Washington Prowler

Mean Over Miami

Kweisi, the two Johns, and Graham. Plus: Nancy and the Democratic Nine.

By 7.15.03

For Democrats their two largest constituents, at least when it comes to shouting over the crowds, are organized labor and a number of the far left race-based organizations such as the NAACP. Just how influential that group actually is became apparent Monday morning when after a weekend of name-calling and attacks by NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, Sens. John Edwards and John Kerry, who didn't seem in a hurry to show up, finally agreed to appear yesterday at the NAACP's national convention in Miami.

Behind the scenes, while Mfume was complaining about the great "affront" to his group by the two Johns, aides for Sen. Bob Graham were attempting to have the invitations to Kerry and Edwards rescinded. Graham was the big star on Sunday, despite having to share the limelight with Howie Dean, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton.

"This was an opportunity to give Graham a stage all to himself in some respects," said a Miami Graham aide. "This is his home state, he's been a friend of the NAACP for years, and while he enjoyed Sunday he would have much preferred to have their undivided attention all weekend."

On Monday Mfume continued carping about the Gephardt, Lieberman, and Kucinich camps for not making the trip at all.

Graham's staff at one point was telling NAACP organizers that Edwards and Kerry should not be extended any more courtesies, in part because all the presidential candidates had agreed to limit their joint appearances out of deference to the Democratic National Committee's attempts to set up a number candidate debates over the next year.

"Basically, we're just trying to help the NAACP keep their convention moving along at a good clip," says the Graham staffer. "Who needs all those extra speakers when the delegates have the lovely Miami weather to enjoy?"

The weakening of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has become apparent in the wake of the exodus of nine members of the Democratic caucus who backed the House Republican Medicare prescription plan in June. That bill passed by a two-vote margin, and the Democratic support sealed the deal when Republicans failed to keep some of their own members in line.

While those Republican turncoats are facing punishment to some degree or other, Pelosi is not moving against any of her nine recalcitrant underlings. "She can't afford to alienate anybody right now," says a House Democratic leadership staffer, who points out that under different leadership party defectors would have faced the loss of committee assignments or House leadership positions.

As it stands, the nine Democrats may lose financial backing for their reelection campaigns from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But given the DCCC's lack of fundraising under Pelosi's crony Rep. Bob Matsui, who knows how much money the nine could have expected to receive anyway? As it is, a number of the nine needed to vote as they did in order to back up campaign promises to their constituents. So by stepping out of line they may have helped ensure their reelection anyway.

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