So as you would have guessed, it’s not all serious panels and speeches at these political conventions.  Just like the Democrats in Denver, the Republicans know how to let loose and have a lot of fun – with a characteristic penchant for spending money freely.


Of the many sights and sounds one takes in during a week-long city-wide bash like this, the most impressive was seeing the political operatives at work in their element, including our ‘guide’ here in St. Paul, McCain’s outreach coordinator to the Iranian American community.



(Due to some technical issues, the many pictures and video I took so far will get posted as soon as I can fix the problem – I have a pretty good clip of Romney imagining he was the nominee and Huckabee jamming on his guitar)



Raymond Rahbari, McCain’s official IA outreach coordinator (the first ever such position within a Presidential campaign) is a true professional who has plied his trade from the lowliest of volunteer positions to substantive roles in both the Romney and McCain campaigns.   In conjunction with the RNC’s wider efforts to reach out to ethnic minorities, Raymond worked the phone and traded on his contacts and favors to secure us exclusive party-invites and floor passes for all 3 nights we were here so that we could bring you the sights and sounds (and feel) of the convention.


Of course, as you would guess, the commodity of value in this business is access – and above all – access to donors and potential donors.  Of course both political parties care about ideas, policy positions, and campaign slogans – but that’s for the politicians and wonks to worry about – ‘operatives’ are in charge of securing the most important commodity of all – money.


On Tuesday night, we attended two parties – an afternoon event thrown in honor of Mitt Romney by a few corporate sponsors with an open bar and a standing-only buffet (new ethics rules at work, can’t sit for a meal, but standing is ok) and a late-night musical bash (and open bar) with Mike Huckabee playing his guitar for a 400+ crowd of former staff and Arkansas delegates.  


At the first, Romney and his wife both spoke, cracking jokes at the expense of the Democratic nominee to the delight of the 80-100 people in attendance.  The guests were a mix of Mitt’s donors, a few former staffers, but predominantly party operatives who were wheeling and dealing in the midst of the festive mood and the light banter. 


As a devoted student of electoral politics, I know that this monetary element of the democratic process is as vital as it is veiled, so it was a fascinating thing to watch the ‘behind-the-curtain’ action unfold before my eyes.  For example, I saw a Colorado county-party chair extract a promise from a former Huckabee bundler to get the Gov. to go to an event in Colorado Springs in return for tapping into the county chair’s donor network on behalf of a New England congressional candidate.  This entire ‘negotiation’ was intertwined with an insightful, clear-eyed, and yet sanguine conversation about the chances of their respective Senate candidates in this difficult election cycle.


Later that night in the excel center, as Barbra and George H.W. Bush looked on, Laura Bush spoke and President Bush serenaded the delegates via a video feed.  Fred Thompson then took the stage and gave a rousing red-meat speech that drew the crowd to its feet and prompted a nearby lady, with tears welling in her eyes, to lament why he had not spoken like this last Fall. 


At these moments as you watch those around you with lifted spirits and voices raised to a fever pitch, one is reminded that these conventions are more about invigorating the party faithful and the partisan foot soldiers, than about providing the public with a window into the policy positions and party platforms of the candidates.  As you watch these speeches night after night, its important to keep that in mind.


Then finally, Joe Lieberman strode onto the stage to promote his brand of bi-partisanship.


Did I mention the open-bar at the Huckabee party?


Posted By Babak Talebi

    One Response to “Of Open Bars and McCain’s Outreach efforts to the IA community”

  1. Babak Talebi says:

    Honestly, I don’t know how all these people even function during the week considering the amount of alcohol that is consumed at these conventions – and this is the Republicans, imagine what Denver must have been like.

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7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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