Thursday, July 29, 2004


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 29, 2004

BOSTON _ A couple of weeks ago reporters across the country received an e-mail saying “please join us” at a panel discussion called “Funny But True: Important Issues in 2004,” to be held Wednesday at The Shubert Theatre.

The advertised panelists included former Bill Clinton aide Paul Begala and actors Chevy Chase, Ben Affleck and Alec Baldwin. The panel would discuss “the humorous side of politics.”

However, on Wednesday, when some of the reporters who had been invited and had made the trek to Boston’s theater district were told by official-looking guys at the door that the panel discussion was not open to the press. They gave no explanation for retracting the invitation to the funny forum.

Looks like the joke was on the press.

One reporter speculated the Democrats, who are so intent about keeping a positive tone, were afraid that one of the celebrities might pull a Whoopi Goldberg and say something outlandish that the Republicans would seize upon.

The Whoopie-Cushion Vote

Just down the street from the Shubert Theatre is the “world famous” Jack’s Joke Shop, a business specializing in fake vomit, snakes that pop out of cans, magic tricks and costumes. The shop originally opened in 1922 and touts itself as “America’s Oldest Active Joke Shop.”

When a reporter walked in, the owner, Harold Bengin was on the phone with a supplier, ordering more George W. Bush masks.

In the course of a conversation with the reporter, Bengin said, “You’re from New Mexico. You’ve got a great governor. I wouldn’t have been too sad if Kerry had picked him for vice president.”

Bengin noted that Gov. Bill Richardson had been a student at Tufts University in Boston.

“I don’t know if he was into pranks when he was here, so I don’t know if he ever came in this shop,” Bengin said.

But other politicians have been in the store. “About 12 years ago John Kerry came in with his daughter. I think she made him take her here.”

Wooing Hispanics
The Democrats are very serious about the importance of the Hispanic vote in the upcoming election. Some of the parties heaviest hitters spoke Wenesday morning to the Latino Caucus.

Among the star-studded speaker list were Teresa Heinz Kerry -- who asked to be “one of you Hispanics, honorary” --, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.

And though several pundits have commented on former Massasschusetts Gov. -- and 1988 Democratic presdential candidate -- Michael Dukakis not being invited to speak at the convention itself, Dukakis received a standing ovation from the Latino Caucus.

Also speaking was New Mexico’s attorney general, Patricia Madrid, who urged Democrats to not only work hard on getting out the vote, but to read current political books to be better informed on the issues.

Several speakers emphasized the likely closeness of the presidential race and to assume there will only be a one-vote margin.

New Mexico House Speaker Ben Lujan, who attended the session, said he expects the margin to be much wider. In this state he said he expects Kerry to carry 70-75 percent of the Hispanic vote.

“The trick is to get them to the polls,” he said.

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