T. Boone Pickens bumped into John Kerry on the convention floor.
Continuing upstairs for an interview at the Fox News skybox, the Dallas oilman shrugged off a question the brief — and chilly — encounter.
“Hey, I shook his hand,” Mr. Pickens said. “If people have a problem, it’s their problem.”
Four years ago, Mr. Pickens and two other Texas billionaires bankrolled the devastatingly effective Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack on the Massachusetts Democrat, helping squash his hopes for the White House.
This year, he’s crashing the Democrats’ party. Only this time, he arrived as savior of America’s energy crisis and champion of alternative fuels.
Mr. Pickens was a big draw at a panel, where he sat serene as a Buddha accepting the applause of a decidedly un-button-down crowd of political progressives.
“If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d be sitting up here with Boone Pickens, I’d have said no way,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Mr. Pickens has a plan. He has vowed to spend $58 million of his own money to promote a program to slash U.S. dependence on foreign oil by tapping wind farms and using natural gas for automobiles.
He’s hired lobbyists, bought television commercials and personally pitched his plans to both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.
“We have got to change what we’re doing on energy. We have gone 40 years with no plan,” he told the bloggers. “My Dad said a fool with a plan will beat a genius with no plan. We are like a fool with no plan.”
The 80-year-old Dallas oilman spoke passionately about his plan, which would require tax credits for wind and natural gas and a huge power transmission grid linking windmills from Texas to the Canadian border. . . .
At the Pepsi Center, Mr. Pickens was met by a crew for CBS’s 60 Minutes and interviewer Charlie Rose, who pressed him as they walked beneath the podium’s kaleidoscopic lights whether he felt out of place among so many Democrats.
“Charlie, they are Americans,” Mr. Pickens said, irritation creeping into his voice.
It was much the same upstairs. NBC’s Tom Brokaw said having Mr. Pickens here was “like having the Oklahoma State Cowboys at an Oklahoma Sooner football game.”
Fox News’ Neil Cavuto was more breathless: “He helped pay for those Swift Boat ads against John Kerry and he came to the Democratic convention without food-tasters. Is he nuts?”
If some in the media were flummoxed, delegates on the floor weren’t. They surrounded him, snapping photos, shaking his hand.
“This is a zoo,” said aide Jay Rosser.
But Mr. Pickens didn’t mind.
“I’ve got a mission,” said the billionaire. “I don’t care what it costs.”