Democratic National Convention
Sunday, August 13, 2000

Next mess just matter of time


Preconvention battles are business as usual for Democrats

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        Let's quickly review the last couple of days as the Democrats head into their nominating convention in sunny, crowded, polluted, earthquake-prone Los Angeles.

        Delegate and U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas, the only Democrat left in Northern Kentucky — at least it seems that way — lays a big egg, saying he will abstain when it comes time to cast his vote for Al Gore, and then decides not to attend the convention at all.

        And Kentucky's top Democratic leaders, including Gov. Paul Patton and Al Gore's state campaign chairman, Charlie Owen, felt compelled to go public and remind Mr. Gore that Kentucky does, in fact, exist.

        The leaders are concerned that while Mr. Gore has only been to Kentucky twice this year, Republican George W. Bush has been here so often he practically knows the difference between Belleview and Bellevue.

        Meanwhile, President Clinton, concerned that every time Mr. Gore opens his mouth voters will be reminded of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, gave a speech to a group of ministers reminding them of the Lewinsky scandal.

        And finally,
there's this little gem about the Democrats and Playboy magazine.

        U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of California nearly lost her speaking role at the convention because she organized a party fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion. Her speaking slot was restored after she moved the event to B.B. King's Blues Club at Universal Studios.

        OK, it's bad enough the fund-raiser was scheduled at the Playboy Mansion in the first place, and the Democrats may be applauded somewhat for having distanced themselves from it.

        But Mr. Gore — he of “no controlling legal authority” — said, “It's apples and oranges,” in comparing the fund-raiser with campaign contributions from publisher Hugh Hefner and other Playboy executives.

        Yeah, boy, this convention looks like it's going to be a whole lot of fun to cover, wondering what the Dems will screw up next.

        Of course, questionable fund raising, misplaced loyalties, sex scandals and basic disorganization are just — as a hip California dude might say — so Democrat.

        While the Republicans held a convention so scripted and well-planned that even the buses ran on time, I expect to spend most of my time in L.A. this week waiting for events to begin, waiting for buses to take me there, waiting for events to get over with and amazed that no matter what Mr. Gore's party does, there seems to be a fight, a blowup in the media or some other kind of controversy.

        Take at look at the Lucas deal.

        It's an amazing piece of political theater that, just days before the convention begins, a delegate who happens to be the only Democrat left in Kentucky's Washing ton delegation disses Mr. Gore.

        Can you imagine if one of the Kentucky Republican delegates had done such a thing before that convention? He or she wouldn't have gone to Philly, you can bet on that.

        Heck, Northern Kentucky Republicans gave me a major case of the goo for suggesting in a column in February that some of them might want to consider backing John McCain instead of G.W. Bush.

        In the end Mr. Lucas made what was probably a wise decision, given how the story would have played out all week.

        Everybody already knows he flees when Mr. Clinton or Mr. Gore get anywhere near Kentucky. He's just making it official.

        And back to that Playboy Mansion fund-raiser.

        Had Mr. Clinton gone, they might never have gotten him out.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics. He can be reached at 578-5581, or via e-mail at crowleys@cinci.infi.net.