Dean steals spotlight from Gore

Published July 27, 2004 4:07AM (EDT)

Al Gore might have given Democratic insurgent Howard Dean his blessing during the primary race, but Dean didn't show the former vice president much respect on Monday night during Gore's moment in the convention spotlight. As Gore tried to rouse the party faithful by passionately invoking the injustice of Election 2000 ("The Supreme Court should not pick the next president -- and this president should not pick the Supreme Court!"), a commotion erupted in the media area near a main entrance to the convention floor. Surrounded by a gaggle of distracted reporters and TV camera operators, Dean began competing with a 9-year-old whiz kid in a political quiz game staged for Jay Leno's "Tonight Show." As cueball-headed Donny Reisner from the Leno show fired questions at Dean and his pint-size competitor, loudly dinging a bell whenever one of them got the right answer, it became increasingly hard to hear even the new full-throated Al Gore who was energetically at work onstage. (Among the questions: Who was the first president to leave the country?)

For the record, the 9-year-old -- a bespectacled, towheaded prodigy named Noah McCullough -- handily beat the former Democratic presidential candidate, correctly answering five of the seven questions. What are Noah's future ambitions? "I'm going to run for president in 2032, on the Republican ticket!" he shouted with a weird gleam in his eye, as his mother, mindful of the politically hostile environment, moved to muzzle her pup.

Accepting defeat with the same grace he showed after the primaries, Dean moved on down the hallway, followed by his frenzied press entourage and, for some reason, comedian Fred Willard. Neither Dean nor the swarm of distinguished national reporters in his gravity field -- was that Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post grinning widely at the spectacle? -- displayed the slightest interest in the oratory of the man who won the most presidential votes in 2000.

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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