BOSTON — On the way to the press filing center an entire hallway has been lined with the images of John Kerry. This montage is part of “introducing John Kerry to America,” a mantra his staffers here at the convention continue to chant. The picture the campaign is trying to paint is interesting because it is so transparently, crassly, utterly political.
Most of it is what you’d expect. One subtle portrait shows Kerry solemnly saluting in front of a huge banner that reads, “RESPONSIBILITY.” Another shows him tossing around a ball on an airstrip as so often is his wont. Several pictures show him at the NAACP conference that big, bad George W. Bush wouldn’t attend. And don’t forget the time Kerry pushed those kids on the swing at Little Big World Day Care.
John Edwards doesn’t make out very well here. Kerry’s staff has become so obsessed with letting everyone know who the Alpha John is that Edwards is reduced to a Dan Quayle double in the display. There’s little Big Man John Kerry with one arm around little Johnny Edwards and pointing at something off the distance. Edwards looks on with the joyful wonder of a small child on his first visit to the zoo.
Another picture shows Kerry jabbing his index finger at a confused-looking Edwards, no doubt explaining some complex issue to the guy Teresa has labeled the “beautiful one.” A final image shows the Edwards and Kerry families eating dinner together. Kerry is at the head of the table. At least Edwards didn’t have to go eat with the kids.
The picture of Kerry with John Lennon has been blown up into a huge ten-foot tall poster. There are images of Kerry’s famous 1971 Senate testimony from every angle possible. Seeing these pictures all together in one place really gives one a sense of how great Kerry’s hair was back then.
Kerry’s protest photos actually take up a good deal of the exhibit space, including Kerry in tears after throwing away his medals that turned out not to be his. In his defense, throwing away other guys’ medals is probably pretty traumatic.
THERE ARE ALSO a slew of Vietnam pictures. Yes, Kerry went to Vietnam. I’d heard several dozen speakers point that out, but was certain it was a mistake until I saw these images for myself.
There Kerry is with his Band of Brothers on the swift boat. But there are some more candid shots from that time period as well. For example, there is a picture of Kerry with his Vietnam puppy, affectionately named — I am not making this up — “V.C.” (Has PETA inquired as to his fate?)
In an interesting twist his campaign staff may not have anticipated, there is also a portrait of Kerry teaching some South Vietnamese folks how to use a movie camera. Perhaps Kerry was training a film crew to help him reenact his battles after the fact, as widely reported yesterday.
Two large pictures of Jim Rassmann and Kerry bawling their eyes out on each other’s shoulders in Iowa last January are prominent. Other images are clearly red meat for the liberals, like the photos of Kerry campaigning in the early ’70s with a less jowly Ted Kennedy. In another picture from that same era, there is a portrait of Kerry signing autographs for teenage girls. And, before that, there’s the photo of Kerry on a boat with the original JFK. Nearby speakers subtly reinforce this point by broadcasting Kennedy speeches.
There are a few surprises here, like the portrait of Kerry, George Butler, and David Thorne proudly holding the proof cover of Kerry’s The New Soldier in 1971, a book he has spent considerable effort to distance himself from. And who knew so many pictures existed from Kerry’s youth? There’s Mr. Long Face playing hockey. Here he is playing bass with his prep school rock band, The Electras. And there he is with the Yale debate team, learning to take both sides of every issue.
Bush Free Zone
The other day, I attended the Women Against Bush (WAB) gala event. I got lost looking for the dessert shop where it was being held, and so I didn’t observe the address by Arianna Huffington, which, I was informed by some guests, had been “empowering” and “inspirational.” Sorry I missed it because it must have been completely unlike any speech she had ever given.
Anyway, WABers lived up to their group’s sassy moniker and then some. The group was selling merchandise to raise money to oust Bush, including thong underwear that read, “Bush Free Zone,” boxers that urged, “Rise Up Against Bush,” and bumper stickers that read, “High Maintenance Women Demand More From A President.”
The group’s president, Caryn Schenewerk, dressed elegantly in a strapless black dress with two strings of pearls, was gregarious enough, as were the other WAB staffers, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was trapped in a strategy session of disgruntled Hillary Clinton interns.
I looked at the group’s sign-up sheet. “Wanted: Fun, fashionable, fed-up women whose bras are too attractive to burn. Prefer brunching to brow-beating, but willing to throw their cocktails in the face of oppression, sexism, and the lies that make up compassionate conservatism. Pull up a stool. We’re the women you’ve been looking for.”
The guys who had showed up were playing the sensitive male routine to the nines. Lots of thoughtful stroking of chin stubble, thick rimmed glasses, and turtleneck sweaters.
“Any woman who votes for Bush just doesn’t know the facts,” I heard one of these groveling sissy boys remark as I was making to leave. The woman he was talking to nodded enthusiastically, marveling at his sensitivity and understanding. Oh, get a room already!, I wanted to shout, but then thought better of it.
On my way to the convention yesterday, I met a young man who embodies so many of the traits that make our nation great. No foolin’.
“Hey, are you a Democrat?” he asked as he bounded up to me. He was wearing a winter jacket in the summer heat, always a good sign.
“Nope,” I said. “I’m a reporter.”
“Cool. I’m a rapper. My name is Intergalactic. How you doing?”
I told him I was lost.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’m homeless. I’m on my way to get a job. On the subway. I’d rather rap, but I’m homeless. I can prove it.” With that he pulled out a slip from a homeless shelter.
“Got some cash?” he asked. I hesitated. “I’ll rap for cash,” he offered. “I’m crazy hot.”
I thought about it for a second and decided I haven’t been doing my part for the arts lately. I pulled out a five dollar bill.
“Go for it,” I said.
“You may be lost/least there’s no frost. You may try/still you gonna die. You might think you’re in trouble again/least you ain’t no Republican.”
“Hold on,” I said. “No political stuff. I hate political raps.”
“I can do a rap about you,” he said. I nodded for him to continue.
“I’m so lucky I met this stupid white boy.”
“Hold on. Stupid?”
“Stupid in the ghetto is good. You didn’t know that? It means dope. I thought even white boys knew that. Don’t you got no Eminem records? Where you from anyway?”
“No,” I said. “I’m from New Hampshire. No cow jokes. Keep going.”
“I’m so lucky I met this stupid white boy/He ain’t just grampa’s toy/when girls see him they holla ‘Oh boy!’/he gave me money when I got no job/now I can ride the subway today/ which is dope cause my legs is tired.”
I figured that was enough, so I waved him off and gave him his five bucks.
“Thanks man, this is so great,” he said. “I knew a Democrat would set me up.”
“I’m not a Democrat,” I said.
“You are to me,” he said, as he headed for the subway.