Since 1976, one Democrat has been a ubiquitous and calming presence for every politician and activist who ever spoke at the national convention. Michael Berman, now the president of the Duberstein Group, Inc. and a longtime Democratic activist and patron, was a volunteer. It became a specialty of his, something he would take the time to do every four years. He was the podium guy, developing and managing the schedule. In 1988, he built the first media liaison team designed to help broadcasters get the kind of guests they needed for prime time. In '92, '96, '00 and '04, Berman reprised his role as chief scheduler. "After a while, everyone kind of listened to me because I had been around so long," he says.

Berman, not incidentally, is a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton's. But he is also universally respected within the party. So it took some Democrats by surprise when they learned that Berman would no longer be running the podium this year. Some were convinced that Barack Obama's team was clearing the decks, even of honorary knights like Berman.

That's not true.

Berman says that he simply decided to retire.

In May of 2007, Berman said he informed convention chief of staff Leah Daughtry that he would not accept her invitation to join the show this year.

"This all occurred long before we had any idea who the nominee would be," Berman said. "In politics like life, it is important to know when it is time for someone else to have their turn."

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