“First Read”,  a daily memo prepared by NBC News’ political unit, for NBC News, analyzing the morning’s political news, is coming from New York City's Madison Square Garden through the end of the GOP convention.

Check back here for First Read "Garden Party" updates throughout the day, for insights behind the scenes as well as action from the floor, the delegations and the parties in New York City.  Please let us know what you think. Drop us a note at FirstRead@MSNBC.com.

Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 8:45 p.m. ET
Garden Party tidbits:

This is a true story -- about Real World's royal couple at the convention
-- Kathy Young
Anyone who has cable TV and is younger than 35 probably knows is Rachel Campos is. After all, she was one of the stars of  MTV's "Real World-San Francisco" and also appeared on "The View." Here in New York, she's an alternate Wisconsin delegate, and she brought along her along hubby -- Sean Duffy, a "Real World-Boston" alum -- and their six month-old daughter Lucia Belen; 5-year-old daughter Evita and 2-year-old son Jack are back in Arizona with their grandma. (By the way, the fact that Rachel has three kids makes us feel very old.) Campos says she's been doing double duty as an alternate and mom. "I've been mostly sitting back and nursing."  But she gives kudos to Sean, who runs around Madison Square Garden in his suit and front pack for the baby. Campos has made it to the convention floor -- but not necessarily as a delegate. She told us that while trying to take pictures with her old digital camera, she got mixed up with a group of reporters and photographers trying to talk to John McCain. "I guess they thought I was part of the press," said Campos. "I got really close, it was great!"

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

Elephants under a bigger tent
-- Janet Alicea
While Democrats have scoffed their attempt, the Republican Party has tried to use this convention to stress how diverse it is. And we spoke to some minorities who believe that the GOP has truly widened the size of its tent. Geraldine Sam, an African-American schoolteacher from Texas, says the Republican Party has leveled the playing field. "It's the difference between being at the banquet table instead of receiving the crumbs." Jerry Lewis Hudson, an African American from Brewer, Maine, adds that the Democratic Party hasn't done much to advance the needs of minorities. But while others argue that works still needs to be done (i.e., the party's platform as it stands to gays) to make the GOP more diverse, another African American said, "Just because the party is off the mark doesn't mean I have to be."

Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 6:15 p.m. ET
Garden Party tidbits:

Coats, ties, and Kid Rock
-- Jason Williams
Last night, we checked out the Recording Industry Association of America's party featuring Kid Rock. Things got underway about an hour after the doors opened to those with yellow passes (like us), which was the lowest color level in the party's three-tiered systems. (Red got you to the second floor, and the coveted purple meant you could do no wrong.) RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Bainwol, was introduced by Isaac Hayes as "the guy who's fighting illegal downloading of music" -- which drew loud applause and cheers. (Apparently, the Republicans in attendance have no problem with paying $19 for a CD.) Bainwol took to the stage and said, "Anyone who's wearing a tie -- take it off!" A few people loosened the knots at their necks, but the coats and ties really didn't come off.

In fact, a bartender we spoke with said he'd never seen any suits in the club before, unless they were cops. When we shared this observation with a Republican staffer, he replied that Republicans aren't too conservative to party. "Don't believe everything you read in the papers," he said. Another reveler added he wasn't much of a Kid Rock fan, but was instead "here for the booze." Eventually, Kid Rock came on stage to the sound of screaming fans -- but the arms thrust in the air in excitement were covered by coat sleeves rather than tattoos.

Zell's adoring fans
-- Kathy Young
After his speech last night -- and especially after he said he wished to "duel" MSNBC's Chris Matthews -- Georgia Sen. Zell Miller seems to be the man everyone is talking about. We caught up with some fans who were excited to meet him at his book signing earlier today. The line to get into the event took up more than an entire city block, and everyone generally had one thing they all wanted to say to Miller -- thank you. One fan, who only wanted to be referred by Paula, said Miller made her day when he signed her book. To the delight of many people, Miller took the time to personalize his message. Seventeen-year-old Laura Ann Sills from Georgia came out to see her hometown man, and she said his speech got her pumped up for the election. All in all, the reception was very positive. Matthew Gerstner did have one special request for Miller: "I asked if he could write 'spitballs' in my book," said Gerstner, making a reference to one of Miller's more memorable lines last night. "He said to come back when the line dies down."

Hell hath no fury like a journalist scorned
-- Jason Williams
Arnold Schwarzenegger today made a grand entrance on the red carpet at Planet Hollywood. But as journalists waited to take their places along the carpet, tempers flared when California -- or Cah-lee-fornia-- reporters ended up receiving preferential treatment. Indeed, officers on the scene physically separated non-California journalists from the crowd, forcing them back behind the fence. In one case, a gentleman lacking the proper credentials, who refused to return to the other side of the gate, was thrown against a wall by two police officers, handcuffed and arrested.  We were also confronted by an officer, who told us to get back behind the gate because we had one foot past the barrier -- literally. The anger among the stranded journalists was not directed so much at the cops as it was at the Californians -- as the press watched those journalists set up their equipment in all the prime spots. "Damn California," one photojournalist said, which was met with similar mutterings throughout the crowd.

Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 2:20 p.m. ET
Garden Party tidbits:

Who knew Hip-Hop and the GOP mixed?
-- Janet Alicea
After hearing all of the country and Christian rock performances at the GOP convention, we were completely surprised by all the Republicans we saw line up outside Jay Z's 40/40 Club last night, which was hosting an "African American Outreach" party. The fact that the club was was also open to the general public created really long lines, really cramped quarters, and the absolute worst: a cash bar. Nevertheless, the sight of Republicans playing on swing chairs inside the club made it all worthwhile.

More Don King sightings
-- Kathy Young and Jason Williams
We spotted Don King on the convention floor earlier last night. And to be honest -- he was hard to miss with that hairdo of his.  He made his way through the crowd to say hello to delegates and to let them know that he's behind them and President Bush. While he won't admit his political affiliation, ("I'm a Republicrat," he said -- a line he's used before), he did compare President Bush to an important figure in history. He's like "a Harriet Tubman taking us to the North star."

Also yesterday, as we walked past Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Times Square, we noticed what we thought was a crowd gathered around a wax figure in Don King's likeness. After all, we were outside a wax musuem. But when we noticed several gentlemen in suits moving the wax figure toward a vehicle parked at the curb, and when we heard the waxen King actually speak, we quickly realized that it was boxing promoter himself...

Finally some real stars -- but they're Dems
--Jason Williams
After several days of star searching with nothing to show for it -- except for Arnold and the born-again Baldwin brother -- we finally stumbled upon a few. But there's a catch: They weren't here to support the GOP. At an afternoon reading of the Constitution at Cooper Union, we found ourselves face-to-face with Richard Gere, who drew loud applause from the packed house during his short, yet impassioned reading of Article I, Section 3. Gere said he participated in the reading to remind people about "rights that were very hard won." He also cautioned that Americans need to "beware of people who claim God is exclusively on their side." Alec Baldwin also attended the event, but he made a quick entrance and headed straight for the green room. We also saw Kathleen Turner, director John Sayles, and Marisa Tomei, who wasn't there to read but stopped by the auditorium near the beginning of Article II.

Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 10:30 a.m. ET
Garden Party tidbits:

Party wrap
-- Kathy Young
Live from New York ...it's Wednesday Night Live! We got an inside look at the exclusive party at Cipriani last night, hosted by John McCain and starring SNL comedian Darrell Hammond. The night started out grim, with some very shy celebrities and politicos who refused to talk or pose for the media; in fact the only ones who spoke were the media themselves (like CNN's Judy Woodruff and NBC's own Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert). We also saw actor/former Sen. Fred Thompson, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, and John McCain's number one fan -- his 90 year-old mother. Speaking of McCain, he arrived in style with his wife and daughter as dates.

Inside, there were three large rooms with an elegant buffet spread that included salmon, tuna, spinach pasta, and seafood salad. The performance started at midnight with a rendition of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" by McCain and former SNL member Joe Piscopo. And while the duet was a little out of tune -- and let's just say it wasn't Piscopo's fault -- the crowd absolutely loved it. Piscopo also did a rendition of Sinatra's "My Way," but he changed the chorus to "John McCain Way." The crowd then erupted in applause when Piscopo sang about McCain's comment regarding Michael Moore. By the time the main act, SNL's Hammond, came out, it was clear Piscopo had stolen the show.

Just imagine -- Rudy with a Southern accent
-- Nina Bradley
Everyone is talking about Zell Miller's speech from last night, so we thought we'd share Rudy Giuliani's impression of it. "Zell Miller was terrific," Rudy said at last night's posh party at the Rainbow Room. "There was no other reason for him to deliver that speech but that it came from his heart. I wish I could deliver my speech again with a southern accent."

Those Feel-good Georgia peaches
-- Kathy Young
Speaking of Zell, just before his speech last night, we spent time on the floor with the Georgia delegates, who all knew they were in the spotlight. Like proper Southern belles, the women in the group were the ones who dressed up for the occasion. A distinguishable glittered red, white, and blue top hat worn by Linda Jo Poole stood out in the crowd. She pleasantly referred to herself as the "Mrs. Uncle Sam" of the group. Other GOP fashion fun included flag-patterned manicures, elephant earrings, and a rare find -- a gold and pearl elephant brooch. Indeed, the women there were as sweet as Georgia peaches, and like the Ya-Ya sisters they were, they danced the night away as they waited for their man Zell to take the podium. "We're the stuffy Republicans," said Phyllys Ransom as she gyrated furiously James Brown's classic, "I Feel Good."

Thursday, September 2, 2004 | 9:30 a.m. ET
From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi and Flori Engler

First glance (61 days until Election Day)
The weather is leaning Republican lately, with blue skies in New York and another hurricane threatening Florida.  Charley gave President Bush the chance to huddle with Floridians and ask Congress for $2 billion in aid for the state.  Now heftier Frances threatens to drown out whatever criticisms Kerry plans to direct at Bush -- perhaps over the jobs report coming out tomorrow morning -- and maybe prolong whatever bump Bush gets out of his convention as the candidates leave the gate for the Labor Day weekend start of the fall campaign.

New York is looking at perfect weather as Bush goes to church this morning, checks his podium at 12:50 pm, and accepts his party's nomination in the 10:00 pm hour.

We don't know what note the President will strike in his remarks this evening, but up through the two primetime speeches last night, it's fair to say the Republican convention has been more comparative and negative than Democrats' Boston confab. 

Zell Miller last night aimed to undo in 15 minutes what his party has hung its hopes on Kerry to accomplish in this election: level the playing field for them on national security.  On that front, Miller summed up most standing arguments -- Bush campaign and Swift Boat -- against his Senate colleague: "Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure.  As a war protestor, Kerry blamed our military.  As a Senator, he voted to weaken our military." 

Even those Democrats in New York for the purpose of responding to the convention seemed somewhat taken aback by Miller's sharp criticism.  Per MSNBC's Felix Schein, they seemed to feel the speech was so harsh that they limited their response so as to let it speak for itself, spending their time directing journalists to watch Miller arguably implode in his post-speech cable interviews.  (Zell "Aaron Burr" Miller challenging Chris Matthews: "I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel.")

That said, Schein advises to look for a new emphasis from Democrats today on how "far right," in their view, the convention has swung.  Edwards last night issued a statement charging that "a lot of hate" was coming from the podium, though on TV this morning, he emphasized how Republicans didn't talk about issues.  The Kerry campaign is e-mailing around snarling photos of the "grumpy old men."

There's inside the Beltway and out, and there's network TV and cable, and in the case of Miller's charges against Kerry and his party, those differences may matter.  To the Chattering Class and anyone watching the post-game show on cable last night, Miller is a flawed messenger.  For primetime viewers, he might have undercut his points by appearing angry, or by going too far -- but that can only be speculated upon until polls start coming back. 

Cheney, meanwhile, focused more narrowly on Kerry: "A Senator can be wrong for 20 years without consequence to the nation," and, "On Iraq, Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself."  MSNBC's Priya David points out that Cheney's speech was a slight update on familiar themes.

Kerry campaign advisors have argued throughout the Swift Boaters' ad controversy and this convention week that, based on the data and focus groups they're seeing, voters are turned off by negative attacks.  Yet one source familiar with polling for some Democratic interest groups says the negativity doesn't seem to be affecting the way people vote, at least so far, and argues that presidential races don't turn on this question.  Meanwhile, in DC, some Democratic strategists agitate that Kerry and his campaign are too timid in responding to Bush.

That said, the tone of this convention certainly is a switch from Bush in his Philly 2000 acceptance speech: "I don't have enemies to fight.  And I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years.  I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect...  I believe true leadership is a process of addition, not an act of division.  I will not attack a part of this country, because I want to lead the whole of it."

Florida GOP Senate nominee Mel Martinez and retired Gen. Tommy Franks are late adds to tonight's speakers roster.  Republicans are thrilled to show off Martinez, a Cuban-American immigrant who could help Bush with Latinos in South Florida.  But Martinez may have acquired some baggage after tying his chief primary rival to "extremist gays."

The Vice President today addresses the Ohio delegation at 9:50 am.  His 5:00 pm speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition is closed.

The New York-based Democrats hold their daily 10:00 am press briefing with McAuliffe, Vilsack, and some Democratic mayors.  At 9:00 pm tonight, they stage their "Thousand Points of Light" event at various locations around the city and the country.

Kerry is down on Nantucket until late tonight, when he and Edwards head to Springfield, OH for a midnight rally.  MSNBC's Becky Diamond says the campaign picked Springfield because it's in Clark County, "Ohio's ultimate bellwether county," and thus the perfect place to kick off the start of the general election campaign. 

Former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman and former Social Security Administrator Ken Apfel also hold a conference call today at 12:30 pm "to preview the old ideas, failed ideas and bad ideas the President is expected to talk about" tonight, per the campaign.  The Kerry campaign trying to set a bar for Bush at 900,000 jobs for last month and another 900,000 for September; otherwise, they argue, Bush will have overseen a net loss in jobs for his presidency.

Bush's convention
The Wall Street Journal depicts a Bush campaign hoping to break out of deadlock with tonight's speech: "Privately, officials from both campaigns agree that the candidates are either even or separated by one or two percentage points...  Mr. Bush will begin an intense eight-week stretch run in a few carefully selected slices of the country, with his advisers hoping they can find a way to capitalize on a small wave of late-summer momentum created by the convention...  In the coming days, Mr. Bush can be expected to be more direct in attacking Mr. Kerry, as he has been in recent days on the campaign trail."

The New York Times points out how Republicans have structured their convention to respond to Kerry's.

The AP sets a bar for the speech, saying Bush's mission "is to tell Americans what they can expect of him during four more years in the White House - and to begin his final drive to convince them that's what they want."

USA Today sets another one, saying Bush "hopes to make the case to millions of potential voters that he has earned their trust...  Iraq isn't the only reason Bush's credibility is on the line.  He promised that his tax cuts would turn the economy around, but job growth still lags.  Key pledges he made in his last campaign, including a vow to reform Social Security, have not been fulfilled.  Kerry is trying to capitalize...  Undermining trust in the other side is the goal of each campaign and its allies."

The Wall Street Journal anticipates Bush's tackling Social Security: "Mr. Bush's speech tonight isn't likely to get into the troublesome details that a credible fix... probably requires: some mix of retirement-age shifts, payroll-tax increases, benefit-level changes or further government borrowing."  On the obstacles involved in bolstering the program: "gone are the budget surpluses that might have paid the huge cost -- up to $2 trillion -- of a transition to a system that permits private accounts.  And this cost clashes with an even-higher Bush priority, making his tax cuts permanent.  Finally, the rocky stock market after the Internet bubble burst took away some of the allure of private accounts..."

"Mr. Bush's aides hope a Social Security call to action, with limited details, can help him with a key part of the electorate without igniting a firestorm...  Advisers also say the focus will set Mr. Bush apart from Democratic nominee John Kerry, who has been mostly mum about the looming funding crisis."

Bob Novak notes that Bush doesn't encounter the "do-or-die tension his father faced l2 years ago in Houston.  Nevertheless, the acceptance speech is still President Bush's great test of this convention."  Novak adds that Bush must straighten out the confusion he set on Monday when he said the war on terror is not winnable; he must strongly voice support for reforming Social Security; and he will need to make his case for making his tax cuts permanent.

USA Today says "Bush is expected to stay above the fray when he addresses the Republican National Convention tonight, outlining lofty goals for a second term.  It fell to Cheney to unleash a bill of particulars against... Kerry."

Zell and Cheney
"On Wednesday, the focus was on" diminishing Kerry, USA Today says.  "Vice President Cheney and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller were the messengers, and they delivered slashing criticism of Bush's Democratic opponent...  At the Democratic convention in Boston, there was ample criticism of Bush, but speakers were asked to limit how many times they said his name.  Speakers here got no such memo.  Kerry's name was invoked often on the first three nights of this convention.  Miller said it 16 times, Cheney 14."

"Derision is risky, because it can alienate voters who prefer their politics temperate and courteous.  But, like negative ads, head-on assaults work because they can alter voters' views of a candidate."

"Cheney spoke dismissively of Kerry on several fronts...  But he made his severest attacks on Kerry's character -- part of a dramatically negative shift in the convention's tone by Cheney and the keynote speaker, Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, after earlier attempts to convey an upbeat message," observes the Boston Globe

Seeking to undercut Miller's attacks on Kerry, Democrats touted his favorable, even warm-sounding March 2001 introduction of Kerry at a Georgia Democratic party fundraiser.  But Miller's response to that on Meet the Press on August 1 of this year was: "That's also the press release they gave me to introduce him by.  And I was very impressed with John Kerry when I first came to the Senate, because I knew this man was an authentic American hero.  And anyone that has a Silver Star and Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, I respect and admire and thank them for their service.  But later I got to serve with this served with this man and I saw what kind of record he really did have in the Senate."

Reacting to Miller's speech, McCain threw Democrats a bone, telling NBC's Tom Brokaw, "Well Zell Miller is a very experienced politician, I'm sure he knew exactly what he was talking about.  I just don't agree with the fact that the Democrats are unpatriotic or the assertion that the Democrats are unpatriotic, I don't think they are...  I stand by my words a couple of nights ago that we are friends, Republicans and Democrats alike arguing over how best to defend this nation and the real enemy is out there plotting our destruction and we ought to worry about that."

The New York Post's headline: "Mad As Zell." 

Knight Ridder calls Miller's speech "an extraordinary act of political heresy".

The Washington Times: "The prime-time appearance by a lifelong Democrat at the Republican convention was a historic political event that is likely to be the stuff of President Bush's ads in the fall...  Mr. Miller implied that the Democratic Party has become so blinded by animus for Mr. Bush that it now blames America for the murderous hatred expressed by terrorists."

Mary Cheney was not in the box with her family during her father's speech last night, nor did she appear on the stage with them afterward, MSNBC's Priya David points out.  The campaign said it was "her choice."  Not surprising after all the media scrutiny caused by her father's comments on gay marriage.  David says the delegates she spoke with were very supportive of Cheney regardless of his position on gay marriage, though when Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke before Miller and Cheney and affirmed heterosexual marriage, several members of the audience got to their feet and cheered. 

USA Today suggests that as Bush speaks, he -- unlike the rest of us -- may have some idea of what the jobs report tomorrow morning is going to show.  "So far this year, the economy has gained 1.2 million jobs.  But the past two reports showed surprisingly weak job growth, giving Bush new reason to worry and Kerry a boost."

The Washington Post's analysis of last night notes that on a night when the official theme was economic opportunity, keynoter Miller never made mention of it, while Cheney devoted fewer than 100 words (out of nearly 2,700) to it. 

Another Post article says that while Bush strategists believe they can win even if Americans are dissatisfied about the economy, "some leading Republicans have said that they are worried about a possible voter backlash to economic conditions and that Bush must defend his record on the economy in his Thursday night acceptance speech."

National/Homeland Security
MSNBC's Becky Diamond reports that Kerry got tepid, polite applause throughout his speech to the American Legion convention yesterday, and obligatory ovations welcoming him to the stage and upon conclusion of his speech -- a far cry from the 40-plus ovations President Bush reportedly received from the group the day before.  We'd note that the Kerry campaign was smart to downplay expectations by playing up that this was a "conservative crowd."  Diamond says Kerry reminded the crowd repeatedly during his speech that he is a proud veteran himself, saying, "Let there be no doubt that when I am president you will have a fellow veteran in the White House..."But many in the room sat with arms crossed and as one veteran told Diamond, "...on their hands" during the remarks.  There were scattered groups of empty seats in the ballroom, whereas for Bush's speech the room was packed to capacity, per several attendees.

Although Kerry aides advanced the speech by saying Kerry would take on Bush directly over Bush's recent statements about the war in Iraq and against terror, giving the impression that he would be more aggressive and focused, Diamond says Kerry repeatedly criticized the "civilian Administration" but hardly mentioned Bush by name.

Kerry asserted during his speech, "So when the President says we have the same opinions on Iraq, I have to disagree...  When it comes to Iraq it's not that I would have done one thing differently, I would have done everything differently...  I would never have gone to war without a plan to win the peace."  But again, saying he would have done everything differently bumps up against his saying he still would have gone to war...

"In a conference room off the main convention hall," the Washington Times reports, "several anti-Kerry veterans distributed fliers, buttons and CD-ROMs filled with information about Mr. Kerry, including a full-page advertisement that ran in Nashville's Tennessean newspaper this week.  'The wounds inflicted by John Kerry on millions of veterans go to the heart and soul,' veteran Dexter Lehtinen said in the ad about Mr. Kerry's testimony before Congress 33 years ago accusing U.S. soldiers of committing atrocities."

Walter Shapiro found it was "telling that John Kerry... challenged Bush not on his goals in Iraq but on his competence in achieving them...  Kerry was arguing, in essence, that noble intentions and a muscular commitment to bold action are no protection against unintended consequences."

The normally camera-shy Karl Rove is "becoming as ubiquitous a television personality as Donald Trump and Paris Hilton" says the Boston Globe.   But "Rove's higher profile ignited a controversy yesterday when his criticism of John Kerry's antiwar protests, made in an Associated Press interview, generated a statement from the Kerry campaign in which former senators Max Cleland and Bob Kerrey called for Rove's resignation.  Attempts to reach a Rove spokesman yesterday were unsuccessful."

The Globe expands on the Rove story with an article on how, "in recent days, some of those closest to the president have kept alive the questions about Kerry's Vietnam service and showed they are particularly willing to go after Kerry for his antiwar activities in 1971."

Philadelphia 2000
Back by popular demand, the highlights of Bush's acceptance speech in Philadelphia, and the status of these commitments today:

The War:
Bush 2000: "When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming."
Today: The 2003 war in Iraq was a victory for the United States and its allies.  But whether the goal for that war was clear, and whether the war was just, is a question to be decided by voters in November.

The Deficit And Social Security
Bush 2000:"America has a strong economy and a surplus.  We have the public resources and the public will -- even the bipartisan opportunities -- to strengthen Social Security and repair Medicare.  But this administration -- during eight years of increasing need -- did nothing...  They have not led.  We will."
Today: Bush and aides continue to talk about creating private retirement accounts as part of an "ownership agenda," but Bush has not spelled out a plan or legislation to reform Social Security.  He may get more specific this evening.  His Medicare law provided a prescription benefit for seniors, but did not thoroughly address Medicare's future solvency.  A record deficit now stands in the way of major costly initiatives Bush might undertake.

Health Insurance
Bush 2000:"We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve."
Today: Bush has proposed doing this -- and thus reducing the number of uninsured by about 4 million -- on the campaign trail, but has not passed any kind of legislation that would do this.

Bush 2000: "We will set it on firm financial ground, and make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them."
Today: On December 8, 2003, Bush signed a law giving prescription-drug benefits to seniors under Medicare.  Once seen as a political boon for Bush, Democrats and some seniors groups have since charged the law is confusing, stingy with benefits, and a giveaway to drug companies.  Still, this has yet to really pop as an issue in the presidential campaign; Kerry seems to be too wrapped up in the war to talk about much else beyond the economy and jobs.

No Child Left Behind
Bush 2000:"One size does not fit all when it comes to educating our children, so local people should control local schools.  And those who spend your tax dollars must be held accountable.  When a school district receives federal funds to teach poor children, we expect them to learn.  And if they don't, parents should get the money to make a different choice."
Today: On January 8, 2002, Bush signed NCLB into law, mandating testing and accountability for public schools.  As with the prescription-drug bill, NCLB has not been a political home run for Bush: Kerry and Democrats charge that he hasn't sufficiently funded the law, and some school administrators complain that it is too inflexible.

Bush 2000: "On principle... every family, every farmer and small businessperson, should be free to pass on their life's work to those they love.  So we will abolish the death tax.  On principle... no one in America should have to pay more than a third of their income to the federal government.  So we will reduce tax rates for everyone, in every bracket."
Today: On June 7, 2001, Bush signed into law a $1.35 trillion tax cut -- the largest in a generation -- which eliminated the estate tax and cut taxes for people in every tax bracket.  In 2003, he signed another round of tax cuts.  Democrats seized upon a CBO report released last week showing one-third of the benefits have gone to people in the top 1% of incomes, though Republicans point out that taxes have decreased across the board.

Bush 2000:"[W]e need a leader to seize the opportunities of this new century -- the new cures of medicine, the amazing technologies that will drive our economy and keep the peace."
Today: Bush's critics charge that his restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research violate his promise to seize opportunities and technologies to develop cures.  Bush and his allies tout the fact that he is the first president to provide federal stem-cell funding (for existing stem-cell lines), though note that stem cell research only became an issue late in the Clinton era.

Assault Weapons Ban
Bush 2000:"We must help protect our children, in our schools and streets, by finally and strictly enforcing our nation's gun laws." Bush said during the campaign that he supported extending the assault-weapons ban, which expires on September 13, 2004.
Today: Since becoming president, Bush has not pushed to extend the ban; aides maintain he would sign a bill if Congress passes one, but Congress is not expected to pass one without White House encouragement.

The Kerry buzz
MSNBC's Diamond notes it's been exactly three weeks since Kerry's last press avail, and at that one he spoke only to the pool.  The last press avail before that was exactly one month ago, where after delivering a statement, Kerry took two questions.   Diamond says that, counting the pool "press avail" on August 9, Kerry has answered a total of eight questions from reporters since accepting his party's nomination.  This from a candidate who has repeatedly promised to hold monthly press conferences should he be elected.  Also, Kerry's last real avail was on July 22, where he took seven questions.

More Bush-Cheney v. Kerry-Edwards
The Los Angeles Times says Schwarzenegger might actually stump for Bush in Ohio.

The AP Kerry's fall ad buy begins "airing Friday in Ohio, then next week in Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, according to Democratic officials familiar with the buy...  The rest of the states - Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Michigan, Arizona, Louisiana, Colorado, Arkansas and North Carolina and West Virginia - won't see the spots until later this fall."


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