The Reform Party’s national convention convened in Long Beach, California, in early August. I arrived, filled with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation: I fully expected Patrick J. Buchanan to overcome the last obstacle to launching what promises to be an historic campaign; on the other hand, I knew the anti-Buchananistas weren’t going to make it easy. Indeed, in the weeks before the convention, ominous reports poured off the newswires: “Reform Party Convention Will Be a Brawl”; “Convention Security Increased”; “Reform Party Rumble.” Should I pack my brass knuckles?

My own role at this convention was somewhat strange. I had press credentials, and, armed with a laptop and adorned with the yellow badge that granted me instant access to everything, I could have passed for a member of the Fourth Estate (complete with beeping cell phone) if not for the wild glint in my eye that pegged me as a Buchananite—and a delegate to boot! Tapping madly away in the press room, seated in front of the New York Times and next to CNN, I sent in my twice-daily reports via modem and then hurried to the nearest phone booth, quickly changed badges, and spent the rest of my time trolling the convention floor.

Although I had been told in advance that I might be asked to speak, I was given the final word only when I arrived. The most gratifying aspect of this was the opportunity to criticize CNN. For three days, I had been listening to the CNN crew disparage the delegates as “weirdos” and watching them cobble together the sound bites that served as ammunition in their propaganda war against Buchanan. Naturally, I said nothing—I was saving my criticisms for my speech, when I could address CNN’s Gary Tuchman from the podium.

I had a special enmity for dear little Gary, who looked like a malicious schoolboy while producing reports featuring John Hagelin, a dippy disciple of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who teaches “physics” at “Maharishi University” and has been the standard-bearer of the “Anybody but Buchanan” forces. Hagelin’s ovoid face and bald pate, skin shining with sweat under the klieg lights, made him look like a hard-boiled egg. Tuchman asked him no tough questions—does he really believe in “yogic flying,” or that the answer to the Kosovo problem is transcendental meditation?—but let him present a televised version of his legal brief to the Federal Election Commission, arguing that Buchanan had committed election fraud.

I was thinking of Tuchman when, the next day, I told the delegates during my prime-time speech: “Oh, I know what they’ll tell von on CNN, and in the New York Post; we’ve all heard the same tired mantra: The Reform Party is supposed to be imploding. The sad collection of cranks and would-be party bosses who walked out of our convention have more of a following in the CNN newsroom and on the editorial page of the New York Times than they have in the Reform Party. Fortunately, Judy Woodruff is not going to decide who gets to carry the banner of Reform in this election—and thank God for that!”

Tuchman knew I was speaking directly to him. As I headed for the press room after my speech, my assistant came running up to me: “CNN is looking for you! They asked about you!”

Tuchman’s blonde female producer-assistant gave me a dirty look as I walked into the room, her angular chin jutting upward, her eyes narrowed with contempt. One of the hated “weirdos” had finally struck back, and she was angry. I smiled (inwardly) and started packing up my laptop; as I passed Tuchman on the way out, he turned to me and asked: “What media organization are you with?”

Holding my yellow badge up to eye level, I replied: “—we’re your competition.”

“You seem to have some complaints about our coverage,” he responded.

I didn’t even bother mentioning the previous night’s broadcast. Instead, I went straight for the jugular. “Yes,” I said, “there was that little business about reporting 100,000 Kosovars supposedly murdered by the Serbs during the Kosovo war; Christiane Amanpour reported that figure. Then it was reduced to 50,000, then 10,000, then even less—without ever acknowledging any change.” His boyish features seemed to age before my eyes, wrinkled by the moral impact of my critique. A kinder, gentler man might have taken pity on him, but I wanted to make him cry.

“And what about all those military ‘interns’ who somehow wound up working for your ‘news organization’ during the Kosovo war?” I continued. “What was up with that?”

Was that a tear sliding down his cheek? Maybe it was my imagination, but I could have sworn I saw a bit of moisture gather at the tip of his eyelash, a glint of remorse for his sins. That’s why I took his hand when he offered it in a kind of peace handshake—the kind that signifies surrender.

A small victory, but we must take them when and where we can.