You know you have former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean in your pocket when he sleeps on you. Lately, on long trips, whether in a plane or in a car, Dean’s pillow of choice has been a purple silk jacket emblazoned with the logo of the Service Employees International Union. Reporters covering the campaign have spotted Dean sleeping with it ever since the union endorsed him last month.
“It’s almost like a security blanket for him,” says one Dean staffer. “He carries that thing everywhere. We’ll have to get a couple of spares so he doesn’t stain it too badly.
Apparently Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is feeling enough pressure from his caucus that he’s decided to get down in the mud like some of his House colleagues.
On Monday evening came word that Daschle had raided the offices of Rep. Henry Waxman and hired away Philip Schiliro, one of the California Democrat’s most senior advisers, to serve as the Senate Democratic leadership’s policy director.
Waxman, who has become the gadfly of the House Democratic caucus, recommended Schiliro to Daschle
Schiliro has also come highly recommended by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, though not to Daschle. “Hillary Clinton was looking at him for something, and Waxman tipped off Daschle,” says a House leadership staffer.
The bidding war, such as it was, was due to Schiliro’s reputation for down-and-dirty politics on issues from the environment to government oversight, and an ability to strategize on a caucus level.
Daschle has increasingly been criticized by his Democratic colleagues for failing to stand up to the Republican majority and White House. “We’ve been rolled almost constantly this session,” says a Senate leadership staffer. “The leader had to do something, or he was going to find himself on unsteady ground in January.”
It isn’t clear what Clinton wanted Schiliro for, but his work over the past year should give Senate Republicans a pretty good idea of what to expect. Schiliro directed Waxman’s calls for independent investigations of the White House’s use of intelligence material leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as investigations of the Bush Administration’s national energy plan and Vice President Dick Cheney‘s relationship with former employer, Halliburton.
As it stands, Daschle is on uncertain ground. He failed in a last minute attempt late last week to dissuade Sen. John Breaux from retiring, again angering moderate members of his caucus. Former Rep. John Thune is ready to take him on for his Senate seat in 2004. And Daschle’s upcoming book is said to be falling flat with booksellers. “The DNC is making a big bulk buy, but there doesn’t appear to be much interest otherwise,” says a DNC staffer, who added that the party is buying about 90 percent fewer copies of the leader’s book compared to Hillary’s.
CURSE OF THE MENINO
The Democratic National Committee’s decision to hold its national convention in Boston next summer is beginning to look like a huge mistake. DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe spurned superior facilities in New Orleans and Miami for the extra cash being dangled by Boston for using its Fleet Center. But, as is usually the case in such situations, the deal has come loaded with strings attached and other complications.
Perhaps the biggest problem is the small size of the building. Already, McAuliffe has been told by TV executives that Fleet is a confined space that will limit television’s ability to cover the convention. Print journalists who toured the facility last month were told most of them will have to operate outside of the building from tents or temporary holding areas.
Boston officials had promised a number of corporate underwriters for the event, but those companies so far have been few and far between. City economic development staffers have told the DNC that the downturn of the economy is mostly to blame.
“Still, a sucky convention isn’t the way to persuade the American voters that the economic direction of the nation should change,” says a DNC fundraiser. “And without money, we’re looking at a sucky convention. It’s to a point now where even we are praying for the economy to get better, faster.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is clearly growing tired of the DNC’s belly-aching, particularly about the lack of resources and local talent to draw on for the convention. Just this week, McAuliffe and Rod O’Connor, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, were talking about the cost of bringing in an executive producer and technical staff to produce the weeklong television event for the party. O’Connor has already held preliminary meetings in Los Angeles, Washington and New York about the production of the convention, and the party expects to hire someone for the producer slot some time in January.
But Menino wants to see local folk and companies brought into the production, and he wants to see the party spend locally, instead of in New York or Los Angeles. He has been telling local businesses to be patient with the Democrats, but appears to be losing his own patience, and is asking for a meeting with McAuliffe and O’Connor to discuss convention planning.
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