Wednesday, July 28, 2004

CHRIS MATTHEWS, TOURIST ATTRACTION. It was time for a commercial break. While Chris Matthews waited to go back on the air, he asked the crowd of several hundred people who were gathered around the MSNBC tent what they thought of Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech the previous night. Cheers went up. Matthews kept pushing.

"You're all sophisticated city people. Do you think she'll play in Peoria?" he asked. "Yes! Yes!" came the response.

Among the curiosities that the Democratic National Convention has brought to Boston this week is Hardball, which has set up operations right outside Quincy Market. MSNBC may be the least-watched cable news channel, but the fascination with television is universal. The program is blasted out of loudspeakers so the crowd can hear, punctuated by the sound of military helicopters overhead. (Read Mike Miliard's no-bullshit account about what happened on Tuesday night.)

"Coming up, Congressman Charles Rangel of New York," Matthews announces. And there, near the barrier separating the set from the crowd, is Rangel, resplendent in a dark suit and red tie. He hands out MSNBC ballcaps as the crowd cheers - but not quite loud enough for a producer, who strides briskly along the barrier ordering louder applause.

When they come back, Rangel - a combat veteran of the Korean War - offers a sharp critique of the war in Iraq. He blasts Bush for sending young soldiers into Iraq despite having "no plan at all." Rangel blames the war on a host of familiar names - "Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Kristol, Cheney."

Matthews interjects: "How come we never hear your candidate speak like you are now? He waffles, he hedges."

Rangel parries the question and runs out the clock. Soon enough, it would be time for another commercial.

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