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Explain This One

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Peggy Cusack, chief of staff of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, wrote a rather intriguing e-mail to her staff Tuesday summing up day one of the Denver proceedings, which included speeches by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Michelle Obama.

"Great job guys! One down, three to go!" she begins, then makes these points, among others:

"1. Morning coordination meeting, we probably don't need one today, unless anyone thinks we still might have outstanding convention issues that haven't been addressed yet?

"2. I think that congressional staffer made a career move when she 'lost' her boss's parking pass.

"3. I just spit coffee.

"4. Who do you want to bet cries first?

"5. No, sir, we actually do not provide food for protesters.

"6. Does anyone know where Mark Squier is? I just found his USSS ID — in the women's restroom."

A convention producer, Mr. Squier is a media consultant and strategic adviser to numerous Democratic candidates, having co-founded Squier/Eskew Communications in 1991. A filmmaker, he produced the Emmy and Academy Award-winning film "The Blue Men."

Ms. Cusack, when not politicking, is managing director of the Washington office of Rendezvous Consulting Group. For eight years, she was the Clinton White House event planner.


Renowned copy editor Merrill Perlman comes to the defense of outspoken Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the Columbia Journalism Review; her headline: "Comma Suture: A little punctuation mark can hold things together, or rend them asunder."

She observes that the selection of Mr. Biden to be Sen. Barack Obama's running mate has revived the debate over a statement the Delaware Democrat made in early 2007: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

"Now, we're not going to deal with the question of whether his use of words like 'articulate' and 'clean' was racist or otherwise loaded, or whether he was slighting other 'mainstream' African-Americans like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm or even Jackie Robinson. Instead, we're going to focus on the comma that could have helped make his point clearer," Ms. Perlman writes.

Instead, she quotes Dean Mills, who happens to be dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism: "Seldom has the distinction between a restrictive and a nonrestrictive clause been more important. Without the comma, which is how every version I've seen is punctuated, it sounds as if Biden is saying that all other African-American candidates were not articulate, bright, etc.

"But if you listen to the clips, Biden pauses significantly between 'African-American' and 'who.' So he could have meant (and almost certainly did): 'I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.'"

Ms. Perlman says she and Dean Mills "have had frequent run-ins over the serial comma, which he fervently believes in and I don't. But this time, I'm on his side."


Just in time for the Democratic National Convention hosted by his city, Denver author Kim Long, who has published The American Forecaster Almanac annually since 1984, brings readers the Almanac of Political Corruption, Scandals & Dirty Politics.

All told, he recalls 300 years of political wrongdoing, era-defining misdeeds and indiscretions, from Teapot Dome to Monica Lewinsky.

We've leafed through the book, which goes on sale next Tuesday, to sadly discover that the current decade is as ripe with monkey business as any before.

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