In a “surprise” drop by — which, judging by the press-ready crew of interns who were waiting to greet him outside, was no surprise at all — presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry showed up at DNC headquarters for a private meeting late Thursday with DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and Kerry’s shadow DNC chairman John Sasso.
As casual as it may have been made to appear, the meeting was anything but. McAuliffe and Sasso have been warring almost constantly about the overall Democratic election-year strategy, as well as finance issues for the presidential campaign and the coordination of message for said campaign with the many Democratic interest groups with potfuls of cash to spend in 2004.
Kerry asked for the meeting after calls from Sasso complaining about McAuliffe. McAuliffe for his part has been a gentleman about it, keeping quiet and trying not to let Sasso’s presence at the DNC upset staff to the current leadership.
“McAuliffe is hanging tough. He doesn’t want to be figurehead. He thinks he knows what’s best for the party,” says a senior DNC staffer. “Let’s face it, what does Sasso have to show for his years of experience. The Dukakis campaign? I’ll take McAuliffe’s Clinton record over Sasso’s Massachusetts miracles.”
The makeshift rally at the DNC Capitol Hill offices were planned as a short newsmaker for a Kerry campaign that has found itself reined in by the death of President Ronald Reagan. “We needed to keep Kerry in the news and show him active, not out of sight,” says a Kerry adviser. “I guess you could view it as a slap at Reagan and the Republicans, but 24 hours from now it won’t matter. We’ll all be back in campaign mode.”
The front and center presence on Wednesday night of Rep. Maxine Waters at the congressional state funeral of President Ronald Reagan irked a number of Republicans and even some conservative Democrats. But given that the California delegation was put forward for protocol reasons, it was unavoidable.
According to a House Democratic leadership aide, Waters, whose utter contempt for Reagan is legendary, was asked to contain herself before, during, and after the solemn events in the rotunda. “The fact that we had to remind some members about their behavior given the national TV audience is embarrassing enough,” says the leadership staffer. “All we needed were Waters and [Pete] Stark acting up or making some kind of scene or mugging for the camera.”
The Democratic Convention in Boston is supposed to be the coronation of Sen. John Kerry as the leader of the party. And if he is to be elected President, it will only be achieved through the Herculean efforts of organized labor.
So it’s a surprise that Kerry has not been brought into the controversy that is threatening to derail the convention more seriously than it already is.
On Wednesday, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino filed a federal court challenge against union protesters who were refusing to work and provide services at the Fleet Center, where the Dem nominating convention is to be held.
This wrangling with local union members isn’t limited just to construction and delivery folks. Law enforcement, as well as entertainment-related unions, have been protesting in Boston and threatening work stoppages in July during the convention.
All of these local unions’ national organizations have endorsed Kerry, yet Kerry hasn’t been asked to become involved in the ongoing disputes, nor has he offered to server as an intermediary. But Sen. Edward Kennedy has, much to the frustration of Kerry’s Senate office, which apparently had been angling to get involved.
“They wanted to make Kerry look good, but if you’re in Boston, have a problem and want help, who would rather go to?” says a Kennedy Senate staff. “Senator Kennedy has a longstanding relationship with labor in Massachusetts and across America. Coming to him just made sense.