis was the Democratic nominee. So I go over – I have been known to run late once or twice in my life. So I get there, and I’m just a few minutes late and the convention hall is locked because the fire marshal – there were too many people inside so the fire marshal has shut it down just temporarily. So I look, and who is the only person – no kidding – who has been locked out of the Democratic National Convention? It’s Rosa Parks. (Laughter.) So this is before the time of cell phones or at least I didn’t have a cell phone. So I am hopping around like my hair is on fire, like, you can lock me out but it’s Rosa Parks. So she’s laughing so hard because apparently this was quite a spectacle, and we eventually got in in just a few minutes actually. But at that time – because in journalism you never wrote about anything that happened to you personally, so I never wrote a word about it. And when I was thinking about this the other day, I looked up to see if there was any record of it. And if you Google it, there is just a tiny mention where the hall was briefly closed and among those locked out was Rosa Parks. So there is proof that I didn’t dream this whole thing.

But – so from all these years of covering conventions, I thought I would just give you a few of my top tips of what I wish someone had told me when I was covering my first one. So I have 11 things, and I – and then I want to hear your questions. So I asked some of my friends, too, who have been covering this crazy world for almost as long as I have or as long as I have, and maybe the best advice came from my friend Carl Cannon, who is the Washing bureau chief of RealClearPolitics. And I said, “Carl, what’s your top tip to someone who has never before covered the Democratic or Republican Convention?” And he said, “Honestly? Do you want me to be honest?” “Yes, Carl, I want you to be honest.” He said, “Tell them, don’t drink and drive. I did that in Philadelphia in 2000, and there’s too much security around for that. It didn’t end well.” (Laughter.) So you heard it, the top tip.

Another thing that I was thinking that it’s very important to remember is not to be too taken in by what you see and hear on the convention floor. If you haven’t seen it before, you might not remember that these are the real true believers of their parties, right? So they will tell you that there’s 100 percent chance that their person is going to be elected, and they’ll have many theories about that. And it’s very interesting to hear. I personally love listening to voters of all kinds on what they have to say, but their views are going to be not just partisan but the views of someone who can’t imagine another outcome, right, than their person winning.

Another thing I was thinking about that might be one of the best stories this year at both conventions is to pay some attention, maybe more than you would otherwise, to the platform committees and their work. You’ll probably have that space to yourselves because not a lot of people tend to spend a lot of – pay a lot of attention to the platforms. Maybe they will this year more. But even though it’s true that sitting through those can be a little dry, can be a little dull, and even though it’s also true that the nominee or, if elected, the president does not have to do anything just because they – it’s in their party’s platform, it’s a very interesting window into where the hearts of the base of the party are. So whatever those issues are that are really attended very carefully in the platform won’t only be part of the convention platform, but you’ll see those in other races, in Senate, governor, and House races, and its just kind of a good sort of early warning system to where the party is going. So for that reason, even though it’s not at all binding, I would pay special attention to that.

The other thing, the best stories that I think you’ll get at the conventions are really to pay – I would say pay attention to the dissenting voices most of all. And of course, at this year’s conventions there will be dissenting voices perhaps, particularly at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. I would pay attention to – I mean, of course, one of the biggest stories is going to be how much is Senator Sanders unifying the party, what he’s doing to do that. That’s no surprise. But there will be – when you listen to those dissenting voices, you’ll learn things like how – where’s the struggle for the party. In – on the Democratic side: How much do people really think that Hillary Clinton, in a general election, is going to take Bernie Sanders’s ideas seriously.

On the Republican side, it’s going to be: What’s the struggle for the soul of the party? I mean, even though you mainly see Republicans going along with the nominee now and treating him like any other politician and like this is a normal year, which it is not, there are very few official holdouts, at least in Congress, which is obviously what Roll Call tends to focus on. But there are those important descending – dissenting Republican voices who – for example, Robert Kagan, a conservative writer and thinker who wrote this piece in The Washington Post the other day that was headlined, “This Is How Fascism Comes to America.” So there will be those Republicans at the convention. Specifically, they’ll be there to talk to you about where they think the Trump nomination leaves their party and what the future looks like.

I think protests are important to cover too, although I would also say that the protests themselves only become important if they seriously inconvenience the delegates to the convention. So if, for example, delegates have to cross through a lot of protests or if they have to cross through some kind of melee, then that’s going to make the news in a very big way that it won’t if at some of the conventions they manage better than at others to make sure that all the protests are at a convenient distance, and so they’re just sort of off by themselves, more theoretical, trying to make a point, hoping somebody comes by to cover them.

I – people always ask who haven’t been before how important it is to be in the convention hall to do the coverage, and I think it is important. Even though it’s such a scripted event, it’s important to feel the feeling, because what goes on in the hall is so different from the way it’s experienced on TV. A speech can be received super well in the hall and not so well on TV, or vice versa. So I think it’s important just to feel that feeling. Also, you can overhear some very interesting things depending on where you get to be physically on the convention floor. I remember one year I was overhearing this great conversation between Andrew Cuomo and some friend of his. His friend was saying, wow, it really makes you think about what might have been with this – with Governor Cuomo’s father, Governor Cuomo. And so you can overhear some very interesting things in the hall. And it’s great to get to talk to the delegates – again, as long as you don’t put too much stock in their predictive value.

In terms of logistics, I would say one of the best places to do reporting is in hotel lobbies where – seriously – where the people are staying, because you will spend too much of your time in the hall cut off from delegates; whereas if you find out where all the delegations are staying – and there will be lists – you should go to the hotels of the delegations you most want to catch. And particularly, breakfast is a very fruitful time because most people – because they have all day off to go to a bunch of different events before the evening’s main festivities, they will probably be having breakfast in their hotel and it’s a great place to catch people.

There are also listings of delegate meetings, and you should probably try to hit those and especially seek out the states with a lot of Ted Cruz supporters or Bernie Sanders supporters, because those voices, again, may be the most interesting ones for you.

The other thing I would say about being in the hall is it’s probably good to have at least one night when you experience the convention like others will experience it, meaning it’s okay if you take a night and just watch one night at least on television, because that will give you an idea about the way that most people experienced the convention.

Security – and I can’t emphasize this enough – security is a nightmare. So – and of course this has only gotten increasingly worse over the years. I mean, in the old days it was nothing: you strolled in, no big deal. Now, of course, that’s not the case. So be sure and leave yourself plenty of time for everything. And I was just saying before I came in, I really particularly hope that Philadelphia learned something from the Pope’s visit a few months ago, because, I mean, some of you are nodding like maybe you had that experience, but to go several blocks could have – was taking several hours, no kidding. So maybe they learned from that experience. I hope so.

And if – even if your reporting there yields nothing else, an important thing to have gotten out of covering these conventions is you will see so many top officials in the parties where even if they don’t have time to stop and give you an interview, you can at least hit them up for their real email address and you might find that really important over the long run and helpful to have.

So those are my tips to you, and I’m here to hear your questions.

MODERATOR: We’ll open the floor for questions. Just as a reminder, we’ll pass the mike. State your name and organization, and we’ll go back and forth based on who’s interested.

QUESTION: Okay, I’m Anna from Brazil. So will we, as a foreign media, have full access to everything the domestic one has?

MS HENNEBERGER: Will you – I’m sorry?

QUESTION: As the foreign media --

MS HENNEBERGER: Have access?

QUESTION: Yes, full access to everything the domestic networks have?

MS HENNEBERGER: I would think – I mean, I’m obviously not working for either of the parties. I would think so. I mean, they really wouldn’t, I think, have any reason to treat the foreign press any differently. That wouldn’t look too good. (Laughter.) So I think, but I wouldn’t get too excited, because the way the American press is treated isn’t very well. (Laughter.) So I think you’ll have access to the same poor treatment that American press receive.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HENNEBERGER: Yeah.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS HENNEBERGER: Really?

QUESTION: Yeah, as – at least as TV, international press usually get revolving passes to have access to the halls. So that means that you have a pass to stay in the hallway but not in the real hall, and then you get passes to get a half an hour inside – even less than that, especially on very important night when the candidate are going to be there. So my experience is that – at least as TV, there is just no way that – and in the evening that you have access to the floor as – in the same way that national press. But Italian, I don’t know – that has been my experience and my colleagues’ experience. Sorry to interject, I thought it was --

MS HENNEBERGER: No, I’m sorry to hear that. But American press has to take turns too, often, with the floor, so it can vary.

QUESTION: Thank you for being here. Silvina Sterin from Argentina, from TN. What is your gut feeling? What do you think when you realize that Donald Trump is going to become the official nominee? What do you think will happen during the convention?

MS HENNEBERGER: Well, so it’s changed a lot recently, right? Like, until very recently, we thought that the convention in Cleveland was going to be a complete free-for-all and that there might even be this open, contested, brokered convention. And now, obviously, we know that’s not the case. So our dreams were – our dreams of an open convention that no one has experienced in our lifetime have been crushed, yes.

But we still don’t know a lot about what’s going to happen at either convention, I mean, because there still is this feeling among many Republicans that this is a different party, that this is the end of the Bush Republican Party, of the Mitt Romney Republican Party, of – there are a lot of people who make the case that Donald Trump is not a conservative. There are people who think he’s secretly a New York liberal. I – there are more people, I think with reason, who think he’s not ideological at all. But we don’t know whether this is going to be the last Republican convention because something different is going to happen to the party; that’s unknown.

So that’s – I mean, just from the journalistic point of view, that’s super interesting because so much is unknown, whereas in many of these election years it was, oh, you had a very conventional Republican candidate and a very conventional Democratic candidate, and whatever happened, it was going to be within, like, the space of this. Are we going to have this or are we going to have this? Now it’s like are we going to have this or this? I mean, it’s really – so that makes a lot better story. Maybe not better for the republic.

And now who knows what’s going to happen in Philadelphia? I mean, also we saw – first we saw the violence at the Trump rallies, and now there – to a lesser extent, but now there has been some violence on the Democratic side. So what – and there’s this intensification of feeling among Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters, like this bitterness. Like it’s really true that earlier in the cycle you heard Democrats saying, well, we have two – at least two great candidates, I love both of them, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Now they’re – the supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary are furious at the other camp. Each camp is furious at the other. And so is there going to be violence in Philadelphia? That’s not ruled out of the question, unfortunately.

And what – so there’s that struggle too over the soul of the Democratic Party, with Sanders saying things like this is a movement, you can’t go back to things the way they’ve always been done. So there are questions. Will he be – he came out the other day saying he supports the challenger to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for example, who of course runs the DNC and is a big Hillary Clinton – longtime Hillary Clinton supporter. Is he going to be leading some kind of movement that primaries centrist Democrats throughout the country? You could say, well, what centrist Democrats? There aren’t that many left. But it – we don’t – again, it’s a situation that we haven’t had and that we don’t know what’s going to happen, so – mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much for the briefing. It’s James Reinl from Al-Jazeera. Can you give us an idea of what happens in terms of a schedule at this event? Obviously they’re three or four days long. Start – what happens at the beginning, and what does it move up to? As I understand it, there’s like a period for, like, assessment of the rules, and then later is there a moment where – even though we kind of know who the candidates are, does there have to be like a formal vote, and is there like a formal announcement that somebody has actually become the nominee?

And then afterwards, is there anything else that happens? Because Sanders, for example, and Trump also have very much criticized the way that delegates are appointed. Sanders is talking a lot about maybe we need to get rid of the superdelegates. Does that happen – do any decisions about that kind of thing happen before or after, and what’s the process there?

MS HENNEBERGER: Thank you so – as a politician would say, thank you so much for that question, because I should’ve addressed that and I didn’t think to. So right before the convention you’ll probably see the vice presidential nominees announced, and then the candidates and their spouses will do some events together and they’ll travel and it’ll be one big happy family, so that’s kind of a set piece that we can expect.

Then in the – early in the week when the work is going on still on the platform, you’ll see – so everything is aiming toward Thursday night. So most people have come in on Sunday; there’s always a big party by the local press for the visiting press on Sunday. It’s a big tradition. Then on Monday night you’ll have – so the keynote is usually, I think, on the Monday. You have kind of like, again, back to the first one I covered in Atlanta, the keynote that year was a guy named Bill Clinton who wasn’t, of course, yet Bill Clinton. And he talked for such a long time – he went on and on and on, it was not his best moment as an orator – he talked for such a long time that the moment that got huge applause was when he said, “And in conclusion.” And he learned something, because he learns from his mistakes, about keeping things short.

So then on Tuesday you – oh, and another famous keynote speech giver was Barack Obama at the ’04 convention, which was when John Kerry, now the Secretary of State, as you know, was the nominee. So then you’ll have – so the sort of next tier of people speaking in favor of the nominee, right? So it’s building. By Tuesday night you’re getting sort of higher level, more famous people in the party recommending – giving impassioned speeches on what the issues are, why it’s important that this – at every convention I’ve ever been to, you hear a lot about this is the most important election of our lifetime. Always it’s the most important.

Then Wednesday is the vice presidential pick. And in the old – not the even so old days, the nominee did not actually show up until the last day, and that was a big deal. And when the nominating speech was given, that was kind of – well, it still is the heart of the convention. And then the roll call is – but anyway, I was going to say now sometimes the nominee does come in earlier. That can vary. But that’s always – when the nominee comes into the hall, it’s always pandemonium and a big deal.

And then the roll call of states is read, and that’s like super old school. They’ll say, “And the great state of North Carolina casts blank votes for the great nominee, the next president of the United States.” And so every single state goes through that, and they’ll all get up and give a little colorful thing about their state, like, “The state where we are famous for 20 things,” and some of us are like, “Okay, can we get through” – but it’s a big moment for people in the hall. And then usually the nominee – presidential and vice presidential nominee, will go straight from the convention out campaigning across America with some in the press. And that’s a whole set piece too, and they’ll try to do something to make sure it’s perceived as out into the heart of America, talking about the issues that Americans care most about, and – so maybe they’ll drive in a bus or they’ll try to do something to make it seem like they’re not – they’re just one of the peeps, right?

So I hope I answered your question.

MODERATOR: We’re going to head over to Washington, invite our colleague there to ask his question.

QUESTION: Hello. Thank you for doing this. I’m – is it okay? Can you hear us?

MS HENNEBERGER: Yes.

MODERATOR: Yes. We can hear you. Go ahead.

QUESTION: All right. I’m Juliano Basile from Valor Economico, Brazilian newspaper. I wonder, what should we expect from President Obama participation? And how remarkable can be?

MS HENNEBERGER: I don’t know particularly the specific plans, but Barack Obama is going to – well, first of all, the answer to the question is really all in his very high approval ratings right now. Because his approval ratings are sky-high for him right now, high as they’ve been in years, you’re going to see him campaigning a lot for Hillary Clinton. I’m sure he’ll have a huge role at the convention – though, of course, you never want the president to in any way overwhelm the hoped-for successor. But Barack Obama is going to be campaigning a lot – unlike, say, just a couple years ago, in 2014, a lot of Democrats did not want him to come their districts for the midterm elections because he wasn’t seen as popular enough to help them and might hurt them if he showed up. This year it’s not going to be that way at all. He’s going to be very busy on that front.

QUESTION: Hi. Igor Borisenko with TASS Russian News Agency. Some pre-convention events – do you expect the meetings of the rules committee before the convention, and some other committees, maybe the financial committee or whatever? And actually the other question is: What do you expect after the convention? How soon the Trump camp and Hillary camp would suggest the dates for the presidential – for the debates? And how soon do you expect the debates to start, actually?

MS HENNEBERGER: I don’t know when they’re going to start, but it’s – we’ve never had debates like these are going to be. I mean, I think that people – when people say this is going to be the most negative presidential campaign in modern history, they’re not kidding. I mean, this is going to be a doozy. And as – in terms of the rules, I think so much more attention has been paid to rules and to the whole process this time that I actually think that’s going to be quite important and a big story. But we don’t know how it’s going to play out. And when you look, a lot that’s being said by the campaigns – of course, this is always the case – about the process, the nominating process, is really misleading. For example, a big theme of the Sanders campaign right now is the process is rigged. You hear that all the time. Actually, Trump says that quite a lot too. It’s interesting that – Roll Call just had a story out today that showed that if the process were not proportional, if it was winner-take-all more like the Republican process, it would have been over on the Democratic side a long, long time ago. And the only way Sanders could have – could have a path to the nomination, given the votes that have already been cast, would have been if every single state had a caucus. So that’s kind of interesting, I thought.

But how the – I think the process probably is going to be changed. Are they going to look at superdelegates? I don’t know; no one knows the answer. But they’re going to be looking at the whole process I think in a way that they haven’t in a long time.

PARTICIPANT: (Off-mike.)

MS HENNEBERGER: Okay.

MODERATOR: So in D.C. Gustau, you can ask your question.

QUESTION: NTN24, Gustau Alegret. Could you elaborate about two things? You mentioned a woodley (ph) list or something like this. If you could elaborate a little bit more about that. And also, if I understand correctly the process, the delegates are going to re-elaborate the rules of the convention. Could you explain how the process of the writing and voting these rules is going to be, and which effect this year’s in the convention are going to have in the final election and the process of the whole convention?

MS HENNEBERGER: The – for your first question, the what list?

QUESTION: You mentioned – I don’t know if I hear you correctly, but you mentioned something about the woodley (ph) list. Woodley (ph) list or something like this.

MS HENNEBERGER: I don’t – I don’t know what you’re referring to. In terms of – maybe – maybe --

QUESTION: Hotel list. Maybe the hotel list.

MS HENNEBERGER: Oh, oh, oh, oh, the hotel list. Okay, yes. Everyone covering the convention will be told where the state delegations are staying, and that’s just very helpful because you really do want to hit those places. In terms – and you’ll also be given a list of where all the states are meeting. So they’ll also have meetings to decide various things, and that’s very helpful also.

In terms of the rules, again, I – no one knows what’s going to come out of the process and the – what they’re going to vote on there is not the rules, but the platform. I don’t know if – if sometimes people conflate those two. And so what they’ll decide on in the platform is in terms of, say, on the Democratic side, are they going to be supporting Medicare for everybody, public college for – tuition for more people. Carbon tax is an idea that the Sanders people are pushing. So that’s where they’ll decide what goes – what – that’s a statement of our party stands for this, and so there’ll be big fights over those.

MODERATOR: Going once.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) when do – sorry. When do you expect the party platform to be voted on, on the second day or the third day?

MS HENNEBERGER: I could be wrong. My memory is it’s the second day, but don’t hold me to that. I could be misremembering or they could change it. I don’t know.

QUESTION: I see. And one more housekeeping question: Do you expect Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich to participate in the convention? And if so, would there be an endorsement?

MS HENNEBERGER: I don’t know about – well, I would fall over in a faint if Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump. I do not believe that we’re going to see that, especially after the things that Donald Trump said about Ted Cruz’s father and wife. You might see an endorsement from John Kasich. I don’t know the answer. You could see John Kasich as his running mate. I mean, I’m – that’s not the expected outcome, but anything is possible. They will both have big roles in the convention. I should have said the candidates who run and don’t win usually are given important speaking roles, and they – that’s seen as an important way to bring about party unity. And so of course, if you’re misbehaving and you’re not bringing party unity, you might not – you might be – find yourself talking in the middle of the afternoon when no one’s in the hall and no one’s watching you on television. And if you’re behaving particularly well, you will find yourself with a primetime moment.

I should say also a speech I left – I neglected to mention is one of the speeches that’s – gets a lot of attention are the potential First Spouse. This is the first time it hasn’t been necessarily First Lady – potential First Lady speeches. Those are very – those are usually very well attended too. I think those are on Tuesday usually, so – mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you for doing this. This is very helpful.

MS HENNEBERGER: Good.

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m not sure if – I was a little bit late – if this question was asked. Do you expect this – this year’s election to be at any point the foreign policy becomes a major topic just as we saw in 2008 and a little bit in – actually a lot in 2012? Do you expect that?

MS HENNEBERGER: Yes. I think foreign policy is going to be a major focus of the election. I think especially by – the Democrats will try to make a big push on that because of the idea that Donald Trump doesn’t have – not only doesn’t have any experience in foreign policy, which is not that unusual for a candidate, even for a nominee, but that he seems so all over the map, so to speak, that he has said things that are so contradictory; that he has said, for example, that he got his foreign policy expertise from the shows, that he – some of the people he listed as – not that long ago as his foreign policy team had never met him. So, yes, the Democrats will definitely attempt to make that a major issue, and that these are such uncertain times in the world and with the fear of terrorism, it’s – it will be a major focus.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Kris Ronneberg with the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. A question about to what extent the candidate sets the premises of the convention. I mean, you spoke about we don’t know what kind of parties going to meet in four years, but I guess we don’t know what kind of meet – parties going to meet this year either. (Laughter.) I know there’s a program committee and all of that, but if Donald Trump wants to make this into a TV show where he changes the order of things and makes it into something much more entertaining for viewers back home, can he do that? Or who sets the rules there?

MS HENNEBERGER: That’s an excellent point. Donald Trump might decide to speak every night of the convention, and then people would watch it for hours on end, right? I mean, it’s true; we don’t know because he hasn’t followed the rules of politics as we know them, so you’re right. It could be a completely different event for his nomination.

I think that we’re definitely going to see a lot of speakers of the kind that we haven’t seen at other nominating contests, right – in other conventions. I mean, the people he mentions as those he would want to bring in are not typical political people. So it might well be one of the most – for some people, entertaining, and for others, terrifying.

MODERATOR: All right, Washington. Back over to you for your question.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Republicans are going to approve new rules to avoid an outsider like Donald Trump?

MS HENNEBERGER: No, I don’t, and the reason I say that is that the whole reason that we see Donald Trump as such an important force is that Republicans really felt that their establishment was not taking their desires seriously, right? So you hear again and again from conservatives, “I’m so mad at my party I’m willing to blow it up.” You hear that from Trump supporters. And so I don’t think the immediate impulse would be “Let’s impose something from the – on high,” because that’s how they got into the trouble they’re in today.

MODERATOR: Did you have a follow-up in Washington?

QUESTION: No, thank you.

MODERATOR: Okay, no problem, no problem. A question here.

QUESTION: In particular, the Republican convention in particular might be also important because of the absences, not just the presences, right?

MS HENNEBERGER: True, very true.

QUESTION: Some people, some big shots have already said that they won’t be there.

MS HENNEBERGER: That’s right.

QUESTION: Do you foresee any kind of special coverage for this? Will these people be around in some hotel or something giving their press conference or something like that, or not at all?

MS HENNEBERGER: That’s a very smart question. So yesterday, I was talking to one of my reporters who was telling me that John McCain, for example, the – his party’s nominee in 2008 is going to be out campaigning for his Senate seat while he’s not at the convention. And I told my reporter I think it’s a big story for us to cover that because thousands and thousands of reporters are going to be at the convention, but not that many people will be covering what John McCain does that week.

So, yeah, I think there will be some counterprogramming, and I’m sure that the people who are not at the – and none of the Bushes are going to the convention, Mitt Romney. I doubt that people on that level are going to show up in Cleveland to give a press conference. I think that reporters will be covering them wherever they are, though.

MODERATOR: Any other questions in here?

QUESTION: You mentioned a very interesting and (inaudible) kind of key party in the beginning where the local press welcomes the visiting press. How do we make sure you – we are on that party?

MS HENNEBERGER: When I get the info, I will pass it on. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay.

MS HENNEBERGER: Okay. It’s a really fun thing for everybody to get to know each other. Yeah.

MODERATOR: D.C., one last opportunity for questions.

QUESTION: Okay, so last one. Okay. We are going to be competing against everybody. I mean, we have to do the basics, of course, but can you give us an example of an article out of the box that we can do at such a convention?

MS HENNEBERGER: Yes. There’s a completely level playing field for things like hearing the dissenters. Like, that doesn’t depend on access. I mean, the challenge in covering the convention, whether you’re American press or foreign press, is getting something different from what everyone else has, right? And the fact is that most of it is going to be similar. I mean, unless you’re getting some amazing access to one of the major players, it’s all going to be up to you to report with the same basics that everyone’s going to have. So in a way, there is a very level playing field. So pay attention to the dissenters, go to the hotels and talk to everybody, work those --

QUESTION: Could you give us an example?

MS HENNEBERGER: Oh, an example of a story that you should do.

QUESTION: Or that someone’s done before, not any one for me, but someone done before, just to have an idea.

MS HENNEBERGER: Of what’s a good story to do. Well, like, a story that people always do is like the writing of the speech, what went into it, what were the influences on the speech, what previous nominees or presidents – or in Donald Trump’s case, who knows? Like, who were his models for writing the speech? And that – so that’s a story that everyone always tries to do. Or the team around the nominee, who really – who really has that person’s ear? Because there are all these people who will present themselves as being super close to the nominee and I’m one of the top advisors, and who are those people, really? And can you – and you don’t necessarily need access to observe for yourself, like, where the ideas seem to come from, what the antecedents need to be.

So I think there’s also a lot to be done just in terms of color stories at the conventions in terms of what you observe. I mean, in a way, you’re ideally suited because of coming into it from the outside with sort of a fresh – I mean, for covering the circus – and it is a circus – you might do better than a lot of American pundits and reporters who have been doing this because you have the fresh eyes to see “Are you kidding?” (Laughter.) So you’re going to enjoy it a lot.

MODERATOR: Okay. We might be wrapping it up. Any last questions, D.C. or New York? (No response.)

Okay. Well, thank you so much for briefing.

MS HENNEBERGER: Thanks a lot.

MODERATOR: Thank you for being here. We’ll have this transcript ready for you when it’s done.

MS HENNEBERGER: Thanks for having me. Good luck with it and have fun.

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