While the rest of the nation is still reeling from the comic stylings of the Bush twins, there are seismic rumblings coming from Nantucket, where John Kerry is spending the week and, apparently, stewing over his recent erosion in the polls. Sources tell Campaign Extra! there's a rumor sweeping NYC that the Democrat is shaking up his entire team, and that campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill may be out the door.
Campaign officials deny that, but the Kerry-close Boston Globe is saying this much:
"According to Kerry advisers, the candidate has been concerned
that the attacks by the organization Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have not
been effectively discredited and that the reason lies in strategic
missteps by the campaign to discredit the veterans' group - many of whom did
not serve with Kerry - and to move the media, particularly cable television,
off the story."
"Partly as a result, the campaign announced Tuesday that Joel
Johnson, a former adviser to President Clinton, will run the "rapid-response
war room" against Bush. Another veteran Democratic operative, former
Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, also joined Kerry’s press corps
on the road Tuesday night and will help shape the campaign’s message and
strategy at headquarters with Stephanie Cutter, who has been communications
director since November."
"Some Democrats outside the campaign said Tuesday that some
longtime allies of Kerry, like John Sasso of the Democratic National Committee, may begin exerting more influence in the campaign."
Inside baseball? Yes. But the game may be on the line, and it's only the 6th inning.
For some reason, we liked Barbara and Jenna A LOT better before they actually spoke. If you hurry to your set, the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization is still going on.
Campaign Extra! has gotten to the bottom, or close to the bottom, of the latest pool of muck in the the Swift boat controversy threatening to drown the whole presidential race. Two of the key players in the new flap are a Philadelphia power attorney and a fast-growing local company. And we now have, exclusively, the first comments since last week from retired Rear Admiral William Schachte, the man who's accused John Kerry of lying about how he won his first Purple Heart in December 1968.
Yesterday, a report suggested that Schachte's attack on Kerry's war record may have been motivated by ties to a lobbying firm seeking a $40 million federal grant for a company here in Philadelphia. The Washington Post article didn't mention that the firm where Schachte may have done some lobbying work -- Blank Rome Government Relations LLC -- is headed by the president's chief fundraiser in Philadelphia, Bush Pioneer David Girard-diCarlo.
But our mini-probe finds these counter-charges may have missed the boat. First, the background: Schachte -- a swift boat commander when Kerry arrived in Vietnam -- says that he, and not Kerry, was commanding the Swift boat on Dec. 2, 1968 when Kerry one the first of his three Purple Hearts. That contradicts what Kerry said about that night, as does Schachte's claim that the boat was not under enemy fire and Kerry wounded himself, which would make Kerry ineligible for a Purple Heart. Some Vietnam-era colleagues have agreed with Schachte, but two men on the boat with Kerry that night say Schachte wasn't even there.
Schachte, who'd only said before that "it was not a very serious wound at all," now says he'd been reluctant to come forward until he saw Kerry's version of what happened. But late Monday, the Kerry campaign said it had learned Schachte had been a registered lobbyist in a successful effort to get the $40 million grant from the Bush adminsitration for FastShip, a company building a marine cargo terminal here in Philadelphia. One partner in that Blank Rome lobbying group is David Norcross -- the chairman of this week's RNC. And the head of the outfit -- Philadelphian Girard-diCarlo -- is a charter member of Bush's "Pioneer" fundraisers who pledged to raise at least $250,000 for the 2004 campaign.
But while Schachte -- who was "of counsel," i.e., a consultant, for Blank Rome --may have been listed on FastShip's paperwork, there's no evidence he's done any actual lobbying. FastShip's CEO, Roland Bullard, told us last night he knew everyone on the project and Schachte was not among them. Friends of Schachte say he doesn't know Norcross or Girard-diCarlo, either. And last night, the Swift boat veteran sent Campaign Extra! a statement:
"I haven't done any work for Blank Rome in a couple of years, and had nothing to do with this contract. They are simply trying to smear my name. If Kerry was in command and received enemy fire that night, why hasn't he produced an after action report?"
Case closed? Not in the never-ending Swift boat saga. Stay tuned.
Donald Trump is so hot these days that everyone wants a piece of him -- TV viewers, bankruptcy lawyers, and now Pennsylvania's own Arlen Specter. With the RNC as a glittery backdrop, the Donmeister is holding a fundraiser (scroll down) tomorrow night for the four-term GOP senator at his posh Trump Towers.
Trump must be backing Specter because of his groundbreaking research in physics or his expertise on Scottish law. We can't think of any reason why the "Apprentice" star would be interested in Pennsylvania...except for that Philadelphia casino license the fiscally challenged Trump is now seeking.
Specter, in theory, has nothing to do with the casinos. Gov. Rendell -- Specter's former across-the-street neighbor who gave the future senator his first job -- has a lot to do with it. But Rendell and Trump are already good friends who (I'm not making this up) go to Beach Boys concerts together. Only the ace staff of the Warren Commission could sort this all out.
Yesterday, we speculated on whether anyone in the mainstream media would pick up on the poll by highly regarded Zogby International showing nearly half of all New Yorkers believe that the Bush administration knew 9/11 was coming and didn't try to stop it.
Now we have our answer. Aside from Campaign Extra!, it was picked up by Conspiracy Planet, a left-wing site called From the Wilderness, UPI (how'd they get in there?), Australia's Big News Network....and al-Jazeera!
We're waiting for a smart bomb to land on 400 N. Broad Street any moment.
Bush says America can't win "it" -- that all depends on what your definition of the word "it" is. In an unrelated matter, polls are showing Bush on the upswing. Meanwhile, it's Big-and-Tall night at the RNC, as an unblinking John McCain stares down Michael Moore and Churchill-comparing Rudy Giuliani backs Bush with the same enthusiasm he once brought to Mario Cuomo. But what America really wants to know is, 'What does Ron Silver think?'
Protest watch: Smaller, uglier. In bigger and uglier news, Charles Barkley seems to have squandered any remaining chance to become Alabama's first black Republican governor. Meanwhile, a blog alleges that far-right Va. GOPer Edward Schrock is Norfolk's first gay Republican congressman, causing Schrock to immediately pull out.
The DN takes on NYC. Riot Grrrl: Honk-ala if you love Cheri. Riot Boi John Baer parses Bush's "catastrophic success" in Iraq and his unwinnable war on terror. In Clout, Gar Joseph has a bona fide scoop on more trouble for the Kerry campaign in vote-rich Philadelphia: White ward leaders here feel dissed by the nominee. And Dave "Yes, He's The Guy on 'Fresh Air'" Davies has more inside poop on Ralph Nader's catastrophic success in Pennsylvania.
The road that one of tonight's key speakers -- Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele -- took to Madison Square Garden started with a sharp right turn right here, in Villanova. Not at the university, but at an Augustinian Seminary located in the Main Line suburb.
Steele is the nation's highest ranking black Republican elected official. He's also the focal point of a much lower-volume "diversity" push than in 2000 at the Arena Formerly Known as the First Union Center, when some attendees mistakenly thought they'd stumbled into a gospel tent. In fact, Steele -- whose anti-abortion but anti-death penalty views mirror the Vatican -- might work better as a pitchman to his fellow devout Catholics.
In 1981, he arrived in Villanova with every intention of becoming a priest. "Steele appears somewhat uncomfortable talking about his time in the seminary," the Washington Post wrote in 2002. "But to hear him explain it, he was there to prove to himself that he shouldn't become a priest. He left the seminary in 1983 after coming to what he called a 'simple' decision. 'It came down to "Am I called to serve the people of God as a priest or in a business suit?"'"
He won't be wearing a robe tonight.
Daily News readers may rememeber Joe Malone from last month's DNC. He's the conservative Republican and service manager from Bristol whom we chose as a citizen spokesman for "red America." Now he's back with his thoughts on the RNC so far. We have no control over the opinions expressed below:
"The images I have seen the most are the cardboard coffins and the raised middle finger. 1000 coffins representing the American military dead in Iraq, but absolutely no remembrance of the 3000 men, women and children murdered on sept 11th. most of these protesters could not even tell you why they were there. they are so intellectually lazy that they are more than content to regurgitate the swill fed to them by Michael Moore and other left wing hacks. their most clever rhetoric is profanity and there favorite response to people who hold different views is to raise their middle finger...ho-hum...bring on some adults...."
the networks chose not to cover the opening night. all three covered the dems opening night. they have disgraced themselves again.
john mccain hit a home run. he spoke of the challenges we face today and how this generation must meet these challenges for the sake of future generations. quite a change from the democrats constant dwelling on 4 months of kerry's life 35 years ago.
if the other speakers are as eloquent as mccain and the republicans stick to the themes of his speech, bush wins. the entire democratic party campaign is based on a vile hatred of george bush that defies logic and cannot carry kerry to the white house.
Anyone care to respond?
The staredown that just took place between John McCain and Michael Moore was the first actual unscripted moment of the 2004 conventions. If you weren't watching -- and who was? -- McCain called Moore "a disingenuous filmmaker who would have us believe that Saddam's Iraq was an oasis of peace when in fact it was a place of indescribable cruelty." Little did he know Moore would be in the house. Did the big lug have a press pass or something? And do you think McCain would have made the same comments had he accepted Kerry's offer to be the Democratic nominee?
Here's hoping the Democrats let in Mel Gibson in 2008. Or maybe Jesus.
UPDATE: We forgot -- Moore's writing a daily column for USA Today. He apparently caused a stir in the convention hall. A GOP consultant from Pennsylvania, David Welch, said, "He's a troublemaker. I think he's here to cause trouble."
By now, most pundits agree it was a mistake for Republicans to think they might somehow gain politically by holding its convention so close to Ground Zero (both geographically and on the calendar). But a shocking poll released today by the highly respected Zogby International shows just how big a mistake it was. It found that nearly half of all New York City residents -- 49 percent -- believe that some American leaders "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act." When the sample was broadened beyond the heavily liberal urban bastion to include all of New York State, the number only dropped to 41 percent. Some minority groups -- blacks, Latinos, and Asians -- were more likely to suspect some level of complicity, but 30 percent of Republicans also endorsed that radical point of view. Statewide, 808 citizens were surveyed. The poll was paid for by an advocacy group called 911truth.org.
It'll be fascinating to see whether this get picked up in the "mainstream media," since the findings are so far removed from the groupthink that's dominated reporting on 9/11. Here at the DN, we've been outfront in raising the unanswered questions of 9/11. This poll seems to show that -- at least in New York, where the most people died that day -- a majority of people believe the independent 9/11 Commission didn't put all of those questions to rest.
They say timing is everything, so we're glad to say on our first day there's some major political news out of Pennsylvania: The Commonwealth Court has tossed Ralph Nader off the ballot here in November. (He's appealing...the case, that is.)
The spin will likely be that this is a victory for Kerry -- maybe so, but actually that's not what the polls have been showing. In fact, that USA Today poll out today looking at Pennsylvania and other battleground states found that it was actually Bush who gained -- albeit by one statistically insignificant percentage point -- with the independent spoiler out of the picture. Unlike 2000 when some liberals backed Nader, we suspect the handful of remaining Naderites left are so alienated from the system they may stay home rather than vote for Bush or Kerry.
Are our friends upstairs at the Inquirer planning a major "scoop" on Jenna and Barbara Bush? Maybe. An online New York magazine story posted today describes an unnamed Inquirer features reporter's efforts to get any kind of news out of Sunday night's Roseland Ballroom “R” Party -- described as "a sorority mixer on a grand scale hosted by the Bush princesses, attended by a throng of unironic preppies."
While the "unironic preppies" cavorted to the music of the BeeGees (we didn't make that up), the reporters were corralled into a pen. "The reporter from the Inquirer, looking harried, a bit manic, was equally at a loss," writes Carl Swanson. "She denied she was on the Bush girls beat, 'specifically,' but said that she was hoping to get—well "'something, anything.'"
We'll look out for the story.
Finally, some real news out of NYC. The "other" Daily News is reporting this (scroll down) from a star-studded GOP party last night at Patsy's restaurant: "A restaurant source told me that a surprised guest was CNN anchor Daryn Kagan, who I hear is friendly with recently separated fellow broadcaster [Rush] Limbaugh." And, according to the article, our own Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum watched.
Mixed signals from some surprising places on who's actually ahead right now in Pennsylvania. Bushmeister Karl Rove, of all people, told simpatico Fox News anchor Brit Hume last week that the president is "maybe a little bit behind today" in the Keystone State. But that's not what USA Today says. It published a poll today showing Bush and Kerry tied here among "likely voters" -- 47-47 -- with Ralph Nader at 2 percent (if he's even on the ballot). The key fact is that when USA Today broadened the survey to include all registered voters -- including those with a spotty record of turning out -- Kerry suddenly jumped to a 6 point lead, 49-43.
All that gobbledygook simply means that Kerry probably wins Pa.... if he can get his people to bother to vote.
Valley Forge. Gettysburg. And now this -- the 2004 presidential race. Why does Pennsylvania always have to decide everything for the rest of you slackers? Since the media gods have declared us the ultimate battleground state, the Daily News is going to war -- with Campaign Extra! For the next two months, we're going to give you the race for the White House through the warped prism of cholesterol-soaked foodstuffs and losing sports teams that is our beloved Philadelphia. We promise that Campaign Extra! will be like no other news source -- fair...and dangerously unbalanced.
If you're a fan of "hairy, unwashed types playing bongo drums" like we are, then you need to check out today's installment of Riot Grrrl in the DN. And could somebody tell us who she is? No one's ever called ace columnist John Baer "Riot Boi," but he does offer a scary tour through GOPland. And Clout's Gar Joseph -- always a laugh riot -- tells us which celebrities aren't coming to NYC (Britney) and which ones are (Wayne, Bo). Hint: Click to find out just who the heck Wayne and Bo are.
The GOP convention begins. We've checked out tonight's Giuliani and McCain speeches so you don't have to. NYC protests are peaceful and frankly a little dull. Maybe that's because Big Brother is watching. Apparently confused, Bush ends up in New Hampshire instead of New York. He calls Kerry's war record "more heroic" than his own -- not a tough call considering he doesn't really have one. Laura Bush, of all people, is in the hot seat. So is Bob Novak -- couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Kerry campaigns about as far from NYC as humanly possible. Meanwhile, while some presidential daughters are famous for getting booze, Kerry's daughters are out getting boos.
This spring, longtime Philadelphia GOP activist Jesse Walters achieved a lifelong dream. The 48-year-old Walters, local treasurer of the leading gay Republican group, the Log Cabin Club, was elected as a full delegate to his party's convention in New York City.
But when the gavel sounds in Madison Square Garden, Walters won’t be anywhere within 100 miles. He’s decided to stay home because he’s so disenchanted with President Bush's performance. In a startling turn of events, the president of the Germantown Republican Club told Campaign Extra! he's voting for Democrat John Kerry in November.
Word of his resignation dribbled out slowly over the weekend. Since then, several people have asked Walters whether his decision had anything to do with Bush's support of an amendment to ban gay marriage. But he says there was no one "tipping point" – and that a lot of his dismay with the president is based upon his economic policies.
"I've been most disappointed, truthfully, about the deficits," he said. "As a fiscal conservative and a lifelong Republican, it seemed like a betrayal of what the party stood for." Since Walters told Philadelphia GOP boss Vito Canuso last week that he was resigning as a delegate, friends have greeted the decision with surprise. When the party confab was here in Philly four years ago, Walters was an alternate delegate, which called a "pretty heady" experience.
Walters said he's comfortable in the local party and has no plans to change registration. But his resignation is a blow to GOP efforts to increase diversity at the convention in NYC. About 50 of the 4,853 delegates and alternates this week are gay.
Unfortunately, Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth isn't the last of those "independent" advocacy groups, known as 527s, that we're going to see in the next two months. Campaign Extra! has learned the following 527s are also preparing to come forward:
South Philly Cheesesteak Makers for the Truth
Washed-up Southern Rockers for No Change
Not Too Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth
National Not-Gay Israeli Poet Alliance
Swift Boat Veterans Who Want the Truth But Can’t Handle the Truth
Cheney arrived at Ellis Island with his wife of 40 years, Lynne, and three granddaughters on a tugboat dubbed Liberty IV. -- Associated Press.
Does anyone else find the name of the ship ironic? Some people have been arguing that liberty's been on an IV ever since Bush and Cheney took office.
We think we'll wait for the ad by Tugboat Veterans for the Truth.
Yesterday it was Peggy Kerry – the candidate’s older sister. She took a few minutes to call Campaign Extra! from Center City before racing off to Levittown in Bucks County for the Falls Township Democratic Picnic. Peggy Kerry, who attended the exclusive Shipley School on the Main Line, is now nongovernmental organization (N.G.O.) liaison at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in New York. And she readily admits this whole John Kerry thing is her fault.
"I was the one who got him involved in politics, when he was in the third grade and I was in the fifth grade in Washington, D.C. [in 1952],” she recalls. "I made him go around the neighborhood selling [Adlai] Stevenson buttons." She's hoping this campaign turns out a little better than that one did, but worries that America hasn’t yet seen the John Kerry she knows. "People see him as being aloof, but I happen to see so much of that as shyness, that he’s really down-to-earth and funny and very spontaneous. That person doesn’t show up immediately."
Neither did Godot.