Two of the Democratic Party's most famous (and, some would say, divisive) members will have prime speaking slots at this year's national convention. Republicans, meanwhile, are granting two of their convention's most coveted speaking times to relative newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger, the California governor, and to a senator who once tried to deny the presidency to George W. Bush, John McCain of Arizona.
Democrats organizing their July 26-29 convention in Boston have tapped two men with long histories of making such addresses. Former president Bill Clinton, the opening night's featured speaker, accepted his party's nominations at the 1992 and 1996 conventions. But he nearly derailed his political career in 1988 when his speech introducing the party's nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, droned on so long that the crowd roared when he said, "In closing . . ."
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) will speak on the second night of the convention, which many see as something of a valedictory for the 42-year Senate veteran. He lost his 1980 bid to wrest the nomination from President Jimmy Carter but delivered a convention speech that drew this Page One account in The Washington Post: "In a powerful speech that electrified Carter and Kennedy delegates alike, [Kennedy] transformed the spirit of this convention, lifted its sullen mood and reminded the party's factions that they can cheer and laugh together at the Republicans' expense. . . . Kennedy's stirring performance prompted a chanting, roaring arm-waving demonstration that went on for more than 30 minutes. "
The Democrats' vice presidential nominee will speak on the third night. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) will accept the presidential nomination on the final night.
The GOP's four-day convention in New York, starting Aug. 30, will feature opening comments by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and McCain. First lady Laura Bush, Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige and Schwarzenegger will speak in prime time on the second night.
Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia will speak on the third evening. On the closing night, New York Gov. George E. Pataki will introduce the president for his acceptance speech.
"I would not have voted for [President Bush's] tax cut, based on what I know. . . . There is no doubt that the people at the top who need a tax break the least will get the most benefit. . . . Too often presidents do things that don't end up helping the people they should be helping, and their staffs won't tell them their actions stink on ice."
-- Former senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), in a recent interview with Business North Carolina magazine.