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Saturday, July 31 | 4:45 p.m. ET

Pat Wingert: Before Kerry's speech Thursday night, a select group of Democratic Party bigwigs were corralled into a holding room in the Fleet Center to watch the nominee's speech--and await their cue to head to the stage for the party's big show of unity amidst a shower of balloons and confetti. The group included all the usual suspects: Democratic senators, governors, key congressmen, mayors, rising stars like Barack Obama as well as the wannabe nominees like Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich.

And watch the speech they did. They saw the salute. They saw Kerry gesturing and pointing. The problem was, most of them didn't hear a word he said. While there were two big monitors set up in the room, there was apparently no volume control to crank up the speakers. "There was some sound, but it was so faint that only the five or so people standing closest to the screens could hear anything," said one witness.

"There was so much noise from the hallway, that most of the people--60 to 70 people--couldn't hear anything." Tempers rose and the unlucky convention staffers on hand heard plenty from the confined. And with no print versions of the speech available, spinning turned out to be more challenging than usual. "When the speech was over, we were all in fear of our local press coming up and asking what we thought of the speech," said one top Democrat in the room. "because none of us had heard a word of it."

Thursday, July 29 | 7:50 p.m. ET

Eleanor Clift: Everybody has a favorite statistic that points to John Kerry winning the election. Here's a sampler from conventiongoers:

At a dinner organized by Clinton pal Vernon Jordan for movers and shakers in the party, Harvard President Larry Summers passed along the latest data on the all-powerful swing voters. Seventy percent think the country is on the wrong track, which means they are even more pessimistic than the electorate as a whole and could hand Kerry a decisive victory if they break disproportionately in his favor.

At the same high-powered dinner reception, New York Rep.Nita Lowey was telling partygoers that in her district in upscale Westchester County, Bush's approval rating has been cut in half from the mid-60s to 32 percent. "Thirty-two percent," she marvels, repeating the number for emphasis.

Florida Sen. Bob Graham told NEWSWEEK editors over breakfast that there are 900,000 Hispanics in his state compared to 700,000 four years ago. Those voters were 70 percent Cuban-Americans in 2000, and they heavily favored Bush. Today they are 40 percent non-Cuban, which means their voting patterns are more like Hispanics in California, and they'll vote Democratic. Kerry should therefore get 100,000 more votes from the Hispanic community than Gore got in a state where 537 votes determined the outcome in 2000.

James Carville, the king of spin, says Bush is down 30 percent among retired and active-duty military because of disillusionment over the Iraq war and the strain of extended deployments. He told NEWSWEEK editors over coffee on Thursday morning that polling in Colorado showed Bush down from an 82 percent share of the military vote in 2000 to 56 percent--a 30-point drop. Bush will be hurt in any state with significant military communities, Carville said, citing Colorado, Florida and even Virginia, a state that hasn't voted Democratic on the presidential level since 1964.

Republicans have nailed down white, high school-educated, blue-collar males, but the Democrats have postgraduate females, and they're a bigger slice of the electorate. Among opinion leaders, men and women who earn $75,000 a year or more, have a college degree and are certain to vote, Carville says Democrats for the first time are ahead in this group.

Carville acknowledges that Bush will do better among Jewish voters in Florida because of his solidarity with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. But even if Bush boosts his share by 12 points, it's an increased share of 3 percent of the state's population. "Bush will lose way more than 12 percent among active-duty military," says Carville. "Do the math."

The consensus here in Boston is that Kerry had better not lose. He's got the money, the enthusiasm of Democrats across the country and a boatload of statistics that put him on top. Carville shudders to think of the consequences of Kerry's loss for the party. "If Kerry loses, I don't know what will happen to the party," he says. "The rank and file will feel totally let down by the Washington Democrats." As for Bush, should he lose the election, Carville cackles in his inimitable way that Bush will be to the Republicans what Jimmy Carter was for so long, an object of scorn and ridicule. "We'll be running against him in 2012. They'll never be rid of him."

Holly Bailey: Inside the Fleet Center on Thursday afternoon, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs lost his cool. "Nobody will give me a straight answer," the rapper fumed. "These politicians! All anybody hands me is bulls--t! Just being here has made me more disenfranchised!" Combs had just emerged from an interview with Jesse Jackson for MTV, for whom he is covering the conventions, and was preparing for an interview of his own, his 35th of the day, with Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." In addition to his MTV duties, Combs is in town promoting Citizen Change, a group he recently formed to mobilize the youth vote. "I'm here crashing the party. Well, OK, not really, but sort of," Combs told NEWSWEEK. "I'm here to get the straight answer from politicians. I want to know where they stand on issues I care about, like poverty, for one." But so far, Combs, who had interrupted a vacation in St. Tropez to make the convention, had been far more successful at attracting hoopla than at getting the answers he was looking for. Dressed in baggy jeans, gleaming white sneakers and a T shirt that read in giant letters VOTE OR DIE, Combs navigated the tiny hallways of the Fleet Center's inner bowels with a 15-person entourage, including three beefy, stone-faced bodyguards, each equipped with an earpiece. Reporters and conventiongoers swarmed at his every step, while VIPs, like New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, clamored for introductions. At one point, the Secret Service intervened, ordering the rapper and his legion of onlookers to move on.

"I'm sorry," Combs said, shrugging. "What can I say? Everywhere I go, I bring the party." Later, in MTV's suite at the Fleet Center, Combs bemoaned the lack of "honest politicians," candidates, he said, that would stake out firm positions, no matter that cost. "I'm pretty new to this stuff," said Combs, who voted for the first time in 2000. "But, being here and talking to people, I feel like nobody really speaks their mind. It really frustrates me, because I feel like they are just spewing bulls--t and that just bores me." And with that, Combs stood up and glanced down at his diamond-encrusted watch, already five minutes late to another interview.

Thursday, July 29 | 6:01 p.m. ET

Richard Wolffe: Strange sightings, No. 4: It's one thing for Teresa Heinz Kerry to dedicate her convention speech "a tous les Americains, Francais et Canadiens," but it's quite another for the French to take her welcome seriously. The day after Teresa's multilingual embrace of the United Colors of Benetton, two notable Frenchmen were standing one step above the convention floor to hear John Edwards deliver his vice-presidential address. None less than Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United States. Before moving to the capital of the world's only hyperpuissance (that's a hyperpower to you and me), Levitte was caught in the crossfire of Presidents Bush and Chirac at the United Nations. Standing next to the ambassador, in an open-neck white shirt and dark blue suit, was Bernard-Henri Levy, perhaps France's best-known (and most stylish) intellectual. BHL, as he is known to letout Paris, is the author of dozens of books, his latest being a study of the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. But before you think the Kerry campaign is being endorsed by the perfidious French (or that Kerry was thinking of some Left Bank eggheads when he cited the support of foreign leaders), you should know that BHL is a big fan of America and a strident critic of anti-Americanism back home. Although BHL opposed the war in Iraq, he also told the Los Angeles times that the United States was "a model of democracy." So what did the great thinker have to say about the sign-waving, pop-loving, cheerleading version of democracy that we like to call the conventions? "There's more serious policy than I thought," he observed, before lowering his shades. Sometimes the shining city on a hill can shine too bright.

Thursday, July 29 | 5:25 p.m. ET

Deidre Depke: Political pundit James Carville is confident Democrat John Kerry is going to triumph in November. "If George Bush wins this election, it will be the signature political event of my lifetime," says the always-understated Carville. At the core of his analysis is an energized Democratic base: 68 percent of Democrats claim to be "excited about the upcoming election" versus 36 percent who felt that way in October,2000, according to Carville. (The GOP's numbers are 48 percent in 2000 versus 51 percent today). Carville also points to polling showing worries among voters that America is on the "wrong track" and that the Iraq war was bad policy. But no matter who takes the White House, look for a seismic shift in the American political scene, Carville predicts. He thinks disaffected voters, particularly those supporting the losing candidate, will provide the stimulus for a new third party, one built around a philosophy of isolationism, particularly in trade and immigration policy. At the center of the movement will be a "reasonable" politician, he says, not one of the "extremists" who have served as third-party candidates in recent elections.

Thursday, July 29 | 5:15 p.m. ET

Arlene Getz: John Edwards did more than just rock the party faithful with his message of hope on Wednesday night--he fattened Democratic coffers as well. By the end of the evening, the party had raised $3 million in donations from the Internet. That equals the Kerry campaign's previous record, when a similar influx of donations crashed its computers last month. Last time, Kerry officials said the spike did not coincide with any significant political event. This time, there was no doubting the occasion. Even before Edwards took to the podium, the Rev. Al Sharpton had wowed the crowd with a feisty speech ridiculing George W. Bush's efforts to woo black voters. Another highlight: an array of retired generals and admirals took to the podium to highlight Kerry's national-security credentials.

Internet fund-raising has played a big role in Kerry's campaign, accounting for about a third of the $37 million he received in donations last month and more than $56 million overall this year. While the media spotlight may have been directed on Boston, the GOP was trolling for funds online as well. "John Kerry and his allies will spend over $500 million in negative advertising and get out the vote efforts this election year," said a mass e-mail sent out by Vice President Dick Cheney to Republican supporters. "Will you help us spread the President's positive message and the truth about his record of accomplishment by making a contribution of $1000, $500, $250, $100 or even $50 today at www.GeorgeWBush.com/Cheney?" The time of the mailing: less than an hour after Edwards and his family had left the stage.

Thursday, July 29 | 4:07 p.m. ET

Holly Bailey: Meanwhile, with less than eight hours to go before John Kerry must cease raising funds for his White House bid, the campaign sent out another mass e-mail appeal for additional contributions this morning--this one signed by John Edwards. "If ever there were a day for you to give voice to the depth of (your) support for John Kerry, this is it," Edwards writes. Beginning tomorrow, the Kerry campaign will attempt to spend as little as possible over the next month, in hopes of remaining financially competitive this fall. President Bush will have a five-week edge in fund-raising over Kerry, as he can continue to solicit checks until he formally accepts the nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York next month. As Kerry suspends his advertising campaign to save money, the Democratic National Committee is set to unveil a reported $6 million in TV commercials starting this weekend. The ads, set to air in battleground states like Ohio and Florida, are being coordinated by the "independent expenditure" group of the DNC, a small unit of the party that is legally barred from discussing strategy and coordinating with the Kerry campaign or even with party chairman Terry McAuliffe. "Under the [McCain-Feingold] law, they can't tell me what they are doing," CcAuliffe said yesterday. When asked about this and other affects of the new campaign finance rules, McAuliffe simply said, "It's absurd."

Thursday, July 29 | 4:00 p.m. ET

Susannah Meadows: While John and Elizabeth Edwards were embracing on stage last night, Tom Powers went to work. The Waterloo, Iowa, firefighter in the neon mesh crossing-guard vest is the political whip of his 57-person state delegation which means he's responsible for making sure his crew is lifting the right sign at the right time. "I orchestrate the orchestration," he says. The signs--Powers estimated there were 13 that night alone--are coordinated by a back office, which calls down to phones on the floor in each section to signal the next sign and drags garbage bags full of them down the aisles throughout the evening. Thanks to Powers and the other whips, the hall was a red sea of tall, thin signs for Edwards by the time the candidate for veep reached the podium Wednesday night. At various intervals throughout the speech, Powers, like a conductor facing his musicians, waved to the delegates to raise their signs. The cheerleading, though, isn't coordinated by the back office. "It's something natural," he says. "It just happens." Powers also helps ladies to their seats and claps to the beat. When Edwards was winding down, Powers reached for another garbage bag he'd stashed next to a chair and handed out signs reading HOPE IS ON THE WAY, cautioning the Iowans to "keep 'em down" for now. Just then an event staffer scurried by and told Powers that Iowa was doing a great job.

Thursday, July 29 | 3:53 p.m. ET

Holly Bailey: On the morning after John Edwards talked up an end to "two Americas," senior Kerry campaign officials, including media strategist Bob Shrum, appeared at what was billed as an "in-depth briefing" at Boston's tony Four Seasons Hotel. The agenda included a preview of John Kerry's speech tonight, as well as a look at the campaign's strategy heading into November. Yet, as NEWSWEEK discovered, the talk wasn't open to just anyone. The only people allowed into the breakfast briefing were individuals who had raised at least $50,000 for the Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Wednesday, July 28 | 6:15 p.m.

Mark Hosenball: Frustrated and somewhat bored by the bland fodder delivered so far by the Democratic National Convention, the Republican Party's opposition research staff is focusing considerable attention on a more colorful, noisy, and controversial target: filmmaker Michael Moore.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the GOP's temporary Boston "oppo" bunker, installed in two upper floors of a building only yards from the security entrance to the Democrats' convention site, had churned out seven broadsides quoting inflammatory Moore pronouncements-like his comparison of Iraqi insurgents to early American revolutionaries-and noting evidence that the Democratic Party mainstream was embracing him. The GOP bulletins have repeatedly printed a picture of the corpulent documentary director sitting next to former President Jimmy Carter at an early convention session. An eighth GOP attack on Moore may be sent out later today. "By the time we're done we'll probably produce about 10," said Tim Griffin, the Republican National Committee's 35-year-old research director, a former federal prosecutor and veteran of congressional investigations into Clinton administration scandals.

GOP officials, who share their Boston office suite with a delegation of senior representatives of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, say they have been flabbergasted at the attention that Moore has been getting at various gatherings around the convention city. Moore appearances, booked into venues holding a few hundred people, have been jammed by crowds that are double or triple the available capacity. A substantial entourage of press and security follow him wherever he goes. At times Moore seems to be a bigger celebrity around town than any other celebrity-including the top politicians.

The GOP is trying out a Moore-style publicity stunt to promote its a new hip-documentary-style 11-minute video which uses short news clips to illustrate an apparent pattern of "flip-flops" by Democratic candidate John Kerry on the subject of Iraq. The video chronicles Kerry's rhetorical gyrations on Iraq: at one point in September 2002 the Massachusetts senator sounded almost like Vice President Dick Cheney when he told "Face the Nation" that war could be justified on the grounds that Saddam "might miscalculate and slide these weapons [of mass destruction] off to terrorist groups"; asked by Chris Matthews earlier this year whether he was one of the antiwar candidates, Kerry said, "I am, yeah." One sequence of graphics is covered with a lengthy cut from the saccharine theme song to the TV dolphin series "Flipper." GOP officials say they have made a pitch to the distributors of Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11" to distribute the anti-Kerry video as a "trailer" to the Michael Moore film. A Republican official told NEWSWEEK that GOP chairman Ed Gillespie personally phoned Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein to ask the company about distributing the flip-flop video. The GOP official acknowledged that Gillespie only got through to Weinstein's assistant, who said the Hollywood mogul was unavailable and would have to get back to him.

Wednesday, July 28 | 6:10 p.m.

Eleanor Clift: Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe says he doesn't want to scare anybody, but he's going to have 10,000 lawyers on the streets on Election Day. The Democrats are so paranoid about the Republicans stealing the election through ballot-box chicanery that they've trained an army of legal beagles to go into the battleground states to monitor every single polling place. "It's never been done before," says McAuliffe. Voting machines from the contested states were carried in for hands-on examination, and every ballot that will be used in November was flashed on the big screen to familiarize the lawyers with what the voters will experience. In 2000, the Gore team got reports on Election Day about voter harassment in Florida but they weren't set up to respond. "There won't be butterfly ballots," says McAuliffe, recalling the oddly configured ballot in Florida's Palm Beach County that prompted thousands of Jewish voters to mistakenly cast their ballot for Pat Buchanan when they meant to vote for Al Gore. That wasn't the fault of the Republicans. A Democratic county chairperson signed off on the butterfly ballot, which is now a collectors' item. McAuliffe has one displayed in his office along with a Florida voting machine. "When you see it for the first time and try to vote, you can't do it," he says. Four years later, voting in Florida remains problematic. New touch-screen machines don't provide a paper trail, so there's no way to accurately do a recount should one be necessary. Rev. Jesse Jackson suggests sending United Nations monitors into the battleground states. That would be scarier for a country that prides itself on being a beacon of democracy than even a bunch of lawyers.

Wednesday, July 28 | 6:00 p.m.

Richard Wolffe: Sometimes when speakers clamber up the convention stage, their words need a little translation. It's not that they're insincere. It's just that you might need a little extra context to understand every nuance behind the cheerleading. That was the case with Howard Dean on Tuesday night. In case you didn't see it on TV (and you'd need to be a political junkie to find it), Dean won a longer and louder standing ovation than any other speaker at the convention so far--including Bill Clinton. And that was before he started speaking. By the time he finished, he waved for so long that he looked like he might never leave. And in case you didn't hear it on TV, there were certain things the one-time front runner said that were not all they seemed. Here, as a service to blog readers, is a guide to what was left unsaid:

"Tonight, we're all here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." (Translation: I may have lost the nomination, but I won the debate on the war.) "I saw it in the 19-year-old from Alabama who had never been involved in politics before he got in his car and drove up to Vermont, because he didn't feel like he was being heard in Washington." (Translation: My volunteers believed in me, not Kerry.)

"They learned that politics was too important to be left to the politicians." (Translation: They learned that politics was too important to be left to Kerry.)

"Never again will we be ashamed to call ourselves Democrats. Never. Never. Never." (Translation: I can't believe you're nominating a senator who voted for welfare reform and the war in Iraq.)

"But this was never about me. It was about us." (Translation: This was always about me. Now it's about Kerry.)

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Richard Wolffe: Strange sightings No.1--Buried in the bag of goodies issued to everyone at the convention are some weird survival aids. Like a box of macaroni and cheese (with a donkey on the front), and a pack of Dunkin' Donuts coffee (what are you supposed to do? Suck on it? But surely the most bizarre is a small yellow book, with the compliments of the National Automobile Dealers Association. It's the Summer 2004 official used-car guide for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Are they trying to tell us something about Kerry's policies or are they just trying to help us find a way out of Boston?

Strange sightings No. 2--It's hard being Hillary Clinton. Reporters parse you're every word for signs of presidential ambitions. Fans prowl for any chance of a photo. Political rivals tread warily around you, unsure about whether to ask for help or shuffle away to the other side of the room. So why would you want to increase the public pressure you're under? Trailing Senator Clinton around Boston this week is a video camera unaffiliated with any news outlet. It's Clinton's own production, gathering pictures for a movie of the senator's week. Maybe it's to make up for the small speaking slot she was given on Monday.

Strange sightings No. 3--Kerry sailing across Boston Harbor with his Vietnam crewmates on Wednesday. Some things are better told as a war story, when you can fill in the pictures with your own imagination. Those things tend not to work as a modern-day photo op. The sight of a suited Senator Kerry standing on the deck of a water taxi is not exactly the heroic image of the young Lieutenant Kerry in combat fatigues. If you're trying to remind voters of Kerry's strength in Vietnam, it might be better to leave it to the bio movie for the convention hall.

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Ron DePasquale: When he arrived at Boston's airport this afternoon, John Kerry was greeted by his Vietnam crewmates, his "Band of Brothers." Before he accepts his nomination for president tomorrow night, he'll be introduced by Vietnam vet and former senator Max Cleland. But this afternoon, a different kind of group tied to Kerry's pre-Senate days met at a downtown law firm to talk about a lesser-known part of his career. Calling themselves Prosecutors for Kerry, they lauded his leadership as the Middlesex County first assistant district attorney from 1976 to 1979 and said that Kerry was really the one running the DA's office while the district attorney, John Droney, suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease). The prosecutors portrayed Kerry as a man of action and honesty. "Every one of us, as prosecutors, knows that juries want to know the truth," Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said. "The public is no different. John Kerry will tell them the truth." Reilly, who served in Kerry's position at the DA's office not long after Kerry moved on to private practice, said that Kerry had transformed the office. By exploiting a new federal funding program, Kerry expanded the office from 27 part-time to 90 full-time prosecutors. Kerry moved the most important cases along as fast as legally possible by creating a priority-prosecution unit. "One of the things that he did that I'm most proud of is his time what he did in the Middlesex District Attorney's Office," said Cameron Kerry, John Kerry's brother and a Boston telecommunications lawyer. One attorney who worked for Kerry quoted Shakespeare's "band of brothers" line to describe the old gang, but with that moniker already taken by another group of buddies, maybe Kerry ought to campaign with a Posse of Prosecutors.

Wednesday, July 28 | 5:00 p.m.

Jennifer Barrett Ozols: One of the hottest fashion accessories at the DNC is a timely new T shirt from French Connection U.K. (FCUK for short) that reads FCUK YOU ... I'M VOTING! Noah Rosenblatt, East Coast regional manager for FCUK, says the trendy fashion retailer handed out hundreds of the limited-edition T shirts to delegates this week. And another 100 of the shirts (priced at $34) were snapped up at a Rock the Vote benefit party at the store's Newbury Street location on Tuesday night that featured Everclear lead singer-and Democratic delegate from Oregon-Art Alexakis. The musician-activist played an acoustic set of familiar Everclear tunes then launched into a rousing rendition of the old Woody Guthrie classic "This Land Is Your Land," inspiring the mostly twentysomething attendees to sing along as they swilled their blue (as in Blue states--get it?) martinis. "It takes me back to third grade," said the (slightly older) president of Rock the Vote, Jehmu Greene. Still, she adds, "It's the perfect song for this generation--they're more engaged, more inspired." Take sales associate Lamar, who, at 24, has never voted before, but he says he's been so "inspired" by all the in-store voter activity that he's registered. (In addition to selling the T shirts, which are available online and in the Boston store now but will be rolled out nationwide after a similar unveiling at the Republican National Convention in New York next month, FCUK stores are handing out voter-registration cards and offering online registration through their Web site). But that might not be good news for Kerry. As of Tuesday, Lamar says he was not sure he would vote for the Democratic candidate. "I probably shouldn't be telling you this!"

Jennifer Barrett Ozols: The Democratic National Convention may not be focused on Bush-bashing, but that's exactly what it's about for groups like Punkvoter, whose political director, Scott Goodstein, came to Boston this week armed with a full anti-Bush arsenal--from the STOP BUSH T shirts to the AMERICAN ERRORIST bumper stickers to the "Rock Against Bush" CD, Volume I (which includes songs donated from The Offspring, Social Distortion and Sum 41, among others, as well as a DVD with short anti-Bush films). "We can have a bolder message than most progressive left groups," says Goodstein. And its audience is listening. The Punkvoter.com Web site attracts about a half million unique visitors a month. And the group has helped to register about 400 young voters a day through the Punk Rock Against Bush tour, which has had sold out shows in the West. The tour travels next to the battleground states this fall--just in time for Election Day.

Wednesday, July 28 | 3:50 p.m.

Jennifer Barrett Ozols: An estimated 15,000 reporters have converged on Boston for the Democratic National Convention, and nearly all of them are angling for credentials to see John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Fleet Center on Thursday. But there was a time when the presidential candidate wasn't so popular with the press. Paul Alexander, a writer who followed Kerry around for more than two years for his new book, "The Candidate: Behind John Kerry's Remarkable Run for the White House" (released just in time for the convention), remembers the "real lows" of the campaign when Howard Dean was leading the race and the tide had yet to turn in Kerry's favor. "In Iowa, there was no plane, no bus," says Alexander, pausing for effect. "There was a van." And the press corps? "There was me--and one guy from a local paper in Iowa." Kerry's come a long way since then, and few are happier than Alexander, who probably thought on that lonely afternoon in Iowa that not only was Kerry's campaign over, but so was his book project. "Now, finally," he says, "it seems like the party is behind him." Whether the book will be as popular remains to be seen. It's currently ranked 14,898 on Amazon.com.

Jennifer Barrett Ozols: First there were bobble heads, then action figures and now ...talking mice? Meet George W. Bushy-Tail and Hairy Kerry--the latest additions to creator Jay Kamhi's Spice Mice collection. The Kerry mouse comes complete with a large shock of gray hair and a VOTE KERRY button. It says "Where are the weapons of mouse destruction?"(among other pre-programmed partisan lines). The Bush mouse, wearing cowboy hat and s--t-eating grin, insists "I am the right mouse for the White House!" The president is not the only Republican rodent in the collection. Kamhi also released an Arnold Schwarzenegger version--The Mousinator--despite fears that he might suffer the same fate as the company that had marketed a bobble-head doll of the California governor. "Everyone warned me that Arnold would sue me for making this doll," says Kamhi. In fact, he did receive an envelope from Schwarzenegger after he sent him one of the mice--but it contained a complimentary note, not a lawsuit notice.

Wednesday, July 28 | 2:38 p.m. ET

Holly Bailey: One of the more exclusive parties this week in Boston was a fete sponsored by GQ magazine at The Federalist, a bar in the city's financial district. Among the attendees: director Robert Altman, actors Ben Affleck and John Cusack, former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi and nominee offspring Cate Edwards and Alex and Vanessa Kerry. "High Fidelity" star Cusack said he was a recent Kerry convert but insisted that once Hollywood and others really got to know the soon-to-be Democratic nominee, they too would be major supporters. "I think there are a lot of people who feel like they would vote for anybody but Bush because, let's face it, the current administration has just been awful for [Hollywood]," Cusack said. "But when Kerry gives his acceptance speech on Thursday, I'm confident that people are going to realize what a great candidate he is. People are going to really get to know him."

Wednesday, July 28 | 12:18 p.m. ET

Ron DePasquale: Boston's restaurants and shops were expecting to be rolling in money spent by conventioneers by now, but the promised bonanza hasn't happened, and many businesses are saying they will lose money this week. Massive security forces and road closings have scared away locals. And delegates, drawn by free corporate-sponsored feedings, have been a rare sight in the city's small restaurants.

An informal NEWSWEEK survey of 20 popular restaurants around town between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. found that a table could be had immediately at 18 of them. Business owners in the neighborhoods closest to the downtown convention site are reporting the worst losses. Down the street from the FleetCenter, in the Italian neighborhood of the North End, Taranta owner Jose Duarte said his business was down 75 percent, and that putting on extra staff, ordering extra stock and opening for lunch (it's normally open for dinner only) were all a total waste. "I got an entertainment license and hired musicians to play for four nights," Duarte said. "Maybe they'll play for me and my staff." Most reservations, made far in advance, have been cancelled, he said, and many regulars were nowhere to be seen starting on the Friday night before the convention. A sign of strange times: free parking spaces open all afternoon in front of Taranta, on a street where double and triple parking are the norm. At a press conference, Mayor Tom Menino acknowledged the disappointment of some owners. "Some are doing well, some are not doing so well," he said. And some might be wishing they had joined other locals for a week on Cape Cod.

Wednesday, July 28 | 12:12 p.m. ET

Brian Braiker: For those who can't get their day at the convention started early enough, Michael Wilson has just the thing: Political Grounds, "America's politically incorrect coffee." Wilson, CEO of the fledgling coffee company, is handing out one-pound bags of Kerry's Camelot Cafe ("Will the real JFK please stand up?" the bag's label asks of the Democratic Party's contender). Wilson says he is on hand "to let people know we're alive and well." A former diplomat, the caffeinated entrepreneur insists that his coffee is nonpartisan--there is after all a Flubba-Dubya's Campfire Coffee, named for the president; a Short Circuit 9 blend in honor of the Supreme Court, and, for the Clintons, Grounds for Divorce, among other brews. Political Grounds has pedigree to match its ambition: sitting on its board of directors is former Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr; Ben Kinchlow, former host of "The 700 Club," and Richard Childress, NSC advisor to both Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. Although the company's official launch will come in September at the National Press Club in the nation's capital, the company is based in that other Washington. Asks Wilson, "Aren't all great coffee companies in Seattle?"

Wednesday, July 28 | 11:15 a.m. ET

Daniel McGinn: Driving in Boston can be tricky at any time. The city is a jumble of streets designed long before automobiles came along, and its drivers are notoriously aggressive. But apparently it's even harder to navigate when you're driving a boatlike Ford Crown Victoria and pulling the "PantsOnFire-mobile" behind it. The motorized protest float, which transports an effigy of George W. Bush with lights and billowing orange fabric designed to appear as if the presidential posterior is aflame (if you don't get it, think of that old children's nursery rhyme), has been circling Boston's streets during the convention--and last night it was the subject of a close encounter with a NEWSWEEK reporter.

As I walked to the "T" after dinner in the North End on Tuesday night, the wheeled protest mobile came around a corner. The driver seemed unaware of how wide their trailer would take the turn; it came uncomfortably close to me. (A NEWSWEEK spokesman declined to comment on reports that I was jaywalking.) Since I work in Boston and am trying to be nice to this week's visitors, I refrained from yelling a vice-presidential-style epithetto show my displeasure.

As I walked away unscathed, I wondered how my family would have fared if I'd become the convention's first casualty. Does a "PantsOnFire-mobile" carry liability insurance? Would its deep-pocketed creator, ice cream mogul Ben Cohen, have picked up my medical bills? As the vehicle continues to circle Boston this week, I hope some unlucky pedestrian doesn't have to find answers to those hypotheticals.

Wednesday, July 28 | 9:28 a.m. ET

Eleanor Clift: Just as the 1960 election turned on religion, the outcome in November hinges on how well the Kerry "brain trust" handles the candidate's Catholic problem. That was the scary conclusion at a panel Tuesday about the "God gap" in presidential politics. Shaun Casey, assistant professor of Christian ethics at the Wesley Theological Seminary, made the case that John Kerry has a religious problem on the scale of what John F. Kennedy faced, and that the Bush campaign is exploiting this vulnerability just as the Republicans tried to do with JFK. Kennedy confronted his critics with a speech to Protestant clergy in Houston, a strategy Kerry might follow by talking directly to conservative Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians who perceive him as secular, anti-religious and an insincere Catholic who is faking it because the cameras are on, says Casey. What was challenged in '60 was not Kennedy's faith, but whether he could govern the whole of America and break free from the pope's dictates. The challenge to Kerry is about his faith, and his reluctance to talk about how his religious values tie into his political positions. The only thing constant, observed John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, is the Republican desire to use religion as a wedge issue. The panel pondered whether there is a "Red God" and a "Blue God" to correspond with the political leanings of the country. Moderator Michael McCurry, President Clinton's former press secretary, contrasted the attributes of a born-again, personal "Red" relationship with God to the "Blue" values of social justice. With Bush strategist Karl Rove vowing to attract 4 million more evangelicals to the polls in November, the God Gap has replaced the Gender Gap in modern politics.

Wednesday, July 28 | 9:25 a.m. ET

Holly Bailey: While Democrats have tried to keep Bush-bashing on the down low on the convention stage, attendees at Hollywood-heavy Creative Coalition party Tuesday afternoon didn't bother to hide their contempt for the current administration. People like coalition head Billy Baldwin, actors Jason Bateman and Alan Cumming and director Wes Craven spent the afternoon bemoaning the Bush administration's contemptuous relationship with Hollywood. "I don't understand how anyone could be a Republican in this industry, especially right now," Oscar-winning actress Ellen Burstyn told NEWSWEEK. When reminded that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a member of the GOP, Burstyn laughingly retorted, "He's an actor?"

Tuesday, July 27 | 6:04 p.m. ET

Deidre Depke: Look for the crew of the Swift Boat John Kerry commanded during the Vietnam war to play a prominent role on Thursday night: they'll be introduced to the convention before Kerry makes his acceptance speech.

Meanwhile, the campaign is aggressively recruiting volunteers from the ranks of Vietnam vets. They're being asked to do outreach to other vets, mostly on phone banks. So far, 200,000 have signed on. The Kerry folks hope to attract 1 million.

Tuesday, July 27 | 6:00 p.m. ET

Holly Bailey: After Bill Clinton's convention speech last night, the Kerry-Edwards campaign sent out an e-mail plea from the former president, urging recipients to make a final contribution to the soon-to-be Democratic nominee's campaign. "Last night, as I addressed the Democratic convention, I tried to do my part to advance John Kerry's campaign. Today, I am writing to urge you to do yours," Clinton writes.

Because Kerry has agreed to accept federal funding for his campaign, he will no longer be able to raise additional campaign funds once he's officially nominated. According to the latest FEC reports, Kerry has raised more than $185 million this election cycle, compared to President Bush's $229 million. Yet, Kerry has reported far less money in the bank--$38 million--than Bush, who reported more than $110 million cash-on-hand.

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One of the biggest attractions outside the Fleet Center is the set of MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," which is broadcasting outdoors amid the bars and restaurants at Boston's Quincy Market. More than 100 people yesterday had gathered to watch the live broadcast, waving signs and standing in camera range in hopes of making it on TV. "[Matthews] is a lot better looking in person," one female conventioneer said last night, as she paused to watch the action while on her way to an exclusive John Edwards reception at nearby bar. Even the competition is keeping an eye on things: Yesterday, NEWSWEEK spied a cadre of more than 20 CNN interns, wearing the network's "Convention 2004" logo T shirts, standing amid the outdoor audience. When asked what they were doing there, one intern replied, "I heard Jerry Springer might be here."

Tuesday, July 27 | 3:06 p.m. ET

Brian Braiker: Politics has long been fodder for late night comedy, so it should come as no surprise that the Late Show with David Letterman was prowling the FleetCenter floor this afternoon. But what began as a lark ended with the late night talk show's producer on the wrong end of a verbal smackdown.

Letterman stage manager Biff Henderson and a legal-pad toting producer were spending the afternoon cornering celebrities and passersby to ask them silly questions on camera, stupid human tricks being a Letterman-show staple. According to photographer Khue Bui, on assignment for NEWSWEEK, Henderson and his unnamed producer cornered hip-hop impresario-cum-activist Russell Simmons, as he was cruising the floor. As photographers descended, Henderson asked Simmons the stock silly questions--which we couldn't quite make out through all the noise on the floor--until the star began to bristle. "Man, are there any serious questions?" he asked the producer. "I don't want to be a clown."

The producer insisted that Henderson would ultimately get to a topic Simmons was more comfortable with. But when it didn't come, Simmons demanded to see the questions on the producer's yellow pad. When the producer demurred, Simmons canceled the interview. "He must have rubbed Simmons the wrong way," an Associated Press photographer said of the exchange, because before the press could get their tape recorders out, the hip-hop mogul calmly but loudly and repeatedly told the producer, on the floor of the Democratic National Convention: "You are a d*ck. You are a d*ck."

Brian Braiker: Looking and sounding like something out of Monty Python's Flying Circus, trombonist John Bailey shouts "No one expects the Leftist Marching Band!" Standing at the gates of the official DNC protest zone, Bailey is sporting a revolutionary-era waistcoat, shorts, sneakers and a hat that would look at home atop Paul Revere. Other similarly attired members of the 10-person marching band, carrying flutes, drums, a trumpet and a baton, fall into formation at the protest zone gates. With its mesh ceiling, barbed wire fringe and chain link fences, the protest zone looks more like a prison than a forum for dissent. "It's a cage match!" shouts Bailey as he prepares to launch his marching band into a rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In." The 15-minute impromptu set will also include "America the Beautiful," "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," and a bossa nova interpretation of "This Land is Your Land." As the band prepares to play, a military police sentry standing high above the protest space peers through his binoculars. And as the band begins to play, one of the two marching band drummers scowls. "We don't have to march march, do we?"

Tuesday, July 27 | 5:56 p.m. ET

Brian Braiker: Jes Richardson approaches the Democratic National Convention's notorious "Free Speech Zone" very slowly. You would too if you were dragging a 10-foot-tall papier mache Mahatma Gandhi. The giant likeness of the Indian pacifist is on wheels, carries a staff in one hand and holds a sign with the other. On the sign is a Gandhi quote: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." Richardson, who has brought the Mahatma from Mill Valley, Calif., is stopped by a Boston police officer, who tells him that Gandhi is more than welcome in the designated protest space, but he's going to have to lose the staff and the sign ... lest they become weapons.

Richardson, far from losing his patience, begins to disassemble Gandhi with a keen appreciation of the irony of the situation. "With the staff and the sign off, he won't be able to make a statement," he says as mobile local television news crews begin to circle. "He'll be in the protest zone and he won't be able to make a statement!" What would Gandhi do? "I have a feeling Gandhi isn't upset. This is life."

Brian Braiker: The Republican National Committee has an office about three blocks from the epicenter of the Democratic world this week at the the Fleet Center. Every morning at 10 a.m. the GOP holds a press conference, and every attendee and passerby gets a special Dem greeting. Leading the pack is a certain Mr. Hal E. Burton. "I love no bid contracts," he says from under his fluorescent orange foam 10-gallon hat. When he is not Hal E. Burton, a caricature of a Texas oilman in the Haliburton mold, John McMillan is in town to demonstrate with the Democratic National Committee, and he is wearing a snappy suit. His buddies, the group Billionaires for Bush, are toting a banner emblazoned with their logo and are wearing tuxedoes, top hats and dressing gowns. "Come to the Million Billionaire March on the Boston Common tomorrow," says one young woman in fake pearls and a swanky gown (Hal E. Burton concedes that "maybe more like 200" people will show at the demonstration).

One of the "billionaires" nearly shouts at a young Republican entering the building: "Thank you, sir, for putting up with so much for so little." Inside, RNC chairman Ed Gillespie is speaking to reporters, so is Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota. One Republican silently steps out of a building to hand out a photograph of John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee, wearing scrubs at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Fla. The Massachusetts senator is grinning under his turquoise headgear. He looks ridiculous. Clearly, this is war. Hal E. Burton breaks character long enough to wonder out loud which party has a better sense of humor. Taking in a passing bicyclist, though, he snaps back into mock billionaire mode and shouts "Haven't you ever heard of fossil fuels?!"

Tuesday, July 27 | 5:46 p.m. ET

Jonathan Darman: Boston's stately Back Bay is all about opulent decorum. The stomping ground of Cabots and Lodges (and Heinzes and Kerrys, too), it's the kind of place where residents worry more about finding a parking spot for their luxury cars than about dodging violent crime. So it was highly unusual today when, just after noon, police scrambled to stretch caution tape across Beacon Street and evacuate pedestrians at a decidedly undignified pace. The source of concern, police later confided, was a "suspicious package"--the kind of thing that police in this antsy convention town are on the look-out for at all times. So even in the face of a defiant pair of Laura Ashley clad mothers, adamant about getting their children home in time for lunch, Boston cops hustled to empty the streets, telling pedestrians simply, "you don't want to go down there." Moments later they were proven right as a loud explosion ricocheted through the summer air. This set tourists and residents in the area into a panic--could it be Al Qaeda? Some other kind of terrorist? Was this the possible terrorist catastrophe in the city everyone has been trying not to think about too much? Thankfully though, police soon began telling passersby that the offending package was harmless and had been destroyed by a large water canon (the source of the resounding boom). By 12:30 thing were back to normal--frisbees were flying again in the Public Gardens, cars were flying down Beacon Street and the Back Bay's Brahman composure was restored. No need to worry about Al Qaeda--but where to park the Benz?

Tuesday, July 27 | 1:52 p.m. ET

Brian Braiker: Free Speech-Free Zone? For all the passion invoked by the creation of an official protest zone at the Democratic National Convention this week, there is little actual passion within its formidable boundaries. In a space carved out under an elevated subway track, cement barriers, 8-foot-tall chainlink fencing, and heavy black netting mark the perimeter of the designated space a block from the FleetCenter.

Activists initially claimed the zone curtailed their freedom of speech--it looks, they say, like an internment camp. So they decided to ignore it. Protesters--Ralph Nader supporters, anti-war demonstrators, anti-abortion demonstrators, anti-gay marriage demonstrators, and a handful of folks embracing truly niche causes ("Rent Equals Theft" banners)--hit the streets in smallish numbers and with little resistance instead. The protest zone has largely remained empty.

The space, looking like an abandoned prison camp, was littered with signs ("Repeal the Patriot Act") and decorated by chalk writing ("Free Speach: Victim #2" ... presumably literacy was first). Standing in the empty pen at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning is Matthew Mernagh, in town from his native Toronto. He is determined to play the part. He waves at delegates and tourists who walk through the space as a convenient shortcut to the FleetCenter. "Do you know you're in a protest zone? Can't you feel it?" he asks one hapless family. "Think peace, don't vote for Kerry," he tells an elderly gentleman. Although Mernagh's demonstrating was done with a sense of the absurd, one group did manage to use the bleak space to attain the effect it wanted. One of the signs clinging to a cyclone fence beneath the barbed wire read, in simple block letters, "Palestine Always Looks Like This."

Tuesday, July 27 | 1:52 p.m. ET

Richard Wolffe: Here are some of the things you didn't see or hear from the convention last night:

1. The coulda-shoulda-beens coming face to face.

Al Gore and Howard Dean bumped into one another behind the scenes in what must have been one of the most awkward embraces at the convention. Gore was accompanied by his family, most prominently Tipper, who stroked his back frequently. Dean was walking solo, with no Judy to massage his ego. Both men were walking in opposite directions outside the exclusive skyboxes in the Fleet Center, five floors above the stage, where you'll find the CNN studio next door to a room full of big party donors. Of course there was a moment, one brief moment in time, when Gore was Dean's biggest backer. But last night, in an overheated, over-crushed hallway, they looked like they were thrown together by an unkind fate. One man thought he should have been president, but was robbed by the Supreme Court. The other man thought he should have been the nominee, but was robbed by Iowa. Both felt the convention should have been theirs--Al Gore's re-election convention or Howard Dean's nomination party. Either way, the atmosphere felt suffocating. Gore was so sweaty the back of his neck was dripping with perspiration. Dean, under a cake of TV makeup, wore his fixed (and spooky) grin. It was over in an instant handshake, as Gore dropped by another skybox party and Dean dropped by another TV interview. Both men still trying to move in opposite directions, even as they share the same footnote in the 2004 election.

2. Clinton, the conductor-in-chief

Amid all the reports of Clinton's foot-stomping speech, one detail was overlooked. Opposite the stage, facing Clinton as he looked up from the podium, is a giant digital clock. As the numbers crept closer to the magic hour of 11:00PM, Clinton raced his way through his speech. He spoke over the crowd's repeated cheers, rattled over passages that were personal, and trampled over his applause lines. (How frustrating for someone who loved to bask in the warmth of his loving fans.) Then, just as he entered his final section, Clinton slowed his pace dramatically. As he recounted a little American history, he was all pauses and earnest glances at the cameras. The clock moved to 10:58, then 10:59. And 10 seconds after the digits turned to 11:00, it was over. A perfect display of timing, of hearing the rhythm of his own words and the ticking of the clock. Such talents are rare, for sure. But Clinton's digitally exact performance also spoke volumes for his place in the party now. There was no way he was going to shorten his speech he had so much to say to shape the party's strategy and speak to swing voters. But there was also no way he could run over the strict time limits set by the Kerry campaign and by the TV schedules. He may be a strong voice in the party, but he's no longer calling the shots.

Tuesday, July 27 | 1:04 p.m. ET

Melinda Henneberger: At an Environment 2004 party on Beacon Hill Monday evening I ran into Francesco Rutelli, the popular former mayor of Rome, and asked him about rumors that he, a pro-choice Catholic of the Italian left, had nonetheless received communion from Pope John Paul II himself.

"Oh yes, this is true,'' he said, and asked to be walked though the controversy in the American Catholic Church, where some bishops have suggested that pro-choice politicians like John Kerry should be denied communion. "This is very strange for me,'' Rutelli said, "that you cannot be a Christian and also uphold the law of your country.''

"So, this is politics, too?'' he asked of the bishops, wryly suggesting that perhaps these American prelates were too far from Rome--and too close to Washington.

Melinda Henneberger: Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg didn't get the memo about keeping it positive this week in Boston. Greenberg, who been tracking Ralph Nader's support for months, told delegates at a briefing Monday that they need to get busy bashing their old buddy Ralph, because the election might depend on it.

In 2000 Democrats were hesitant to do that--with disastrous results, Greenberg said. "But you will see in this research that attacking Ralph Nader is a smart thing to do. The press may write some story about the left ganging up on him,'' but winning the White House is more important, he added.

Greenberg's research showed that, just as in the 2000 election, Nader is currently polling at about 4 percent. But only about a quarter of those who are leaning toward Nader today voted for him in 2000. Most who plan to vote for him this year are new supporters.

As a group, they are less liberal, less affluent and less educated than Nader's 2000 supporters, and tend to be "angry, anti-elite and anti-establishment'' - voters more interested in economic than social issues who feel alienated by both political parties and overwhelmingly oppose the war in Iraq.

Kerry has a shot at winning these voters over on issues like health care, civil liberties and corporate greed, Greenberg said. But the greatest danger where these key voters are concerned, he said, is if Kerry's stance on the war is seen as indistinguishable from President Bush's.

Greenberg advised Democrats to try these poll-tested attacks on Nader: He agreed with Pat Buchanan on an anti-immigration proposal in Arizona. He is supported by the Reform Party founded by Ross Perot. His campaign has received financial support from Republicans.

Not exactly character assassination. But among voters who heard these negatives, support for Nader dropped by nearly a third.

Tuesday, July 27 | 1:00 p.m. ET

Ron DePasquale: As Bill Clinton strode to the podium last night, I found myself sitting down to my laptop to watch his speech on the just-launched ABC News Now broadband web channel. Ordinarily I'd watch the speeches on TV, but my set--which dated back to the first Bush administration--died recently. So I decided to give ABC's broadband service a try (ABC News Now is also available to some digital cable subscribers). Although the Democrats have convened just down the street from Boston's North End, where I live, I might as well have been in Fargo--the ring of police and fences around the Fleet Center encases the convention in a cocoon. Word has it that Clinton gave a stirring speech, but I'll never know for sure. Every few minutes, Clinton's face would freeze, and little Clintonian squares would move around the screen, as if a jigsaw puzzle of Clinton had been dumped out and the pieces scattered. Sometimes, he'd keep talking normally as he was dismembered, but other times he'd start speaking in a scary alien voice that sounded more like a Star Wars creature than a smooth Southern pol. Clinton may have left delegates pining for the days when he ran the country, but I just missed my TV.

Tuesday, July 27 | 12:52 p.m. ET

Brian Braiker: Those who weren't lucky enough to be delegates, press, fancy guests or anyone else with credentials to the Fleet Center Monday night still managed to share in its energy. Not far from the heart of the political action, on Boston's Union Street, sits one of a handful of deeply political parties: the Bell in Hand Tavern. Billing itself as one of the oldest in the nation, the Bell in Hand was one of several Beantown bars that had thrown its doors and windows wide open last night, its large- and small-screen television sets tuned in to a former president. As Bill Clinton spoke, the crowd grew thicker. Inside the bar, it was standing room only. Outside the bar, with a clear view of the television screen, the crowd was three people thick. Stumbling upon the scene by accident, the casual observer would expect to see the excitable gaggle transfixed by a Red Sox game (this being Boston, after all), not a political event. But there it was, and the street crowd was pumped as any Sox fan by the time the former president delivered his jaunty closing lines: "Since we're all in the same boat, let us choose as the captain of our ship a brave good man who knows how to steer a vessel though troubled waters to the calm seas and clear skies of our more perfect union. We know our mission. Let us join as one and say in a loud, clear voice: Send John Kerry." With that, the gathering of people burst into smiles and applause. And then walked away.

Tuesday, July 27 | 9:41 a.m. ET

Eleanor Clift: Among the new faces the Democrats are showcasing is 33-year-old Stephanie Herseth, who narrowly won a special election in June in South Dakota, a "blood-red state," to use her phrase. Since taking her seat in Congress, Herseth supported President Bush in his call for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and she voted to strip the courts, including the Supreme Court, of the authority to consider challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act. These positions are contrary to party orthodoxy when it comes to supporting gay rights. But gay rights activists are not picketing Herseth, and the House leadership is not punishing her for straying from the party line. Democrats are in a forgiving mood. Herseth has to run again in November, and Democrats don't want to hand the opposition an issue to club her with. Besides, the issue of gay rights is intensely personal for Herseth. A member of her extended family recently came out of the closet, a revelation that so horrified a member of Herseth's immediate family that you get the feeling talking to Herseth that if she had supported gay marriage, she'd never eat Thanksgiving dinner at home again. "So yes, it's a hard decision for me," she says. "But I'm not going to take it out on South Dakotans who are not motivated by bigotry and politics. They're motivated by religious conviction, and I share many of those convictions." Asked if this is her least favorite issue, Herseth nodded affirmatively.

Monday, July 26 | 4:45 p.m. ET

Richard Wolffe: What does John Kerry have to do in his Thursday night speech (apart from accepting the nomination)? The conventional wisdom is that the senator needs to bond with the undecideds, convey something of his non-Senate life that makes voters feel they know him. Yet Kerry's advisers suggest that role is being played by other figures this week: family and Vietnam vets, for instance.

While Kerry is likely to hit those notes, his advisers say he's aiming to do something bigger: to make the case for change. Kerry's aides point to the 9/11 commission's report as a guide. Instead of focusing on what went wrong or who is to blame, Kerry is likely to talk about what needs to change to make America safer. It might not be warm and fuzzy, but it's Kerry's best chance to give swing voters a reason to get off the fence.

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Mark Starr: I wouldn't make too much of the fact that they booed John Kerry at Fenway Park last night. After all, Boston fans used to boo Ted Williams and he was the greatest player ever to wear a Red Sox uniform (and a war hero too). I think the booing meant a few things: 1) Kerry may be a homeboy and a Sox fan, but he is not beloved here. 2) It was a chance for the few Bostonians who actually snagged tickets away from the Democratic bigwigs to demonstrate their resentment at the intrusion this convention has turned out to be on our lives: the road closings, the searches of bags on the T, the enforced vacations when offices had to close.

The Red Sox left town last night, but most people would have preferred if it had been the Dems. 3) Finally, they were reacting to the crass politicizing of the game. Somebody should have been fired for telling Kerry to throw out the first pitch. If he really want to be at the game, he should have just sat like a fan, not turned it into another photo-op.

What's funny is after all the scare-mongering, the town feels deserted. I drove downtown early this morning to do a TV gig--Cold Pizza on ESPN 2--at the Fleet Center and there were hardly any cars on the road. Not your typical Monday rush hour at all. Had a nice view of Hillary checking out the podium for her speech tonight. Wonder if she'll wear a Cubs hat or a Yankees hat? The production assistant counseled me not to use the word "suck" on the air, as in "Yankees suck." I hadn't planned to, but it's hard to imagine, given TV fare these days, whom that would offend. After all, the spot after me was about a new movie with Halle Berry as a dominatrix. Or a superhero. Or both.

I managed to refrain from saying "suck." The interviewer asked me which engendered more passion, Yankees-Red Sox or Bush-Kerry. I don't even think it's close. The baseball passions are genuine, the political ones orchestrated. The only way Kerry could muster anything resembling how Bostonians feel about the Yankees would be if he had lost elections to Bush for the last 86 years.

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A Grid of Empty Boots: There is a new edition to the country's oldest public park today. In the center of Boston Common, a stone's throw from the Massachusetts Statehouse (and the snipers atop its golden dome), lies a perfect grid of empty boots. At the grid's periphery is a sign that reads "These 907 pairs of shoes represent the U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war." Each pair of boots has the name of a U.S. serviceman laminated and tied to the laces. It looks almost like Arlington National Cemetery, and that's the creators' intention. To the west of the grid is a pile of shoes heaped knee high. Next to this pile is a similar sign that reads "These 1,000 pairs of shoes represent a small fraction of the estimated 16,000 Iraqis killed in the war."

The shoes were set up this afternoon at 1 p.m. after the American Friends Service Committee received a permit from the city. "This is to illustrate the cost of war in Iraq, to make the cost clear," says Noah Merrill, program coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee. Conceived in Chicago, the "Eyes Wide Open" display has also made appearances in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and across New England. It was timed to be displayed in Boston during the convention. "This is about human suffering, this transcends politics," says Merrill. "We are non partisan; we are here because the world is watching the D.N.C."

The display is poignant and potentially scandalizing--the empty shoes are reminiscent of exhibits that have commemorated victims of the Holocaust. Some are decorated with flowers, others have keepsakes left behind by families. Master Sgt. Robert S. Dowdy's family left a picture of their fallen soldier and a note to the Quakers who designed the traveling exhibit: "Thank you for caring." Standing amidst the rows and rows of shoes, Molly Schlife, a Boston woman who stumbled across the display on her walk home, shakes her head and says: "It feels almost like holy ground."

Calm at the Kerry Compound: All was quiet at Sen. John Kerry's house today. The tony townhouse on Louisburg Square, in the heart of Beantown's swanky Beacon Hill, was barricaded, guarded by a state trooper and a Secret Service officer. It might have been a lot busier but a federal judge refused Monday to let anti-abortion groups demonstrate in front of the house and, for the most, people stayed away. Ted Brodek, 62, wasn't one of them. Having driven up from Atlanta, Ga., he was distributing the t-shirts he designed with friend, Randy Aronov. On a white background, the t-shirt shouts in bold blue letters, "John Kerry: Please don't make me vote NADER!" Brodek says he is convinced that the senator is going to win the election, and he has been largely supportive of Kerry. "On a lot of topics he is better than Bush, but on the war he has really tracked Bush," says Brodek (whereas Nader has called for Bush's impeachment for pushing the U.S. into war in Iraq on information that turned out to be wrong).

Standing there, behind barricades and about 50 yards from the presumptive Democratic Party nominee's home, Brodek and Aronov hatched a plan. They would head to Kinko's. They would print fliers. They would rally as many people as they could and convince them to congregate on Louisburg Square. Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm Mariah Williams, a passerby who happily accepted a free Brodek t-shirt, is all for the idea. An earnest Dennis Kucinich supporter, Williams came with her friend Ea Ea from Maine to attend a speech by the liberal Ohio Congressman. "We're trying to kick Kerry's ass to the left," laughs Williams in her new tee, making plans to return the following day.

Meet Swifty: No convention would be complete without a mascot and this convention is no exception. Swifty, "the official donkey delegate," was invited by the Kerry campaign to set up shop this week at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. Sponsored by the Boilermaker's Union, the Georgia-based purebred was initially slated to make an appearance on the convention grounds in the Fleet Center, but because of security concerns he was sent straight to the zoo. "This is by far the better deal," says Swifty's owner Morris Powell, who admits he was initially disappointed at being relegated to Dorchester. Now he's happy to leave his 10-year old jackass with the zoo while he, a fervent Democrat, hits the convention rounds.

It's worked out well for Swifty too, who also attended the Los Angeles convention at the behest of the Democratic National Committee in 2000 and even has his own business cards. "He loves the attention" he's been getting from kids and families, says Jo-Ann Baxter, a spokeswoman for the 77-acre park. While it may be tempting to think Swifty has got it made, Powell demurs. "I'm very proud of him," he says, but "the donkey don't have much to do between elections." If this election goes the way Powell is hoping, he believes Hollywood just might want a peek at one of those business cards.

--Brian Braiker

The Scene: The convention spirit is infectious. Even street people are getting into the spirit of things. A man sitting on a bedroll across the street from Boston Common made a savvy pitch for spare change. The sign on his cup: Homeless delegation... People making their way into the Fleet Center will face unprecedented security measures. Among the list of items banned from the convention site: knives, fireworks, explosives, pepper spray and... umbrellas? Convention organizers fear they could be used as a weapon, which is bad news for attendees. Rain is forecasted for the rest of the week... Sunday night, outside a reception for supporters of abortion rights, protesters circulated, yelling into bullhorns, waving signs with images of fetuses. Among the protesters: a man dressed as a carrot holding a sign that said "eat me." Maybe he got lost on the way to the pro-vegan rally.