Convention Notebook

Election 2004 --- The Democratic Convention

July 28, 2004

Dukakis will be seen, but not heard

Don't expect to see Michael S. Dukakis at the speaker's podium this week. Democrats are trying to pivot toward the center to attract swing voters, and the former Massachusetts governor was trounced by the first President Bush in 1988 after Republicans branded him a weak-kneed liberal.

Republicans, eager to link John Kerry to Dukakis, have been circulating a "Dukakis Watch" during the convention, complete with vintage pictures of the former governor, and the pointed question, "Have you seen this man?" It notes that Kerry was Dukakis' lieutenant governor for two years.

But Dukakis says he's not disappointed to be excluded from the program, since Democrats aren't honoring any former nominees whose bids for the White House failed.

"Nominees who do not win do not speak," he said, smiling, as he led his wife, Kitty, into the FleetCenter last night. "Fritz and George and I will smile and wave, and everyone will cheer and that will be that," he added, referring to the party's nominees in 1984 (Walter "Fritz" Mondale) and 1972 (George McGovern).

Then, correcting himself, Dukakis noted that one former nominee who never made it to the White House did have a prominent speaking slot Monday night at this week's party meeting: Al Gore.

"But Al Gore won," he said.

Hoyer joins Young Democrats' Hall of Fame

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer took time out of his packed convention schedule to relax and joke with his younger fans yesterday, as the 18-to-35 set packed into a downtown bar to applaud Hoyer's induction as the first-ever Young Democrats' Hall of Famer.

Hoyer, who showed up more than half an hour before the award ceremony and chatted with students and young professionals drinking beer and munching on chicken, seemed to have a good time. He stayed more than an hour and gamely paused to high-five and pose for photos as he left.

Alexis Tameron, secretary of Young Democrats, thanked Hoyer for "always providing a space for young people." Hoyer, a former Young Democrats leader, gives financial and other support to the organization.

"Young people getting involved in politics is the most important thing," Hoyer told the assembly. "Why? ... We are plunging your generation into debt. That's what you're fighting for."

For Kerry daughters, few peers

At a breakfast with reporters yesterday, Kerry's daughter Alexandra suggested that just a handful of people could really understand what it felt like to enter the spotlight as a presidential candidate's daughter, then mentioned as examples the children of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, all of them Democrats.

Reporters waited for her to bring her comments around to the current first family, but Kerry did not until she was explicitly asked about the Bush daughters.

"Oh," she replied. "Those."

The older of the two Kerry daughters allowed that she had yet to meet the Bush twins - two recent college graduates now campaigning for their father, just as the Kerrys are.

Alexandra, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker, said she was looking forward to an "optimistic" debate during the campaign. True to her point, she wouldn't get near the subject of Bush-bashing documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 when reporters asked her about it.

Her younger sister, Vanessa, a 27-year-old Harvard medical student, demonstrated a similar caution. She even tried to say something nice about that other party.

"It's a miracle," she said, "But I have some Republican friends."

`When I say Bush, you say ... '

The Maryland delegation is having mixed success sticking to the convention-week mandate to avoid bashing Bush.

"I know we're not supposed to talk badly about Bush and the Bush campaign, but we like to do this little thing in Baltimore," Charline Gilbert, the president of Baltimore's Young Democrats, said before leading the Maryland breakfast crowd in an early-morning rallying cry.

"When I say `Bush,' you say `go'! Bush! Go! Bush! Go!"

Trading cheesehead pins for delegates' pin

Some look forward to a convention to hear great leaders speak. Others come to witness history. Then there are those who are out to trade pins.

Tom Kitchen, a delegate from Wisconsin, wanders the floor with a duffel bag full of buttons, badges and stick-pins.

"I trade on the floor for pins that I need," said Kitchen, 56, a teacher. "I pick up 15, 20 a night."

He makes and sells pins too, including the official one the Wisconsin delegation is sporting this week.

Being in short supply, delegation badges are among the most valuable. Kitchen has his eye on the Pennsylvania delegation's button. The Massachusetts AFL-CIO pin, with a picture of Kerry and John Edwards, is also on his target list.

As for what he's offering, the "big trading item" is a yellow cheese wedge-shaped pin that says "Cheeseheads for Kerry." Kitchen made a similar one for Bill Clinton in 1996; it is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Another potential favorite: a limited-edition button that Kitchen made for a delegate from Sheboygan, Wis. - self-described bratwurst capital of the world - that reads "Brat City supports John Kerry."

"I tend to stay away from the souvenir tables because they're all vendor pins - you can spot them from a mile away," Kitchen says. "Mass produced," he adds with a scowl.

Sarbanes gets a jersey from Dukakis

Dukakis served as host to Greek-American convention delegates, including his longtime friend Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland, at his Brookline home Monday night. The former governor presented Sarbanes with the jersey of the Greek soccer team, which surprised the world this month by winning the European Championships. It bears the name of Angelos Charisteas, who scored the winning goal for Greece.

Sun staff writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Ellen Gamerman and Riley McDonald contributed to this article.

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