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In Which Anonymous Is Unmasked

August 18, 2000

Free at last, free at last. Thank Ronald Reagan, I'm free at last. After a week behind enemy lines, I'm going back to my own team. By the time you read this, I'll be crossing over the Ventura County line toward safety.

Simi Valley, here I come.

By Monday, I'll be back where I belong. Hangin' out with the boys at the stock exchange, swapping Monica Lewinsky jokes, sending Hillary Rodham Clinton top 10 lists around the Internet. Singing along with Ricky Martin. You know, Republican stuff.

Not that spending a week with the Democrats wasn't a lot of fun. Once you get past this obsession they seem to have with the Playboy Mansion and that stupid Fleetwood Mac song, they're not bad people at all. Or that different from the people who work the Republican side of the aisle.

Professional politicos, of both parties, are almost identical in one very important respect: We're abnormal. Most people--normal people--spend their August vacations at the beach, not crammed into a basketball arena wearing funny hats for three hours every night for a week.

Normal people think the World Series and the Olympics are more important than the presidential debates. Normal people would rather watch Tiger Woods on television than Jesse Jackson, and know that Dennis Miller has a better act than Dennis Hastert.

Normal people have real lives. But real political crack heads wouldn't know a real life if it flagged us down at the corner of Ocean and Santa Monica. Give us a choice between CNN and Spectravision After Hours, and we'll take Bob Novak and Bill Press every night of the week. For us, Mary Matalin is 10 times the dream girl that Jennifer Aniston will ever be.

(Obviously, there are exceptions. The crowd of delegates waiting for an autograph from George Stephanopoulos the other day in Staples Center was pretty big. But the crowd around Jerry Springer in the same hall that night was even bigger.)

Most Americans don't think too much of us, Republican or Democrat. They think we're corrupt, that we'd sell our own grandmothers into forced labor in return for a PAC contribution and that we'd lie to our own children to get them to turn out to vote on election day. And for the most part, most Americans are pretty perceptive.

I spent most of last year working for John McCain's presidential campaign, listening to him talk about getting the big money and the special interests out of politics. The Republican power brokers, in turn, spent the year calling us Democratic sympathizers, because they thought that the GOP would unfairly suffer under campaign finance reform.

But after a week at Staples Center, it's clear that the Republicans are a long way from cornering the market on the soft money front. Corporate America was everywhere, in the sky boxes, at the fund-raisers and at parties for the politicians who regulate their industries. I would have invited some of the Republican bigwigs to see this for themselves, but most of them were already here, hedging their bets in case things go bad in November.

But enough of this ranting. It's time to come clean. After spending my week skulking around the shadows of the convention hall, I've been told that it's time to reveal my identity for anyone who might still actually care.

My name is Dan Schnur, and I have spent my entire adult life spinning for Republican politicians. Most recently, I was the national communications director for McCain's presidential campaign. Before McCain, I'd spun for Ronald Reagan, for George Bush Classic, for Pete Wilson and too many others to count. Since McCain folded up his campaign tent last spring, I stand by the side of the highway with a sign that says: "Will spin for food."

But now I've had the chance to watch the other side spinning just as hard as my GOP pals and I do. And the Democratic spinners are just as earnest, just as rabid and just as scripted as anybody on our side. All of us are just beginning to figure out that more and more of the people we're trying to talk to are watching the WWF. So we talk to each other instead.

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