Democratic National Convention Begins

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  • Convention Begins
    The gavel has fallen in the heavily-guarded city of Boston---marking the start of the four-day Democratic National Convention.

    With police and soldiers standing guard in the streets outside, party chairman Terry McAuliffe brought the convention to order in Boston's FleetCenter. By Thursday night, Democrats will have nominated John Kerry and John Edwards as their candidates to take on President Bush and Vice President Cheney in November.

    Democrats are planning an evening of speeches focusing on what Kerry says is his vision for America, including a strong economy, affordable health care and a beefed-up military.

    The opening night will feature an address by former president Bill Clinton, who'll be introduced by his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Al Gore will also address the crowds.

  • The Issues
    As they start spelling out what John Kerry stands for, Democrats have made a stronger defense their lead off issue. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack told delegates in Boston that Kerry will use “every tool” to confront al-Qaida and other terror groups around the world. And he said Kerry would launch a renewed effort to lock-away nuclear materials, so that they can't fall into the hands of terrorists.

    Former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry said he's never been as worried about the way the country's security is being managed as he is today. He says U.S. troops in Iraq have had to pay the price for what he called a “stunning miscalculation” that they would be welcomed by Iraqis as liberators.

    As he spoke of the need to enlist world-wide help in rebuilding Iraq and stopping the spread of nuclear arms, Perry said, “We must isolate terrorists, not isolate the United States.”

  • Gay Rights
    It's not everything that gay-rights advocates would like to see in the Democratic party platform, but for many of them, it's good enough.

    The platform being considered by Democrats at their convention in Boston doesn't endorse gay marriage. But the draft language supports “equal responsibilities, benefits and protections” for gay and lesbian families. It's consistent with John Kerry's position. He opposes legal recognition of gay marriage, but supports recognition of same-sex civil unions.

    More than two-out-of-five delegates interviewed by The Associated Press say they support gay marriage. But about one-out-of-five are against it. Members of a group of gay Democrats who met in Boston today said Kerry's position isn't perfect, but they're willing to go along with it. They contrast it with President Bush's support for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

  • Protests
    Some protesters preparing for the Democratic National Convention in Boston taped their mouths shut to make a point. Others spoke out angrily to protest restrictions they say violate free-speech rights.

    The protest groups held a news conference at the officially sanctioned demonstration zone near FleetCenter. The groups are challenging the protest restrictions in an eleventh-hour court appeal.

    At issue is the extent to which protesters can get their messages across from inside the fenced-in demonstration zone near the convention site. Protesters compared the site to a concentration camp. They say they understand the need for security, but believe organizers have gone too far.

    Some of the protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink dressed in pink in Statue of Liberty garb taped their mouths shut to make their point.
    A federal judge has denied an appeal by anti-abortion groups that want to protest in front of John Kerry's Boston home during the Democratic National Convention. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton quickly held a hearing today after the groups filed suit accusing the city of improperly revoking permits. The judge says he won't “second-guess” the Secret Service.

    A legal adviser to the Boston Police Department says the Secret Service requested that the city revoke the permit to demonstrate in front of Kerry's Beacon Hill home. The official says officials thought the demonstration zone was too close to Kerry's residence.

    The groups spurned an offer of another site about a block away. The head of the Christian Defense Coalition says it's clear “the First Amendment is not welcome here in Boston during the Democratic National Convention.”

  • John Edwards
    John Edwards is going to need some throat lozenges by Wednesday night. The Democratic vice presidential candidate is cutting back on his talking, with his voice strained from weeks of appearances. His biggest will come mid-week, when he makes his big speech at the Democratic National Convention.

    Edwards was hoarse as he gave a talk Monday at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, coughing several times and pausing for sips of water. Campaign officials have postponed a speech he was due to give at North Carolina Agriculture and Technology State University.

    Edwards is busy revising and polishing his speech for Wednesday. The campaign says John Kerry has given him plenty of leeway – but that Kerry advisers are reviewing the remarks to make sure they match up with Kerry's.

  • Howard Dean
    They once had hoped they'd be able to cast a vote for Howard Dean. But now, the former Vermont governor is releasing his delegates, and he's asking them to vote for John Kerry at the party convention that's now under way.

    Dean says it's still up to the delegates. But he says he asked them at a private meeting Monday in Boston not to carry on any campaigns on his behalf. Delegates leaving the meeting said they'd been enthusiastic Dean supporters, but that they're united now behind the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

    One 19-year-old Dean delegate from Vermont says he thought Dean was the best candidate during the primaries, but that most others didn't. Jacob Crumbine says Kerry and John Edwards are both good candidates. There had been a brief effort to draft Dean from the floor of the convention for the vice presidential nomination – but organizers of that campaign abandoned it a couple of weeks ago.

  • Security
    Buzzing helicopters, bomb-sniffing dogs and gun-toting officers were patrolling Boston ahead of Monday’s start of the Democratic National Convention. Despite predictions of traffic gridlock, the dozens of miles of closed roads didn't cause many snarls in the morning commute.

  • Military Presence
    It's not the first time the Pentagon has helped provide security for a national political convention. But the military has never had the kind of role it's taking in Boston.

    A military spokesman says there are air, land and sea forces in and around Boston. They're not all visible to the convention-goers, who are mostly seeing state and local police on the streets. The military is mostly doing behind-the-scenes coordination, and standing by to respond to any major emergency.

    A spokesman for U.S. Northern Command says he can't give the exact numbers or other details on the military presence in Boston. He says the Air Force is flying combat air patrols in the area, as it does for other special events such as last winter's Super Bowl in Houston.

    Under federal law, the U-S military can't perform domestic law enforcement. But the spokesman says the arrangement in place this week allows the military to provide crisis support if the U.S. Secret Service asks for it.

  • Republican Response
    Republicans aren't letting Democratic claims go unanswered as the Democrats take part in their nominating convention in Boston. Just two blocks from the convention site, the Republicans have
    set up a war room where they'll respond to the images of John Kerry being put forward this week by the Democrats.

    They're expecting the Democrats to portray Kerry as a centrist moderate who can appeal to all voters. The Republicans don't see him that way. Republican Party chairman Ed Gillespie says the Democrats are
    “going through an extreme makeover” of Kerry's record. He says they're making a liberal senator look like a moderate presidential candidate.

    Gillespie says the Democrats are an “angry, bitter” party, but that they'll be trying to tone-down that anger during the convention.

  • Gov. Owens
    Colorado Governor Bill Owens is in Boston, to help his fellow Republicans counter the Democratic National Convention. Owens was in the GOP war room Monday---helping other top Republicans make their case against the presidential ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards.

    The Republicans have set up shop in a nondescript, red-brick building near the convention site. They don't give out their address, and they don't advertise their presence. One of the Republicans says they are “behind enemy lines.”

  • Media Toilets
    Where to go when it's time to go? Convention reporters---already accustomed to competing against each other for news tips and exclusive reports---now have another, less public battle to fight.

    It seems there aren't enough toilets for all the print journalists assigned to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Twenty portable restrooms are lined up in front of the media pavilion to service nearly 1,200 members of the print media. That's about 60 serious coffee-drinkers per toilet.

    Reporter Jim Drinkard with USA Today says, “This is not the type of planning you'd expect out of someone trying to be a good host.” Drinkard says he was told by the committee in charge of planning
    the convention that the lack of toilets was a move aimed at cutting costs.