- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

LOS ANGELES.

That deafening silence in certain pockets of the convention hall last night was the sound of one hand clapping in the Delaware, Missouri and California delegations. And maybe Massachusetts and one or two others.

Now is the time for every good man to come to the aid of the party, as we all know, and everybody in the hall wants to elect Al and Joe, with a ferocity that burns with the intensity of a hard blue flame. You know they do, you know they do, cross their hearts and hope they die.

But if. If.

If God, who was duly registered as a Democrat in formal ceremonies this week in Los Angeles whether He wanted to be or not, does not after all want Al in the White House and Joe on the funerary circuit well, Joe Biden and Dick Gephardt and Gray Davis and John Kerry and several others we won't name just now will try to find a way to assuage their grief.

One tried and true way to assuage grief over the failed campaign of a dearly beloved colleague, of course, is a run for president themselves.

Tonight is Al's big night, of course, and the convention is waiting for its bride. (The Democrats, who have in recent years considered fervent religious belief a hate crime, groove on religious allusions this year.) Most of the delegates are counting on Al's hitting a home run, even an inside-the-park home run if he can't match the shot to power alley that George W. hit in Philadelphia. The odds favor a close race in November, and nobody, not even the occasional Republican interloper in Los Angeles, really believes the polls that show a disappointing convention-week bounce for the Democratic ticket.

Nevertheless, there's a nervousness, a tentativeness, a palpable lack of confidence in Los Angeles that the most skeptical observer did not detect in Philadelphia. There's admiration, grudging though it may be, for the remarkable transformation of George W. from the hesitant and callow campaigner of February into the self-confident candidate of late summer.

After only four days, a growing number of the delegates are already yearning to be leavin' L.A. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the classy Kennedy, who imparted a touch of her mother's elegance to the proceedings Tuesday night, only emphasized the disappointment with this convention by drawing nostalgic attention to the high hopes born here with the nomination of her father four decades ago.

The abiding memory of this convention will be not so much the ascension of Al Gore as king of the hill as the dramatic departure of Bill and Hillary, if indeed Bonnie and Clod actually are gone. All that, and the oppressive military maneuvers of the Los Angeles cops, who blocked all the streets so they could have speedways for their screaming patrol cars on endless doughnut detail. The wail of sirens rent the night far into the wee hours. Nearly all of the noise of the gallumping about, as it turned out, was unnecessary.

It's never too soon to take early advantage of an opportunity that only the bold see first, and the boldest of the opportunity seekers this week has been Joe Biden, the senator from Delaware whose candidacy for president in 1988 ended with two bloody feet, wounds he inflicted himself when he got caught padding his academic resume and passing off an old (and not very good) speech by Neil Kinnock, an aspiring pol in London, as his very own.

Mr. Biden is probably best remembered, when he is remembered at all outside the Beltway, as the man who so cheerfully carried Anita Hill's bags at the Thomas hearings. He was busy this week trying to catch the eye of the Great Mentioner, who is here but trying to stay out of sight.

"What if George W. Bush wins in November?" Mr. Biden demands of Democrats in the Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Delaware caucuses. "We'll have high-priced pharmaceuticals, a Supreme Court you won't like and an expensive missile-defense shield we don't need."

Well, what else, demanded several reporters trailing in his wake. Would he consider running for president again? "Yes." But will he run? "I don't know."

Friends and aides are not nearly so coy, which is why the pols keep a supply of them at hand. "I don't have any doubt that he'll run again," says Ted Kaufman, the national committeeman from Delaware who ran his abortive '88 campaign. Mr. Biden will be 61 in '04, just about the right age. Four years later, at the end of what would be Al's second term, he would be 65, which, unless your name is Ronald Reagan, is getting a little long in the tooth.

Says the senator himself: "I don't think that far ahead." Prospective candidates are allowed to fib a little, too.

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