Rebuttal

Women of the Storm have released adetailed rebuttal to allegations made by the Commission on Presidential Debates regarding New Orleans rejection as a site for a presidential debate.

Rebuttal after the jump…

ONE SIGNATURE: The New York Times (Nov. 24), “The central
problem was that while nine groups participated in the proposal, only
one, a nonprofit advocacy group, signed the bid.”

The context of the story attributed the opinion to Mike McCurry,
CPD’s newest board member. From our initial inquiry, we were
emphatically told by Janet Brown, the Commission’s executive director,
that there could only be one signature — one entity which must accept
legal and financial liabilities. The application was sent to CPD with
one signature; getting other signatures would have not have been a
problem.

Our application was submitted in concert with four
universities. Officials of our city, state, convention center and
hotel/motel association pledged the necessary resources through letters
which were included in our application.

“I personally pledge the full cooperation of all city
departments to ensure the success of the debate,” said Mayor C. Ray
Nagin.

“If selected, we will work tirelessly to meet every need and
requirement of the Commission,” wrote Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

“We are pleased to offer as an in-kind contribution our
state-of-the-art space for the debate and the media that will cover
it,” pledged Warren Reuther, chair of the board for the Morial
Convention Center. Others made similar commitments. If multiple
signatures were necessary, then why was that not asked of us?

SPECIAL ATTENTION: It has been publicly and privately stated
by Commission members that New Orleans received special attention with
three or four staff visits.

This is totally erroneous. In addition to Slutsky’s quick
review of our damaged university campuses and walk-through of the
Convention Center prior to our application being filed, only one staff
member, Tammy Johnson, took part in the formal visit June 19.

We emphasize that, during this visit, the mayor, lieutenant
governor, university presidents and the heads of the Hotel/Motel
Association and Morial Convention Center were all present. Not a
question was raised or a concern expressed. It is our understanding
that we were the only venue of the 16 applicants that had just one
member of the CPD team at its official site visit. At least two of the
sites selected for presidential debates hosted three-member CPD teams,
according to media coverage. Is this what the CPD considers “special
attention”?

NO QUESTIONS BETWEEN MARCH 31 AND SEPT. 24: On Sept.
24, I received the first communication by e-mail from Ms. Brown, asking
that a number of people from the city and state come to Washington
immediately – the same people who were available to the one CPD staffer
who made the formal visit June 19. Coincidentally, when I received the
e-mail, I was in Washington at a bank meeting with my husband so I
offered to meet with her and CPD attorney Lew Loss on Sept. 26. The
following was discussed at that time: (and, yes, given the short notice
of the meeting, I was the only one at the table.)

1. Money was no object, as significant commitments had been made by national foundations and corporations.

2. Although essential commitments by the city, state, convention
center and hotel/motel association were clearly stated in our proposal
and those groups represented at the official site visit, we would have
been delighted to have each entity sign an affidavit immediately, or,
if necessary, meet in a designated city with Brown and Loss.
Additionally, at the request of Brown, I gave them the name of our
attorney, Bill Hines of Jones Walker, which has offices in Washington
and New Orleans.

3. On parting, Loss and Brown assured me they would get back
in touch, perhaps that afternoon, with necessary paperwork for
signatures from our “public” partners, which would certainly allay any
concerns.

I waited and waited for the forthcoming legal documents — only
silence. On Sept. 27, I e-mailed Brown and Loss because I had heard
nothing. Finally, on Oct. 3, I sent another e-mail again reiterating
our desire to do whatever was necessary to assure the total commitment
from our city and state. The response — silence.

Were mayors, governors and hotel/motel associations required to
sign affidavits in other venues? Why was it suggested that the written
word of our public officials, incorporated in our application, was not
sufficient?

NEW ORLEANS REJECTED: On Nov. 19, CPD Co-Chair Paul
Kirk told me in a phone conversation: “New Orleans is not ready.”
though we had just hosted conventions of 20,000 ophthalmologists and
25,000 Realtors and will host the Sugar Bowl and Bowl Championship
Series title game in January and the National Basketball Association
All-Star game later in the year. What an incorrect, unsupported and
damning statement this was to a city on the mend.

Frank Fahrenkopf stated to the presidents of Loyola and Xavier
Universities: “Technology is lacking.” Our state-of-the-art convention
center is ranked in the top five in the United States and will host a
major cable/telecommunications convention next May – the same center
that, in March, CPD’s lead producer pronounced ready to hold the debate
“tomorrow.”

Mike McCurry was quoted as saying that we lacked financial
support and that no one wanted to impose on the “poor people of New
Orleans.” The leadership of the Commission knew that financial support
from across the country was more than adequate and that we had pledged
not to solicit money in New Orleans.

How could men of such stature abuse their positions by clearly
misleading the public with such untruths? How could anyone imply that
our application did not meet or surpass all requirements?

Then those requirements became “guidelines” as the process
unfolded. Even guidelines were ignored – most blatantly in choosing
Oxford, Miss., with 650 hotel rooms, or less than 22 percent of the
“requirement” that the Commission sets out in its published
“guidelines.”

DISTORTIONS CONTINUE: Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday week, CPD representatives continued to misrepresent New Orleans and our application.

“Who could commit the convention center, the hotels, the
financial obligations and the public services like police and emergency
personnel?” asked Brown in The New York Times.

“Anne was the only person at the table,” claimed McCurry. Once
again, we urge you to read our application and review the e-mails. We
question whether Brown and Fahrenkopf informed you that the mayor of
the city of New Orleans, the director of the Convention Center and our
newly elected Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, phoned to underscore
their written commitment?

We’re not even sure about when or whether Commission board
members met to review applications. Did you –– together –– weigh the
merits of the 16 competing sites?

THE RIGHT MORAL CHOICE:Fahrenkopf told CNN “Chicago,
Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Miami, Portland, Ore., were not chosen and they
don’t think we’re dissing their city.”

As we have maintained from the beginning – and is clear to
observers across the nation and around the world – New Orleans is a
unique city in unique circumstances with a unique application to the
CPD. We’re only sorry they didn’t take advantage of this unique
opportunity. After 9/11, when New York suffered tremendously with its
tourist economy lagging and the perception of safety in question, the
Republican National Committee made a conscious decision to select New
York as its venue for its next national convention. New York truly was
never seen as a “favorite among Republicans,” but it was the correct
and moral choice to make. Other contenders for the 2004 Republican
convention, including New Orleans, supported that choice. Why did the
CPD not support the correct moral choice this time?•

— Anne Milling, Women of the Storm

4 thoughts on “Rebuttal

  1. Elspeth R says:

    That is an AWESOME rebuttal!!!
    Elspeth

    Like

  2. MapleStreet says:

    While the rebuttal is well worded and to the point, I really wonder if they are but spending their time responding to straw-man arguments.
    Like I said before, just on the face of it, what does a debate need? They could hold it in an open field. A few cameras, a few microphones, and enough bandwidth to broadcast it to the outside.
    When I said this before, another person added that the major need was a good restaurant. And its not like NOLA has ever been touted for its food? I’d love to try to eat my way through NOLA.

    Like

  3. Interrobang says:

    What an unusual framing of the RNC’s decision to have the Republican National Convention in NYC! From where I was sitting (which was on the phone to a friend in Manhattan who was absolutely incensed about the decision, mostly), it looked like an incorrect and immoral choice, given the massive weight of responsibility Republicans at the federal and local level bear for the events of September 11, 2001 in the first place. From here, it looked less like a bunch of altruists (modern Republicans, altruists?!) doing what they could to ameliorate a disaster by injecting cash into the local economy than a baldfaced attempt to make political hay off the tragedy by appealing to jingoism and phony patriotism.
    Where the NYC situation differs substantially from the NOLA situation is that a Presidential debate isn’t one-sidedly partisan (and biased in the direction of the side having the onus.

    Like

  4. MapleStreet says:

    Interrobang, another difference I see is that as much as 9/11 gripped the attention of the country and world, the NY World Trade Center collapse only involved a few city blocks – and NYC was seen as needing that shot in the arm of the convention.
    OTOH – Katrina was a multistate swath. Depending on what criteria you use to delineate the damaged area, a very conservative area would be 50 miles wide by 100 miles long. So obviously, NOLA doesn’t need the boost.

    Like

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