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THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION | CAMPAIGN 2004
| FLOOR NOTES

The Mysterious Missing Banner

July 26, 2004|Robin Abcarian and James Rainey | Times Staff Writers

The first big mystery of the week was the disappearance of Al Jazeera's banner from the Arabic satellite channel's skybox inside the Fleet Center. Was it sabotage? Did someone snag it for a souvenir?

We wondered if the Democrats thought the banner might make swing voters a bit queasy.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer wondered if the sign had been removed for security reasons. But Hafez Al-Mirazi, the channel's Washington bureau chief, was dubious.

"If this is the case," he said, "I think it would be a real waste of money if the army of security people around us and above us and maybe under us cannot protect a small staff of 16 people."

Convention spokeswoman Peggy Wilhide put the rumors to rest. She said the banner was taken down because it was a distraction and in the sight line of too many camera shots. Comcast's sign came down for the same reason.

It's too bad about the sign since it turns out Al Jazeera is more interested in covering this rite of American democracy than the major U.S. networks. It's airing 90 minutes of the convention a night, compared to 60 minutes most nights on the U.S. networks.

Second big mystery of the week: Where is Michael S. Dukakis? We can't find the former Massachusetts governor on any schedules, although his people assure us he's "very busy." We'll keep looking. Dukakis, as political wonks will recall, squandered the largest post-convention margin in recent history, losing the 1988 presidential race to George H.W. Bush.

No Waldo jokes, please.

Somebody call the whaaaaa-mbulance: Because reporters are bigger whiners than anybody (with the exception of professional athletes), we thought we'd tell you about our dismal afternoon in the world's slowest-moving security line.

For two precious hours -- during which we could have been conducting voter interviews with cabbies or quacking back at tourists on the amphibious Boston Duck Tours vehicles -- we waited in a line with other reporters, engineers and vast numbers of young network news "runners" (TV-speak for "coffee fetchers") to get through metal detectors.

Our reward: a seat inside the vast, two-story media tent, which has an out-of-control air conditioner set on "Arctic Circle."

In our topsy-turvy, post-9/11 world, it made perfect sense that federal agents confiscated water bottles (possible projectiles) and umbrellas (you could poke out an eye with that!) but let people keep their Leatherman tools (Swiss Army knife-like gadgets).

"Don't ask me why they get to keep those," said the federal agent who tried to open our wallet backward. "I'm just following orders."

Times staff writer Nick Anderson contributed to this report.

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