Washington Prowler

Crackup Symptoms

Kerry backers cut jobs. Edwards's BBQ blues. Kerry shows his cards.

By 8.6.04

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BIG BELLY UP
Talk about bad timing. No sooner does the Kerry campaign tout the fact that two of their biggest corporate backers are Miramax executives Bob and Harvey Weinstein than rumors are floated that the pair intends to lay off as much as 20 percent of the production company's staff for cost-saving purposes.

The Kerry camp played up the Weinsteins' presence on a list of 200 corporate executives supporting the candidate on Wednesday, just hours before Kerry held an economic summit in Davenport, Iowa.

"We had no idea they were laying that many people off," says a Kerry campaign source. "We assumed that with the success of Michael Moore's film, money wouldn't be an issue for them. It's embarrassing, but let's face it. No one is going to complain about a few Hollywood types losing their jobs."

Miramax and the distributors of Moore's fictional account of the September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath have pulled in more than $100 million from the film. They have already announced plans to distribute DVDs of the movie nationally before the November elections in the hope of swaying more votes to Kerry.

ALL YOU CAN EAT
Apparently John Edwards isn't pulling in the crowds in the South the Kerry campaign expected. The last couple of days, Edwards has been rolling through Arkansas and Tennessee to rallies and fundraisers.

But Edwards has also been stopping along the way to give his traveling press corps seemingly "casual" photo-ops.

While speeding through Arkansas, Edwards and company stopped in Devalls Bluff at a local eatery, Craig's BBQ. Upon entering the eatery to glad-hand, Edwards discovered that there was not a single customer inside. So an advance person dashed out and pulled every reporter and staffer on the trip into the restaurant so that the small diner would appear to be packed with people.

"The reporters with us don't seem to care how we do it," says a former Edwards advance staffer now based in Washington. "The dirty secret is that many of these guys are willing to help us get the photos and stories out that we want."

CARD SHARK
Foreign policy advisers in Washington and senior campaign staff on the road with Sen. John Kerry went nuts on Wednesday afternoon as they watched their candidate, while talking about his Iraq strategy, announce on live television, that "I have heavy cards to play -- I'm not going to lay them all out on the table -- no future president or no president should ever negotiate this in public. But let me tell you, I've got big cards to play to bring people to understand the stakes here."

"As soon as he said that, people were getting calls on their cell phones," says a Kerry advance staffer, who had helped get many of the CEOs involved in the economic summit in Davenport, Iowa, where Kerry made his remarks. "Everyone understood he'd made a huge mistake."

There has always been a concern among advisers that candidate Kerry believes he's smarter than many of them, and looks down on being prepped before public events. Staffers had thought they had turned a corner with Kerry when he allowed himself to be fully programmed for his appearance at the Democratic Convention.

"But then he pulls a boner like this. What the hell cards does he have?" asks an adviser in Washington. "The candidate has been told time and again not to engage in that kind of semi-detailed discussion. But he just ignores the advice and digs another hole we have to pull him out of. At some point, we aren't going to be able to do it."

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