Vignettes From the Democratic National Convention
NEW YORK (AP) _ The people who remember the lonely months Paul Tsongas spent campaigning in New Hampshire before any other Democrat had a wistful reunion with their candidate.
″I still feel committed to Paul,″ delegate Jim Manning of Durham, N.H., said Monday. ″Just to hear him speak - he’s so honest and truthful and he’s got such a wit about him.″
The 10 New Hampshire delegates backing Tsongas were among 300 delegates who saw him speak Monday at a Manhattan hotel.
″It was a bittersweet feeling listening to him talk today and thinking about what could have been or should have been,″ said Mike Garofalo of Salem, N.H.
Garofalo said he would do the Democratic thing and vote for Bill Clinton on the first ballot. But Manning said that unless all of New Hampshire’s Tsongas delegates decide to back Clinton on the first ballot, he would cast a symbolic vote for his first choice, then go along with the delegation when it unanimously approves Clinton.
Tsongas announced his candidacy in April 1991, long before any other Democrat and at a time when President Bush’s post-Gulf War approval ratings were at an all-time high.
In the carnival atmosphere outside the Democratic National Convention on Monday was a Russian convert to democracy taking sinful advantage of the capitalist ways of his newly adopted country.
Lev Trakhtenberg, festooned with two American flags, was one of dozens of people handing out leaflets outside Madison Square Garden.
Some advocated abortion rights, others opposed capital punishment and some promoted electronics shops.
But Trakhtenberg, 28, who has a masters degree in linguistics, was passing out leaflets for the Paradise Club, ″NYC’s Only Totally Nude Club.″
″It’s a stupid business of course, you understand, but it’s a way to make a living,″ Trakhtenberg said, as reporters, delegates, police, bums and other pedestrians squeezed past on the packed sidewalk.
″I began this job a week ago. At first I was very, very shy,″ said Trakhtenberg, who is awaiting his wife and 3-year-old daughter to arrive from Russia later this year.
Though less shy now, he hides behind sunglasses as he hands out yellow leaflets featuring a photo of a blond wearing a tuxedo with no shirt.
If delegations have a complaint about their seating arrangements at the Democratic National Convention, they should speak to Atul Jain.
Jain, an independent contractor from New York City, said he spent the last four months working out a seating plan for the delegations on his dining room table.
″No one knows I did it, but I’m proud of it,″ he said.
Jain said his decision on who went where was a combination of delegation size, a few picks out of a hat and some instructions from ″unidentified sources.″
″I couldn’t tell you who,″ he said.
Gun-rights advocates handed out copies of a four-page ″survival guide,″ a sensational pamphlet that cataloged urban fears and dangers and said ″Welcome to Fear City.″
The booklet was distributed by the Federation of New York State Rifle & Pistol Clubs, which also rented bulletproof vests for $10 a day as ″a public service to New York City visitors and Democratic conventioneers.″
But the group’s head, Gerald Preiser, said the fliers were actually designed to embarrass the city and Mayor David Dinkins for outlawing powerful assault rifles.
″This is retaliation″ for a weapons ban that ″criminalized gun owners,″ he said.
″Make no mistake, you have just arrived at one of the world’s most dangerous locations: New York City, or as known by many residents, ‘fear city.’ Good luck,″ warns the pamphlet handed out to passersby near Madison Square Garden where the Democrats are meeting.
Nebraska Gov. Ben Nelson, caught in a crush at a security checkpoint entering Madison Square Garden for Monday night’s opening session, was identified to guards as a governor.
The guards asked him for a card that would identify him as a governor. Nelson said he didn’t have one.
″Finally, I pulled out my driver’s license,″ Nelson said. Every Nebraska driver’s license carries an imprint of the governor’s signature as well as that of the cardholder.
That meant Nelson’s - with two Nelson signatures - was good enough. Nelson went to the head of the line but he was still about an hour late joining his delegation in a balcony section overlooking the arena floor.
South Carolina Democrats take the good with the bad in Madison Square Garden, since they sit near the noisy yet star-studded California delegation.
″Bizarre,″ was how Frank Knapp of Columbia described the delegation’s neighbor.
Some Californians spent most of Monday’s opening session shouting for their former governor, Jerry Brown, to be allowed to speak to the convention. Brown has yet to endorse Bill Clinton, the party’s likely nominee.
″Let Jerry speak,″ they shouted.
″Let Jerry sleep,″ the South Carolinians shouted back, though easily outnumbered by the Californians.
″There’s about 400 of them and about 50 of us,″ said Waring Howe of Mount Pleasant. Brown has 153 delegates from California. South Carolina has just 54 delegates total.