Jewish World Review July 27, 2004/ 9 Menachem-Av, 5764

Wesley Pruden

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An unconventional Ladies' Day | BOSTON — Opening night was set aside to show off the ladies, but a couple of them couldn't wait. Monsieur Kerry and his nervous wise men were not amused, but the rest of us were. The loose lips that sink ships and political campaigns were all that kept us awake on Day One.

By the time the party's most famous "wife of" stood up last night to stand by her man with the most eagerly awaited introduction of the season, the dance cards of the 15,000 reporters, editors, pundits, bloggers, interns, researchers and other expendables accredited to the Democratic National Convention were almost full.

Hillary, you might not be surprised to hear, had some nice things to say about Bill. "Nice," in fact, is the mantra this week in Boston. But for impolitic remarks of Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of John Edwards' running mate, and Christie Vilsack, the wife of the governor of Iowa, there was no "news" in a time and place when no news is definitely not good news for the pooperazzi.

Tact, after all, is not necessarily a requirement in wives, political or not, and when you're as rich as Teresa Heinz Kerry (or is it Teresa Kerry Heinz?) and as blond and fetching as Christie Vilsack, you can say pretty much what you want to and the old man will keep his irritation to himself.

Mrs. Kerry Heinz started the day with the news of a little lecture on civility and how sad it is that nobody is polite in politics any longer, that all everyone wants to do is call names and say naughty things. "We need to turn back some of the creeping un-Pennsylvanian and sometimes un-American traits that are coming into our politics," she told the Pennsylvania delegation. Her remarks, like the remarks of everyone else this week in Boston, were (too bad for her) captured on countless tape recorders, video cameras, cell phones and other electronic gizmos lying in wait everywhere.

But when a correspondent for a Pittsburgh newspaper pressed her afterward to identify the purveyors of "un-American traits," she insisted that she had never said anything about "un-American." When the newspaperman persisted, she told him angrily: "You said something I didn't say, now shove it."

Soon enough her remarks were shoved into print and put on both air and Internet, and Monsieur Kerry could only say that she was his wife, by golly, and there are 57 varieties of reasons why he loves her.

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Before that ink was dry, the playfully irreverent Boston Herald revealed on Page One that it had dug up a 10-year-old newspaper clipping reporting that Christie Vilsack, who was once the English teacher that every red-blooded boy fantasizes about being taken to the cloakroom by, had sneered that blacks, Southerners and people from New Jersey speak slovenly or slurred variations of the language that someone from the Iowa cornfields can't understand. No doubt true, but it's something you can't afford to get caught saying at a convention of Democrats, and certainly not in Boston, where pinched-souled preachers of a sour piety of self-righteousness first invented the creed of the politically correct.

No one would ever mistake either Teresa or Christie for the fat lady, but their singing nevertheless spoiled the music of the convention, which is meant to be soft, soothing and something in a lullaby. No hip, no hop, no be- or bop, and nothing to rock. All strings and no drums.

The Kerry men running the convention, carefully vetting speeches, will allow criticism but only as a subtle "or indirect" dig at George W. Bush. "Red meat," speakers were told, "won't be served at this convention." (You can call George W. a serial killer, but not a child molester. Save that for later.)

Even Teddy Kennedy, the master of the smear from the left, was recruited to put in a good word for cooling the rhetoric. "Attack wins in some cases," he said, "but you don't win presidential elections with it because people are tired of it."

But "nice" can't survive long. Al Gore warmed up for the campaign over the weekend in Washington with a denunciation of George W. as "like Nixon," attended by "Nazi brownshirts." Poor Al: He had so much trouble with his "earth tones" four years ago that he had to call in one of the Democratic ladies to dress him. He has been haunted by brown ever since.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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