Credit the Democrats, they managed to turn the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama nomination controversy into a positive. The roll call of the states provided the backdrop. Sen. Hillary Clinton strode onto the floor of the arena to move that the convention nominate Obama by acclamation. It was good political theater, timed to occur during the evening news broadcasts. The roll call would not have been carried by the networks, so the stagecraft allowed Democrats to get Obama's historic nomination covered. Political junkies appreciate that kind of strategy.
Soon after came the speakers. Bill Clinton wowed the crowd like only he can at a Democratic convention. But the other main speakers of the night once again disappointed. So the nominee himself showed up in the arena to brighten things up, and take the focus off of his running mate.
President Clinton was introduced to raucous applause from the arena. He asked the crowd to "sit down" at least five times before beginning his speech. It was an excellent convention speech. None other than Karl Rove would later say that President Clinton "made the best case for Obama that has been given at this convention." Clinton declared Obama ready to be president, something Sen. Clinton could not or would not do last night. There was a lot of exaggeration and omission in Clinton's address. No mention of 9/11, for example. But his purpose was to drop the sword on the shoulders of Obama, and he accomplished that very well. Unfortunately, that was the end of the politically competent portion of the program for the Democrats; and for the second straight night, the speaker most talked about the day after will be a Clinton.
Sen. John Kerry spoke not long after Clinton and gave one of his characteristic downer speeches. His was an extremely bitter address, chock full of references to the 2004 election, which Kerry clearly has not gotten over. It must be a hard thing to lose the presidency, but it does not have to drive one to madness. Kerry has clearly chosen the latter. Of his great friend John McCain, who Kerry practically begged to run with him on the Democratic ticket four years ago, he had this to say.
"I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. 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.That may have felt good for a little while, but the quick rebuke Kerry drew from Liz Mair, Online Communications Director for the Republican National Committee, is going to leave a mark.
Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain's own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you're against it."
"John Kerry devolved into self-parody tonight, when he explained that he was actually for John McCain before he was against him. At some point bitterness becomes a sickness."Kerry questioned McCain's judgment on national security issues, claiming that Barack Obama was right on, of all things, the war in Iraq, and John McCain was wrong. That is the kind of boomerang political attack that only John Kerry can deliver. Anyone who is paying any attention knows that the troop surge John McCain advocated for a full year before it was implemented, and which Sen. Obama opposed and said would fail, has practically won the war in Iraq. But then, no one ever accused John Kerry of paying attention.
Kerry's performance was surpassed by Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden, but only barely. Biden was warmly and touchingly introduced by his son Beau, the Attorney General of Delaware. He may have been better off though, if he had come out, waved to the crowd, said thank you, and walked off. His speech was halting, replete with stumbles, and mined with dud applause lines. The audience never connected with him. To say that his description of America was not hopeful is an understatement.
Almost every night, I take the train home to Wilmington, sometimes very late. As I look out the window at the homes we pass, I can almost hear what they're talking about at the kitchen table after they put the kids to bed.Nothing like a positive uplifting vision to win over votes.
Like millions of Americans, they're asking questions as profound as they are ordinary. Questions they never thought they would have to ask:
Should mom move in with us now that dad is gone?
Fifty, sixty, seventy dollars to fill up the car?
Winter's coming. How we gonna pay the heating bills?
Another year and no raise?
Did you hear the company may be cutting our health care?
Now, we owe more on the house than it's worth. How are we going to send the kids to college?
How are we gonna be able to retire?
That's the America that George Bush has left us, and that's the future John McCain will give us. These are not isolated discussions among families down on their luck. These are common stories among middle-class people who worked hard and played by the rules on the promise that their tomorrows would be better than their yesterdays.
Biden's attacks on McCain were not sharp. They were the same recycled accusations that McCain represents a third Bush term. The Democrats may have settled on that as their message coming out of this convention, but voters know John McCain as an independent minded politician who has bucked his party time and again. This attack dog VP nominee just won't hunt.
After the speech, Sen. Obama staged a walk-in to the arena, stepping on his running mate's time in the spotlight. He told the crowd that the convention had gone "pretty well so far" and informed them that the festivities would be moving to "Mile High Stadium," which was demolished in January 2002. At least Obama knew to come to Denver for the convention. Tomorrow is his acceptance speech. After two less than stellar days at the Pepsi Center, and an average Joe performance by his VP choice, the change of venue might be just what the Obama ordered.