And now the party's over. The balloons have dropped. The champagne has popped. We have seen every button, heard every slogan, read every hand-painted sign in this four-day GOP parade.
So, what did we learn?
We know that George P.--the Bush family's Generation Next--is a Spanish-speaking, GQ cover-seeking, this-is-not-the-party-your-granddaddy-knew hunk.
We know that you have to understand fly fishing to understand Dick Cheney. Unfortunately, we don't know the first thing about fly fishing.
We know that Dick's daughter, Mary, may be openly gay--not that there's anything wrong with that. We also know that the Texas delegation, which knelt in prayer for the soul of one openly gay speaker, is openly not crazy about it.
We know that Laura Bush is an ex-librarian who loves--ready?--books. We know that Dubya is a reader too--a least of Dr. Seuss's "Hop on Pop."
We know that the Bush twins are not very twin-like: Jenna, the blond, is the sassy one who's going to the University of Texas. Barbara, the brunet, is the Yale-bound bookworm whose best-kept secret is her SAT scores.
We know that Lynne Cheney dated all of Dick's best friends in high school--not that there's anything wrong with that.
We know that you can't rush a Wyomingite when a TV camera's on him. "I may not be from Wisconsin, but I'm going to milk this for all I can," said Gov. Jim Geringer as the convention secretary begged him to cast Wyoming's 22 votes, which put Bush's nomination over the top.
We know that Dubya consults his heart and what's in it on a daily basis. In fact, we know more about his heart than we know about his famously analysis-averse head.
We know that Al Gore doesn't have the good grace to stand back and let the GOP have its party in peace. He had to air his veep short list on Dubya's big night? Didn't Miss Pauline teach him you don't wear white at a wedding?
City Bidding a Fond Farewell to the GOP Convention Crowd
As Dick Cheney said--and Gore before him--"The wheel has turned. And now the time has come. The time has come for them to go." Today, thousands of relentlessly charged Republicans leave the City of Brotherly Love. And after four days of politicking, pandering and partying till dawn, you'd think the locals would be pushing them out the door.
Well think again. A good number of Philadelphians say they enjoyed having their traditionally Democratic city overrun by packs of middle-age white people in flag attire.
An ethereal mood has consumed this city ever since the convention rolled into town, a mind-altering drug that rendered almost every Philadelphian helpful and cheery. For days, friendly police strolled the streets offering directions and letting jaywalkers off scot-free. Cabdrivers made brazen U-turns with impunity. Republicans jogged with abandon down the middle of eight-lane streets.
Waiters inquired, "What can we do for yous twos?" Sales clerks enthused, "Hi Hon!" One cabby offered unbidden a lesson in how to pass as a Philly native:
"Jeet?" a perplexed rider replied. "What's that?'
"You know, jeet. Like before a meal, someone asks, 'Jeet?' " (Need help? See answer below.)
It's urban nirvana when a big city acts like a small town. Angelenos know the feeling: Remember when traffic snarls disappeared during the 1984 Olympics and crime dropped when Pope John Paul II passed through town in 1987?
"It's been like Christmas," retiree Joe Hall reminisced on the final day at a convention center marketplace where souvenir-hungry Republicans spent money like Malibu Democrats.
But it can't last. In fact, work crews have just nine days to transform the meticulously reconstructed convention hall at First Union Center back into its former self for an AC/DC concert Aug. 12.
"It's going to be ugly," one workman said.
Kindly Step Away From the Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt
After four days of Republican harmony and so much partying that there was hardly any energy left to watch George W.'s coronation, conventioneers revived themselves with chocolate mousse, chocolate bread pudding, chocolate cream puffs and 600 pounds of chocolate bars at a fete courtesy of Pennsylvania's Hershey. (By the way, we still don't know: Is the town named after the kiss or the kiss named after the town?)
The chocolate fest raised money, if not cholesterol, for GOP Senate candidates. For a mere $5,000 donation, chocoholics filled their sacks in a sugar binge that was, oddly, closed to the press. The ever-intrepid media, starved for news and freebies, demanded access.
"What are you hiding?" a magazine photographer protested.
"Nothing," explained Stuart Roy, an exasperated spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "It's an invitation-only party."
After Roy threatened forcible expulsion, the photog grudgingly left, proving that sometimes, you just have to play hard-candy.
PARTING THOUGHTS: At a reception in his honor, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and impresario of impeachment, left admirers with this sentiment: "Here's to those who love us; and to those who do not, may the Lord turn their heart. If the Lord can't turn their heart, may he turn their ankle, so we'll know them by their limp."
On to Los Angeles, where the Democrats do their version Aug. 14 and protest signs already have been spotted: "Who cares? It's really Gush vs. Bore."
Answer: Jeet?--Did you eat?
Times staff writers Nick Anderson, Geraldine Baum, Megan Garvey, Janet Hook, Anne-Marie O'Connor, Richard Simon and Massie Ritsch contributed to this report.