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The Itinerant Conventioneer

An intrepid Monitor reporter traversesthe political landscape daily and surfaces to file these dispatches.

THIS JUST IN. As evidenced by this week's D2K convention, there could be a growing split within the Democratic Party.

Call it the rift between the "whoopers" and the "droolers." It's about preference and self-control. It's about fine cuisine and schmoozing with movie stars.

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As freshly observed by this reporter, it is the stark chasm between two kinds of Democrats. One has the apparent lifelong ambition to release sustained and legally sanctioned outbursts of uncontrolled rapture in public space (whooper). The other prefers the dogged pursuit of lower-lip paroxysms at the sight of Hollywood celebrities (droolers).

'THIS IS THE UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS convention," political commentator Hugh Hewitt told me. "You've got the common Democrats downstairs engaged in the machinery of populist politics, and you have the luxury-box Democrats upstairs bumping shoulders with money mavens and movie stars."

All week long, along the back tiers of Staples Center, a steady crush of megawatt movie stars cavorted down carpeted balconies while wheedle-ready party delegates jockeyed for handshakes, autographs, and clear sight lines.

Big names like Barbra Streisand, Warren Beatty, and Annette Bening came through. So did smaller stars like TV's Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Seinfeld") and Tom Arnold. Add big-name journalists (Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather) and big-name politicians (Jesse Jackson, Bill Bradley) and you had a three-way celebrity love fest that knew no bounds.

"I'm goo-goo, gah-gah dreaming," Ms. Louis-Dreyfus told me. "I'm meeting Cabinet members; I'm meeting members of Congress."

"Lieberman and I are both Jewish," said Mr. Arnold. "I'd like to be more like him."

LARRY KING CAME OUT of his CNN broadcast booth to tell me his theory of the celebrity-politico admiration society.

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"Both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are one-horse towns," he told me. "Both deal heavily in artifice, image, and power. And when they meet, watch out."

So, on it went with the frenetic regularity of a Broadway bedroom farce. All of the above entered and exited the solid oak doors of exclusive party rooms, box seats, and tony restaurants, while the party's biggest names (Kennedys, Clintons among them) droned on in the cavernous arena below, all but unheard.

From outside the Staples Center, somewhere between a whoop and a drool, that's the inside story.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society