July 26, 2004 | 11:00 p.m. ET

From the newsroom: (Keith Olbermann)  Nothing like watching the Convention from a newsroom to give you a sense of proportion. Amid shouts of "they're already behind schedule, they're already behind schedule," you look up and notice to your shock that of all the networks carrying it live, there's only one with the audacity to keep on blathering during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner... Fox! Couldn't Bill O'Reilly and Dick Morris just pretend for a moment that they don't think themselves bigger than the national anthem?

I mean, it's not a long song... even I can usually shut the hell up for the length of it.

Still, perhaps that's the early tone for the campaign.

Consider the newest additions to the shorthand of American history:

  • "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
  • "I am not a crook."
  • "Read my lips: no new taxes."
  • "I did not have sex with that woman."
  • And now we add to the pantheon of quotations of great political import and moment, "Shove It!"
  • Right under Dick Cheney's cheerful greeting to Senator Leahy.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates, this ain't.

I note Mr. Gore did not remove any shoes and bang any podiums.

His hair did not start flying around.

He did not growl. 

He made self-effacing jokes. And good ones.

If the rumors really are true, and John Kerry really had Al Gore re-write his original draft, it was a good call.

Although I'm secretly hoping that before Thursday night ends, somebody gets up to that podium and bellows "Cram it, Clownie!"

Keith Olbermann blogs from the MSNBC newsroom in Secaucus, New Jersey.

July 26, 2004 | 10:32 p.m. ET

Fast and furious at Faneuil Hall (Dominic Bellone) So I’m here at the Faneuil Hall work space in Boston just above the set trying to pound out questions for Chris and answer a million e-mails which are flooding my inbox, when I see Alison Stewart tease our blog on air.  Well that must be my cue to get posting.

We’re basically working here from the morning until, um, the next morning.  We’re on the air  from 6 pm ET until 2 am (Ron & Scarborough host “Convention After Hours” at Midnight ET and Keith does the 8 pm ET hour).  But it’s not like we just blow in here at 5:30 and start throwing people on set with Chris. Our work starts early in the morning contacting and lining up guests, doing research, writing suggested questions for Chris, laying out the show, dealing with technical issues and a myriad of other nitty-gritty details.

The food the catering restaurant is serving reminds me of the movie “Groundhog Day”: every lunch and dinner so far is a choice between a club sandwich and a salad with grilled chicken.  Trying to maintain some semblance of my Atkins diet I’m opting for the salad.

Be that as it may, you’d think being here at the Convention that I’d be totally looped into what’s going on but it’s almost exactly the opposite.  We’re so busy focusing on producing the show that it’s hard to actually keep track of the fire hose of news spewing from here.  The two stories which have caught my attention today, however, are the Teresa Heinz Kerry “ shove it ” controversy and Andrea’s story about how the Kerry campaign is trying to tone down the red hot rhetoric in some of the prime-time speeches.

By the way, if you missed Chris’ interview with Teresa , here it is.

July 26, 2004 | 9:01 p.m. ET

Loose lips, losers and Elvis, too (Joe Scarborough)At first glance, Boston's Democratic convention doesn't seem much different from Bush's 2000 Philadelphia Republican get together.

The biggest differences are cultural: Democrats seem hipper, younger, and hotter than their Republican counterparts. Rock stars and movie gods congregate around Democratic nominees. GOP politicians settle for Nascar drivers and actors who last starred in "Fantasy Island" or "The Love Boat." The same holds true for 2004.

The only news coming into Monday had to do with Teresa Heinz Kerry's two second outburst at a Pittsburgh newspaper reporter. The incident is much ado about nothing, though longtime supporters of Senator Kerry have been telling me for weeks that many in the campaign believe they are only one or two "Teresa Moments" away from an electoral meltdown. Dealing with staffers as long as I did in Congress, I suspect these chicken-littles may be overestimating the damage a candidate's wife can cause. But make no mistake about it: the Kerry camp is spooked and the  outburst didn't help their nerves.

Monday's big story has to be the arrival of Elvis at the Fleet Center. Democratic activists absolutely love Bill Clinton despite all the scandals, Gap dresses, and other assorted embarrassments through the years. Why? For the same reason alumni at my alma matter, the University of Alabama, always loved Bear Bryant. Because he won.

Think of the list of losers that have littered Democratic Convention halls since 1968. Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis were all honorable public servants who all got wiped out by Republican candidates. Al Gore even got the most votes in 2000 (except in Florida!) and he still lost. So Bill Clinton holds a special place in these delegates' hearts as the one Democrat who went up against the Evil Empire and came away with a victory.

Speaking of evil, Democrats seem to be furiously backtracking from Michael Moore's brand of political hate speech. John Kerry is ordering Democrats to talk more about his good traits than George Bush's missteps. Terry McAuliffe is even telling reporters that Democrats "aren't Michael Moore," suggesting a kinder and gentler approach to presidential politics in the coming months. That's big news from a party who embraced Moore's hate-filled movie and praised Hollywood stars who called the president a killer and thug.

By the way, the delegates here have been exceptionally gracious to me and the MSNBC staff. They are what makes this country that I love so much work. They have left their homes and families to come to Boston to help elect a man they believe will make America a better and stronger place. They are engaged in the system and that constructive participation in American democracy is what makes our country the envy of the world.

AND YES, MICHAEL MOORE. The world does envy America because we are still a city on the hill for all the world to see!

And this week every Democratic delegates is holding up a candle for freedom, knowing their dedication to a cause can help remove a president with votes instead of tanks.

July 26, 2004 | 8:31 p.m. ET

Coming right up on  Hardball (Hardball producer and Hardball Briefing editor Dominic Bellone) We've got an action packed 9-to-Midnight ET show planned for you. As you may know that's when all the primetime speakers are lined up: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Hillary. We'll all be watching to see whether there's any fiery rhetoric tonight. BTW, Chris has been having a ball asking our guests tonight: Was Bill Clinton a good President? Was Bill Clinton good for women? It's fun watching the Dems squirm trying to answer it. We'll have our All Star panel: Willie Brown, Joe Scarborough, Andrea Mitchell and Howard Fineman plus a sprinkling of reports from the floor, all the key speeches and a number of guests from inside Fleet Center. Don't miss it!

July 26, 2004 | 7:06 p.m. ET

Where are my Democrats, Dude?  (Dee Dee Myers)Remember Will Rogers' famous quote: "I don't belong to any organized party; I'm a Democrat"? For most of the past century Big D Democrats have been famous for dysfunction, disunity and disorganization.

Well, it may be too soon say whether this convention is better organized than previous Democratic confabs— already reporters are whining that there aren't enough potties. But the early signs are that the party may be more unified than usual.

Of course, the proof will be on the podium.  Can Democrats possibly survive four long days of speeches, interviews and convention-floor conversations without basically demanding a big helping of Bush bashing? We'll see. But the first signs appear to support the idea that all the members of choir are singing from the same page.

All day, the media has been buzzing with word that former Vice President Al Gore's speech hasn't been written. Or was written, but then ripped up by the vetters. (By the way, why is everyone acting like previous conventions, both Democratic and Republican, didn't have similar teams of speechwriters trying to make all the rhetoric hang together and drive toward a central theme?)

Turns out, that the Vice President's speech is on message— and that he's fired up to deliver it.  Stay tuned.  Al Gore may be the first guy to defy expectations and disappoint everyone hoping for a growling, sweating rant.  Also, look for Sen. Hillary Clinton to talk a little longer than expected... and a little less about her husband.

July 26, 2004 | 6:11 p.m. ET

The speakers' challenges: (Pat Buchanan) Each prime-time Democratic speaker at this convention will seek to use his time not only to promote Kerry and lacerate Bush, but to advertise himself to the party and advance his own political agenda.

By any definition, the man to watch tonight is Gore. He must realize he has lost much of his stature for having been seen as turning shrill and demagogic. A man who was in the vice presidency for eight years and got more votes than any other American save Ronald Reagan in his 49-state landslide is now seen by many as but a few steps this side of the Deaniac fever swamps.

I would look for Al to try to be strong and statesman-like, to be tough on Bush on foreign policy but not harsh. Look at Al's speech tonight as an application for the post of Secretary of State now that Sandy Burger is out of the running.

Holbrooke and Biden are now his competition, and neither has this opportunity. If Gore fails tonight, he may have to settle for Ambassador to Japan, assuming Kerry wins (which is still an assumption at best).

What Jimmy Carter seeks is to be seen and appreciated for what he believes he is, foremost champion for human rights since Albert Schweitzer. My guess is he will try to burnish this image and deal with Iraq in a sharper stronger way than will Bill Clinton, maybe even sharper than Al Gore. He has no present ambitions. Carter wants to burnish his reputation in the eyes of this generation, while Al "don't stop thinking about tomorrow."

Clinton has succeeded Teddy Kennedy as the big draw at Democratic conventions. At that big fund-raiser in the spring, he was at the top of his game. Witty and with the usual rogue-ish charm, he is able to filet Republicans and President Bush with a sense of humor. He is a Gridiron Dinner All-Star. I would expect that Teddy Tuesday night will see himself in competition with Clinton for the elocution honors at the convention.

My sense is that Teddy Kennedy in his prime was a better speaker than Clinton, who, despite his skills, does not have many, or even any, truly memorable speeches to his credit. Teddy was the more effective because, like Dr. King, Reagan and Mario Cuomo, he was deeply embedded in and spoke out of a great tradition. Clinton, gifted as he is, is unrooted.

What Kerry needs to do is close the sale, persuade the American people that they should want him to be their head of state, commander-in-chief, and personification of the nation in foreign capitals. This is a hard sell. There is something seemingly inauthentic about Kerry to many folks. He seems to be reciting lines he has been given, or told to say, or has picked up from elsewhere. He does not to speak from the heart. This is something folks sense. He needs to reach the hearts of the American people, and to persuade them, not only with what he says but how he says it, that I am the man to be your president. I am the man you want to see speak for the nation in times of trouble. He hasn't done it in six months. And this is the best-maybe the last shot - he is going to have to do it.

As for Houston, we can tell the story of that when the Republicans assemble and we hear that thunderous oratory of Michael Bloomberg.

Pat Buchanan filed on the convention for Hardblogger from Washington.

July 26, 2004 | 5:46 p.m. ET

Warming up for Hardball (Hardball producer and Hardball Briefing editor Dominic Bellone) Tonight from 6-8 pm ET/3-6 pm PT: Chris previews the convention and the prime-time speakers with panelists Ron Reagan, Dee Dee Myers & David Gergen.

Ron Reagan interviews filmmaker Michael Moore and Chris interviews three female Democratic senators, as well as the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka.

We’ll run a clip from Brokaw’s interview with Bill Clinton and Tom and Tim Russert will check in later from the Fleet Center.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and her delegation will stop by the set at Faneuil Hall. Of course we’ll have a wrap up of all the day’s events. Coming shortly: Our 9-Midnight schedule.

July 26, 2004 | 5:46 p.m. ET

The news of the day from Camp Kerry (Andrea Mitchell)

  Don't expect a big post-convention "bounce" in the polls. Already these guys are trying to lowball us -- and the convention hasn't even started! Here's the spin, girls and boys: Since there are so few swing voters up for grabs this year, there's a smaller pool of voters from which to get a big bump. Got it?

Their game plan, they say, is to use the convention to let people get to know Kerry better. It's all about biography, with one of his crew members from Vietnam speaking Monday night, and 185 other speakers all lined up to fill in the blanks. The only problem is that some of those speakers have their own agendas. So the Kerry folks are vetting all the speeches, trying to take out any harsh attacks on Bush that might offend those undecided voters. (No Ann Richards "poor George" moments this time around).

So what are we going to do for surprises? Michael Moore's been out on the floor attracting a throng, wearing a delegate's pass. Jon Stewart's been hanging with Brokaw.  And everyone's arguing over whether Teresa was right to say "shove it" to the pesky reporter who kept badgering her. (Hillary told NBC, basically, "You go girl.")

The biggest challenge here is, as advertised, security. Not that it's too tight. It's just not set up right....one mag for hundreds of reporters. Don't even try bringing your Starbucks in the morning, no cups or bottles permitted. On Day One, they took everyone's umbrellas. Terror by parapluie? I'm off to fight the wars and get ready for a live shot on the floor. Even a tightly scripted convention is sure to produce something unexpected. Isn't it?

July 26, 2004 | 3:27 p.m. ET

Bloggers, whassup? (David Shuster)  I just came back from the Hip Hop Boston youth summit. 

SIMMONS
Lisa Poole  /  AP
Russell Simmons, chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, speaks to a crowd, Monday, July 26, 2004 during a Boston Hip-Hop Summit youth voter registration event at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in the Roxbury neigborhood of Boston.
It featured artists and musicians including Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons, Wyclef, Bone Crusher and the Ying Yang Twins.  I must say, the energy and enthusiasm in the room was incredible.  They were signing up new voters like there was no tomorrow. 

Hip Hop has definitely become a "movement."  There was a huge focus Monday on youth empowerment, education and leadership development.  And when you hear Lloyd Banks (#1 album the last two weeks) talk articulately about being part of the political process, I have to believe that there are lots of younger folks who are going to be entering a voting booth for the first time this November. 

The Hip Hop summit action network has already registered 700,000 voters. They will hit a million by election day.  Watch out.

There was a very funny moment today when we were interviewing Banks.  He is especially popular with teenage girls, and about 200 surrounded our camera position and were screaming like crazy when he walked up for the interview. 

I said to him, "you know, Lloyd, I get that same treatment from the hardball groupies." 

He looked at me, laughed, and said "it's all good."

Exactly.

July 26, 2004 | 1:33 p.m. ET

Softening harsh edges: (Andrea Mitchell)The word is out: the liberal wing of the party is being told to avoid any harsh rhetoric. That could already be affecting tonight's headliners: last night, Al Gore's speech was basically torn up, according to two sources, and is now being rewritten, presumably to fit more closely with the party line. Read Andrea's convention diary.

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