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Jewish World Review August 2, 2000 / 29 Tamuz, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Consumer Reports

Welcome to Philadelphia --- we had the first... -- I REMEMBER the high-ranking fireman who visited St. Christopher's grade school back in the 1950s.

He had come to our new little school in northeast Philadelphia with two missions: to give us some safety rules and to buck up our spirits.

New York might have the biggest of everything, he said looking out on our hopeful little faces, but we in Philadelphia had the first.

And then he started the familiar Philly litany: the first fire department, the first free public library, the first zoo, the first...

This is the great fall-back position of the millions of us who grew up in the city that God cruelly placed in the shadow of the greatest metropolis ever known.

The worst thing was the TV commercials. No matter what was being sold, it was as if Philadelphia didn't exist.

In New York, in Chicago, in Cleveland, in Detroit, in Cincinnati, some '50s housewife was using and loving some dish soap or laundry detergent. Philadelphia? We never got so much as a mention.

This week, Philadelphia is stepping briefly from the shadows. The Republicans are coming, and with them every reporter and TV camera in the country. There will be jokes, of course, many of them mimicking W.C. Fields' epitaph about preferring the city only to the grave. Talk about damning with faint praise.

But there will also be that Holy Grail of every Philadelphian: recognition.

We loved Rocky being from Philadelphia. What better metaphor for our town than the club fighter finally getting his title shot? We loved "Sixth Sense" being shot on our streets. What better city to have a young kid being able to see dead people? We even loved watching that bad cop played by Danny Glover in "Witness" trying to find the scared Amish kid in that row of men's toilets at the 30th Street train station.

For Philadelphia, this coming week will be a return to the glory days. We were, after all, the country's first convention city. Philly is where a get-together of politicians signed the Declaration of Independence, where they drafted the Constitution and agreed to the Bill of Rights.

It didn't stop there. Teddy Roosevelt was nominated for vice president in Philadelphia a century ago. Why? Because the Republican boss in New York wanted to get this John McCain-type maverick out of the governor's chair.

FDR gave his "rendezvous with destiny" speech, accepting re-nomination in 1936, in Philadelphia. Four years later, a long-time Democrat named Wendell Willkie won the Republican nomination on the 6th ballot. That's quite a feat given that he ran third the first time the delegates voted.

In 1948, Philadelphia hosted both conventions — one for the Republicans to nominate the heavy favorite, New York governor Thomas E. Dewey, and the other convention to nominate the odds-on underdog, Harry Truman. Truman surprised everybody, especially the rival Republicans, by demanding that the GOP-controlled Congress reconvene and pass the platform it had adopted in the same convention hall.

This week, all that history and recognition will come tumbling home to the city that's often been overshadowed and skipped over.

It was a New Yorker, Woody Allen, who said that 90 percent of life is showing up. It takes a Philadelphian to understand how true that is.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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07/26/00: If Bush is an IPO, Gore is a store
07/24/00: Will being 'better' sink Hillary?
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07/17/00: AlGore is executing a double dose of imitation 07/10/00: Mexicans elect a Bush Republican
07/10/00:Another kind of McCarthyism
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06/29/00: No echoes in this presidential choice
06/26/00: Death joins the debate
06/21/00: Jerry Brown tells AlGore how to 'wage' campaign
06/19/00: Squishy logic for soft money
06/15/00: Citizen Kane, 113 years later
06/12/00: Kennedy-Nixon redux?
06/07/00: Bush says 'I do' to reality
06/05/00: Clinton's odd silence on his achievements
06/02/00: Pelosi, a voice for human rights
05/30/00: Bubba's escape hatches
05/23/00: Who typifies leadership?
05/19/00: Bubba's legacy involves AIDS
05/16/00: Dubyah's outlook for 'playoffs' remains perilous
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04/24/00: Vietnam 25 -- The good, bad and ugly
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04/11/00: Men who saved Elián from the sea
04/06/00: Caine should coach politicians
04/03/00: No. 2 spots: Woman-to-woman?
03/29/00: Gray for veep and Gore might coast to victory
03/27/00: The secret life of a CIA wife
03/22/00: 'We're suckers for underdogs'
03/20/00: Bush's California dream vs. reality
03/06/00: Scary Gore vs. hopeful Bush
03/06/00: McCain's appeal to 'Reagan Democrats'
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02/28/00: Grading the American presidents
02/25/00: Clinton remains No. 1 issue
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02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
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02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
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12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
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10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State — Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

© 2000, NEA