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A Special Report from the Democratic National Convention in Boston

July 29, 2003

by Mark Ayoub
Special Correspondent

Mark Ayoub, an 18-year-old and from Needham, Massachusetts, is working at the convention as a volunteer staffer. "My main job at the convention is to distribute text of speeches to various news organizations -- I'm called a runner." Mark has spent much of the time there meeting various political and media personalities (and getting his pictures taken with them -- but not on a digital camera, or we'd have the pix here, too). He submitted these odds-and-ends scribblings of his wanderings around the Fleet Center.


As I write this up, it's late and I'm really tired -- but I'll basically just detail all the cool people there and what I saw. This was what my day was like ...

When I'm walking around inside the Fleet Center at 9 am, I immediately see a bald guy wearing dark sunglasses talking on his cell phone. I then realize it's James Carville -- but don't get to talk to him until later. A few moments later, I got to meet Rob Corddry of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Rob is as cool as he seems on TV, and gladly obliges for a photo.

9:30 am - I go exploring on the largely empty convention floor of the Fleet Center. I see a huge press gathering around a guy and wander closer to see what's going on. Then I see Michael Moore is the guy they're are interviewing. He's speaking intelligently about how to properly handle international threats (citing to JFK's Cuban Missile Crisis) and how not to (citing GWB's War on Terrorism). As I walk away after listening for a few minutes, I walk past Donna Brazile, who was Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager. On the way out, I see a guy who looks vaguely familiar -- and realize a few minutes later it's guitarist Tom DeLonge from Blink 182.

11am - I walk downstairs again and notice a very tall man -- mind you, I'm 6'5" myself -- dressed in a white suit. When I get closer, I realize it's former Congressman Joe Scarborough of MSNBC. While I'm ideologically opposite of him, he turns out to be as nice of a person to hang around with as he seems on TV and we chat for a while.

1 pm - I'm back from lunch and see Stephen Colbert doing a shoot for The Daily Show. I ask him to pose with me for a picture, and he leans his head on me with a goofy grin -- which made for a great picture.

2:30 pm - Back again on the floor of the Fleet Center, when I spot Tucker Carlson -- with his usual bow tie -- sitting in the nearby seats. I wander over and we talk for a while. I told him how much I like him on Crossfire despite his conservative ideology. He joked that maybe he could eventually get me to "convert to the good side." Not going to happen.

4 pm - As i'm passing between floors, I see the entire Daily Show team together. I get pictures with Samantha Bee (who's wicked cool), and Ed Helms (who graciously took the picture of Samantha and me).

7 pm - I see a media cluster following Howard Dean. He's a rather short guy. When I finally manage to get up to him to have a picture taken together, it was Dean who pointed out that not only did I forget to advance the film wheel before taking the shot, but that I also forgot to turn the flash on. But, because he's so chill, he didn't mind the delay. BTW, while I'm standing there waiting for a chance to get closer to Dean, I spotted actor Fred Wiillard -- who just played Ed, the station manager in the new film Anchorman.

8 pm - CNN time. I get to see Larry King and Wolf Blitzer -- and, yes, Wolf Blitzer's beard is as cool in person as it is on TV.

9 pm - As i'm walking down the hallway, I run into Jerry Springer, who is a delegate from Ohio. He is clearly in a rush, and didn't really want to be bothered, but still let me have a quick picture with him. That was nice of him to do.

11:30 pm - It's time to go home for the night when I spot Al Sharpton outside the CNN tent talking to Tucker Carlson. When I ask Carlson about the whereabouts of Carville and Begala, he offers to call Carville on his cell phone and wake him up to arrange a picture shoot with me. I humorously declined.

Others I met on Day One included Al Franken, Jesse Jackson and Bill Schneider.

TUESDAY - DAY TWO (Much better than Day One):

So I'm walking around the Fleet Center in the morning -- and after getting my picture taken with Dick Gephardt, Tom Brokaw and Barack Obama -- I suddenly see a ton of film crews. I'm told that they're filming a movie that will be released in September called Tanner Tanner -- directed by Robert Altman and starring Michael Murphy -- both of whom were there.

Later on, after CNN's Bill Hemer finishes his spiel, I talk a little to him. When he learns I'm a local, he tells me his brother played linebacker at BC in the 80s. At the other end of the room, I see Chris Matthews doing a promo. He is taller -- and wider -- than he looks on TV. During all this, the Daily Show's Ed Helms comes over and asks Hemer for an interview. Hemer basically says something like "lemme do this one shot and then I'll get back to you and we can ham it up." After Hemer wanders away, Helms says to his assistant: "I like the sound of 'Hamming it up with Bill Hemer.'"

After lunch I then see Robert Novak getting his makeup applied, so I decide to chill with the Capital Gang. Novak is pretty much the same unpleasant and annoying conservative he seems like on TV -- but Mark Shields is wicked cool. I escort Shields to the press pavilion, and then I get a picture with him (during the taking of which he says "Say whiskey!").

Next, I'm watching TV and see that Senator Barbara Mikulski is doing an interview with MSNBC. I sprint up to the MSNBC press box to catch her for a photo before she leaves. Mikulski is an incredibly short woman -- so I kneel down with both knees so I can be about the same height as her (although, had I not done so, the picture would have been rather amusing). She insists that I only kneel on one knee, claiming it's more "masculine" (if anyone's been following the news lately, there's tremendous irony in that comment from her). Within a short time, I also get pix with Senators Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Pat Leahy (whom I'm tempted to swear at for fun, but I didn't).

Later, I'm walking by the radio guys and see conservative Sean Hannity doing a broadcast with Congressman Charlie Rangel. Right after he goes to a break in the show, Hannity gladly obliges to take a photo with me. He was a really polite, nice person. Hannity then turns to one of his staffers and says "I love having Charlie Rangel on -- even though's he's wrong about everything."

8:55 pm - I head up to behind the Fox News booth and catch Bill O'Reilly leaving. He's asked to comment about Teresa Heinz Kerry telling a reporter to "shove it." O'Reilly replies that anyone who tells a reporter to "shove it" is "awesome." Time for my obligatory photo op, so I go stand next to him for a picture and put my arm on O'Reilly's shoulder. "Oh, so we're buddies now," says O'Reilly. I'm tempted to make a gay marriage joke (but i don't).

Next I catch up with Human Rights Campaign President Cheryl Jacques in the hallway and have a conversation with her. She was also my former boss when I worked in the Massachusetts State Senate.

Other random notes ... I saw former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright giving an interview to a a foreign reporter in Czech (pretty cool) ... Janeane Garofalo has also un-dyed her hair, so it is now black again ... other people I saw during the day were Ben Affleck, Alan Colmes Dennis Kucinich, Harold Ford Jr., and Kweisi Mfume.


So I get into the Fleet Center in the morning, and see Katie Couric, Peter Jennings, and other network people. It's funny, Katie Couric is a lot smaller in real life than she looks on TV (and she looks small on TV) -- although she's still wicked nice.

Here are all the rest of my Day Three scribblings, but in no particular order:

I met Senator Carl Levin, who introduced me to his daughter (who has wild hair just like him). Actually, she looks like more like a son than a daughter. Senator Levin was very nice and polite.

I ran into Congressman Mike Honda and congratulate him on his convention speech Tuesday night about the experiences of Japanese-Americans. He tells me I look like a Kennedy.

When I got a chance to talk with Peter Jennings, he asked about my Arabic-sounding last name on my ID badge. When he learned that I am of partial Syrian descent, he engaged me in a detailed, thoughtful discussion about Syria.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

I met General Wes Clark -- who's also incredibly nice -- as I was talking to a friend on my cell phone. Clark was nice enough to even chat a moment on the phone with my friend.

After two days, I finally got a chance to talk with consultant James Carville, who made a few interesting comments of note:

  • "Bush is the best civics teacher ever. Young kids used to say 'Republicans, Democrats, they're the same old shit' But now they know there's a difference."
  • Kerry will win by a vote of 52-47-1.

Carville also was really wonderful in the interview he gave to a partially mentally retarded news anchor for a disabled persons' news network.

Later on that night, I also got to meet Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was also exceedingly nice. After I asked her to pose with me for a picture, she says yes -- but asks if we can do it elsewhere. I follow he along to her destination but, from the moment I get there I get lost in the mob of people that were waiting for her arrival. Fortunately, Senator Clinton asked one of her aides to find "that young man who wanted a picture with me" -- and they did. So, yes, I got that picture, too.

Funny items from during the Presidential roll call vote ... one of the state chairs announced they are proud to support Kerry as our "soon to be the 45th President" ... another refers to him as "John Fitzgerald Kerry" ... and another flustered one mistakenly announced that all of her state's delegate votes "go to John Edwards."

I also got to meet former Senator Max Cleland -- a truly wonderful person -- who was more than happy to pose for some great pictures ... actress Sarah Jessica Parker (who, despite being in a rush, still stopped for a picture) ... and also Ed Markey, John Glenn, Jim McDermott, Tammy Baldwin and others.

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