As I said here, I’m not all that happy about the nation having to subsume the risk, and ride to the rescue of, the many banks and Wall Street types that profited massively from these obviously suspect mortgage deals. But, what else is there to do? As with so much else occurring over the past eight years, it befalls us now to clean up the mess left by the free market fundies of late. I just hope we learn something from the economic consequences of this latest binge of free-market fraudulence, before they grow too dire. To wit, whatever the corporate-funded right tells you about self-regulating markets, we need, and will continue to need, real refs on the field.
Update: Uh oh. The bailout compromise dies in the House, prompting the Dow Jones to swiftly tank 700 points. “The measure needs 218 votes for passage. Democrats voted 141 to 94 in favor of the plan, while Republicans voted 65 to 133 against. That left the measure with 206 votes for and 227 against.“
As the TIME article linked above noted before the vote, “the candidate with the most riding on Monday’s vote is McCain, who backed the concerns of conservatives in the House over the initial agreement…[I]f a majority of the House Republicans don’t vote for the measure, McCain could lose political face. ‘If McCain cannot persuade them, it is hard to portray him as a leader,’ said Clyde Wilcox, a political science professor at Georgetown University.” So, that’s the silver lining, I guess. But the bad news now, alas, is considerably worse.
“I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.” Wait…John McCain was a POW? Who knew? (And how big of him to run the first completely selfless and ego-free presidential campaign in American History. A true patriot, he.)
I suppose I should’ve gotten my post up about McCain’s speech some time yesterday…but, really, what’s the rush? However well-watched, John McCain’s nomination address to the nation on Thursday night felt like a virtual political non-event. [Transcript.] I mean, c’mon now: I sat through three days of mind-numbing inanity and blatant falsehoods, distasteful 9/11 videos and endless surge talk, for this? (By the way, memo to Lindsey Graham, Tom Ridge, and anyone who happens to buy into the oft-repeated line of argument that “McCain was right in Iraq because of the surge.” Our recent involvement there began several years earlier, with McCain cheering on Dubya’s idiotic invasion and boasting of an easy victory. Remember that?)
Now I don’t think the speech was as woefully terrible as some — it was probably better than his last greenscreen speech, for example. (I am struck by the fact that today’s decaying GOP is so sickly it can’t even manage to exploit veterans for political gain properly anymore. What happened to you guys?) But, to my mind, Sen. McCain’s remarks definitely didn’t get the job done, unless — like me — you think the job that needs doing right now is getting Barack Obama elected to the Oval Office.
The most affecting moments of McCain’s speech were, naturally, in his discussion of his POW experience, and if the Republicans hadn’t beaten this point into the ground over the past few days, his retelling of those dark days might’ve packed a real emotional wollop. (“After I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me. “) But, after all the reveling of late in McCain’s horrible stay in the Hanoi Hilton, and all the attendant plaudits to military heroism and sacrifice, country first etc. etc. served up as sides by the GOP during thus, McCain’s humdrum delivery of an otherwise subpar nomination address reminded me of nothing so much as another praiseworthy war hero wounded in his nation’s service: Bob Dole.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a nomination address in today’s GOP without some highly dubious propositions therein:
And so on. I’d spend more time picking McCain’s address apart if I thought it had been in any way effective. But, the POW-section notwithstanding, it felt rote as written and rote as delivered, and — in opposition just as in support — it was a hard speech to get all that fired up about. With Sen. Obama up in the states he needs and Dems mobilizing new voters all across the board, McCain needed a real gamechanger Thursday night. (Imho, the automatic dispenser of lousy headlines that is Sarah Palin is just going to keep backfiring, and the party of Lincoln continues to toy with the disgusting “Uppity Sambo” card at their peril.) In short, he didn’t get it.
There’ll be a bump — there always is. But, to my mind, John McCain’s climb just got a whole a lot steeper. Barring some monumental revelation, egregious debate flub, or international incident over the next two months, it’s hard to see McCain getting any closer to victory in 2008 than he is right now. And over the next eight weeks, I would nevertheless expect a lot of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, perhaps momentarily flush with good feeling for McCain, to think it over, remember the past seven years, look over at Sarah Palin in the veep slot, and decide to put their country first…by voting for Sen. Barack Obama for president.
Y’know, after watching Wednesday’s RNC festivities, I’m rather annoyed with myself that I titled the post about Tuesday night “Chimps on Parade.” I mean, the dismayingly chimpy Dubya notwithstanding, at least Fred Thompson can sometimes muster up the ornery menace of an aging silverback. But it was last night’s warm-up act, with also-rans Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani sneering and snarling with abandon at Obama, “liberals,” the “elite media,” the home television audience, and just about everything else that crossed their path, that felt like the real flying monkey attack.
Now, I can’t say I have my finger on the pulse of the nation or anything, but, in terms of the sheer quantity of vitriol, last night’s flurry of bad mojo felt quite a bit to me like Pat Buchanan’s disastrous 1992 “Culture War” speech all over again. (The fur flew so thick last night that even the AP felt compelled to mention the blatant untruths today.) We’ll see how it plays over the next few days and weeks, of course, but I get a strong sense that the Republicans didn’t help their cause much at all last night. (And, if you were to happen to infer that, by calling that ridiculous trio of GOP Pep Boys “flying monkeys,” I was implicitly comparing Gov. Palin, who later dripped with similar derision and contempt from her unfortunate sea of black, to Margaret Hamilton, well, that’s all on you…sexist.)
At any rate, to, take ‘em in their miniboss order…
Mitt Romney: “Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with Constitutional rights?” This one’s easy…Douchebag. [Transcript.] Is there anything else one needs to say about the man? It wasn’t so long ago even the GOP was united in their dislike of the guy’s patent insincerity. But last night, of course, Republicans hooted and hollered through his manifestly idiotic remarks about a “liberal Washington” like he was Don Rickles killing at the Palms. “Is government spending — excluding inflation — liberal or conservative if it doubles since 1980? — It’s liberal!” Of course, self-proclaimed conservatives, and darlings of everybody in that room last night, have run the White House for twenty of those twenty-eight years…but you already knew that. “It’s time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!” Uh…I guess Mitt hasn’t been following the news all that much of late, nor did he seem to pre-read his own speech. (See the first quoted sentence above.) I could go on, but you get the point: Douchebag. Let’s move on.
Mike Huckabee: “John McCain will follow the fanatics to their caves in Pakistan or to the gates of hell. What Obama wants to do is give them a place setting at the table.” Alright, I feel a bit bad for lumping in Huckaboom with the rest of the night’s speakers. [Transcript.] He’s clearly a smarter, abler politician than 95% of the Republicans out there (even if his weird anecdote about veterans and desks barely made a lick of sense), and his remarks wisely eschewed most of the angry invective that marked all of the other speeches. (His early nod to Obama’s candidacy — “Party or politics aside, we celebrate this milestone because it elevates our country” — went over like a lead balloon in the auditorium last night.) Still, even with his friendly, aw-shucks demeanor, Huckabee laid on the finger-pointing pretty thick at times, particularly once he set his sights upon the “elite media, whose “reporting of the past few days has proven tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert.“
Governor Huck probably trod onto the thinnest ice last night when he tried to portray the GOP as the “real” party of poor folk and ordinary working joes. This is wildly implausible for many reasons, not the least because Huckabee himself deemed the Republicans “a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the corporations” only a few short months ago. Plus, it’s really hard to buy into this sort of “broke-like-us” tripe when Cindy McCain is wearing $300,000 of bling to the big show.
Rudy Giuliani: “For four days in Denver and for the past 18 months, Democrats have been afraid to use the words ‘Islamic terrorism.’ During their convention, the Democrats rarely mentioned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” 9/11, 9/11, 9/11? Mayor Rudy 9iu11iani, it seems, is not above living down to his caricature. Of the three Pep Boy speeches, this is the one that will probably be remembered as the biggest misfire for the GOP. [Transcript.] Even if Romney’s was more intellectually dishonest as written, Giuliani’s shrill anti-Obama screed was emphatically the most poorly delivered. (Not that Giuliani scrimped on the intellectual dishonesty. See, for example, his resurrection of the hoary “present vote” meme.) For whatever reason — some say pique at his speech being moved — Giuliani came across as even more weaselly and intemperate than usual last night, and — I say this as someone who, despite everything since, gave him much credit for his original handling of 9/11 — Rudy seems weaselly and intemperate on the best of days. In any case, however much it may have fired up the faithful, Hizzoner’s rant didn’t play at all on TV. (While I’m linking TPM, Josh Marshall got off a great zinger last night: “I think I preferred this speech in the original German.“)
Over the past few days, I’ve refrained from posting every single revelation about the seemingly un-vetted Palin here, partly because I think little is gained by poring over the details of the awkward baby-momma story (even if the hypocrisy of the family values crowd has been stunning), and partly because keeping up with every facet of her creepy-craziness would’ve consumed the entire week. (If the Enquirer affair story gets locked down next week, that might well get a post here, tho’ — as did Edwards’ indiscretions. Also, a PSA for any kids who happen to stop by — watch what you write on your MySpace page, y’all. That’s one to grow on.)
So, how did Palin attempt to distract us, however briefly, from the fact that she’s an unqualified, uninformed, scandal-ridden, pro-life, creationist, secessionist, wolf-massacring, book-banning Buchananite fundie? Well, mainly by channeling Rush Limbaugh for forty minutes: “When the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out and those styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot. When that happens, what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer — the answer is to make government bigger and take more of your money and give you more orders from Washington and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.” Uh, yeah. 1988 called…they want their talking points back.
I wish there was more to Palin’s coming-out address to recommend it, but 99.44% of her speech was just this sort of smarmy, deeply-negative, over-the-top ridicule for Obama-Biden, delivered for the sole purpose of firing up the tired remnants of the fringe right. (Another case in point: “My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery.“) Even elements of her biography that I somewhat respect were grossly mismanaged. True, being the cleanest Republican politician in Alaska is kinda like being the world’s tallest pygmy — and, as noted above, Palin’s hands aren’t all that clean anyway. But, still, I’d have respected the Governor more this morning if she hadn’t openly lied to us last night about her reform credentials. (“I told the Congress ‘thanks, but no thanks’ on that bridge to nowhere.” — I believe Peggy Noonan has an apt phrase for this kind of blatant falsifcation. For shame.)
Update: “Obama was working for a group of churches that were concerned about their parishioners…They hired Obama to help those stunned people recover and get the services they needed –job training, help with housing and so forth –from the local government. It was, dare I say it, the Lord’s work — the sort of mission Jesus preached (as opposed to the war in Iraq, which Palin described as a ‘task from God.’) This is what Palin and Giuliani were mocking. They were making fun of a young man’s decision ‘to serve a cause greater than himself,’ in the words of John McCain. They were, therefore, mocking one of their candidate’s favorite messages.” By way of DYFL, TIME‘s Joe Klein angrily rallies to the defense of community organizers.
“You know what’s really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.” Oops. When they’re on the air, of course, most right-leaning pundits have very little criticism — indeed, judicious praise — of the Palin pick. Meanwhile, the media talking heads just nod along and pretend there might possibly some merit to such a ludicrous choice by the mythical maverick. Off the air, however, it’s a different story. Just listen to Chuck Todd, Peggy Noonan, and Mike Murphy discuss their real feelings about Palin in-between segments on MSNBC. (They got busted by an open mic.) Says Noonan of the election (when she’s not shilling for the right): “It’s over.” Update: In print this morning, Noonan scrambles.
Well, my original intention was to blog about the RNC speeches here at home in much the same fashion as I did in Denver last week. But, after slogging through last night’s ridiculousness on C-SPAN…sorry, y’all. These posts will have to be abbreviated, because I just can’t take these fools at all seriously.
For one, it’s abundantly clear that the cheering Republican faithful in Minnesota have, by sheer force of denial, somehow crossed over into a bizarro alternate universe, one where Dubya wasn’t the worst president this country has ever seen and Sarah Palin is the reincarnated hybrid of Queen Elizabeth and Joan of Arc. (No wonder they couldn’t fill the seats: It takes a not-insignificant amount of crazy to think thus these days.)
For another, the strenuous doublethink required to buy into last night’s program — Dubya is wonderful, but change is necessary, for example — is just beyond my capacity to embrace contradiction…pending more reeducation at the nearest Ministry of Love, of course.
For yet another, it’s hard to take the Gustav-related preambles to every speech at face value, given that — when the writing was on the wall three years ago — the Republicans’ grotesque incompetence and indifference to hurricane prep was on full display, much to the continued woe of New Orleans.
Finally, there was so much kneejerk demonizing of “the angry left” and their tax-and-spend, America-hating ways, particularly by Law & Order actor turned laconic buffoon Fred Thompson, that I just don’t feel much inclination to extend the olive branch to these jokers. It’d be nice to say that we just view the world differently and can agree to disagree, patriots on both sides of the issue yadda yadda yadda. But, given last night’s performances, these fellows are either unfathomably stupid or just venal, corrupt, and propagandistic liars. To be honest, i’d bet the BOTH line.
At any rate, the main events of the evening started out decently enough with an introduction by First Lady Laura Bush, who’s consistently been one of the only grace notes in the conservative governance of the past eight years. But, then her husband popped up, and the night took a significant downturn. [Transcript.] “Fellow citizens,” our president chimp-smirked as usual, “if the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.” Of course, John McCain’s habitual tendency to fold like an accordion whenever right-wing pressure is applied was in full evidence just this past weekend, when the stark-raving Rovians forced Palin on him. So this, like most Dubyaic pronouncements, should be taken with a few grains of salt.
Next up was Sen. Fred Thompson, who absolutely epitomized, in my friend Dr. Vendre‘s inimitable phrasing, the central “get off my damn lawn, you crazy kids” nature of the Republicans’ appeal this year. [Transcript.] Now, despite his cranky old neighbor act, this was considered a good speech by the media powers-that-be, mainly because Fred managed to wallow in P-O-Wisms for twenty minutes and close by calling Obama a godless babykiller. So, Mission Accomplished, I suppose.
Finally, the GOP wound up and unveiled the Zellout 2.0: “Holy Joe” Lieberman, to tell us that “eloquence is no substitute for a record ” and, that — basically — John McCain is the honorable maverick the nation needs and Barack Obama a brie-eating surrender monkey. [Transcript.] Now, I suppose this might’ve played if “Joementum” was an actual honest-to-goodness phenomenon among Democrats. But given that our party has pretty much always been underwhelmed with the guy, and now even his own state of Connecticut has soured on him, he may as well have dropped the bipartisan act and put that all-but-official “R” next to his name. (Today’s nonpartisan Fact Checker already has his number: “If Obama voted against funding the troops, so did Lieberman.“)
So…to sum up: Country First, a Lifetime of Service, POW POW POW, Liberals hate America, 9/11, 9/11. 9/11. Add several brazen untruths, a smattering of smears, and some healthy dollops of sheer idiocy, and then simmer until Gov. Palin shows up. All in a day’s work for the sad and embarrassing conservative wingnuttery that passes for today’s irreparably broken Republican party.
Now that I’m back from Denver and am finally all caught up with my Invesco posts, I may just have to take it easier during the GOP convention. In fact, perhaps I’ll procure some choice spirits and play everyone’s favorite RNC party game, McCain Bingo…
“For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us — that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it — because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time. America, this is one of those moments.”
The end of the evening, of course, featured Senator Obama’s historic nomination speech and, as you all already know, he absolutely knocked it out of the park. [Transcript.] As I said in my first post, I thought it “powerful in its can-do faith in America and devastatingly effective in its evisceration of the GOP,” and I’ll stand by that. In fact, in a week of excellent speeches, I thought our nominee’s address was the one that came out on top.
Sen. Obama’s speech succeeded on several different levels at once: It worked as a lofty restatement of central American principles and a concise explanation of what differentiates Democrats from Republicans. It provided hard policy details for those ambivalent about the word “change,” and it threw red meat to the faithful — and food for thought to the undecideds — by going after John McCain on issues across the board. Speaking of which, Obama’s tone toward McCain was note-perfect: Polite enough to the man, Obama was utterly dismissive of his lousy ideas and his endless shilling for Dubya, and he fired a warning shot across his bow about any further attempt to wallow in the usual Republican “patriot games.” In fact, Obama’s speech preemptively made much of the GOP’s usual grab-bag of insinuation and slander, sure to be in full evidence next week in Minnesota, look patently ridiculous. When McCain announced his veep pick yesterday — more on that textbook case of bad judgment in short order — I noticed the podium read “Country First.” After Obama’s speech last night, that old dog’s looking a little lame.
Coming into Thursday night, I thought the best line uttered, in terms of the history books, had come from President Clinton’s Wednesday speech: “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.” (The Ann Richards memorial runners-up: Bob Casey’s maverick-sidekick skewering of John McCain on Tuesday, and Al Gore’s recycling bit) But Obama’s speech was filled with great quotables. For example:
And so on. What’s more, Obama’s speech wasn’t only a address for progressives, but a progressive address. It didn’t just offer up a litany of policies and goodies aimed at buying off consumer-voters (tax cuts and free prescription drugs for all!), but called Americans to rally to their individual and collective responsibilities as citizens of the republic. It didn’t talk much of rights and choices, as contemporary liberalism so often does, but emphasized “the American promise” as a shared ideal that binds us all together. He didn’t get bogged down in the soul-deadening, technocratic rhetoric of policy proposals, but used American history and “the American spirit” as the unifying narrative and common tapestry of our entire national community. When it came to our most divisive and contentious issues — abortion, gay marriage, immigration — Obama’s speech didn’t just pick a side and lob grenades at the cultural opposition, but tried to engage and draw out principled conservatives onto neutral ground, without compromising on the positions themselves.
I’ve made the case several times here that, for whatever reason (in part, I think, his background in community organizing — Jane Addams came to similar conclusions in her own time on the streets of Chicago; for another, I think the progressive ideals of the Social Gospel have survived better in the African-American church than they have in our secular democratic politics), Sen. Obama seems to understand and call back to real progressivism like no other presidential nominee we’ve had since RFK. This, thankfully, hasn’t been lost in the move toward the general election.
So, in other words, I loved the speech. And, as I said the other day, actually being at Invesco Field for its delivery was an experience I’ll never forget. I know some people may just find this naive, but after listening to Obama on Thursday night, and after living through all the corruption and incompetence of the last eight years, I refuse to imagine an America that would in good conscience pick John McCain and everything he represents over Barack Obama in two months. That is not my country — We are better than that, and we cannot and will not turn back.
“America needs a president who will put Barney Smith ahead of Smith Barney.” Before Obama came out — again, not sure if these were shown anywhere besides C-SPAN — we heard remarks from Susan Eisenhower (Ike’s granddaughter), witnessed a parade of Obama-supporting generals, and in a series of surprisingly good performances, listened as a handful of “regular Americans” like you and me explained why they’ll be voting Obama this November. Now, this latter set of speeches in particular could’ve screamed painful stunt. (I for one often get mightily annoyed by the practice, started by Reagan and honed by Clinton, of bringing in a grabbag of “Ordinary Americans” each year as props for the State of the Union — I think it’s lazy, opportunistic, and definitely serves to diminish the quality of contemporary speeches, making them less about universal ideas and resonant imagery and more about particular grievances and local color.)
All that being said, every one of these “ordinary” speakers performed exceptionally well, particularly given a crowd of 80,000 here and millions around the world, and they really helped to bring a human face to the catastrophe that has been Dubyanomics. Probably performing best, in my humble opinion, were Pam Cash-Roper of NC and Janet Lynn Monaco of FL, both of whom found themselves on the wrong end of our health care “system.” But each and every speaker did a great job, and former Republican Barney Smith got in the best line (above.)
Speaking of lines, If the speaker’s dais was noon on a clock, I was seated relatively low to the ground at around 1:30 pm. So, while my view of the speakers themselves was obstructed (I usually watched the big Jumbotron), I had a direct line of view to the large teleprompter across from the stage. So, more often than not — and, particularly during this section of the evening — I found myself reading along rather than watching the speakers, which definitely makes for a different experience. (It was also interesting to see what ensued when a given orator — the head general in his closing, for example — went off the reservation and tried to ad-lib…bad things, usually.)
[T]he last eight years demonstrate that the special interests who have come to control the Republican Party are so powerful that serving them and serving the national well-being are now irreconcilable choices.
So what can we do about it?
We can carry Barack Obama’s message of hope and change to every family in America. And pledge that we will be there for him, not only in the heat of this election but in the aftermath as we put his agenda to work for our country.
We can tell Republicans and independents, as well as Democrats, exactly why our nation so badly needs a change from the approach of Bush, Cheney and McCain.
After they wrecked our economy, it is time for a change.
After they abandoned the search for the terrorists who attacked us and redeployed the troops to invade a nation that did not attack us, it’s time for a change.
After they abandoned the principle first laid down by Gen. George Washington, when he prohibited the torture of captives because it would bring, in his words, “shame, disgrace and ruin” to our nation, it’s time for a change.
When as many as three Supreme Court justices could be appointed in the first term of the next president, and John McCain promises to appoint more Scalias and Thomases and end a woman’s right to choose, it is time for a change.
I’m not sure if Tim Kaine (ok, a bit heavy on the God-talk for my taste) and Bill Richardson (looser and more likable than he ever seemed on the campaign trail) made it to TV. I’m sure Al Gore’s address got some coverage, though. [Transcript.] Now, longtime readers know I’m no fan of Gore’s, and when his speech began I had a reaalllly bad feeling about it. (“Today, we face essentially the same choice we faced in 2000“…Uh, hell no we don’t. Sen. Obama is at least thrice the candidate Gore ever was, and he has neither been running to the right all primary season, nor masking himself in the pungent odor of Republican-lite centrism all frickin’ election, like some Tennesseeans I could name. Two words, Al: Joe Lieberman.)
That being said, I thought Gore’s speech picked up soon after its score-settling preamble, and, in the end — as with John Kerry — it was probably better-delivered, more honest, and more passionate than any address he delivered as the 2000 candidate. In effect, Gore gave the much-needed “Glenn Greenwald speech”: Of all the remarks I heard this week, it (and Richardson’s) drew most attention to the erosion of civil liberties and constitutional behavior by the executive that has marked the last eight years. There was a good bit of discussion of climate change in there as well, of course — that’s where Gore’s post-Nobel “controlling moral authority” lies. And, while it’s been going around for awhile, I enjoyed the many “Man from Springfield” comparisons of Lincoln and Obama. But it was as Defender of the Constitution that Gore’s speech most resonated with me, and, if I liked it with my exceedingly low tolerance for most things Gore-related, I have to think it played well out there to the undecideds as well. Good job, Mr. (Almost-)President.
I was there that day when Dr. King delivered his historic speech before an audience of more than 250,000. I am the last remaining speaker from the March on Washington, and I was there when Dr. King urged this nation to lay down the burden of discrimination and segregation and move toward the creation of a more perfect union…
[W]ith the nomination of Senator Barack Obama tonight, the man who will lead the Democratic Party in its march toward the White House, we are making a major down payment on the fulfillment of that dream. We prove that a dream still burns in the hearts of every American, that this dream was too right, too necessary, too noble to ever die.
But this night is not an ending. It is not even a beginning. It is the continuation of a struggle that began centuries ago in Lexington and Concord, in Gettysburg and Appomattox, in Farmville, Virginia, and Topeka, Kansas, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and Selma, Alabama.
Democracy is not a state. It is an act. It is a series of actions we must take to build what Martin Luther King Jr. called the beloved community – a society based on simple justice that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.
We’ve come a long way, but we still have a distance to go. We’ve come a long way, but we must march again. On November 4th, we must march in every state, in every city, in every village, in every hamlet; we must march to the ballot box. We must march like we have never marched before to elect the next President of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.
For those of us who stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or who in the years that followed may have lost hope, this moment is a testament to the power and vision of Martin Luther King Jr. It is a testament to the ability of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. It is a testament to the promise of America.
I’m not sure if it made it to the networks, but Rep. John Lewis’ introduction to the MLK tribute was easily the most spine-tingling and moving moment of the day outside of Obama’s nomination speech. When Lewis spoke, it was still a bright, sunny afternoon in Denver, and it was easy to imagine — and even almost feel the tangible presence of — that August day in Washington forty-five years ago.
I’m fully aware that this is just an illusion, that the two events were quite different in feel and tone, and that the former will always remain unknowable to me, outside of book-learning. But, as Lewis spoke with such emotion and conviction Thursday afternoon, it was a very powerful feeling, as if the space-time of American history was folding around us to fashion bookends, forty-five years apart. I felt extraordinarily lucky to be there to witness and experience it. “‘We’ve had disappointments since then, but if someone told me I would be here’ Mr. Lewis said, shaking [his] head. ‘When people say nothing has changed, I feel like saying, “Come walk in my shoes.”‘“
Hey y’all. After a crack-of-the-morning flight out of Denver (which included a spry Mickey Dolenz and a tired-looking Hayden Panettiere), I’m back in VA now, have rested up, and have put up the rest of my Invesco pics over at Flickr. In case anyone’s interested, here are a few more thoughts about the milieu surrounding Thursday event:
Imagine the DC Nationals playing Game 7 of the World Series at home, and you may get somewhere close to the strangeness that was the stadium environment at Invesco Field. It was definitely a NFL or NBA stadium atmosphere, with all the usual concessions open. But, amid the pretzel vendors, lines for hot dogs, and Obama t-shirt stands, the place was also obviously teeming with DC-types — pols, journalists, celebrities, and of course their many, many handlers. So, if you walked around the concourse a few times (as I did during the Sheryl Crow set, for example), you were bound to see tons of notable people waiting anxiously in the condiment queue, and/or one of the gaggle of C-level talking heads “trying not to be seen,” hoping to be seen. It was all quite bizarre.
In lieu of a list of all the random people I saw wandering around, I’ll just give a few general impressions:
Hey y’all…Well, I don’t know how it played on (a non-Jumbotron) television, but here, tonight, at Invesco Field, the experience of Sen. Obama’s nomination speech was unbelievable. Not only was Obama’s address both powerful in its can-do faith in America and devastatingly effective in its evisceration of the GOP, but I can’t remember any other event I’ve been to that felt so caught up in the sweep of history, from John Lewis invoking Dr. King and the March of 45 years ago during the afternoon to the final fireworks lighting up the Denver sky. It was a tremendously moving night — one of those tell-your-grandkid nights — and, while I’ve been enjoying myself here in Denver regardless, this definitely made the whole trip worthwhile.
I have lots more pictures and minor anecdotes to share about the day, but unfortunately I won’t be able to do the speeches — and the night — justice until after I get back. (As it is, my very early return flight is only hours away.) So more tomorrow evening, once I’ve returned to EDT. For now, I’ll just say this: There’s no flippin’ way we’re losing this election.
Another happy fanboy moment this morning (See, I don’t only go gaga for character actors and Youtube starlets): While setting up shop for the final day here, I happened to notice author Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union) taking a quick peek into the confines of our bloggerverse. (He’s set to sign books at The Tattered Cover, the very quality bookstore next door, in a bit.)
At any rate, Chabon seemed like a very friendly fellow, and he entertained my sudden barrage of fanboy film adaptation questions without complaint. (We didn’t get to talk comics, alas, but then again I didn’t want to eat up all of his exploring time.) Regarding Kavalier & Klay, Chabon said that there’s no real truth to the Jude Law-Ben Stiller rumors that were circulating awhile back, and that the Stephen Daldry-directed version Chabon himself spoke of a few years ago, like the Sydney Pollack attempt before that, is now sadly moldering away in Development Hell. As for Yiddish, Chabon — who seemed really delighted that the Coens have grabbed the project — said they were writing it now (so, in other words, A Serious Man will definitely come first.) No word on casting yet, although I’m willing to bet dollars-to-donuts Frances McDormand is on the short list for Bina.
In any case, Chabon seemed like great people, and it was a real kick to chat him up for a few minutes. (And, unlike a lot of the recognizable folks who’ve come through lately, there was no entourage of “boundary mavens” to negotiate with.)
“You know, my mom taught her children — all the children who flocked to our house — that you’re defined by your sense of honor and you’re redeemed by your loyalty. She believes that bravery lives in every heart, and her expectation is that it will be summoned. Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable…[W]hen I got knocked down by guys bigger than me — and this is the God’s truth — she sent me back out and said, ‘Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day.’ And that’s what I did. You know — and after the accident, she told me, she said, ‘Joey, God sends no cross that you cannot bear.’ And when I triumphed, my mother was quick to remind me it was because of others. My mother’s creed is the American creed: No one is better than you. Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you.“
Closing out Wednesday night (give or take a brief visit from the man of the hour) was Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech [Transcript], a well-constructed yarn which began as a Jim Sheridan-ish tale of a scrappy Irish Catholic upbringing and segued into another full-throated endorsement of Barack Obama and evisceration of John McCain. (Its refrain: “John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was right.“) It’s getting late, so I’ll just note that I thought this was a better speech than Biden’s coming out last week (which was good too), and I’m definitely liking the Senator’s inclusion on the ticket. And now, on to the big show…
“To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say let’s compare Senator McCain to Candidate McCain. Candidate McCain now supports the very wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once called irresponsible. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding me, folks? Talk about being for it before you’re against it!“
In the second of three solid orations tonight, an impassioned John Kerry laid into John McCain hard, and delivered arguably a better speech than anything he ever gave as our 2004 nominee. [Transcript.] Thanks to the Swift Boat ridiculousness of that cycle, Kerry has now taken on some of the resonance that Max Cleland had back then — that of the good patriot horribly wronged by the sheer scumminess of the Rove-wallowing GOP. Well, Kerry tapped into this costly gravitas with aplomb in tonight’s speech, using it to insist that we not let McCain and his new friends screw the nation over once again. (“How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother, who chose community service over money and privilege, that he doesn’t put America first. No one can question Barack Obama’s patriotism.“)
The anger of Kerry’s own experience seethed just below the surface in his remarks, and it lent his speech a fiery passion that seemed as AWOL as cokehead-Dubya during crucial stretches in 2004. (Not that the election should’ve come down to a question of passion anyway, but frankly every little bit would’ve helped.) In a perfect world, Kerry wouldn’t have to play the martyr right now, of course. But this isn’t a perfect world. As it is, it’s hard to think of anyone who could better remind us in 2008 that the GOP are all too often an adversary without any semblance of honor or dignity, and we’ll be damned before we let those bastards get away with their pathetic lies and hateful smears once again. Not this time.
“Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I’ve done since, in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job. He has a remarkable ability to inspire people, to raise our hopes and rally us to high purpose. He has the intelligence and curiosity every successful president needs. His policies on the economy, taxes, health care and energy are far superior to the Republican alternatives. He has shown a clear grasp of our foreign policy and national security challenges, and a firm commitment to repair our badly strained military. His family heritage and life experiences have given him a unique capacity to lead our increasingly diverse nation and to restore our leadership in an ever more interdependent world. The long, hard primary tested and strengthened him. And in his first presidential decision, the selection of a running mate, he hit it out of the park.“
And with that, President Bill Clinton, in his impressive throwback performance tonight, helped to rectify the most egregious lacunae in his wife’s speech the night before. [Transcript.] In some ways, the former President’s speech exhibited a classic Clinton dynamic: His remarks had many of the same issues as those of Sen. Clinton — they were often relentlessly self-aggrandizing, for example — and yet, as with so many other things, he’s often just better at getting away with it. “Vote for Obama, because he’s the Second Coming of Me in 1992″ is an argument that’s almost breathtaking in the audacity of its self-absorption, and yet Bill Clinton — when he’s on his game, as he was tonight — is remarkably good at making such egotism seem more like a magnanimous benediction, kindly bestowed on his Democratic successor. It’s a neat trick, no doubt…and when he goes after the GOP, few in our party do it better.
That being said, I thought even President Clinton’s unparallelled powers of salesmanship and seduction couldn’t sell me a line like “If, like me, you still believe America must always be a place called Hope, then join Hillary, Chelsea and me in making Sen. Barack Obama the next president of the United States.” Not when you spend even a moment remembering anything Clinton had to say about “false hopes” or “fairy tales” over the first six months of this year. But that’s watching the magician’s hands move, isn’t it?
“Madam Secretary, on behalf of the great state of New York, with appreciation for the spirit and dedication of all who are gathered here, with eyes firmly fixed on the future in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and our country, let’s declare together in one voice, right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president.“
In a choice bit of stagecraft that helped to partially salve the memory of her speech last night, Sen. Clinton shut down the official roll call and called for Barack Obama’s nomination by acclamation. In terms of a show of unity, I thought this was nicely done all around, and it went over like gangbusters on the floor. “Another Clinton advisor told me Wednesday morning that the negotiations that were being reported were never really that involved — basically, the roll-call vote was handled as Obama’s aides wanted.” If so, well-played.
While I’m getting all the “look at me — I’m embedded!” links out of the way, here’s a Conde Nast Portfolio report on the Big Tent, filmed Monday, that features me briefly. Judging from the questions I keep getting asked, numerous mainstream media groups seem to be doing variations on this same sorta puff-piece story (“Who are these crazy “bloggers,” and (gasp) will they take over everything?), although — at least so far — I’ve spent most of my own interview-time talking to foreign press.
Alright, put yourself in my shoes: You’re in Denver, occasionally surrounded by various poobahs of the political and DC-journalism worlds, and you already got as close to the candidate as you’re gonna get. Would you rush up to Mark Shields of The Capital Gang or National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein and beg for a pic? Would you brave the throngs of fellow blog-types and get all up in Joe Trippi’s grill? Or would you sidle over to the free-drinks area at an opportune time and snap this?
Sigh…yes, I am weak. At any rate, eat your heart out, Mike Gravel.
“To my supporters, to my champions — to my sisterhood of the traveling pant suits — from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you because you never gave in and you never gave up. And together we made history.” Have you ever heard Chris Rock’s stand-up riff about folks who want massive props from everyone for doing things they were supposed to do anyway? (“I take care of my kids! I’ve never been to jail!“) This, in a nutshell, was my impression of Sen. Clinton’s guilt-trip call to her remaining supporters last night, which — I doubt few will be surprised — I found mostly self-centered wallowing, and all in all a missed opportunity. [Transcript.] Following the address, the media were mostly sent into paroxysms of adulation for the Senator’s remarks, with my old employer leading the charge on CNN. I’m not sure we watched the same speech. OMG, she tepidly endorsed the winner of the Democratic nomination? She’s supposed to.
Now, if you’re here, you probably already know my feelings about Senator Clinton’s candidacy this past spring, how it went negative early in a fit of panic and poor planning, how it was distended beyond all proportion well after the fight was already over, how it appropriated GOP talking points for its own purposes and needlessly gave the McCain campaign all manner of soundbites (which it is now happily having the media play for them.) I just can’t take Sen. Clinton seriously as some tribune of the working class, particularly given she’s had someone waiting on her hand and foot since 1978, when she became First Lady of Arkansas. Nor do I buy into her recent “I’m Every Woman,” Shiva, Shatterer of Glass Ceilings routine: Even notwithstanding her behavior amid the various bimbo eruptions over the years, it was Sen. Clinton’s campaign who was the one trafficking in stale, sexist notions of “testicular fortitude” all the time. And it was she, among the candidates for president, who felt the dangerous need to dangle her phantom cajones by talking of “obliterating” Iran and/or Iraq. In all honesty, I think it’s safe to say that many of the suffragettes she’s now taken to invoking would blanche at her campaign’s behavior over the past year.
All that being said, now was the time for unity, yadda yadda yadda, so I went into Clinton’s speech with a relatively open mind. But then, true to form, she started talking about herself…again…and she just wouldn’t stop. The line people are keying into as some massively impressive act of self-abnegation is this: “I want you — I want you to ask yourselves, were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him?…Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?” Now, I know I’m not one of the um, hundreds, of Dems who are finding it so hard to get over Sen. Clinton’s inability to manage a campaign this past spring that I’ll vote for McCain as a result. But this, to me, is a grossly self-absorbed way of endorsing Barack Obama for president, one fully in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from the Senator from New York.
Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton said nothing to atone for her lamentable, injurious, and unnecessary commander-in-chief digs of a few months ago. She praised John McCain’s personality without saying much, if anything, nice about Barack Obama. Basically, the sum total of her argument last night was “Barack Obama is the lesser of two evils, and he almost’s as good as me, so get behind him.” Forgive me for not finding that much of a rousing call to unity.
“My fellow Democrats. My fellow Americans. The most important contest of our generation has begun. Not the campaign for the presidency. Not the campaign for Congress. But the race for the future.” Well, one thing becomes clear about Gov. Mark Warner after his keynote speech last night [transcript]: he’s no Barack Obama. Granted, delivering the keynote four years after our current nominee would’ve been a tough gig by any measure. (And, hey, at least he was better than Clinton in ’88.) Still, I found Warner’s speech last night to be one of the more tepid and uninteresting of the evening. Brian Schweitzer was more wry, Kucinich’s fireplug “Wake Up America!” rally was more rousing, and Bob Casey was more devastating: (“McCain’s not a maverick, he’s a sidekick.”)
It doesn’t help that, at least to me, Warner has the air of a salesman and the look of a slightly deranged muppet (if not Guy Smiley, then one of the Avenue Q gang.) He also seems to have come off the same blow-dried assembly line that gave us Evan Bayh and John Edwards — the latter is company absolutely nobody seems to want to keep this week, even in resemblance — and that doesn’t help to dispel that certain feel of inauthenticity about him. And some of the riffs in his oration, especially early on, seemed particularly platitudinous. (The thing about the future is it comes, inexorably, whether you like or not.)
Now, don’t get me wrong — I’ll be casting my Senate vote for Warner this November, and I really hope the guy wins. His record in Virginia clearly suggests he’s a capable executive who can get things done. But I still found this keynote rather unremarkable, even if I found myself in great sympathy with its call for a return to science.
Looking over the coverage from afar, it seems much is being made at Salon — naturally — of the PUMA crowd (particularly given that tonight is Clinton night.) Well, don’t believe a word of it. I happened to catch this exact same “protest” yesterday afternoon, and there couldn’t have been more than fifty people involved. Frankly, I’ve seen bigger protests by the third party and no party types than I have the stark raving Clintonites, and they don’t seem to be getting any coverage. As far as overt protests by the ex-Clintoners go, Salon, and related media outlets, are trying to make a mountain out of a very feeble-looking and tenuous molehill.
That being said, over in his corner Bill Clinton still seems to be keeping up with his protest of one. “Suppose you’re a voter, and you’ve got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don’t think that candidate can deliver on anything at all. Candidate Y you agree with on about half the issues, but he can deliver. Which candidate are you going to vote for?” Honestly, Mr. President, get a grip.
Update: Rendell’s off the reservation too. “Barack Obama is handsome. He’s incredibly bright. He’s incredibly well spoken, and he’s incredibly successful — not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with…He is a little like Adlai Stevenson.”
For those looking for movie news amid the politics: While enjoying an outdoor microbrew last evening, I happened to notice Jeffrey Wright walking down the street, and — while political pundit types like Ron Brownstein were getting swamped by onlookers — it seemed exactly nobody else noticed him. (I would’ve snapped a pic, but the camera was out of juice.) I mean, c’mon people, that’s Colin Powell! Journalists and pols come and go, but I still get excited whenever I happen to see an honest-to-goodness movie star.
Next up, of course, was Michelle Obama, who delivered a personal testimonial for her husband and his belief in “the world as it should be.” [Transcript.] To be honest, I thought some of the beats in her speech — the necessary nod to Clinton, the “this is why I love my country” bit — were a tad too deliberate. That being said, Mrs. Obama was pretty much given a thankless chore in having to smooth her edges and homogenize herself for the easy-to-swallow consumption of “the undecideds” — It’s a weird rigamarole we put our political spouses through. So, with that in mind, I thought she did a great job.
“My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here. And nothing going to keep me away from this special gathering.” In an emotional valedictory of sorts, Ted Kennedy kicked the major speeches off in grand fashion, brain tumor be damned. [Transcript.] “Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again. There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our Party, but renewal for our nation. And this November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.“
Now, that‘s a great introduction. However you feel about Sen. Kennedy, he undoubtedly stands like a liberal colossus over the straits of our times. In one of the darkest periods in our history to be a lefty, Sen. Kennedy has kept the flame alive, from the horrors of ’68 through Nixon, Reagan, 41, and Dubya. Given everything he and his family stand for, it’s hard to think of a better or more moving way to commemorate this week’s passing of the torch. Get well, Senator — We want you back in 2012.
Good morning all — I’m back in the Big Tent right now (fortunately, bloggers tend to be late risers, I guess, as electricity is easier to come by right now), sifting through some of the latest swag (breath mints advertising “clean” coal power, chocolate smoothies via HuffPo, C-Span coffee mugs, etc.) and generallly figuring out where to flit around today. There’s a lot going on upstairs, and they treat us very well in here, but, even despite all the free caffeine, etc., it feels a bit like being a caged exotic bird in this tent. Every so often politicos or celebrity journalists swing through, pat us on the head, and say “oooh, the bloggers!”, then disappear to wherever the real action is. In a way, we’re all just embedded in here, bought off by swag bags, free massages (I have yet to partake), and Chipotle burritos. But, hey, I like Chipotle.
In any case, it’s good to refortify in here before venturing forth for another day of the “DC RoE.” For, however hospitable Denver has been thus far (and so far LoDo seems like a great place — I wasn’t expecting such a walking-friendly downtown), it’s clear the most aggravating tendencies of District life have thoroughly infected this entire municipal area for the week. Like I said yesterday, having spent the past several years ensconced in academia (which has its own occasionally exasperating mores to navigate), I’d forgotten how fundamentally irritating the DC ratrace can be. Consider this full-immersion therapy.
Rule #1 of the DC life: Access — and thus the appearance, if not the fact, of exclusivity — is everything. For example: Yesterday evening, a friend of mine from CQ and I looked to catch a drink somewhere nearby. We eventually found one, thank goodness, but not before having to negotiate with doormen, list-bearing aides, and sundry other “boundary mavens” in front of many, many bars, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. Everything was cordoned off, invites and VIPS only, unworthies please move along. Now, I understand the lobbyists gotta do their thing — If only this sort of thing was restricted to private parties. Alas, DC life, I have since been reminded, is basically one big rope-line. Every doorway involves a plethora of multi-colored passes, even those that lead nowhere particularly important. Every event here, even ungodly boring ones they can barely fill, have byzantine rules for crossing the threshold, and strange, unspoken hierarchies which determine who gets in and in what order. Get three people together in the District and one of ‘em will start working on setting up the cordon. Frankly, it all gets a bit exhausting. (I’d like to say the special dKos couch I was joking about yesterday is a parody of this impulse, but it’s really just another sad manifestation of it.)
Which brings me to Rule #2 of Washington: You’re only as interesting as your status in The Hive. The District being a company town, the main thrust of virtually every social encounter in DC is “Hi-Hello-Who-do-you-work-for?” (I’ve heard LA operates much the same way, which makes sense, given that politics is basically showbiz for short and/or ugly people.) I can’t tell you the number of times during my Washington days when people I’d recently met would “switch on” once they ascertained I had a moderately important-sounding job. (It wasn’t really, of course, but Carville occupied his own unique tangent in Clinton-era Washington, so the rabid political climbers always assumed I had more pull than I ever in fact did.)
As such, people tend to accord you respect only in direct relation to your perceived clout, and if you don’t have any, you’re just not worth talking to. In DC, the most remorseless practitioners of the political arts — and thus often the most successful — will be endlessly scanning the room around you during your conversation, looking to see if there’s someone more important they should be talking to at that moment. It’s a peculiarly virulent form of douchebaggery that you really can’t escape if you venture into the politics business, and it, sad to say, has been very much in evidence here in Denver.
Like I said, I found this endless reducing of people to their places of employ tremendously irritating even when I occupied a relatively privileged position in “The Game.” Now that I’ve been out of the scene for awhile — having cashed in my chits, so to speak, to pursue the PhD during the Dubya years — and my hive status is lower than even drone, it’s that much worse. Now, here in the blogger tent, everyone — give or take a few e-celebrities, of course — seems very friendly, down-to-earth folk, and journalists, I’ve found, rarely traffick as baldly in this sort of behavior as the politicos (which is a lot of the reason I tended to hang with reporters and non-profit types while in DC.) But, get around the actual honest-to-goodness political people, who are obviously everywhere right now, and hoo boy. After an hour or two of being constantly Sized Up and Found Wanting by weaselly-looking guys in suits, it’s enough to send you screaming into the streets.
Ok, had to get that off my chest. I am having a great time here, honest! Still, it was a bit of a shock on my first day to be resubmerged so quickly and so thoroughly into the DC-politico culture. Oh yeah, it’s like that.
Hey all…back at my friend’s place now, where the sweet, sweet electrical power flows freely. As some may have already noticed, I managed to get some pics for the day up here. Enjoy…I’ll have more to say in the next day or two, once I can gather my thoughts about events thus far. It’s been a lot to take in, and, frankly, I’ve been out of the DC environment for awhile. (Denver or no, DC rules of engagement are clearly the order of the day here…I’d sorta forgotten how this game is played.)
Hey y’all — So, as of late last night, I’ve arrived in Denver to partake of the DNC milieu as best I can. At the moment, I’m reporting in from the Big Tent, a few blocks over from the Pepsi Center, where they’re housing and attempting to satiate the new media types. (In fact, I may currently be sitting dangerously close to the fluffy couches reserved for dKos.) All in all, it seems like a pretty nice set-up, with a large amount of workspace here on the first floor, a stage up above for various scheduled talks and events over the next few days (some sort of rainbow choir was performing when I got here), and goodly amounts of free stuff already being handed out (including a swag bag of eco-friendly mugs, Skype headsets, progressive-minded books, etc. etc.)
On the down side, while we seem to be in the midst of the action media-wise, and democratic happenings seem to have taken over all of the nearby environs (Lower Downtown, or “LoDo”) — I stumbled into 2 or 3 just checking out the nearest bookstore and looking for a croissant — these Big Tent passes don’t appear to be transferable to the actual convention floor. (I may look for alternate methods of getting down there, if I manage to run into any of my old DC friends, acquaintances, and/or employers.) Also, I left my camera wire back at my Denver base (a high school friend’s home in Wash Park), so any pictures will have to wait. Finally, PC battery time is at a premium, so –even with my extra laptop batteries on hand — updates around here look to be relatively scarce during the day. Still, it looks like it’s shaping up to be an interesting week.
“Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence — on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to ‘do the job from Day One.’ In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel…Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.” The Atlantic‘s Josh Green, who covered the dirt on the Patty Doyle firing earlier this year, tells the story of Sen. Clinton’s primary bid from the inside (thanks mainly to being the beneficiary of vindictive document dumps from across the campaign hierarchy.)
Among the many interesting revelations, Mark Penn is apparently an even bigger asshole than he seemed during the primaries. Regarding Sen. Obama: “All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light. Save it for 2050…his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values…Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.” Classy.
Update: Speak of the devil. While giving kudos to McCain for his Paris Hilton ad, Mark Penn emerges from his cave to extol the usefulness of negative advertising. “Picking a president is not just about the candidates’ strengths but also about how their weaknesses can manifest themselves. Imagine if, in 2000, Al Gore’s advertisements had hit George W. Bush hard over incompetence on foreign affairs and as a trigger-happy cowboy.“
“[I]t is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry…I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up — feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself.” So…Edwards. To be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised by this revelation — When the story first broke back in December, it just seem too detailed to be completely implausible, and I figured it was only a matter of time before the Enquirer closed the deal.
That being said, it seems clear we Dems clearly dodged a bullet by not backing Edwards’ candidacy, and he really shouldn’t have played roulette with us by trying to keep this under wraps. (Then again, diehard Clinton flak Howard Wolfson seems to think Edwards’ silence gave the nomination to Obama, which may or may not be true, so maybe he had an important part to play nonetheless.) I don’t think revelations of an affair would’ve necessarily been a ticket-killer this year, particularly given the shadier turns of McCain’s personal life. But it would’ve put us at an enormous disadvantage out of the box, honesty and character-wise, for no good reason whatsoever. (And, by the way, amiable southern white male narcissist who can’t keep it in his pants? Been there, done that.)
“Last week I communicated to Senator Obama and his presidential campaign my firm intention to remain in the United States Senate, where I believe I am best equipped to serve the people of Virginia and this country.” In the Obama veepstakes, Sen. Webb takes himself out of the running. “Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for Vice President.”
“‘She’s no longer campaigning for president,’ said Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee. ‘She’s focused on her work in the Senate, campaigning for Senator Obama and other Democrats.’” With the Dems back on the same team, the Clinton campaign scrubs its website of anti-Obama material from the primary era. As such, this seems as good a time as any to definitively put to rest these Penn-inspired primary fictions as well:
So R.I.P., goofy primary reasoning. You won’t be missed.
“‘As he’s said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain’s service, and of course he rejects yesterday’s statement by General Clark,’ Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.” So…I guess Wes Clark won’t be the veep. For some ill-defined reason, the Obama campaign sees fit to throw the general under the bus because Clark, a guy I run hot and cold on, simply stated the obvious. Getting shot down over Vietnam, however ostensibly character-building, in no way constitutes executive experience: ““I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility…I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.“
Said Obama in Independence today: “McCain had ‘endured physical torment in service to our country’ and ‘no one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign, and that goes for supporters on both sides.’” Fair enough, but that wasn’t at all what Clark was doing. McCain’s basically getting away with the same sort of resume inflation as Sen. Clinton did in the primaries, and Clark — a five-star general who knows what he’s talking about — called him on it.
One could argue that there’s a method to this move by the Obama campaign, but even that theory suggests a certain ugly political opportunism at work. (One could also argue karma had some part to play in all this, since Clark earlier jumped all over Samantha Powers’ gaffe during the primaries.) Nonetheless, between this, the Senator’s switchback on telecom immunity (which I discussed in the comments here), and various other recent triangulations, the Obama campaign has had a pretty lousy week. I don’t know if it’s the recent influx of “veteran” hands, an attempt to beat back the National Journal liberal label, or just an early-summer malaise, but that sickly-sweet smell of Old-School Dem Politics is lingering in the air. Get it together, y’all. I know the polls look good, but this defensive-minded playing-not-to-lose is assuredly not the way to go.
Update: “I’ve said this for some weeks now, they’ve been repeated many times.” Clark sticks to his guns, and Webb has his back. Meanwhile, Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald makes the case against Obama’s last two weeks: “There is no question, at least to me, that having Obama beat McCain is vitally important…[but] his election is less likely, not more likely, the more homage he pays to these these tired, status-quo-perpetuating Beltway pieties.“
Update II: Obama clarifies on Clark: “I don’t think that General Clark you know had the same intent as the swift boat ads that we saw four years ago, I reject that analogy…I think in at least one publication was reported that my comments yesterday about Senator McCain were in a response to General Clark. I think my staff will confirm that that was in a draft of that speech that I had written two months ago.”
Update III: Fred Kaplan has a theory about Clark v. McCain: Grunts are from Mars, Flyboys are from Venus.
“We cannot let this moment slip away,’ Clinton pressed. “‘For anyone who voted for me and who is now considering not voting, or voting for Sen. McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider. I urge you to remember what we are standing for in this election.‘” In the aptly-named town of Unity, NH, Sen. Clinton campaigns with Sen. Obama. (They’ve also now maxed out donations to each other, and Obama continues to hire senior Clinton staff.)
In not-unrelated news, new polls put Wisconsin (+13) and Minnesota (+17) pretty firmly in the lean-Obama column. Says CNN: “The Illinois senator now has 231 electoral votes — 39 shy of winning the presidency,” and that’s not counting OH, FL, CO, NM, VA, or IA…all states we have a solid shot of picking up. Again, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m feeling pretty confident about our prospects these days.
Keeping in mind that polls five months out from Election Day are basically meaningless, some good news on the swing-state front: Sen. Obama currently leads in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. (What, you mean Mark Penn’s swing-state argument was bogus? Who knew?)
This would seem to hinder McCain’s likely strategy of using Florida as a safe electoral base from which to make incursions into possible Obama territory in Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and elsewhere — Now, the mythical maverick will have to play serious defense in the Sunshine State. (Again, June polls say next-to-nothing about the state of play in November, but I’m glad we’re 4-10 points up rather than 10-15 down. Plus, these numbers are in keeping with my general feeling — knock on wood — that Election Day will be a trouncing.)
Update: More fuel for the fire. A new Newsweek poll has Obama up fifteen on McCain, 51%-36%. “The latest numbers on voter dissatisfaction suggest that Obama may enjoy more than one bounce. The new poll finds that only 14 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the direction of the country…Obama is [also] running much stronger at this point in the race than his two most recent Democratic predecessors, Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore…In a July 2004 NEWSWEEK Poll, Kerry led Bush by only 6 points (51 percent to 45 percent). In June 2000, Gore was in a dead heat with Bush (45 percent to 45 percent)“
Update 2: It’s not an outlier. LA Times/Bloomberg also has Obama up 15 (48%-33%) in a four-way race with Nader and Barr. Against McCain only, our man’s up 12.
“The outcome of this election will affect the future of our planet…Take it from me — elections matter.” Finally, Al Gore endorses Sen. Obama. (Not exactly a profile in courage at this point, but could we really expect anything less from the man?) Well, in any case, welcome aboard.
Also joining Team Obama today: Patty Solis Doyle, who has been hired to be “chief of staff to the future vice presidential running mate.” As Doyle, “a native Chicagoan with deep ties to many senior Obama aides,” is no longer on speaking terms with Sen. Clinton (to whom she “devoted her adult life“) after having been blamed for Iowa, it would seem Clinton will not be making the veep short list. Try to contain your despair.
“Mr. Band, who declined to comment, is hardly alone in tallying those considered to have crossed the former candidate or the former president in recent months by supporting Mr. Obama. As the Obama bandwagon has swelled, so have the lists of people Clinton loyalists regard as some variation of ‘ingrate,’ ‘traitor’ or ‘enemy,’ according to the associates and campaign officials, who would speak only on condition of anonymity.” They’re making a list, and checking it twice… Via Blackberry, Clinton flunkies draw up a post-primary enemies list. It ain’t politics without grudges, I guess.
“The symbolism of all this to average swing voters just seems to me too powerful to pass up. The GOP is going to hang the elitist tag on Obama, as they’ve always done in recent elections. It’s worked in the last two elections, and it might well work in this one. But it stands far less a chance of working if Obama has this ruddy-faced, shit-kicking, pugnacious, southern white guy standing next to him vouching for him.” The Guardian Michael Tomasky makes the case for a Vice-President Webb, while The Prospect‘s Ezra Klein (he should stay in the Senate), Slate‘s Tim Noah (he’s too volatile), and The Atlantic‘s James Fallows (he’d hate the gig) demur.
Update: Webb aside, Sen. Kent Conrad leaks that the Obama campaign is currently floating a list of twenty or so names for veep. He “told CNN that some of those on the list are ‘top officials now,’ others are ‘former lawmakers’ and others are ‘former top military leaders.‘”
So…as you probably saw, Sen. Clinton finally, officially left the race on Saturday. In the interests of moving forward, I’ll refrain from commenting too much about her woefully self-absorbed concession speech [text], which has generally been garnering raves out of (I suspect) valedictory courtesy. It might’ve worked better if given at the appropriate time, I suppose, but as a do-over I found it sub-par both in theme (once again, it was all about her) and delivery (she only smiled when discussing herself, and otherwise had that gritted-teeth POW look about her.)
Regarding Sen. Clinton’s much-touted brand-relaunch as a shatterer of glass ceilings and an exemplary avatar of feminism, I’ll point to this earlier post by Alison Benedikt and Anne Applebaum’s essay on Slate: “[T]he last few weeks of her campaign have been not so much feminist as pathological.” For everything else, I’ll refer to my post on Sen. Clinton’s Boromirian tendencies these past primary months. In any case, on to the general election.
“You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future.” Take that, Sean Wilentz. In an interview with The Times (concerning his touring art show), the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan backs Barack Obama. “Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval. Poverty is demoralising. You can’t expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor. But we’ve got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up…Barack Obama. He’s redefining what a politician is, so we’ll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I’m hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to.”