The Democratic Convention: Political theater in Denver
This time around, star power will again dominate at the convention with appearances by Oprah, Kanye West, Ben Affleck and the Clintons
Washington -- With Democrat Barack Obama losing ground steadily in opinion polls against his Republican rival for the White House and facing criticism for his star power, the last thing Obama would seem to need is a star-studded Democratic Convention.
Yet talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, singer Kanye West and actor Ben Affleck are all expected to be in Denver, Colorado, for the presidential nominating spree that opens Monday.
They are part of the sideshow the US public has come to expect of the center-left Democrats when they meet every four years to formally nominate their presidential candidate.
The presence of such star power in Denver could give another opening for Republican rival John McCain to jab at his opponent for being the "greatest celebrity in the world" -- a phrase McCain used in television ads to dismiss the 200,000 people who flocked to Obama's speech in Berlin last month and to question the Democrat's experience.
Any concerns by the Obama campaign over another round of such battering have not deterred plans by the Recording Industry of America Association (RIAA) to invite Democratic members of Congress and other party stalwarts to its bash next Wednesday night in Denver.
The biggest star will be hip-hop king Kanye West. The RIAA emphasized that the party will support U2 frontman Bono's anti-poverty One Campaign.
The RIAA is throwing a similar gala the following week at the Republican Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, starring Chris Daughtry of American Idol fame, the Washington Post reported. That could take some of the wind out of McCain's anti-celebrity sails.
Either way, the RIAA was intent on emphasizing the anti-poverty angle of the gatherings because of questions being raised about the ethics of such extravagant entertainment by an industry group, media reports said.
Exempt from the rules
Just last year, Democrats spearheaded new rules to block lavish parties for Congressional members at national political conventions, the Wall Street Journal noted.
But charitable fundraisers are exempted under new rules, meaning the RIAA's celebrity bash is apparently fine because it benefits an anti-poverty cause.
Ben Affleck's appearance at a Poker Players Alliance tournament was also seen as acceptable because winnings are being donated to the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
All of this may seem to have little to do with nominating the US presidential candidates -- decisions that were already made by Democratic and Republican party loyalists in state-by-state primary voting that ended in June.
But nominating conventions have evolved into political theater that aims to re-introduce candidates to the public before the Nov. 4 elections and project a show of unity after often bitter exchanges during the primaries' scramble.
That means that another celebrity, talk show diva Oprah Winfrey, will be playing a lower profile than expected next week in Denver, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing Oprah friend and employee Gayle King.
Many of Oprah's female fans apparently disagreed with her support for Obama instead of Senator Hillary Clinton, who narrowly lost her bid for the Democratic nomination. Oprah's show apparently suffered in popularity afterward, the newspaper reported.
While Oprah will keep her head low, Clinton, after much debate within the Obama campaign, was given a large role as the convention's headline speaker on Tuesday evening.
The former first lady will even claim the spotlight during a state-by-state roll call vote initially opposed by Obama.
Clinton's 1,800 or more delegates and tens of thousands of campaign volunteers insisted the Democratic Party luminary be recognized for her achievement as a woman who went further than any other in American history in seeking the White House.
Clinton's strong role at the convention is expected to cement her own political star power as Democrats launch their bid to reclaim the White House.
-- Pat Reber/Expatica