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Inside Politics

Blog, Day 1: Monday, July 26, 2004

Editor's Note: Follow all the action at the 2004 Democratic National Convention with CNN correspondents, anchors, analysts and guests on this daily Weblog. All times are Eastern Daylight.

'The guy doesn't have a peer'

Hillary Clinton
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made the rounds in Boston in the morning, flew to New York for the afternoon, and returned to the convention in the evening.
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SPECIAL REPORT

Posted: 11:24 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold, CNN.com

Writer Joe Klein has written two of the most revealing books on Bill Clinton: "The Natural," a sharp and brisk analysis of the 42nd president and his two terms in office, and "Primary Colors," a roman a clef about Clinton and his run for the presidency, written as "Anonymous."

Klein could only shrug and smile when asked about Clinton's speech to the Democratic convention, which was greeted by frequent cheers and ovations. (See story)

"What can you say -- the guy doesn't have a peer," Klein said.

"He can do the wonky stuff and make you love it ... policy issues in a way that's extremely accessible," he continued, warming to his subject. "And that's what he did tonight."

Quiet in the house

Posted: 9:59 p.m. ET
From John King, CNN Senior White House Correspondent

It was surprisingly quiet on the floor during the Gore speech. I was in the Florida delegation and they were fired up by the references to "every vote counts," and not letting the Supreme Court decide the next election. But it was a rather lukewarm response even though a constant complaint from delegates that you encounter is that they believe the last election was stolen from the Democrats.

'Media better get ready to pay attention'

Posted: 9:33 p.m. ET
From Hillary Blackerby, student, University of California - Santa Barbara

About 1,000 College Democrats of America convened this weekend to hear the Rev. Al Sharpton, political consultant Joe Trippi, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, I know the young people of America are ready to take our country back and have our voices heard.

The main message I came away with is that the Democratic youth are not the future -- we are the here and now. Kerry can't win without us and will not govern without us.

The media tells us that young people are apathetic and never vote. The media better get ready to pay attention to the most important force in politics today -- young people.

Readers write ...

Posted: 8:36 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold, CNN.com

More comments from the world:

Erik from Lilburn, Georgia, on Tucker Carlson's post: "Tucker writes '95 percent of delegates to the convention oppose the war in Iraq. Yet this is not John Kerry's position.'

"Mr. Carlson is saying Kerry disagrees with 95 percent of his support base by comparing two unequal things -- supporting the reason for the war and supporting the continuation of the war (for whatever cause or reason). Both Kerry and his supporters disagree with the cause for the war (which is what the poll was asking), and hence, Mr. Carlson is mistaken. Kerry does, however support the continuation of the war (because pulling out would be disastrous), and I would assume that the majority of his supporters agree."

Tim from Ronkonkoma, New York, backs Teresa Heinz Kerry: "Dick Cheney drops the F-bomb to another senator, on the floor no less, and nobody even bats an eyelash?"

And Mitch from Cleveland, Ohio, observes Madeleine Albright has had her share of face time: "Why are you incredulous that Richardson is getting interviews while other newsmakers are walking the floor? You could instead be granting Madeleine Albright her 1 millionth interview, you know."

Pointless conventions and irritating people

Posted: 8:10 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold, CNN.com

CNN guest commentator Mo Rocca -- he'll be on "Larry King Live" all week -- says this Democratic convention isn't the usual political gathering.

"It's not your typical, suspenseless, dreary, pointless political convention," he observed. "It's also depressing, sad and suffused with paralyzing fear."

Whoa. You'd think the FleetCenter -- in addition to playing host to dozens of political speeches -- was surrounded by fences, armed security and metal detectors, not to mention the helicopters hovering overhead. (See story)

Come to think of it ... well, welcome to the first post-September 11 political convention.

Rocca is concerned the security precautions may affect the presumed Democratic presidential nominee.

"The choppers add a special sound effect," he said. "I hope John Kerry doesn't have any flashbacks."

When Rocca isn't talking politics -- as he's done on CNN, "The Daily Show" and other outlets -- he's hosting TV shows, including a new one on Bravo, "Things I Hate About You." That show lets couples compile a video list of each other's annoying habits, after which a panel of judges decides who's the most aggravating. (See Web siteexternal link)

If Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry were on the show, Heinz Kerry would have a built-in advantage, says Rocca.

"Anything that might be irritating about her [would be] offset by her gajillions of dollars," he said.

And George W. and Laura Bush?

"If I were she, I'd be a little bit irritated by his closeless to the dog," he said." "It's a little much."

What I learned about Democrats

Posted: 7:38 p.m. ET
From Tucker Carlson, CNN's "Crossfire" co-host

You hear a lot from self-appointed smart people about how the conventions aren't worth covering anymore -- how they're shallow, news-free informercials for the political parties that sponsor them. This is only half true.

Yes, conventions are stage-managed. But they're also interesting as hell. You can learn a lot about a party from wandering among its faithful, as I did this afternoon for a few hours at the FleetCenter in Boston. Here's what I learned:

Democrats don't like Bush. That's the one sentiment all Democrats -- liberals, Blue Dogs, ethnic party bosses, vegan skateboarders from the anarchist fringe -- agree on. Bush is bad. If you were to write a three-word catechism for the Democratic Party this year, that would be it. To committed Democrats, nothing else matters. Literally.

Take Iraq. According to a survey in today's Boston Globe, fully 95 percent of delegates to the convention oppose the war in Iraq. Yet this is not John Kerry's position. Kerry voted for the war, of course. But he also supports the Bush administration's position that American forces -- possibly even additional American forces -- need to remain in Iraq indefinitely.

In other words, Kerry and his supporters disagree dramatically on the single most important issue in the campaign. You'd expect to hear more about this at a political convention. Not one person I talked to mentioned it. When I brought it up, Democrats, to a person, dismissed it as unimportant.

One of two things is going on here. Either Democrats don't take their own beliefs very seriously. Or they despise George W. Bush so much, they're willing to overlook the fact that John Kerry doesn't represent some of their core beliefs. I think the latter is probably true.

The second thing I learned today is that Democrats have terrible taste in hats. This didn't surprise me. Almost no one looks good in a hat.

Not exactly the F-Bomb

Posted: 6:21 p.m. ET
From Paul Begala, CNN's "Crossfire" co-host

I've never had a straight job. Never been an accountant or a salesman or a teacher. So I'm not sure what they do at their conventions. But I was a bartender in college, and loved when conventions came to Austin -- because folks got drunk, rowdy and generous with their tips.

It's really not that different at a political convention. For a confirmed junkie like me, it's the greatest show on earth. I just saw ABC's Sam Donaldson sprint up five flights of stairs without breaking a sweat. I've seen old pals from the Clinton days. It's like the best high school reunion you can imagine: everyone is more prosperous, thinner and more relaxed. It's amazing what a few years of having a life after the White House will do for you.

The buzz this afternoon is about Teresa Heinz Kerry telling some right-wing hack to "shove it." I love it. It's not like Dick Cheney dropping the F-Bomb on the Senate floor. The guy was hassling the lady, and she gave it to him. As Hillary said on "American Morning": "You go, girl!"

Speaking of Hillary, we're all looking forward to her speech, and her husband's. They are beloved -- the couple who transformed the party, brought us out of the wilderness, into the mainstream, and back to the White House.

It's gonna be a great night. If CNN weren't paying me to be here, I'd be paying them. (But don't tell them that -- they might take me up on it!)

'Energize and galvanize'

Posted: 6:00 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long, CNN.com

The Rev. Al Sharpton, wearing his traditional three-piece suit, stopped in the CNN green room to visit with Larry King before his appearance on Larry King Live at midnight.

Sharpton said he preached three sermons Sunday and spoke earlier today at the DNC Black Caucus and the DNC Hispanic caucus.

"I'm trying to energize and galvanize the base and that's what I'm going to keep doing until John Kerry is elected," Sharpton said.

Politicos warm up the crowd

Posted: 5:31 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long, CNN.com

The convention has been open for an hour and a half, but the crowd is clearly just warming up. While the floor looks full, most folks are walking around having conversations instead of listening to back-to-back speeches from politicians such as Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and New Jersey Rep. Robert Menendez.

But don't say the early arrivals aren't colorful. For Florida, it's "Beach Day." So, Terrie Brady of Jacksonville is wearing sunglasses, a big hat and a bright Hawaiian print shirt. The Tennessee delegation chose to wear cowboy hats.

The brightest colors are from the ushers, who are sporting fluorescent vests and make up about half the audience.

Texas Dems say Bush not their man

Posted: 5:03 p.m. ET
From Wayne Drash, CNN news editor, inside the FleetCenter

To some, being a Democrat from George W. Bush's Texas might seem like a waste of time. Just don't tell that to the group of hearty Democrats from the Lone Star State who have come to Boston.

"Not at all," said Ron Chapman, when asked if he is fighting a losing cause in his GOP-leaning state. "Everyone is going to be greatly surprised by the enthusiasm."

Jerry Storms Sr., of Ingleside, Texas, agreed, but laughingly urged voters to disregard Kerry's ceremonial first pitch before Sunday night's Boston Red Sox game that plunked in front of the plate.

"We shouldn't elect him on his ability to throw a baseball," he said.

'Peas' to the world

Posted: 4:44 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long, CNN.com

The Black Eyed Peas aren't performing here until Wednesday night, but they're already helping the Democratic cause.

MoveOn.org sent a notice to its members Monday promoting a CD of political tunes from a host of artists, including will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. It's yours for a $25 donation to the political organization.

While celebrities have received a lot of heat for joining the political fray, MoveOn found plenty to volunteer. The CD features nearly two dozen artists, including R.E.M., Blink 182, David Byrne, Death Cab for Cutie, the Flaming Lips and Fountains of Wayne.(See the track listexternal link).

It's still about the money

Posted: 4:14 p.m. ET
From Sean Loughlin, CNN.com producer

The money chase is going full swing, even as Democrats rally around their presumptive nominee, John Kerry. And Monday, Democrats were crowing about their fund-raising success, despite new restrictions on how the candidates can raise money.

"Nine months ago, the pundits predicted that our nominee would be stumbling into Boston this week penniless and outgunned by the Republican fund-raising machine .... Democrats are in better shape than ever," said Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Massachusetts.

The soft-money ban -- part of the 2002 Campaign Reform Act -- prompted some speculation that Democrats would not be able to keep up with Republicans in fund raising. (See Reform Act Web siteexternal link)

The Kerry campaign, however, has raised about $186 million as of June 30, the most money ever raised by a challenger -- Democrat or Republican. Keep in mind, however, that President Bush retains the Midas touch. By comparison, the Bush campaign has raised about $228 million as of June 30.

Readers write ...

Posted: 3:59 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold, CNN.com

Now a few words from the world at large:

Adrienne from Chicago, Illinois, thinks Bill Hemmer was "obnoxious" in his interview with Michael Moore, and that blog coverage of the exchange was biased. "Bill implied Moore wasn't welcome on the convention floor, and he claimed people wanted Moore dead, without qualifying or clarifying the statement," she writes. "I have been a tremendous fan of Bill's for years. ... However, I thought this morning was one of Bill's lowest moments."

And Jim from Glendale, California, thinks Moore is justified in his concern. "If you've ever been the target of a full-press right-wing hate flood, you bet you have concerns about your future," he writes.

Meanwhile, Blair from Phoenix, Arizona, wonders, "What was the deal with the big yellow cutouts I kept seeing behind reporters during the DNC coverage today?" From what we understand, those are some empty yellow seats in the FleetCenter.

The ubiquitous Bill Richardson

Posted: 3:43 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long, CNN.com

If you think you've seen enough of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on CNN, then don't change the channel. The convention chairman has been busy putting former president Bill Clinton's upcoming prime-time speech into context. Rest assured, he says, it's not to "get Clinton out of the way."

"We want Bill Clinton on early to highlight the success of the Democratic Party," Richardson told ABC's "World News Tonight" and "Nightline." He then gave the same quote to a Boston radio station. And then, he gave an interview to The New York Times.

And so it went to a string of reporters following Richardson through the convention center halls.

Billy Sparks, who manages Richardson's media contacts, said the governor will give 45-50 interviews today.

Michael Moore blows up

Posted: 2:54 p.m. ET
From Susan Pettit, CNN.com producer

Michael Moore was not happy. In fact, he was very angry.

" 'Some people want you dead?' " the "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker said to CNN's Bill Hemmer Monday morning on the floor of FleetCenter. " 'Some people want you dead,' Bill? Why would you say that on live TV? Would you say that to Bush or Kerry?"

Hemmer was on a platform set talking with a producer when Moore approached, a gaggle of cameras, boom mikes and reporters in tow. "I'll be with you in a second, Michael," Hemmer said. Moore turned and walked away, the clot of reporters turning in unison.

"What was that about?" someone shouted.

"You'll have to watch CNN," Moore muttered and disappeared into the clutch of reporters.

Well, what was that all about?

Hemmer had interviewed Moore live on "American Morning" at least an hour earlier. Hemmer said Moore objected to a question he posed on air. Here's a transcript of that on-air exchange:

HEMMER: Let's move away from that. I've heard people say Michael Moore is the greatest living American.

MOORE: Oh, who are those people?

HEMMER: I've heard people say they wish Michael Moore were dead.

MOORE: Oh, well. Jeez, who would say that?

HEMMER: How do you take in the reaction that you are getting? And there is no one who is neutral after they see your film.

MOORE: Well, there's a -- there's that minority of Republicans and right-wingers who are upset, because they know their days of numbered. I'd be upset, too, if I were them. You know, they've only got a few more months left in charge. And so they're all running around, all saying crazy things like that.

HEMMER: The DNC did not invite you here, is that right?

MOORE: The Congressional Black Caucus invited me here, yes. Yes.

HEMMER: Enjoy your week.

The thing is, you'd think Moore would be in a good mood. "Fahrenheit" recently passed $100 million at the box office (see story) -- a key tally for any film, and particularly for a politically charged documentary that cost a fraction of that amount to make.

CNN's Kelly Wallace adds that Moore stayed with reporters for 2 1/2 hours after the interview. As some reporters left, others took their place. "This as other newsmakers were walking around the floor ... and no one seemed to pay them any attention ... such as former Secy. of State Madeleine Albright."

'It is very worrisome'

Posted: 1:28 p.m. ET
From Sean Loughlin, CNN.com producer, inside the Fleet Center

With hours to go before the Democratic National Convention comes to order, the scene on the floor is fairly quiet. It's mostly journalists milling around, checking equipment, doing live shots. But a few delegates are around, checking things out.

"I've been very involved in politics for the last six years," said Merle Lustig, a delegate from Phoenix, Arizona. Not surprisingly, Lustig needs little prompting to criticize the Bush administration. "We are going downhill fast, and it is very worrisome," she said.

But she is also realistic about the fight ahead, not lulled by the comfort of mingling with thousands of people who share who political views. "We live in a state that's very Republican," Lustig, 54, said. "We know what we're up against."

Hillary's busy day

Posted: 12:57 p.m. ET
From Todd Leopold, CNN.com

CNN's Judy Woodruff spoke with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) this morning in Boston. Sen. Clinton will be speaking at the Democratic convention tonight, but she'll be spending the afternoon in New York with a Senate colleague -- Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), who will be signing copies of his new book, "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency" (W.W. Norton), in Clinton's home state. Hope the planes are running on time.

Woodruff also asked Clinton about Teresa Heinz Kerry's "Shove it" comments to a Pittsburgh newspaper editor. (Full story)

"Look, who hasn't been frustrated by the media," Clinton -- who knows of media frustration -- responded. She added, "She's doing a great job."

The most important meal of the day

Posted: 12:36 p.m. ET
From Bryan Long, CNN.com

Unless you want doughnuts, breakfast in Boston can be hard to find. Many restaurant owners have closed shop because the locals are staying away from downtown and the guests are eating in hotels or the FleetCenter.

But there was at least one place to find something other than Boston Cremes. Near the intersection of Staniford St. and Cardinal O'Connell Way, not far from the convention site, passersby could get a free breakfast of waffles. The waffles were offered by a pair of teenagers -- one with blue spiked hair, another with a mohawk. Both were protesting Kerry's nomination with "Rock for Life." They're supporting Bush, incidentally.


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