GOP Gets A Piece Of The Rock

In this photo made available Tuesday Nov. 28, 2006 by the Amiens hospital shows a portrait of Isabelle Dinoire pictured on Nov. 21, 2006 almost one year after she received the world's first partial face transplant, on Nov. 27, 2005 in Amiens, northern France.
Are you ready to rumble? The Republicans, it seems, are. And they've stirred up some controversy with their choice of one of the speakers at Wednesday evening's session at the GOP convention in Philadelphia.

It's The Rock.

And if you don't know who he is, you probably don't have kids, or, at least, you don't watch wrestling. The Rock, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson, is the flamboyant reigning champion of the World Wrestling Federation. And at 6 feet, 3 inches and 270 pounds, he's hard to miss.

The Rock, who hasn't said whether he's supporting Bush or Al Gore, was drafted by the GOP to call the third evening's program at the First Union Center to order, and to introduce House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Why a wrestler (who's not named Jesse Ventura) at a political convention?

Well, two reasons come to mind. One, Hastert himself is a former high school wrestling coach. Two, the GOP is aggressively reaching out to young people, who comprise the bulk of the Rock's fans.

The giant wrestler, who was a member of two national championship football teams at the University of Miami and has a degree in criminology, is promoting a voter registration drive sponsored by the WWF and MTV.

The WWF portion is called "Smackdown Your Vote," a play on the treatment the Rock frequently gives his foes in the ring.

The Rock, who also refers to himself as the "Great One" and the "People's Champ," recently registered to vote for the first time and is urging his fans, especially those who just turned 18, to join him.

Hastert told the delegates at the First Union Center that if they know young people who aren't registered they should tell them to sign up to vote—just like The Rock.

But some conservatives, citing the WWF's violent and sexually provocative programs, said the Rock had no business appearing at the convention of a party that claims to stand for family values.

Mark Honig, executive director of the Parents Television Council, a conservative advocacy group that monitors TV programming, called it "repugnant that a major political party would choose to showcase, during prime-time, a person and an organization who believe it's responsible to show men treating women in such a way, knowing that this show is watched by millions of impressionable children.".

The WWF's enormously popular shows feature scantily clad women, who are frequently hit or body slammed by the much larger male wrestlers. The Rock himself is fond of calling weaker opponents "candy asses," and on a recent edition of the WWF's Raw is War, he grabbed a female wrestler around the neck and threw her to the mat.

The PTC appealed unsuccessfully to George W. Bush to cancel the Rock's appearance.

Honig said that Bush and GOP leaders "should be ashamed and embarrassed for inviting the WWF to be part of their national convention."

Not one to turn away from a fight, the Rock struck back at his critics at a Thursday news conference, tellig them to "lighten up. The violence in our show is very slapstick," he said.

"There are no guns, there are no knives, there are no axes, nobody gets killed, nobody gets raped. Steel chairs and garbage cans are allowed, but everyone lives for another day," he said.

Ed Gillespie, the convention's program director, said the Rock's voter-registration efforts are "an admirable thing."