July 14, 2004
Mrs. Clinton Will Be in Boston, but Not at the Microphone
By RAYMOND HERNANDEZ and JOHN FILES
ASHINGTON, July 13 - The Democratic National Committee released on Tuesday its lineup of the big-name politicians speaking at the convention this month, and it included every major Democratic star except one.
There were Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, near the top of the list. Al Gore was there, too, and so was Edward M. Kennedy. Even the wife of the Iowa governor made the cut. But Hillary Rodham Clinton, the junior senator from New York and one of the most prominent names in the party, was nowhere to be found.
That caught the attention of many Democrats, who wondered why the party had not invited one of its best fund-raising draws, a former first lady who packs a room like few others in her party.
It is not exactly clear why Mrs. Clinton was not on the list. But Democrats familiar with the situation said the answer was simple: she did not ask to speak, while other officials did.
"She never asked," said Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign. "Obviously, Hillary Clinton is a leader in the party and is working hard to elect John Kerry." But Ms. Cutter said she did not know whether each speaker, including Ms. Clinton's husband, had formally requested time.
Other Democrats had different theories.
Some wondered if the Kerry-Edwards campaign was worried about being upstaged by a woman who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, most likely in 2008. Others speculated that the campaign was worried that Mrs. Clinton may be too polarizing a political figure to showcase during an event intended to appeal to the broadest political audience.
The speculation about Mrs. Clinton's political future has heated up since Mr. Kerry's announcement last week that his running mate would be John Edwards, the youthful and charismatic senator from North Carolina. Many Democrats say the decision means Mr. Edwards could present an alternative to Ms. Clinton in 2008, if President Bush is re-elected this year.
Some Democrats wondered whether this potential rivalry was behind the decision to keep Mrs. Clinton off the list of convention speakers.
"It's very interesting," said one prominent national Democrat who asked not to be identified because he did not want to provoke either side. "A lot of 2008 presidential politics may be at work here. It certainly gives Edwards a tremendous edge to keep her off the list."
But Peggy Wilhide, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention, and Ms. Cutter said Mrs. Clinton would have a role in the convention: she would be part of a special segment featuring all the women senators in the party led by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat and the dean of the female senators.
"It will be one of the highlights of opening night," Ms. Wilhide said.
If Mrs. Clinton felt snubbed, it was hard to tell from a statement her office provided on Tuesday. "Senator Clinton is looking forward to attending what will be a great convention and continuing to work hard to elect John Kerry and John Edwards," said Philippe Reines, her spokesman.
Democratic officials described their lineup of speakers for the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which will be held July 26 to 29, as an all-star cast. Mr. Clinton, for example, will be the opening night attraction, kicking off the convention with a speech in prime time, just as he did in 2000.
Democrats say the convention will be one of the most significant events of the campaign for Mr. Kerry, particularly because large numbers of voters do not begin focusing on the presidential race until the convention season. It is intended to highlight what Mr. Kerry's advisers want to be one of the main issues of his campaign: that Mr. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has the background to lead the nation in perilous times.
In that context, Mr. Kerry will be introduced by Max Cleland, a former United States senator from Georgia who lost two legs and an arm during the Vietnam War. In addition, Mr. Kerry will be joined by some of the men on the Swift boat that Mr. Kerry commanded in Vietnam.
There will also be a speech by Jim Rassman, an Army Green Beret whose life was saved by Mr. Kerry in Vietnam and who has been campaigning for Mr. Kerry since they were reunited in January.
The convention will include speeches by Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, as well as three members of the House, including Representative Robert Menendez of New Jersey.
There will also be speaking roles for Mr. Kerry's rivals during the Democratic primary for the presidential nomination, according to party officials.
All three major networks plan to broadcast three hours each of the Democratic and Republican conventions in prime time. But PBS has said it will air three hours of prime-time coverage on all four nights of both conventions.
As for Mrs. Clinton, Lina Garcia, a spokeswoman for the convention, said there was still a chance that Mrs. Clinton could land a role as a speaker. "There's a possibility she could," she said. "There's a possibility she couldn't."
Ms. Garcia indicated that there would be a need to fill up some air time during the heavily choreographed four-day event. "There are obviously going to be other speakers to fill up the day," she said.