Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry belittled President Bush while the candidate's plane sat on the tarmac in Topeka, Kansas, on Monday. After making his speech commemorating the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Kerry and his entourage were boarding the Kerry charter, then due to fly west to Oregon. An advance staffer for the candidate informed Kerry that they had to hurry and take off so that the airspace around the airport could be secured for President Bush's arrival.
Kerry refused to move quickly, instead loitering and refusing to take his seat on the plane.
At one point, Kerry asked reporters, "You mean, you're not staying for what's his name?"
"He seemed to be enjoying putting out the President's flight," says a Kerry staffer. "It wasn't mean-spirited. He just kind of got on a roll humor-wise and went with it."
Kerry may have been in foul mood from his speech. It was noted by a number of supporters who were standing with Kerry in Topeka that one of his biggest applause lines had actually been John Edwards' big applause line when he was running for president. Kerry had told the civil rights audience, "Today, more than ever, we need to renew our commitment to one America."
Kerry blamed his speechwriters for the oversight, and, according to a Kerry staffer in Washington, asked that the line no longer be used in his speeches.
ONE VOTE SHORT
Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle was said by senior leadership staffers to be furious with his colleague, Sen. John Kerry for missing a vote last week that would have extended unemployment benefits.
"We just got outflanked by the Republicans," says a leadership staffer. "Kerry knew about the vote. Daschle asked him to be there. We asked Kennedy to make clear to him how important we thought the vote was, but Kerry ignored them. He's basically no longer a U.S. Senator. He a full-time candidate."
The extension of benefits required a 60-vote majority. The bill failed by a vote of 59-40. The only no-show was Kerry.
Democrats were grumbling over the weekend that the vote was the first in what they believed would be a series of Republican coordinated votes that would highlight Kerry's absence from his job, or his waffling on positions.
"It wouldn't have mattered if Kerry were here, the Republicans just would have peeled off one of their own Yes votes to keep the vote a loser," says another Democratic Senate aide.
In fact, press reports on Monday had Democrats fingering North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole as a Republican who would have changed her vote from yes had Kerry shown up.
But while the vote was embarrassing to Kerry, after attempting to fashion himself as the candidate of the working man, or in this case the out of working man, Republicans said it wasn't a vote they necessarily were trying to concoct for political purposes.
"A one vote margin is cutting it pretty close," says a GOP Senate staffer. "No one wants to be playing with that kind of margin."
Republicans had been discussing ways to schedule votes that would force candidate Kerry, as well as other high-profile Democrats, to take positions on controversial issues, from anti-gay marriage legislation to renewal of portions of the USA PATRIOT Act. But according to several Senate sources, the White House expressly asked that they not pursue that tactic.
"If the Democrats want to believe there is a conspiracy, they can," says another Republican staffer. "They might be right. Then again, they might not."
Lady Stassinopoulos Moves On
Arianna Huffington is moving further and further to the left, now hatching plans to join forces with the George Soros-funded MoveOn.org and former Dean political strategist Joe Trippi. Besides web-based electioneering, the trio will be pushing the Kerry campaign to adopt a more progressive agenda.
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