Covering the Democratic National Convention of 1984: Asking Vice President Walter Mondale to help complete the story

This is a press pass to the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco which nominated former Vice President Walter Mondale and Representative from New York Geraldine Ferraro to run against President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George [Herbert Walker] Bush.

Guess who won?

This press pass and more significantly a better press pass I also obtained secured my access to  the floor of the Democratic National Convention in 1984 where I was talking to the head of the Montana delegation while he announced that the State of Montana was casting all its votes for Walter Mondale.

The delegation head was a Native American in full ceremonial dress. While he voted, he talked to me about Japanese timber interests in Montana.

The Senate press gallery issued me the passes.

At the time, I was a registered at the gallery as a journalist for The New Republic and before my marriage in 1981 had asked the administrator of the  Senate Press Publications Gallery out for a date.

Details of the passes are significant because another journalist, a native Japanese, contested the issuance despite objections from my editor in Tokyo.

Only after an emotional hearing was I allowed to keep the passes, with a warning from a higher official at the Senate, “We know you, Joel, but we don’t know him. If there is any hanky panky, we know where to find your ass.”

You have no idea how hard it was for me to obtain these passes each of which made  it possible get past noisy demonstrators and nervous police through the heavy metal search machines at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco in the summer of 1984.

I was covering the convention for Gendai Monthly, published by Kodansha, the largest publishing house in Japan. Here is a photograph of Kodansaha’s headquarters in Tokyo:

Let us now view the press pass from the top down.

1984 Democratic Convention

The following Wikipedia description is helpful:

1984 Presidential Election
U.S Vice-President Walter Mondale.jpg GeraldineFerraro.jpg
Mondale and Ferraro
Date(s) July 16 – July 19
City San Francisco, California
Venue Moscone Center
Keynote Speaker Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York
Presidential Nominee Fmr. Vice President Walter Mondale of
Vice Presidential Nominee Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of
New York
‹ 1980  ·  1988 ›

The 1984 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California from July 16 to July 19, 1984, to select a candidate for the 1984 United States presidential election. At the convention Walter Mondale was nominated for President and Geraldine Ferraro for Vice President. Ferraro became the first woman to be nominated by either party for the Presidency or Vice-Presidency. In another first, the 1984 Democratic Convention was chaired by the female governor of Kentucky, Martha Layne Collins.[1] The Democratic National Committee Chairman at the time, Charles T. Manatt, led the convention.


Events of the Convention

New York Governor Mario Cuomo gave a well-received keynote speech. The speech is available online at American Rhetoric’stop 100 speeches, number eleven. Mondale’s major rivals for the nomination, Senator Hart and Rev. Jackson, also gave speeches.

Jackson also attempted to move the party’s platform farther to the left at the Convention, but without much success. He did succeed in one instance, concerning affirmative action.[2]



The candidates for U.S. president earned the following numbers of delegates:[3]

Jesse Jackson unsuccessfully called for the suspension of the party’s electoral rules to give him a number of delegates closer to the 20% average share of the vote he garnered during the primaries. The system tended to punish shallow showings as yielding no delegates at all, hence Jackson’s smaller delegate count than would be expected (12%).[2]


Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as the first woman to receive a major party nomination by acclamation on a voice vote.

See also


Muscone Conter

Until he was garishly murdered on November 17, 1978 , George Moscone was Mayor of San Francisco. The Convention Center was completed in 1981.

The details of Moscone’s murder and its aftermath had significant consequences to the outcome of the convention and the election.

To repeat the obvious, Ronald Reagan was running for reelection in 1984. Traditional family values were a mainstay of his support. When Reagan had been governor, he and his wife Nancy conducted a purge of homosexuals working for him.

As President, Reagan was clear about his opposition to homosexuality. In 1984 that position was popular with the electorate, which had yet to experience George Bush II’s blatantly right-wing conservative vice president Dick Cheney.

Cheney was openly supportive of his gay daughter. Whether that support which was amplified by his fellow Republicans later made a difference or simply reflected a changing view, homosexuality no  longer had the political stigma that existed in 1984.

When the 1984 Democratic convention began, Walter Mondale, who had been Jimmy Carter’s Vice President, had enough delegate votes to win the nomination on the first ballot. The press had already dubbed Mondale the “nominee presumptive,” a term and concept that had no influence on my editor in Tokyo–a major factor in the outcome of this story.

Later, I will explain about my editor.

A convention in which EVERYTHING has been decided is boring.

There was one major decision not decided.

Who was Walter Mondale going to choose as his running mate?

One of the short list names was Diane Feinstein, who became Mayor of San Francisco when George Moscone and Harvey Milk were assassinated.

Milk was a member of the Board of Supervisors. He was the  first openly gay Supervisor.

Moscone and Feinstein, who was then President of the Board, supported Milk in creating landmark gay rights legislation.

Dan White, a former policeman and fireman, served on the Board in open opposition to homosexuality. White had been forced to resign for business reasons. When White later asked the mayor to reappoint him, he shot the mayor several times and repeated the multiple shootings on Harvey Milk.

Feinstein was the first person to be at Harvey Milk’s side when he died, feeling for his pulse and without realizing it, putting her thumb into one of Milk’s many gun shot wounds.

Would Walter Mondale name Diane Feinstein as his vice presidential running mate?

The media were consumed with that question when I arrived in San Francisco in July, 1984.

My wife (at the time) Diana was anxious that I be back in Washington, DC in time to be in the delivery room for our first child. The due date was August 15th. When I decided after the convention ended to fly to Tokyo, Diana understandably became more anxious.

Here is a photograph of Diana and me at our home in Washington while Diana was in her first trimester of pregnancy.

To be continued….

Begin next: Ferraro Had Charisma

Copyright 2012 ©  by Joel Solkoff.

[Note, all material on this site, unless otherwise designated, is copyright convered  by me.]







Exclusive: Former USDA Secretary explains why he said there was not enough food to feed the American people

This 1986 unedited interview with Earl Butz [] took place nearly 10 years after he resigned in disgrace as Secretary of Agriculture for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. It also took place after Butz, as a private citizen, had served a brief term in federal prison for income tax evasion.

The interview contains Butz’s description of his relationship with Presidents Ford and Nixon and with then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose inept meddling in agriculture policy was the subject of media coverage about the political infighting between the two cabinet secreatries.

The most significant part of the interview concerned an embargo Butz imposed in 1973 against soybean shipments to Japan. At the time, he explained that the embargo was necessary to protect the American people against running out of food.

In the interview, Butz described his decision as “a big mistake” and explains why he imposed it. The interview begins with the sound of the digital dial tones as I called Butz from the second story of my house on Capitol Hill where I lived with my wife and my two year old daughter Joanna. The call went to Butz’s brother’s house; his brother answered the telephone and then connected me to the former Secretary of Agriculture.

The conversation begins with a discussion of President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Richard Lyng [], previously President of the American Meat Institute, to be his second Secretary of Agricultre, after Reagan’s first Secretary proved inept at the job. Butz calls him “naive” in the interview.

My pretext for the call was an article I was writing and later published in Newsday profiling Reagan’s then new Secretary Lyng, an article that was shamelessly flattering. The interview begins by a description of Lyng’s credentials for the job and confirmation hearing., The interview also includes Butz’s appraisal of the agriculture policies of Presidents Carter and Reagan.

Hear it now: