BOSTON -- There are plenty of things happening here in Boston on the first day of the 44th Democratic National Convention. You can see Dick Gephardt reminisce with his old supporters at the Wang Center in the Theater District; you can watch Howard Dean speak, maybe even scream, to his erstwhile supporters of AFSCME at the Sheraton Boston; you can listen to Harold Ickes and Steve Rosenthal brief high rollers who are supporting their independent expenditure Media Fund at the Four Seasons (the big contributors are all hanging out at the Four Seasons and the recently renovated Ritz Carlton).
Tonight at the convention, Hillary Rodham Clinton will introduce her husband and former Vice President Al Gore will be speaking, too. I haven't heard many Democrats say nice things about Gore since December 2000, and lately Gore has been making hysterical charges against George W. Bush.
But don't expect him to sound that note tonight. The Kerry managers want to keep Bush bashing to a minimum at this convention. Their people are already full of hatred toward Bush. A CBS/New York Times survey of the delegates showed that only 7 percent believe Bush won the 2000 election legitimately and only 3 percent believe the Iraq war was "worth the costs." Most Kerry voters say they are voting more against Bush than for Kerry. The Kerry people would like to turn this around. The Clintons' speeches, the Gore speech, the goings-on around Boston -- all are perhaps interesting. But what really will matter is Thursday night, when John Kerry delivers The Speech.
What is curious is that, at this point, The Speech seems to be one of the less scripted moments of the convention. Over the weekend, the line from the Kerry people is that Kerry himself was still writing it out on yellow legal pads. (This is how Richard Nixon drafted his speeches, though none of the Kerry people makes this comparison.) That's a little odd, since Bob Shrum, one of the best speechwriters in the business, is a central figure on the Kerry staff, and the Kerry people will admit that Shrum has started working on Kerry's drafts. It seems likely that the final product will be more a Shrum than a Kerry product. But this is also a candidate who has a high regard for his own abilities. Anyone urging a major rewrite of the yellow legal pad version might be well advised to use some diplomacy.