Washington Prowler

Signs of the Dirty Times

Big Labor stalks Bush in Ohio. Kerry-Dean exploit security briefings. Also: Boston tear party. Plus: Bush’s Catholic moment.

By 8.2.04

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CHILD LABOR
Much was made over the weekend during President Bush's tour through Ohio of signs held up along roadways -- mostly by children -- criticizing Bush for failing to bring jobs back to the state. Ohio continues to lag behind the rest of the country in job growth. But many of those signs were painted in Cleveland and Cincinnati and delivered by AFL-CIO workers paid for by organized labor as a kind of guerrilla protest program that is trailing the President wherever he goes.

"If its jobs in Ohio, it will be lack of health insurance in Michigan or Illinois," says an AFL-CIO organizer in New York. "We've got it all covered. Everywhere he goes it will look like local protest and color. The Republicans like to brag about their grassroots organization. But they don't have anything on us."

Many of the "local" protests are being put in place by members of New York's Service Employee International Union local based in Manhattan. That local sent out more than 300 of its members across the country three months ago to begin organizing anti-Bush, pro-Democratic Party programming in about 15 swing states. It is those states where both Bush and John Kerry will be traveling the most. Those SEIU employees are garnering a full salary, plus benefits, thanks to New York contracts that allow union members to take extended leave without pay, but with employment protection. The union itself is paying the workers' salaries.

Bush ran into silent protests outside Cleveland and throughout some of the smaller towns that were part of his announced itineraries. Reporters on the busses didn't bother to ask those holding signs about their backgrounds, instead simply reported that the signs reflected disenchantment with the Bush administration's economic policies.

Meanwhile, Kerry was seeing different "handmade" signs along his bus route in Ohio on Saturday. In some cases, the signs featured small AFL-CIO flags being waved nearby by union members.

It's a frustrating situation for Republicans, as they simply don't have the enough support among organized labor to keep up with the AFL-CIO juggernaut that in essence has gambled its very existence on this election cycle. Privately, organized labor leaders will tell reporters and supporters alike that they believe a second Bush term will ensure the demise of organized labor as a political force in the United States.

"When all of this is done, whether Kerry wins or loses, members of our unions are going to be shocked at how much we spent on campaigns and politics this year," says the union organizer in New York. "People may go to jail over all of this. We're putting that much on the line right now for Kerry."

BOSTON TEAR PARTY
The numbers won't be in a for few more weeks, but Boston ended up taking a bath on the Democratic Convention, according to an elected official in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "The whole region got soaked," he says. "Terry McAuliffe and Tom Menino basically scammed us."

Some estimates indicate that Boston may have lost millions of dollars, and it isn't just the city that was on the losing end. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hotels, movie theaters, just about every outlet of commerce in the city may have lost money due to the convention.

"These Democrats didn't spend a dime in the city," says a restaurant owner in Boston's Little Italy. "Everyone was eating and drinking free somewhere else. No one was going out to dinner or lunch. This was awful. But it probably would have been the same if Republicans were here."

Perhaps not. In 2000, Philadelphia, despite a lukewarm welcome from a Democratic and heavily union town, was well into the black after Republicans left town, in no small part because Comcast, a local corporation, helped defray some of the costs for the city. Still, restaurants and bars across the area claimed to have made money off the GOP, and New York City is expecting similar results later this month.

MONKEY DEAN ON A STRING
Over the past 48 hours Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry received briefings from the Homeland Security Department and the National Security Council on the latest terrorist threats and what the Bush administration was doing about them. According to a Kerry campaign staffer, Kerry told aides the threats were serious but that they should not hesitate to keep attacking Bush on the terror threat and security issues.

The Kerry campaign then promptly put out former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who charged that President Bush was playing politics with the terrorist threat and in essence calling Bush a liar for raising the warning. Then, as if to complete the political hatchet job, the Kerry campaign put out a press release citing the latest warnings as a reason for the Bush administration to end its stonewalling and implement the 9/11 Commission's anti-terror recommendations.

Of the two actions, the Dean availability was perhaps the more irresponsible. Recall that earlier in the campaign it was Dean who refused to back off from statements that seemed to suggest he bought into talk that Bush had known the 9/11 attacks were coming. Over the past three months, Kerry's campaign has purposely put Dean out to make outrageous and irresponsible comments, fully aware that he is the red-meat the far-left base of the party is looking for.

BUSH'S CATHOLIC MOMENT
Catholics who complain that the Bush campaign isn't doing enough to reach out to them for votes will be watching the President's speech before the national convention of the Knights of Columbus later this week. Bush's address before one of the nation's largest Catholic men's organizations should garner national attention. It is one of the few times Bush is expected to speak directly to the Catholic vote, and directly attack the Kerry campaign's pro-stem cell research position.

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