The Teresa problem

Robert Novak

7/31/2004 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak

 BOSTON -- In the tightly scripted Democratic National Convention, the loose cannon that most concerned Sen. John Kerry's campaign planners -- at the FleetCenter and beyond -- was the presidential candidate's wife.

 After Teresa Heinz Kerry's flamboyance became an issue when she told a conservative journalist to "shove it," her husband's handlers were worried she would go off script in addressing the convention Tuesday night. She did not, an immense relief to Kerry strategists.

 Nevertheless, it was still a matter of dispute behind the scenes in Democratic circles whether Heinz Kerry's edgy style makes her an asset or a liability. The candidate's billionaire wife intends to be a high-profile figure for the remainder of the campaign, asserting (as she did in her convention speech) that male chauvinists oppose her because she is "opinionated."

TARDY HILLARY

 Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton not only turned up one hour and 45 minutes late for a women's luncheon in Boston Tuesday honoring Teresa Heinz Kerry but appeared for the private affair accompanied by several staffers and a television news crew.

 The luncheon at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston was hosted by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's wife, Vicki. The event began at 12 noon, and Sen. Clinton and her entourage breezed in at 1:45 p.m. The TV crew was immediately ordered out, but the senator stayed.

 A footnote: Big money contributors grumbled at what they considered their shabby treatment in Boston at the hands of Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe. One million-dollar donor was outraged that she was given a remote skybox at the FleetCenter with the view obscured by bags of balloons about to be dropped. One big giver designed a gag bumper sticker: "Stop Abuse of Major Contributors."

OVERCROWDED CONVENTION

 As Democratic convention managers closed down access to the FleetCenter Wednesday night for Sen. John Edwards' speech, fire marshals privately expressed deep concern because of the overcrowding.

 The marshals complained that the crowd far exceeded the limitations of the fire code, not just in the seating bowl but in the entire building. After the police recommended shutting down access, journalists were barred from both the convention floor and the press galleries.

 A footnote: The temper of the delegates was demonstrated when they were asked to pose for the official convention photograph. They were told to look for the cameraman located near the sign for the local Fox television affiliate. At the mention of the word "Fox," the delegates booed lustily.

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE

 Rep. Chris John of Louisiana was a rare candidate for a closely contested Senate seat in a conservative state to show up at the Democratic National Convention. Polls show John running in a tight battle for second place to make the runoff in Louisiana's non-party election.

 Other Democratic Senate candidates running in states overwhelmingly carried by George W. Bush in 2000 were nowhere near Boston: Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, South Carolina Education Commissioner Inez Tenenbaum, Erskine Bowles of North Carolina and Rep. Brad Carson of Oklahoma.

 Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, the Senate Democratic chairman, did not order these candidates to stay home, as was publicly reported. He did tell them the choice was theirs. In any event, their candidacies would not have been spotlighted at the convention as would have been the case in bygone years.

RON JR.'S CLONING

 Ron Reagan Jr.'s showcased Democratic convention speech Tuesday night in effect called for human cloning, but was not even commented on, much less protested, by the party's leaders.

 The late Republican president's son, in promoting stem-cell research, endorsed Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), which creates new cells to "be placed into a tissue culture."

 The U.S. Bioethics Council unanimously stated that "the initial product" of SCNT is "a living (one-celled) cloned human embryo." Thus, Reagan was advocating taxpayer funding of human cloning, a process overwhelmingly opposed by the public.