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Press Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN during the election season.

Bill Press: Los Angeles is two conventions, not one

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- One problem with pre-scripted conventions: the lack of spontaneity leaves a vacuum that seemingly intelligent people fill with silly statements.

We saw and heard our share of silliness in Philadelphia. It continues in Los Angeles. Here are just three examples.

Republicans complain about equal coverage: Al Gore showed a lot of chutzpah in selecting Joe Lieberman as his running mate, but nowhere near the chutzpah GOP Chair Jim Nicholson showed in writing to TV networks.

Still stung by how few people tuned in to watch the Republicans’ version of “The Truman Show” from Philly, Nicholson begged TV chiefs to treat Democrats equally badly. Their convention should get not one minute more airtime than ours, Nicholson whined.

How ridiculous. The networks’ job is to cover the news. If Democrats make more news in Los Angeles than Republicans made in Philadelphia, don’t blame it on the networks -- blame it on the Republicans who produced such a boring event that most viewers chose to watch old movie reruns instead.

Democrats complain about Playboy Mansion: As if he didn’t have enough problems already, Al Gore had to invent another one: threatening Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California with excommunication until she cancelled her Playboy Mansion fund-raiser. Whoever gave Gore that advice should be fired.

The Sanchez event was scheduled months ago to raise funds for get-out-the-vote efforts in the Latino community, which Gore desperately needs. With so many fund-raisers taking place in L.A., nobody would have noticed this one if Gore hadn’t made such an issue of it.

Now he comes across as an insensitive white male beating up on a poor Latina. And a tad bit hypocritical, too, having accepted campaign contributions from Hugh Hefner over the years.

Besides, it’s just plain wrong to demonize Hugh Hefner. Playboy is no Sister Souljah. The magazine is tame, compared to the competition. And, for years, Hefner has opened the mansion to countless candidates, including yours truly, and many different organizations, including the Beverly Hills Garden Club, for fund-raisers. In L.A., the Playboy Mansion’s as controversial as apple pie. Chill, Al.

Reporters complain about Bill and Hillary Clinton: How can so many supposedly intelligent people get it so wrong?

As the Democratic Convention opens in Los Angeles, all the media pundits are wringing their hands over the big dilemma -- the same question you hear over and over again in print, on radio and TV: are the president and first lady stealing the spotlight from Al and Joe? Or, to put it more bluntly, why don’t Bill and Hillary get out of town and let Al Gore have his own party?

No matter how famous, all those small media minds just don’t get it. There’s no conflict between Bill Clinton and Al Gore here in L. A., because there are actually two different conventions going on, one after the other: Bill Clinton’s last convention and Al Gore’s first.

This past weekend, it’s been Bill Clinton’s show. And rightfully so. Personal problems aside, he’s wrapping up eight highly successful years as president. He deserved a big send-off, and he got one: raising more than $1 million for Hillary’s Senate campaign; raking in $10 million for his presidential library; meeting with Latinos and labor leaders; holding a sentimental reunion with long-time Clinton volunteers; playing golf with the mayor of L.A. For both president and first lady, it was a dawn-to-midnight flurry of schmoozing leading up to their farewell speeches to the convention Monday night.

Then -- even though most reporters won’t believe it till they actually see wheels up -- Bill and Hillary will get out of Dodge and leave the whole show to Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, who will have three days to do what they must: seize the moment, fire up the troops and tell the American people where they want to take the country.

Okay, enough silliness. In Los Angeles, the sun is shining, the surf is up, the sushi is fresh and the delegates are raring to go. Let the games begin.


Monday, August 14, 2000

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