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Inside Politics

Blog, Day 3: Wednesday, July 28, 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 great state of ...

Al Franken: Edwards wisely went with his "A" material.

Posted: 12:13 a.m. ET
From Todd Leopold,

When states cast their delegates for nominees, they often veer off their known mottoes and make reference to ... well, all sorts of things.

Among tonight's designations:

  • Arkansas: The most Democratic state in the South
  • California: Home of the world's finest public university system
  • Connecticut: Where UConn basketball teams reign as NCAA champs
  • Florida: A state that has labored under two Bushes for way too long
  • Hawaii: The most beautiful fleet of islands anchored in any hemisphere
  • Kentucky: Home of fast horses, smooth bourbon, barbecue and Muhammad Ali
  • Louisiana: Home of America's wetlands; a state that has sent more than 8,500 brave citizens to Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Rhode Island: The biggest little state in the nation.
  • Using the 'A' material

    Posted: 11:36 p.m. ET
    From Bryan Long,

    Comedian and liberal talk radio host Al Franken gave John Edwards high marks for tonight's speech, even if much of it had been used in the primaries.

    "I heard versions of the speech before and I thought it was great," Franken said. "You go with your 'A' material. As an old comic, that's what I say. Go with your 'A' material."

    Reprising the speech, and bulking it up with policy details, doesn't hurt Edwards because "his stump speech was his best stuff." Plus, most of tonight's television audience had never heard it before.

    "Unfortunately, America wasn't paying attention when he was giving his stump speech," Franken said.

    Readers write ...

    Posted: 10:21 p.m. ET
    From Todd Leopold,

    If blog e-mail writers are any indication, Rev. Al Sharpton's speech was a winner -- and almost nobody cared about the length.

  • "Is it a crime or a media faux pas to speak 10 minutes over?" asks Deirdre of Baltimore, Maryland. "This is a political convention, not an awards show! Heard Clintons, Obama, Gore, etc. -- finally I'm inspired!"
  • "GREAT JOB! Who cares about the timing? We don't -- give us energy and wisdom!" writes Phyllis of Peoria, Illinois.
  • "You guys are disgusting. ... Oh, Al didn't stay to his speech time, oh, Al didn't stay scripted. I put Al Sharpton's speech right along side Barack Obama's," writes Basile from Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Only a small handful of dozens of Sharpton comments criticized the speech. "I can't remember all my 71 years seeing lies and such hate. Sharpton really did it for them," said Jill from Queens, New York.

    Sharpton off script

    Posted: 9:16 p.m. ET
    From Bryan Long,

    The Rev. Al Sharpton raised the roof on the Democratic convention tonight with a rousing sermon that drew some of the longest cheers of the week.

    But CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider thinks the Kerry folks may be sweating more than cheering. Sharpton is apparently the first speaker to deviate from his script in a well-choreographed week.

    This presents two problems.

    Sharpton said that if Bush were president in 1954 -- the year of Brown vs. Board of Education -- then Clarence Thomas never would have made it to law school. Schneider said this line could be misconstrued. While Sharpton was attempting to make a point regarding Bush's stance on affirmative action, the comment could be taken to imply that Bush would have been a segregationist, Schneider said.

    The other problem is with the clock.

    Sen. John Edwards, and his wife, Elizabeth, are scheduled for prime-time network exposure. With Sharpton's long pauses for standing ovations and added lines to the script, the schedule is now a bit tight.

    CNN Senior Analyst Jeff Greenfield says, "Somebody is going to have to do fancy footwork to make sure Elizabeth and John Edwards get their prime-time shot ."

    The teleprompter operator wasn't happy either. Greenfield reported seeing him "desperately trying to figure out where Reverend Sharpton was going next."

    Buscemi: Showbiz and convention biz

    Posted: 8:57 p.m. ET
    From Todd Leopold,

    It's Steve Buscemi's first political convention, and he likes what he sees.

    The actor, who recently played a memorable if ill-fated role on "The Sopranos" (adding to a resume that includes "Fargo," "Ghost World" and "Monsters Inc.," as well as directing the forthcoming "Lonesome Jim"), praised the Kerry-Edwards ticket as well as the Tuesday night speeches by Barack Obama and Teresa Heinz Kerry.

    "I'm excited by the ticket, and to have a chance to see it (the convention) up close is attractive," Buscemi said. He added he was invited by the Democratic National Committee.

    Buscemi also maintains strong links to a former profession, firefighting. The actor was a New York City firefighter in the early '80s, and joined his old company for a few days after September 11 to help out at Ground Zero.

    "It means a lot to me that Kerry was endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters," he said. "A lot can be done regarding homeland security, making sure first responders are better trained and have better equipment."

    And does the frenzy of the convention remind Buscemi of anything?

    "It's not unlike a film festival," he said. "There's something really exciting about it. But I do think the future of our country is at stake. In that way, it's more than show business."

    Ohio over the top

    Posted: 8:06 p.m. ET
    From John King, CNN Senior White House Correspondent

    After debating for several days, the Kerry campaign decided to look ahead rather than back to the primaries in deciding which state would get the honor of casting the votes to put Kerry over the top in the nominating roll call.

    Iowa was the early favorite; it was there where Kerry turned around a stumbling campaign, winning the caucuses and instantly becoming the front-runner for the nomination.

    But for all the Iowa nostalgia, Ohio won out in the end for a simple reason: "If we win Ohio we win the election," said a senior Kerry campaign adviser wandering the floor Wednesday night.

    No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio -- and Kerry now leads.

    The Ohio delegation also got prime space on the floor, and one of the favored Boston hotels.

    Not that all of Ohio's luck has been good this week. Veteran Democratic activist Jim Ruvolo is heading the Kerry campaign in the state, but was spotted at the Sheraton concierge desk Monday night asking a critical question: if his luggage, lost by the airline on the flight to Boston, had been delivered.

    That '80s show

    Posted: 7:49 p.m. ET
    From Bryan Long,

    The Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered a typically thundering speech, mentioning Edwards' familiarity with "peanut butter sandwiches and Kool-Aid."

    Strangely, for those in the CNN booth, Gary Hart was roaming our suite. Jackson finished third in 1984, just behind Hart and Walter Mondale.

    Seeing Hart standing a few feet away with Jackson at the podium was a surreal throwback.

    Still running

    Posted: 7:22 p.m. ET
    From Elaine Quijano, CNN correspondent

    Sen. John Edwards spent most of the day in his hotel room. Just after 5 p.m. he and his motorcade packed up and left. He was wearing his running gear.

    Edwards ended up taking a run along the Charles River.

    Readers write ...

    Posted: 5:44 p.m. ET
    From Todd Leopold,

    Most of the comments we've received this afternoon have to do with three subjects: Zell Miller, Teresa Heinz Kerry and the Democratic message as expressed by Barack Obama and John Edwards.

    "Zell Miller sent me to college," writes Amy of Nicholson, Georgia. "The HOPE scholarship put him on the map. ... But to hear him praise Bush at the Republican convention will be too much. Shame on you, Zell."

    Karen from Maryland offers a second to Hillary Clinton's "You go, girl!" for Mrs. Kerry: "I am thrilled with Teresa Kerry after hearing her speak last night.

    And Scott from Glencoe, Illinois, doesn't see any contradiction between Obama's and Edwards' visions of America: "Edwards and Obama are actually preaching the same message -- the need to heal the divisions of America, because there is only one United States of America. Edwards doesn't say that there should be two Americas; his message is that there are two, but there should only be one. Obama's message is exactly the same."

    You're fired!

    Posted: 5:08 p.m. ET
    From Sean Loughlin, producer

    She was canned from the popular reality TV show "The Apprentice" and now Omarosa -- "I just use my first name" -- is doing what she can to evict the current occupant of the White House.

    Making the rounds of the Democratic National Convention, the would-be apprentice to Donald Trump was all smiles as fans greeted her, stopping her for autographs and pictures. Omarosa says she is now a political consultant in Washington and is active in a group trying to mobilize the African-American vote this fall.

    So who should be fired, Omarosa?

    "Anybody who has a job to do and hasn't successfully done it."

    Just to be clear, she meant President Bush, rattling off a host of areas -- education, Iraq, health care -- where she thinks the incumbent has failed to deliver.

    Democratic family feud

    Posted: 3:58 p.m. ET
    From Wayne Drash, CNN news editor

    Invoke the name Sen. Zell Miller around Georgia Democrats these days, and words like traitor, hypocrite and flip-flopper come fast and furious.

    "I think he's a disgrace to the Democratic Party," said Morris Powell, a member of the state Democratic committee.

    It wasn't always this way. In 1992, Miller -- a lifelong Democrat and then governor of Georgia -- strode to the podium of the Democratic National Convention, blasting the elder President Bush and praising Bill Clinton, the party's nominee. At the time, Miller said Bush "talks like Dirty Harry but acts like Barney Fife."

    Miller, whose Senate term ends in January, has since turned his fiery rhetoric on his own party. Last year he penned a book, "A National Party No More," and in an opinion piece earlier this month, he wrote that Democrats are "driven by a rabid desire" to defeat George W. Bush and seem "eager to say and do anything to tear him apart."

    Next month he'll deliver a major address at the Republican National Convention to praise the younger Bush.

    How does it make a Georgia Democrat feel that one of their own will address the GOP?

    "He's a traitor," said Linda Benschop, a delegate from Blairsville, Georgia.

    Drawing a blank

    Posted: 3:07 p.m. ET
    From Todd Leopold,

    There's at least one constituency unhappy with the Democratic convention -- cartoonists.

    That's according to Mike Luckovich, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Luckovich cartoonsexternal link [free registration required])

    "I wish I could find something intriguing," he said. "The Democrats are really on message. It's so disappointing. They're Democrats. All of us cartoonists are very frustrated."

    However, Luckovich loves John Kerry. Loves drawing him, at least.

    "He reminds me of those tall trees in 'The Lord of the Rings,' " Luckovich said. "I really like his looks. If he becomes president, he'll be fun to draw."

    What would Luckovich like to see in the convention's remaining days?

    "I'm looking forward to something funny to happen," he said. "Maybe Kerry in the bubble-boy suit."

    Small crowd, 'Small Town'

    Posted: 1:04 p.m. ET
    From Bryan Long,

    Mornings in the convention hall are relaxed affairs. Nights run late here, so the crowd before noon is sparse.

    This morning we were listening to a band practice a jazzy version of "Fly Me to the Moon." It's officially afternoon now, but the small crowd is listening to John Mellencamp sing "Small Town."

    It's nothing like the rush of the evenings here. At night, security is obsessed with checking every credential. You can't walk through a door, step on an escalator or cross the hall without flashing a DNC-approved badge.

    In the mornings, you're free to roam the building, within reason, once you've made it past the two outside security checks.

    I took advantage of the freedom and found myself chatting with ABC's Peter Jennings. He was very pleasant.

    I introduced myself as a blogger and he even made a put-down seem polite.

    "You bloggers are getting quite a lot of attention but lousy seats," he said.

    I wasn't the least bit offended. Perhaps it's because I'm sitting in the CNN suite with lousy seats instead of in the rafters on Bloggers Boulevard.

    Or maybe, it's just nice to have a conversation without the roar of a full convention hall in the background.

    Readers write ...

    Posted: 12:48 p.m. ET
    From Todd Leopold,

    More missives from the world at large:

    Dozens of readers praised Barack Obama's keynote address -- and the speaker, too. G. Daniels of Rochester, New York, said: "As a person of mixed racial heritage, there are but few times in life when both sides of me can rise up and cheer. ... While listening to the keynote speech given by Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last evening, I experienced yet another one of those times. ... I hope and believe many good things are ahead for this bright young man." And Anna of Huntington Beach, California, added: "Wow! While listening to Barack Obama, I forgot I was even watching the DNC and simply sat in awe of this smart, articulate, polished man. I was truly moved."

    On the other hand, Phil from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, points out a disconnect in Democratic presentations (echoed by Slate's William Saletan in this columnexternal link): "The Democrats amaze me. Last night Obama gets praised for his one America speech; tonight John Edwards will give his two Americas speech, and no one will connect the two as contradictory."

    Finally, Jo from Clarendon, Texas, wonders about the name of the Democrats' host arena: "I have heard the name of the center, 'FleetCenter,' over and over and over. Help me out here ... is the Boston Garden's new name derived from a 'Fleet' of naval vessels, or Fleet umm, (sorry), enemas? ... Just having had a lower GI, the Fleet product comes to mind much too often during this week."

    Umm, for the record, Jo, "Fleet" is a New England-based bank. (Here's the Web siteexternal link.) No offense to the makers of the medical product.

    Low traffic, no doughnuts

    Posted: 12:17 p.m. ET
    From Todd Leopold,

    Odds and ends ...

  • Where is everybody?: A chat with a bus company manager late last night confirmed the obvious: Fear is a great motivator when it comes to cutting traffic. Thanks to road closings, roadblocks, layers of security checkpoints (more on convention security) and general panic that the city would be impossible to navigate during convention week, most Bostonians have done the smart thing and stayed home -- or left town entirely. (Having been in Atlanta during the '96 Olympics, I've seen this before.) So traffic has been light. The downside for Boston businesses is that the convention hasn't brought the kind of windfall they were hoping for, as a Boston Globe story reveals. (The Boston Globe: Shops' dreams don't pan outexternal link)
  • Signs, signs, everywhere signs: They look great on TV, those thousands of signs and placards being held up by conventioneers. But when the night is over and the people are gone, most of the signs stay right here in the FleetCenter -- on the floor, to be swept up by the cleaning crew. So much for souvenirs.
  • Time to make the ... oh, well: I never thought I'd see the day. Yesterday morning, about 10:45 a.m., the Dunkin' Donuts shop in the FleetCenter -- a popular spot with North Station commuters, conventioneers and (especially) the media -- was completely out of its famed pastries. That's right, no chocolate frosted doughnuts, no blueberry muffins, not even a bowtie or one of those awful pink glazed things with sprinkles. The line of customers, some of whom wanted more than coffee, was justifiably shocked and stunned. Postscript: The Dunkin' managers obviously planned better today, as trays were filled to overflowing with dough products this morning.
  • Cool mountain streams: Bus driver Tom Keegan gave his CNN riders some unexpected entertainment this morning, greeting them with some mellifluous pluckings on his mandolin before driving us into town. Keegan, who's built a home studio and plays local open mics, used to be a corporate manager for a furniture chain until he decided to "de-stress my life" by trying a different line of work -- driving and a little bit of music. Thanks to his fine playing, he succeeded in de-stressing the lives of a few CNNers, if only for a few minutes.

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