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John Kerry? Try Ben Affleck for star power
Ben Affleck pops in on the Rhode Island delegation to bash Bush
BY IAN DONNIS

MONDAY, JULY 26, 2004 -- Mindful of the danger of taxing conventioneers with too many early speeches, Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed offered the briefest of remarks while welcoming Rhode Islandís state delegation during a scrambled eggs-and-bacon breakfast Monday at the Boston Marriott at Copley Place. Rhode Island Representative Patrick J. Kennedy followed in kind before Cameron Kerry, the brother of the Democratic presidential nominee, offered a tastier nugget of partisan meat for the faithful. Describing how roads across America have been named for Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, Cam Kerry asked, "Can any of you picture avenues named Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld?"

After a couple of perfunctory announcements -- the paucity of guests passes, how National Public Radio is looking to interview delegates -- Democratic Party state chairman William Lynch unveiled a special guest, insurgent also-ran Howard Dean, who stirred a buzz of excitement in the crowd of about 100 people.

Although much of Rhode Islandís Democratic establishment offered early support for John F. Kerry, you would have never known it from this appearance, in which Lynch cited Rhode Islandís role in helping to spark Deanís movement, and the former Vermont governor obliged with an enthusiastic -- but certainly not fiery -- critique of the Bush administration. Dean covered the basic Democratic talking points -- the massive job losses under Bush; the shortcomings of No Child Left Behind; how the US remains the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare; and the meager benefits for the middle class of Republican tax cuts. He also cited Democracy For America, the group he started to support increased political activity, and made a pitch for more candidates, fundraising, and other backing for Democratic candidates. It was a somewhat curious message for the contingent of Rhode Island party activists, who nonetheless warmed to Deanís closing call of "Now letís take this country back!".

A few minutes passed before Lynch called on Providence Journal political columnist M. Charles Bakst and other reporters to leave the room because of the request of another upcoming guest. (It was hard not to suspect at first that this might be an attempt by the chairman to needle Bakst, whose paper tends to skew Republican on its editorial pages. Earlier, after describing how copies of Rhode Islandís leading daily would be made available each morning to Ocean State conventioneers, Lynch added, "I know most of you probably came up here to get away from the Providence Journal.")

As it happened, the next guest was actor Ben Affleck, who offered a more populist attack on Bush, panning him as someone "who has systematically enacted policies that benefit the elite." Reporters edged into an open door of this salon on the Marriottís fourth floor to hear the starís words, but Affleck rapped it quickly, and two bodyguards hustled him away, much to the chagrin of some of the middle-aged women in the room.

 


Issue Date: July 26, 2004
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