Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Convention notebook

Columbus mayor speaks today

Enquirer wire services

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, a potential candidate for governor of Ohio in 2006, will give a five-minute speech to the convention around 6:25 p.m. today.

Asked Tuesday what he will say, Coleman said: "I'm writing it now."

Affleck stumping for Kerry

Ben Affleck has made so many appearances during the Democratic National Convention, you'd think he was the one running for office.

Here he is making surprise breakfast visits to star-struck delegates from Arizona and Iowa, Missouri and his home state of Massachusetts. There he is joking with Boston Globe sports columnist and author Dan Shaughnessy on his way out the door of a "Rock the Vote" party behind Fenway Park's fabled Green Monster. (And he was inside the park, too, watching his beloved Red Sox defeat the dreaded New York Yankees, 9-6, during a nationally televised game Sunday night.)

Then there are the interviews - on CNN's "Larry King Live," NBC's "Today" show and Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor." He's even playing the role of interviewer himself for ABC News, asking Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy questions about Boston and his longtime friendship with Kerry.

But the star of the blockbusters "Pearl Harbor" and "Armageddon" - and the bombs "Gigli" and "Jersey Girl" - says he simply recognizes the power of his celebrity and wants to use it to help John Kerry get elected to the presidency.

"I seem lately to bring to with me, whether I want to or not, a certain amount of media attention," the 31-year-old actor told reporters Tuesday before a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser at a bar outside Fenway.

"But I think you have to be smart and you have to be judicious and you have to be tasteful and you have to be respectful and you have to know your place," he added later. "I am not an elected official. I am not a political expert. I perceive my capacity here mostly in terms of being somebody who grew up here and wanting to be an ambassador for this city."

When a television reporter suggested that being good-looking, articulate and famous would make him a natural candidate for office, Affleck responded: "Uh, you know, that's a nice idea and I'm very flattered that you say it, but it's a tough fight, you know? I mean, if I think that the entertainment press is tough on me now, I can't imagine what it would be like to have a political agenda, as well."

It's not as if this talk comes out of nowhere. In an interview for the May 2001 issue of GQ magazine, Affleck said: "My fantasy is that someday I'm independently wealthy enough that I'm not beholden to anybody, so I can run for Congress on the grounds that everyday people - be they singers or poets or bankers or lawyers or teachers - should be in government."

"Not to get too Susan Sarandon on you," he added, "but part of what I'd get off on would be the oration, the speechmaking and the idea of leading."

Our home and native land?

No Ohio delegation breakfast is apparently complete without audiovisual glitches. On Monday, for reasons still unexplained, the delegation stood for the national anthem and instead heard "O Canada."

"I'm thinking, is there something I don't know? Maybe they pressed the wrong button," said delegate Marilyn Hyland of Clifton. State party spokesman Dan Trevas said he wasn't sure what happened. Eventually, the U.S. national anthem was played.

On Tuesday, just as party chairman Terry McAuliffe started speaking, a welcome message from convention organizers started running on a giant screen in the room, drowning him out.

Extend 9/11 panel, Kerry urges

Saying this is no time for excuses, Sen. John Kerry called on President Bush on Tuesday to extend the life of the Sept. 11 commission for 18 more months to ensure its recommendations are enacted.

"Backpedaling and going slow is something America can't afford," Kerry said during a campaign stop in this Navy town.

"You can't treat the commission's report as something that you hope will go away."

On the banks of Chesapeake Bay, with the battleship USS Wisconsin as a backdrop and an enthusiastic, flag-waving crowd at his feet, Kerry touted his military credentials and his concern for the safety and security of the nation.

"If I were president today, if I had been president last week, I would have immediately said to the commission, 'Yes, we're going to immediately implement those recommendations and we want you to stay on the job another 18 months in order to help make sure we do the job,' " Kerry said.

He called for the commission to issue a status report every six months, addressing whether the government was properly reorganizing intelligence agencies to meet the terrorist threat, and whether the government was doing everything possible to make the nation as safe as it can be.

Kerry made his recommendation Tuesday without consulting any members of the commission. But Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the commission, said chairman Thomas Kean, a Republican, supported the idea.

"He hoped there would be some way to continue to speak out and take our case to Congress and the American public," Felzenberg said.

Kerry later phoned commission vice-chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat and retired Indiana congressman, who told Kerry he supported allowing the commission to continue after its planned Aug. 26 expiration date, according to a Kerry aide.

Inaugural perk offered to Ohio

Already with front-row seats at the convention, Ohio delegates were offered more perks if John Kerry wins in November.

"You're all going to get front-row seats" at his inauguration, Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said. "We can't win the presidential election without Ohio."

Reagan's son blasts 'ignorance'

Delivering a slap to his late father's political party, Ron Reagan told Democratic delegates Tuesday that voters in November face a choice between "the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology," on the matter of embryonic stem cell research.

"I am here tonight to talk about the issue of research into what may be the greatest medical breakthroughs in our or in any lifetime - the use of embryonic stem cells, cells created using the material of our own bodies - to cure a wide range of fatal and debilitating diseases," Reagan said in an address to the Democratic National Convention.

Reagan, 46, became an active supporter of stem cell research after his father, President Reagan, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The elder Reagan died of complications of the disease last month at age 93. Nancy Reagan also is a strong advocate of stem cell research.

Scientists believe stem cells, the body's building blocks, can be used to repair organs or treat diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. But because stem cells are typically removed from days-old human embryos that are later destroyed when the cells are extracted, many anti-abortion activists oppose such research.

President Bush has ordered sharp restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, allowing it only for stem cells created before Aug. 9, 2001.

Reagan, a television journalist and longtime liberal activist, insisted that his speech was not intended to be political and that the issue of stem cell research should never be partisan. But his criticism of Bush and other stem cell research opponents was clear.

"It does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many," Reagan said. "And how can we affirm life if we abandon those whose own lives are so desperately at risk?"

And while acknowledging some opponents of the research truly believe that an embryo at its earliest stages is an actual fetus, "a few of those folks ... are just grinding a political ax and should be ashamed of themselves."

Reagan devoted much of his speech to describing a 13-year old friend who suffers from juvenile diabetes, saying she faces an uncertain future.

"What excuse will we offer this young woman should we fail her now?" Reagan asked. "That facing political opposition, we did nothing? That even though we knew better, we did nothing?"

Tonight's prime-time players

Prime-time speakers tonight include:

• Sen. John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth Edwards.

• New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

• Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.

• Retired Marine Lt. Col. Steve Brozak, Democratic candidate for House in New Jersey.

• Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

• Cate Edwards, daughter of John Edwards.

• Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.

• Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

• Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

• Rep. Greg Meeks of New York.

• Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

• Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

• The Rev. Al Sharpton.

Enquirer Washington Bureau reporter Carl Weiser and Enquirer news services contributed.

Bathroom humor

"It will take two Johns to flush out the White House after four years of Bush-Cheney."

- Ohio Senate Minority Leader Greg DiDonato.

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