Muzzling their disagreements is a talent Democratic officials have learned to practice here this week, but, Lord, sometimes it is hard.
When Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell stood on the podium Wednesday night, just minutes after Al Sharpton won waves of applause and standing ovations with an unscripted barn-burner of an address that ran well over its allotted time, the governor faced a moral quandary.
"After Sharpton," Rendell said Thursday in an interview, "I thought, why should I stick with this thing?" -- the scripted text on the teleprompter that had been cleared by the Kerry staff.
Rendell had been asked to talk about energy independence, one of his favorite topics, but the draft he submitted came back heavily edited from Kerry headquarters.
"You know presidential campaigns -- of course this one is no different [because] it's being done by [Bob] Shrum and [Tad] Devine," the same consultants employed by Al Gore and earlier Democratic candidates. "Everything gets polled, and clean coal energy polls well," except with "environmentalists who believe clean coal energy is an oxymoron." So it stayed in the speech.
But "wind and solar power poll as sort of goofy-type stuff, even though Europe's using wind power for tremendous amounts of energy." So out they went.
That was not the most painful edit, Rendell said. "They wouldn't let me use the line 'You know, our current energy policy was written by big oil, of big oil and for big oil,' but somebody told me . . . we have gotten significant money from the oil companies."
"I'm not sure that should have stopped us," the governor said. "But then I said jokingly to someone, this will be a litmus test of how much I want John Kerry to be elected, if I stick to the script. So I stuck to the script."
Looming in the Shadows
Ralph Nader was not at the party -- at least not in body.
The Democratic Party rejected his last-minute appeals for credentials to its convention here. But the independent presidential candidate was nevertheless there in spirit, haunting Democratic honchos looking forward to the November election.
Terence R. McAuliffe, in a briefing with editors and reporters from The Washington Post, said that whenever he talks to the longtime consumer advocate, Nader calls President Bush the "worst president in history." The Democratic Party chairman, sensing an opportunity, perhaps, said he invariably implores the candidate not to campaign, at the very least, in swing states. But Nader's answer, McAuliffe said, is always the same: No dice.
"I think it's all about Ralph Nader," said McAuliffe. Democrats blame the candidate for tipping the 2000 presidential election to Bush -- and fear his campaign could affect the outcome of this year's contest. McAuliffe said he plans to send lefty Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and former Vermont governor Howard Dean into those swing states to go after Nader, if Nader does not cease and desist.
Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry's campaign manager, played down the significance of Nader's third presidential campaign -- predicting that he would not win nearly as many votes as in 2000 -- especially if the election seems close.
Roll-Call Faux Pas
It's a tradition that stretches back decades: the roll call of states, when the individual delegations at the Democratic National Convention formally announce their votes for president -- and, in the process, mention something significant or at least interesting about their home states.
Most delegations played it straight. The North Carolina crowd, for example -- and not surprisingly -- touted itself Wednesday night as the home of vice presidential candidate John Edwards. Georgia took much the same approach, noting its favorite sons Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King. The South Dakota delegation did likewise, touting itself as the birthplace of George S. McGovern. But in a moment that must have made party spin masters wince, the delegation called the former presidential candidate -- now a symbol for many of outdated liberalism -- "the founder of the modern Democratic Party of South Dakota."
The California delegation, meanwhile, seemed to have trouble winnowing its list, mentioning, among other sources of home state pride: its public university system, high-tech industry, entertainment sector, the size of both its economy and its population, its farmers and the Sierra Mountains. D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams took the opposite approach, lamenting what his home town does not have: the right to vote in Congress.
Florida used its opportunity to bash Bush, calling the results of the 2000 election "a blow to democracy." The good folks of Nevada, meanwhile, after citing a number of the state's selling points, announced that it was casting its vote for "John Fitzgerald Kerry."
Oops. That would be John Forbes Kerry.