Jewish World Review May 28, 2004 / 8 Sivan, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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‘Thank you for your nomination for president. I'll get back to you on that’ | Imagine it's the concluding night of the Democratic "convention" in Sen. John Kerry's home town of Boston. He ascends the podium. "Ladies and gentlemen, delegates, fellow Democrats," he begins. "Thank you for your nomination for president. I'll get back to you on that."

Kerry has been dithering about whether formally to accept his party's nomination at its national convention. The reason is money. Both Kerry and President Bush have agreed to accept $75 million in federal funds for the general election campaign, which becomes available to them as soon as they accept the nominations of their parties. The law precludes them from accepting or spending any private money once they start taking federal dollars.

The problem for Kerry is that since the Republicans don't meet for their convention in New York until Aug. 31- Sep. 2, Kerry has to make his $75 million last a month longer than Bush does.

Kerry's problem is the fault of the Democratic Party, which chose an early date for its convention. Now that Kerry's fund-raising has been stronger than he expected, he wants to change the rules his party set.

There are some difficulties with Kerry's proposed end run around the law. The first is that some lawyers for the Democratic National Committee think the legal clock starts running when the nomination is formally voted, not when it is formally accepted. To keep the matter from being litigated, Democrats would have to avoid a roll call vote as well as an acceptance in Kerry's "acceptance" speech. That would make the Democratic gathering more of a pep rally than a national political convention. This raises several questions:

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If the Democratic gathering in Boston is not really a national nominating convention, why should taxpayers subsidize it?

Could the Democrats nominate a vice presidential candidate without nominating a presidential candidate? What effect would that have on the legal clock?

If all the Democrats put on in Boston is a gigantic pep rally, why couldn't the Republicans put on a pep rally of their own in another city, and demand "equal time" from the television networks?

If the Democrats aren't actually going to nominate a candidate in Boston, what justifies the enormous inconveniences the Democrats plan to impose on Bostonians? (Major parts of the interstate highway system and at least one subway station will be closed for security reasons.)

If the Democratic convention isn't really a nominating convention, why should the news media give it much coverage? And why should people watch it?

At no time does a challenger for the presidency get so much free publicity in so favorable a setting as when he delivers his acceptance speech at his national nominating convention. The candidate gets a half hour or so to lay out his case to the nation, un-interrupted by news editors or a debate opponent.

Kerry would be a big time fool to jeopardize his audience for that just to spend a few more bucks on advertising, thinks Roger Simon of U.S. News & World Report.

"Kerry risks giving up a huge poll bounce and all that goes with it," Simon wrote. "And what does Kerry get in return? He gets to spend millions of more dollars on TV August. August! Watch a lot of political commercials in August, do you?"

But Mickey Kaus of Slate, a former Democratic political operative, praised Kerry for his "diabolical tactical brilliance."

Pollster Scott Rasmussen noted that "Sen. Kerry loses a few points every time the spotlight focuses on him. Kerry's numbers bounce back when the focus returns to the president."

At the Democratic convention, "the nation's press surely plans to focus on the Democratic nominee, beaming his every word into the nation's living rooms, allowing voters to get to know him and to take the measure of his character and personality," Kaus said.

"Kerry's highly paid strategists instantly recognized that this would be a disaster for their client," Kaus said. "So they have crafted a cunning plan to designed to get the TV networks to avoid covering the convention entirely, while the reporters who might otherwise be exposing Kerry to the world are convinced to stay home."

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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