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The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Unrest rules!

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

Kerry is skipping the U.S. Conference of Mayors to avoid crossing a picket line.
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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
The Morning Grind
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One month before Democrats gather in Boston to nominate him (or at least that's the plan), John Kerry said that unrest among his hometown's police and firefighters unions would prevent him from traveling there today to speak to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Two days before the scheduled transfer of power in Iraq, analysts said that threats of unrest caused coalition administrator Paul Bremer (now the former administrator) to do so early this morning -- to little fanfare, in a small, hastily arranged ceremony. The transfer took place at 2:26 a.m. ET. (Iraq handover of sovereignty completed)

Unrest, even just the fear of it, rules the day.

Gathered in a plain room in the office of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Bremer handed over a signed document conveying political authority to the chief judge of Iraq's highest court.

Bremer also gave Allawi a letter from President Bush asking for formal diplomatic ties with the interim government. Bremer and top aides, including spokesman Dan Senor, left Iraq on a U.S. Air Force C-130 at 4:30 a.m. ET.

The Associated Press reports that Bush marked the transfer with a whispered comment and a handshake with Tony Blair, gathered with world leaders around a table at a NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

Glancing at his watch to make sure the transfer had occurred, Bush put his hand over his mouth to guard his remarks, leaned toward Blair and then reached out to shake hands. (Bush and NATO in Turkey)

Meanwhile, a different kind of unrest is unfolding in Boston, where Mayor Tom Menino, hoping to open the Democratic convention in his city in 28 days, said he was "disappointed" by Kerry's decision to cancel today's speech to the conference.

Camp Kerry agonized over the issue yesterday, but aides ultimately said the senator "will not cross a picket line, and therefore will not address" the group.

"We know that people on both sides have been working in good faith to resolve this situation, and we hope that they will redouble their efforts to find a resolution," spokeswoman Allison Dobson said.

So, we'll miss another Kerry speech. Life goes on.

Larger issues

But now bigger questions loom: What happens next month at the convention, where the union has threatened to protest every event Menino is hosting if no deal is reached? Will Kerry cross a picket line then? Or will he skip the event and relinquish the '04 presidential nomination to Dennis Kucinich?

Camp Kerry aides wouldn't speculate. But the reality is that his decision to avoid Boston today might go a long way toward resolving that dilemma. Labor reps, overjoyed by the media attention that Kerry's cancellation has given them, said they might be willing to accommodate Kerry's needs next month. Their beef is with Menino, they say, not Kerry.

"If John Kerry respects our picket line tomorrow, I think we respect John Kerry," John Barry, the union representative, told The New York Times today.

Speaking of the Democratic convention, party and campaign sources tell The Grind that Al Gore has been invited to speak on opening night at the Fleet Center.

Gore will take the stage Monday evening before Bill Clinton, who, to the relief of some party leaders, will surely overshadow most of the press coverage Gore otherwise would have received.

We also hear that Hillary Clinton will play a relatively minor role in Boston. If she appears on stage, the junior senator from New York will do so as one of the party's nine female senators, not as a party leader or former first lady.

And speaking of convention speakers, Bush-Cheney is expected later today to release their list of prime-time speakers. Sources confirm that the list includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Laura Bush and Rodney Paige.

One notable absence from the list: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been relegated to a daytime appearance where he'll open the convention and welcome his adopted party to New York.

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