Berger blues

Robert Novak
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Posted: Jul 24, 2004 12:00 AM

BOSTON -- Democrats arriving here early for the national convention beginning Monday were vexed by news media attention to disclosure of the federal investigation of Samuel Berger, Kerry campaign foreign policy adviser, for improperly taking home classified documents.
 
On the record, Democrats questioned the timing of the leaked Berger investigation as a Republican ploy. Off the record, they complained about the embarrassment caused by the former Clinton national security adviser and an old hand in government, distorting the Democratic message running up to the convention.

 Berger tried to cut the damage quickly by leaving Sen. John Kerry's campaign. However, fellow Democrats noted he did not step aside when the FBI began investigating him at the start of the year.

BUSH'S DELAYED VISION

 Bush surrogates brought into national campaign headquarters Wednesday prior to the party's fund-raising dinner in Washington were disappointed that President George Bush would not quickly offer a new vision for America.

 The surrogates were told that the vision would not be set forth until the Republicans hold their convention the last week of August. That fits the general Bush strategic belief that this election will not be settled until the campaign's final stages.

 One problem facing the Bush visionaries is the performance of the Republican-controlled Congress. For example, Bush may experience credibility problems in calling for permanent tax cuts since the Senate this week signaled it will not approve his proposal this year.

LABOR'S FRIENDS

 After disappointing organized labor by picking Sen. John Edwards as his running mate, Sen. Kerry has pleased union leaders in coming out in opposition to secret ballots by workers in deciding whether to accept union representation.

 Organized labor wants to do away with secret balloting and instead use the "card check," in which a union gains accreditation as a company's bargaining agent by soliciting union cards from members. Critics say that method results in coercion of workers by union organizers.

 Both Kerry and Edwards have joined Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in urging the National Labor Relations Board to adopt card check instead of secret ballots. Earlier, much of organized labor had pressed Kerry to select Rep. Richard Gephardt for vice president.

NO-HOST GOVERNOR

 The old tradition of the host state's governor welcoming a national political convention, even of the opposite party, goes by the boards this week. Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney will not be seen at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

 Prominent Democrats made clear they did not want a welcoming speech from the governor, and Romney made clear he would not be comfortable speaking under those conditions. He also declined all invitations to be interviewed on television or to attend various parties during the convention.

 However, Romney was helpful in trying to settle the Boston police labor dispute before the convention opened (much to the displeasure of some Massachusetts Republicans). The governor generated local opposition when, following instructions from the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, he ordered newspaper bins near subway stations removed at least temporarily.

BLACK JESSE HELMS

 One of the year's biggest political surprises came in Tuesday's North Carolina Republican primary, when black City Councilman Vernon Robinson of Winston-Salem finished first in the primary for a heavily Republican district's congressional seat.

  "Jesse Helms is Back. This Time, He's Black" was the title of a critical editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal, but Robinson has used it as his slogan. One of his radio ads called on African Americans to "stay in school, speak English and get a job." Another ad attacked illegal immigrants, contending "they commit crimes but won't commit to learn our language."

 Robinson will run against State Sen. Virginia Foxx in the Aug. 17 runoff. The heavy favorite, businessman Ed Broyhill (son of former Sen. James Broyhill) finished third in the primary. The House seat is being vacated by Rep. Richard Burr, the nominee for the Senate.