Stories from reporter Jackie Majerus about Wally Barnes and Barbara Franklin at the GOP convention in Minnesota:
This year's Republican National Convention, modified because of Hurricane Gustav, is like no other, said Wallace Barnes of Bristol, who's attended the gatherings for more than half a century.
"It's going to be a different convention," said Barnes, part of the Connecticut delegation in the Twin Cities for the GOP gathering. "It already has a different feel to it than any other convention I've been to."
But both Barnes and his wife, Barbara Hackman Franklin, said they believed that toning down the festivities is appropriate given the potential for Gustav's wrath.
Franklin, a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, said presumptive presidential nominee John McCain made the right choice "to not have speeches when some of our folks are under siege in the Gulf area."
Speaking by phone from the Twin Cities Monday, Franklin – who has been attending Republican conventions since 1972 – said events so far had been muted.
The Connecticut delegation met for a breakfast meeting Monday, Franklin said, to get things going.
"We started with a moment of silence," said Franklin. "We just didn't feel like jumping up and down."
Franklin said the speeches were canceled for Monday night, but that Tuesday remained uncertain.
"We'll just have to wait and see," said Franklin. "I think it's being handled well."
She said party rules, set last year, dictate that committee reports and other business of the convention has to be conducted.
But Franklin said that concern over Gustav will remain paramount.
"We are going to be doing some things to help down there," said Franklin, who said it may involve a collection or other aid. "We're all committed to be doing something."
Even those from outside the Gulf region feel a sense of loss, Frankin said.
"Everybody feels a sense of being connected to those people," she said, adding that people will reach out in a crisis, disregarding barriers that might otherwise separate them.
When a terrible earthquake rocked China last spring, bringing death and destruction, help poured in from all over the world, said Franklin.
"I think the Chinese were somewhat overwhelmed by it," said Franklin, who has longstanding business ties in China.
Early Monday, the Connecticut group heard from a representative of the McCain campaign who was "very low key, not terribly political," said Franklin, who is Bristol's only delegate – Barnes, who chairs the state Employment and Training Commission, and former Republican Town Chairman Art Mocabee are alternates.
In addition to the campaign representative, Franklin said the Connecticut delegation heard another speaker on Social Security and also from a veteran of the Korean War.
Franklin said the retired soldier, a 1946 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was "a genuine hero" who had saved lives in Korea.
"He enthralled everybody," said Franklin.
The Korean War vet was putting in a good word for fellow veteran McCain, said Franklin.
"He, too, is a genuine hero," Franklin said.
Barnes, Franklin back Palin choice
Two of the city's representatives at the Republican National Convention offered their backing to Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive presidential nominee, and his chosen running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"I think it was a great pick," said Barbara Franklin, a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce. "I love seeing a woman on the ticket."
Franklin, a delegate from Bristol, said that she was surprised "but pleasantly so" by McCain's choice, but said she thought he surprised almost everyone.
The choice had been kept so closely under wraps, Franklin said, with speculation swirling, but little to go on.
Franklin and her husband, Wallace Barnes, chairman of the state's Employment and Training Commission, agreed that Palin is a tough, fearless reformer.
"I think it's a brilliant choice," said Barnes.
Palin is "a remarkable individual," who has McCain's confidence, Franklin said. "I think he's very comfortable with her."
When he learned of McCain's choice, Barnes said, he immediately turned on CSPAN and watched an interview with Palin that had been recorded before she was selected.
"I was enormously impressed with the way she handled herself," said Barnes, who said the Alaska governor gave great answers to unrehearsed questions.
"I'm very enthusiastic," said Barnes, who Palin was "amusing, attractive and very knowledgeable."
Franklin said Palin's taken on some formidable opponents as an Alaska politician.
"She's very impressive and she's definitely a reform-minded individual," said Franklin. "This is a gutsy lady."
Franklin said she knows McCain from her days as Commerce secretary when McCain served on the Commerce Committee.
"I think McCain is exactly the right candidate for this time," said Franklin, who said he has "interesting ideas."
McCain supports free trade, something that Franklin sees as essential to the nation.
"I'm where he is," said Franklin, in maintaining support for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
NAFTA has spurred trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico from $300 billion to $900 billion, Franklin said.
"And there's been job creation in all three countries," said Franklin.
But Franklin said the nation must offer support to those who do become out of work because of trade agreements, and in that vein, McCain has "put forth some proposals that are probably pretty good."
Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for president, has been less supportive of free trade issues.
"I think he wants more for labor," said Franklin, who said Obama's position is "just plain wrong."
McCain also favors three pending bilateral trade agreements between the U.S. and Columbia, Panama and South Korea, said Franklin, while Obama hasn't offered the same support.
"The two are very far apart on trade and trade policy," said Franklin.
Trade, Franklin said, isn't an isolated matter, but is directly connected to national security, and McCain understands that.
"It just builds relationships," said Franklin. "That helps solidify who our allies are."
To abandon the agreements that have been drawn up with Columbia, for instance, would "pull the rug" out from under Columbian President Alvaro Uribe and undermine his efforts in the region.
"Columbia is one of our friends in Latin America," said Franklin.
In a little while, I'll post some stuff from two other Bristol Republicans at the convention.
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