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Democratic convention briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 18, 2000

Bush proposes 3 debates, 2 for VP candidates

AUSTIN, Texas -- Republican George W. Bush wants to confront Al Gore in three presidential campaign debates this fall and seeks two more between their running mates, his communications director said Thursday.

Karen Hughes made the debate proposal in Austin, Texas, as Gore accepted his Democratic presidential nomination in the finale of his party's national convention.

Gore has made debate challenges part of his strategy and his campaign has accused Bush of ducking.

"We hope the Bush campaign really wants to debate," Chris Lehane, Gore's spokesman, said Thursday. "We've been ready to debate for months. Their newfound readiness to debate shows this campaign is tightening."

The Texas governor said after his nomination two weeks ago that he wanted debates but hadn't settled on a number or a format. "I think it's going to be healthy for our country to have debates," he said in an interview with the Associated Press on Aug. 5.

There have been two or three presidential debates in each campaign since 1976, one between vice presidential nominees since 1980.

The Bush proposal is to add a second debate between his running mate, former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and Gore's, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has proposed three between the presidential candidates, on Oct. 3 in Boston, Oct. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Oct. 17 in St. Louis. The commission plan is for a vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky., on Oct. 5.

Into enemy turf

One day after Gore officially accepts the presidential nomination, rival George W. Bush will campaign in Gore's home state of Tennessee. Bush and Dick Cheney will begin a three-state tour with a "Victory 2000" rally in Bartlett, Tenn., today, noting that the state is crucial in this election. "Gov. Bush is leading by 45 points in Texas. And Al Gore is leading by 54 points in his home as well -- Washington D.C. But here in Tennessee, it's neck and neck," said Tennessee GOP chairman Chip Saltsman. Bush and Cheney will then make their way to Dallas the next day.

Lieberman tries to assure factions

LOS ANGELES -- Declaring "winning is the whole deal," vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman tried to shore up support among important Democratic constituencies in a series of private meetings Thursday with leaders of labor, women's groups and teachers' organizations.

One meeting included members of the National Organization for Women and the National Abortion Rights Action League. A second included the National Education Association, and the third included labor leaders.

NARAL president Kate Michelman said Lieberman had requested the meeting with women's groups to reassure them of his support for women's issues, including abortion rights. NARAL previously had endorsed the Gore-Lieberman ticket.

Aides said the meetings were part of a "standard protocol" for a vice presidential nominee to reach out to the Democratic coalition's core members, particularly since some blacks, teachers and others have sought reassurance that Lieberman's centrist views are compatible with theirs.

Lieberman aide Dan Gerstein described the separate meetings with the teachers groups as "a good, constructive dialogue."

Nader will fight MasterCard suit

Ralph Nader reveled in the role of corporate victim Thursday, the target of a $5-million corporate lawsuit.

MasterCard International accused Nader, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, of trademark infringement in the Greens' hardly noticed commercial, a parody of MasterCard's $100-million "Priceless" ad campaign, which has run in 48 countries and 22 languages.

"MasterCard should lighten up," responded Nader. "They're taking their name "Master' too seriously. This is America."

"Nader is trying to position his ad as a spoof of the MasterCard campaign," MasterCard spokesperson Sharon Gamsin said. "It isn't. "Priceless' is one of the most successful ad campaigns ever run globally, and we will do anything we need to protect our rights."

Police, protesters face off outside convention

About 2,500 activists poured into the streets Thursday for the last day of the Democratic convention, protesting environmental destruction and greeting Al Gore's big speech with a chorus of chants and drum beats outside the convention hall.

The majority of the people demonstrated peacefully inside a fenced protest area. But about 200 protesters faced off against police across a chain-link fence.

The demonstrators passed out vinegar and soaked it on bandannas to fend off the effects of pepper spray. Others donned gas masks.

Police stood feet away, armed with guns that shoot pepper spray and beanbags, in a tense standoff that eventually came to an end as protesters moved away from the convention hall.

The standoff came after demonstrators had urged the crowd not to get out of hand because some of the protesters were on parole or were undocumented workers.

Through Wednesday, police had made 192 convention-related arrests, the bulk of them for misdemeanor violations.

Snubbed by GOP, NAACP chief cheered by Dems

Denied a chance to address the Republican convention, NAACP president Kweisi Mfume stood on the Democrats' podium Thursday and praised Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman for having "listened and responded and stood with us" on issues such as hate crimes, health care and racial equality.

"We offered to give both major political parties our best thinking on matters of concern to the millions of Americans who believe as we do in fairness and equality and fair play," Kweisi said. "The Democratic Party said "No problem.' The Republican Party said "No thanks.' "

Addressing himself to Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush, Mfume said: "Mr. Bush, wherever you might be, please know that although I've never been a cowboy, now I know what it's like to be ambushed and bushwhacked."

Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson had advised Mfume that the GOP could not provide him with a speaking slot at the convention but hoped to find a "meaningful and appropriate" way for him to participate in the GOP convention at Philadelphia.

Once upon a time...

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown gave her own version of a political fairy tale to Florida delegates Thursday.

"I'm going to tell you the story of the three Bush boys," the Jacksonville lawmaker started.

"First we have Papa Bush. Papa Bush gave us (Supreme Court Justice) Clarence Thomas. Then you have Baby Bush. Baby Bush gave us an executive order to do away with affirmative action," she said, as the Florida delegation booed.

"I want you to close your eyes. What is your greatest nightmare? To wake up on Nov. 8 and realize that George W. is the president of the United States."

Short takes

BARBIE AND KEN: Florida delegate Monika Martin, 26, says she has been fascinated by politics since she was a child. "Other little girls played "house' with their dolls. I played Congress," Martin said. "Barbie was always speaker of the House and Ken was always minority whip."

MORE BARBIES: All of the Florida delegates received Convention 2000 Barbie dolls. Delegates had their choice of white, black or Hispanic Democrat Barbie, wearing a red business skirt suit and delegation credentials.

ENOUGH WITH THE BARBIES: The South Carolina delegation had a problem with its Barbie Dolls. The convention sent 50 but that wasn't quite enough to give one to each of the state's 53 delegates and seven alternates. Compounding the problem, the 50 included only three black dolls, even though blacks make up almost a third of the state's delegation. "I've never seen so much fighting over a bunch of dolls. I hope the DNC keeps the stupid dolls next time," Danielle Clermont, the state party's communications director, said.

AND BEANIE BABIES TOO: The gift shop at the downtown Marriott Hotel received a shipment of new Beanie Babies this week, including the star-spangled "Lefty 2000" the donkey and "Righty 2000" the elephant. Lefty sold out almost immediately. Righty lasted well into the next day.

AND ALL FOR ONE: The New Jersey delegation yelled loudly for Senate candidate Jon Corzine as he gave a speech from the podium Wednesday. When he finished, a delegate shouted to her colleagues, "Go to Kentucky!" Kentucky congressional candidate Eleanor Jordan was about to speak, but most of the state's delegation was tied up in traffic. So the New Jersey delegates crossed to the Kentucky section and cheered just as loudly for that state's candidate. "That's an example of how we're united," New Jersey delegate Andrew Lovett said.

GETTING INSIDE AL'S HEAD: Spike Jonze, hip 29-year-old director of Being John Malkovich, got a call a few weeks ago to fly to Nashville and hang with the vice president and his family and then make a movie for the campaign. "I brought my little video camera. No crew. Just me and my camera," Jonze says. The film, finished Tuesday, is an affectionate portrait of a relaxed and laughing Gore at his family's farm, at dinner with his wife, swimming at the beach, riding on a military helicopter and even kidding about his role as vice president. "The guy standing motionless on stage behind the president -- what the hell makes him think he can be president?" Gore jokes at one point.

COIF COPS: Television's ability to cover the proceedings was fatally compromised Thursday when security forces began confiscating hair spray, the Washington Post reports. CNN anchor Lou Waters was among those ordered at the checkpoint to cough up their trusty aerosol cans. "But I've brought it in every day," he protested. The officer explained that Vice President Al Gore was here and that hair spray is perilously flammable, not to mention a threat to the ozone layer.

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