Sunday, August 31, 2008

Notes from the Convention

1.  Michelle's speech:  Don't tell my wife, but I think I'm in love with Michelle Obama. Seriously, she gave a phenomenal speech and I think set a new mark for what a First Spouse should be - passionate in her beliefs, compassionate and smart, smart, smart.  Makes me think that maybe she should get a Senate seat in 2016 and then run for president in 2020.  

2. The network television coverage, at least on NBC, revealed a distressing miscomprehension of the full historical meaning of this week's proceedings.  I'm not just talking about the endless riffing on the divided party meme.  While watching Michelle Obama speech, I was shocked to see that easily 3/4 of the reaction shots were of African-American delegates, when only about 24% of the delegates are black.  Why did that bother me?  Because it sent a message that the nomination of Barack Obama is something that's only meaningful to and for black people.  No, it's meaningful to all of us.  That a politically viable African-American is getting nominated to be president is obviously a huge deal, something that should be embraced by everyone (something even McCain acknowledged) But, the thing that's so magical about Obama, given our country's history is Obama's ability to transcend race in inspiring and giving hope to people of all races.  This is one of the reasons why Obama, as I've said before is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime candidate who has the potential and the leadership skills to transform politics and reinvigorate this nation.   It was narrow-minded and just plain wrong for the NBC television director to have chosen a disproportionate number of reaction shots of Africans rather than portraying the full diversity of Democratic delegates who are genuinely excited and inspired by the nomination of Barack Obama

3. Hillary and even Bill have largely redeemed themselves in my view (full redemption will, however, require fundraising and enthusiastic and frequent campaigning on behalf of the Obama/Biden ticket).  And, with the media buying into idea that Sarah Palin will help attract disaffected Hillary voters, it's even more important for Hillary to counter that argument and be the one to call Sarah Palin unqualified and McCain unqualified for exercising the poor judgment to choose her.  

4.  The acceptance speech: not by any means my favorite Obama speech.  I love the soaring and inspiring rhetoric of his early-Primary era stump speech, not to mention the 2004 keynote speech or the Dr. King birthday speech.  But those speeches will be back, starting on Inauguration Day.  For this point in the campaign, with some of McCain's attacks having gained some traction, this was the speech Obama needed to make.  It the was the perfect mix of aspiration, recognition of the historic moment, recitation of policy changes he will make, justification for change and, yes, direct, hard-hitting and well-deserved attacks on McCain.

5.  Two other speeches not shown on the network feeds but worthing watching a first or even second time:  John Kerry's foreign policy speech from Wednesday night and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's speech from Tuesday.  I don't like him as much as his friend, Montana Senator Jon Tester, but Schweitzer is quite the populist character.  He wears blue jeans in his day-to-day work as governor and takes his Border Collie everywhere.  I'm not sure exactly what it is yet, but he definitely has a future at the national level.  If you didn't see the speech last week, check it out here.  

6.  All-in-all the week a huge success for Obama.  Everything, including the reconciliation with the Clintons, was executed perfectly.  It's too bad that McCain's cynical VP selection did have the effect of cutting short some of the excitement left by Obama after his speech.  But, that unveiling can't take away the fact that the Democratic Convention saw the highest television ratings of any political convention ever,  22.4 million average viewership, with 38.3 million for the acceptance speech itself.  Even before Gustav started to cut short the Republican Convention (in some ways, to their advantage) it's hard to see how the Republicans come even close to pulling of a show like this.  

Friday, August 29, 2008


No, not me.  But, I guess there are some out there that are more than ok with McCain's choice of Sarah Palin.  If this site had been produced by a Democrat, it'd be crude and tasteless.  But, fortunately, it looks like it was produced by a Republican, so it's funny.  

This new McCain/Palin campaign poster also came from the Slog, via Wonkette...

Well, he's still got racism

All along, with Americans sick of George W. Bush and sick of Republican rule in general, there have always only been two ways McCain could beat Obama in November: (1) Obama's inexperience in government, particularly with regard to national security, and (2) persistent racism that would cause working class voters in swing states like Ohio to vote against Obama.  

Now with McCain's shocking choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin,  the inexperience argument is gone.  Palin has been governor of Alaska for less than two years.  Before that she was a city councilmember and mayor in Wasilla, Alaska, population 5400.  I think she was also an Alaska Oil and Gas Commissioner.  

Remember, John McCain turns 72 today.  The would be oldest person ever elected to a first term as a president has now said that someone with only two years experience as governor of one of the smallest states in terms of population and no national political experience is ready to lead on day one.  Surely, McCain cannot with a straight face say Obama is no longer ready to lead.

But, there's still the racism.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

VP picks

I'm still on vacation for a few more days and I'm looking forward to writing about what, on the surface at least, seems like an eerily close general election contest. But before I return from my summer hiatus, and before that text message comes in from the Obama campaign, I wanted to throw out my top hopes for a Veep pick.

After spending the whole Spring trashing her, you'll be surprised to hear that I'm very much hoping that Obama will pick Hillary as his choice for the second slot.

By the time she pulled out in June, I pretty strongly felt Hillary would be a terrible choice. I agreed with Jimmy Carter's assessment that " would be the worst mistake that could be made. That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates." I also worried, and continue to worry, about Bill Clinton being a third wheel in an Obama/Clinton administration. While Hillary has become a constructive part of the team, Bill has only made more of an asshole of himself with his deep resentment of Obama's victory over Hillary (Examples here and here).

But, with recent polls showing that Obama has yet to consolidate the level of support among Democrats that McCain has attained with his party's base, choosing Hillary can only help Obama close the deal with older women and working class Democrats and allow him to more quickly move on to persuading independent voters that he's got what it takes to be an effective leader on both economic and foreign policy issues. And, Hillary will help with that task too as no one ever seemed to doubt her national security acumen or her ability to be a champion for working class voters.

Two other reasons why Hillary is the best choice at this point in time in this campaign - Obama needs to come out the Democratic convention and carry through the Republican convention, the big Mo(mentum). The media can't seem to look at this campaign as anything but a horse race. Bringing Hillary onto the ticket will be hugely popular with Democratic delegates, electrifying the convention hall in Denver with a buzz that will carry forward beyond the acceptance speech and into the big bus tour that will inevitably happen the following week, during the Republican convention.

Finally, choosing Hillary will bring a proven fighter onto the team. Since he's come back from vacation, Obama has been much more aggressive at taking on McCain, but for the remainder of the campaign he'll still be faced with the conundrum of needing to fight back against McCain but succumbing to his own message that by rising above politics as usual, he will more effectively solve people's everyday problems. Hillary never bought into that message so she can take McCain on even more aggressively than she took on Obama while the person at the top of the ticket stays above the fray telling Americans why he's the best choice to lead the nation for the next 4+ years. And, after the race for the Democratic nomination, does anyone doubt that Hillary will be an effective attack dog on the ticket's behalf?

Oh, and all that talk about PUMAs and open rebellion in the convention? Gone- if Hillary's the VP pick.

Are there downsides to picking Hillary? Sure. In some respects (e.g., the experience question) she could overshadow him (or, more likely, the McCain campaign could make sure she overshadows him). And, there are still lots of Hillary haters out there. But, I'm pretty sure most of the Hillary haters are also now Obama haters. And the experience question is going to dog Obama no matter what. I think the excitement a Hillary pick will have in Denver, the momentum in the media that follows, the consolidation of support among Democrats, the effectiveness of Hillary as tough as nails attack dog and the reality that she has been vetted and very likely brings no surprises more than outweighs any of the negatives.

Hillary for VP!

Next best choices?
One of my favorites was Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio. A win in Ohio pretty much guarantees victory and before Strickland was governor and a congressman, he was a preacher (a progressive-populist preacher) from the Appalachian part of the state. This guy can connect with working class voters like no one else. In helping Hillary win Ohio, Strickland also demonstrated that he has the kind of machine that can win that key state for Obama in November. However, Strickland long ago pulled himself out of contention (Was it just talk? I don't know).

I've also always liked Wesley Clark. Former NATO commander, so he has serious national security cred, and he opposed the Iraq invasion from the beginning. Also, we know he has no problem attacking McCain, but those attacks on McCain are probably the reason he's been out of contention for a while.

Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader would be a great choice. Daschle was pretty much the first Democratic politician with national name recognition to jump on the Obama bandwagon and he's been national campaign co-chair and a key adviser since the beginning. Of course, he may be too much of an insider, and too low-key in style to be the right person, politically, for the job.

I worry about Joe Biden because of his habit of putting his foot in his mouth. But, I've always been a fan of his - one of the smartest and most plain spoken politicians in DC. Obviously, his credibility on foreign policy (currently chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) would be a boon to the ticket. And, as Eli Sanders points out, the fact that Biden went directly from being a county council member to a successful Senate career -at the age of 30- provides Obama with a helpful illustration of how little political experience at the federal level can matter in the development of a smart, effective leader. On the downside, Biden is kind of boring and may not be the most effective attack dog that the ticket so desperately needs.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas would also be a great choice, but for a lack of national security experience. I think Obama needs that on his ticket to win in November.