Dave Barry

Classic '96: Newt, Nostradamus: My guides to the future

BY DAVE BARRY

Twenty years ago, Dave Barry shared his experiences at the GOP convention in San Diego. Dave's coverage of the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland begins July 18; he vows equal treatment for the Democrats later this month.

SAN DIEGO -- I am pleased to report that I have found out who's going to win the presidential election, not to mention the site of a major upcoming nuclear strike. But first I imagine you will want to hear about my dinner with Newt Gingrich.

Actually, it was not just Newt and I; there were also a few dozen other journalists and several hundred wealthy Republicans (pardon the redundancy) who paid to have dinner with Newt at Sea World, which is a big tourist attraction here where people come to watch dolphins not jump through hoops. The dolphins used to jump through hoops, but a Sea World employee told me that this upset the animal-rights people, because dolphins don't jump through hoops in nature. So now the dolphins only do natural tricks, such as leaping high into the air in front of wealthy Republicans, which abound in the ocean.

We journalists were not allowed to see the dolphin show. We were kept waiting outside with three Sea World employees dressed in costumes representing a killer whale, a walrus and a penguin. (At least I assume those were Sea World employees; the walrus could have been Pat Buchanan.)

The reason we were kept outside, I think, is that the Republicans hate the news media. They're up front about this. They basically come right out and say: "We're prosperous and religious and patriotic and clean-cut, and you media people are communist atheistic dope addicts wearing clothes that look like they came from a store called The Fashion Dumpster."

I find this attitude refreshing. I'm always happier around Republicans, who are honestly hostile, than around Democrats, who really want the media to like them and who get all pouty when we note that they have the managerial competence of oatmeal.

Anyway, after the dolphin show, we media people were escorted to a huge tent, where the dinner was held. We were not allowed to go inside, where the Republicans were drinking wine and eating a nice dinner at elegantly decorated tables, sitting on chairs draped in black fabric and decorated with big silver bows. No, we were led to a special media area outside, where they had set up some rickety, rusty folding chairs that had apparently been obtained via green stamps in 1958.

We sat on these, in our Dumpster clothes, and watched the Republicans eat. At one point somebody inside the tent -- I am not making this up -- took pity on us and handed out a basket of rolls, which we passed around. We chewed on our rolls and listened to Newt, who attacked the media, but since I am  the media, I'm not going to tell you what he said; instead, I'm going to tell you that Newt's face is currently the diameter of a truck tire.

Actually, Newt's speech was pretty entertaining. The highlight for me was when he recounted his remarks to a Republican biker rally that morning: "I told them we want to lower their taxes so they can have a bigger and better Harley in the future."

With that vision of the future ringing in my brain, I left Sea World. Although I frankly don't know if there will be  a future. I say this because I had a cabdriver here named Bob Egan who is a very serious scholar of the prophecies of Nostradamus (Bob's business card says "NostraBobUs"). Bob claims Nostradamus had a lot  to say about this convention. In fact, Bob got so excited, waving Nostradamus verses and turning all the way around so he could gesture at me, that several times he almost drove us into San Diego Bay.

I didn't really follow Bob's explanation, which was very complex, but the gist of it was that Nostradamus predicted that Bob Dole will win, and Colin Powell will somehow be the key reason. Also, within the next few weeks, the United States is going to launch a nuclear strike against a chemical weapons plant in Libya. Remember, you read it here, in the media. So it's probably wrong.

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