Washington Prowler

Prepared for 2008

John Kerry is already running. Next stop: Iowa. Plus: McAuliffe starts from scratch. Also: Evicting Chairman Berry.

By 12.7.04

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REPORTING FOR DUTY
Sen. John Kerry and his Massachusetts minions insist he has not decided on whether he will run for president again. But actions speak louder than words, and when one does things like set up leadership PACs, and take time away from holiday celebrations to hang out with campaign volunteers and state fundraisers, one's intentions ring loud and clear.

Last weekend saw Kerry in New Hampshire thanking his statewide campaign staff and meeting with Democrat officials. This coming weekend finds the Man from Mope in Des Moines, Iowa, for yet another party with his supporters.

Kerry advisers and staffers say the events -- paid for out of Kerry's campaign coffers -- are nothing more than a candidate showing appreciation for the hard work Granite and Hawkeye Staters did for him.

"And besides, the Senator has to make a stop off on his way to Idaho, so stopping off in Iowa just made sense on so many levels," says a staffer. Sooo many levels, indeed.

Kerry is off to Idaho for some pre-Christmas skiing and snowboarding and holiday frolicking with his multi-zillionaire neighbors in Sun Valley.

"Actually, Senator Kerry didn't want to go to Des Moines to avoid the very thing you are trying to do," says a former campaign staffer. "This is not about 2008. It's about bringing closure in a proper fashion to 2004."

Kerry, however, isn't closing all doors. He has already made the decision not to bleed out completely his presidential campaign fund, keeping it up and running for at least two more years, according to sources. Moreover, he still has his Senate re-election PAC, as well as his new leadership PAC, to keep him busy and rolling in political influence.

BACK TO SQUARE ONE
Outgoing DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, badly burned by his 2004 Democratic primary plan to compress the election calendar, thereby narrowing a window by which the Democratic electorate could get to know the party's candidates, is once again forming a commission to re-evaluate the nominating calendar for 2008.

McAuliffe, according to DNC sources, has selected the members of the group and will announce them on Friday. The announcement is yet another embarrassing chapter in one of the darkest periods for the Democratic National Committee.

McAuliffe touted the 2004 plan as the best way for Democrats to select the strongest candidate in the least amount of time, ensuring that the winner would emerge with plenty of time to fundraise and perhaps with the makings of a war chest already in hand due to the short primary calendar.

Instead, they ended up with a flawed candidate who won the primary based less on his own campaign's successes than on the failings of his competitors and the fickleness of the mainstream media.

McAuliffe, who spent months ridiculing the unemployment figures of the Bush Administration, now faces going down as one of the worst electoral leaders in DNC history, having created countless new jobs for Republicans. Under his watch Republicans regained full majority control of the Senate by a 10-seat margin, widened their majority in the House, and won the White House twice. All of it nice work Democrats couldn't get.

QUITE CONTRARY
U.S. Civil Rights Commission Chairman Mary Frances Berry continues to insist that her term runs through January 2005. The White House, and just about every other sensible person in Washington, believes that the term expired on Sunday, December 5.

At press time, Berry was refusing to leave her post at the civil rights offices, sending out Democratic House member John Conyers to crib from talking points Berry supporters had provided his office.

Conyers apparently knows so little about the situation that CNN caught him on camera on Tuesday fiddling with his glasses while trying to read the talking points on air.

Berry might be defiant, but her refusal to leave may provide the Bush Administration with a watershed moment to reinforce the notion that the President means business.

According to White House sources, staffers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue met last Friday to discuss how best to handle the Berry situation. "We knew that she was out. We had the interpretations. We knew we could move on her and unseat her," says a White House source. "But there was concern about how to best get her out of the building. Because her term expired on a Sunday, we knew it would carry over into this week. We expect this to get ugly real fast, but we don't care. She has served her term. We will thank her, and she will be expected to leave. Now."

And if she doesn't?

"That is one reason why they have U.S. Marshals," says the source. "And we have been told that if we need to use them, we can. We will not allow this woman to hold this Administration hostage."

A forcible removal of Berry would become a rallying call to conservatives, who long have suffered under Berry's overt disdain for Republicans. In January 2001 she even conducted a post-election campaign against George W. Bush's win in Florida, belittling the President, Gov. Jeb Bush, and Katherine Harris.

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