Wed. Night at the Convention Races

bidenobama3_1.jpgHaving had the night to sleep on the evening’s affairs in Denver, even though many of my co-authors here have already done yeoman’s work on the subject, I would reflect on some of the changes I saw in the Democrats’ presentation. Going essentially in reverse order, one of the most revealing moments of the evening for me was Joe Biden’s speech. While I have been critical of Obama’s choice in selecting him, after listening to his speech I have to say I’m at least beginning to “get it.” Biden stepped up at what may be one of the most high pressure, glaring moments of public scrutiny in a career already full of such moments, and showed me something I wasn’t expecting. His easy, almost casual, “aww shucks” attitude made him seem to be a very real, connected person.

And that attitude made it all the more powerful when he went on the attack against John McCain. (Something which has been totally lacking during the first two nights of the convention.) Personally I thought he could have done even more – where were the mentions of Dick Cheney? Guantanamo? – but his delivery was spot on and hit all the right notes. If Obama was looking for an effective attack dog who could do the job without looking like a scowling, unpleasant Cheney type figure, he may well have found that person in Joe Biden. Yes, there will be those who will try to focus on inconsequential details such as mixing up “brigade” with “battalion” but it’s hard to picture any serious critic saying this was anything less than a powerful, effective speech.

Obama may well need a sure-footed attack dog, too. During the early part of the Summer, McCain stuck to talking about the issues, primarily energy, education and the economy, and Obama stubbornly held on to a slim but steady lead of five to ten points in the polls. Then, during the last month, the media arm of Big Mac’s campaign appeared to throw the issues under the bus (except for drilling, which gained him some traction) and began slinging industrial size buckets of mud at Obama to see what might stick. And that finally moved the polls, with McCain pulling into a tie. Obama will need to find a way to swing back or he’s going to end up – alongside Hillary Clinton – as a high value answer in future editions of Trivial Pursuit. Biden last night looked like he may well fill that role effectively.

One of the real surprises (perhaps because of the highly anticipated expectations of failure) was the speech by Bill Clinton. We will see some of our friends on the Right struggling to “read between the lines” and stir more trouble, but Clinton delivered above and beyond the limit in making it clear that he and his wife were on board with Obama’s nomination. This was aided by the doubtless painful moment when Hillary cut the role call short and put her personal seal of approval on Obama’s candidacy.

On a side note, what were the Democrats’ thinking in putting John Kerry up on the stage? His reception by the audience was tepid at best, and do they really want to remind the country of the 2004 election? You don’t feature the horse who finished last at the following year’s Kentucky Derby. Still, that one happened during the off hours and nobody saw the speech unless they had C-SPAN 17 on at the time. But really… John Kerry?

As for tonight, Obama’s greatest challenge does not come from the Republicans, but from the almost unbelievable expectations which have been set by his own team. He is speaking on the anniversary of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech. He will be standing in front of columns which are reminiscent of either Washington state buildings or Greco-Roman temples, depending on whom you ask. He is moving from the convention center to Invesco Field, one of the biggest venues in the country. They have been building expectations up for this speech since June, and now he will have to deliver. Obama is still widely considered one of the great political orators of this generation, but this may be a bit much for even his delivery skills to overcome.

Then again, I’m wrong more than I’m right in the prediction game lately. Maybe he’ll still come out and surprise us all.

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  • admiral.naismith

    I thought Kerry was good, a lot better than in ’04.

  • Jazz

    I’ll grant you better than in 04, but still the wrong guy to stand up there. Sadly, a lot of them seem to get better after they get knocked off the stage. I refused to consider Al Gore in 2000, largely because he seemed like this wooden, political parody or automaton, in addition to being too liberal for me in some areas. (Oh, and his wife scared the crap out of me.) A few years later, when the pressure was off, Gore seemed so much more relaxed and personable… I kept wondering where *THAT GUY* had been in 2000, because he would have won that election.

  • DdW

    “On a side note, what were the Democrat’s thinking in putting John Kerry up on the stage? His reception by the audience was tepid at best, and do they really want to remind the country of the 2004 election?

    It was appropriate to include Kerry last night, and he was very effective in reminding Democrats–Americans–of the shameful, sleazy , ’04 swiftboating campaign that is rearing its head again against Obama. Good to remind people of what a bunch of haters and liars are capable of doing–if unchallenged and not debunked.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    What you said about McCain throwing mud is true–true enough that it sometimes gets acknowledged by the mainstream media. Not that they’ll say it too loudly.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    I completely agree with D. E.Rodriguez about Kerry.

  • Neocon

    At least Bill Clinton listened to the overnight criticism of the mainstream and bloggers and included a lot of McCain bashing as well as a lot of why Barak Obama will make a good president.

    I thought his speech was good. I thought he was lucid and coherent. Something he hasnt shown much of lately as he watches the power of the democratic party slip away from his hands. Once enjoyed by Jimmy Carter then replaced by Bill Clinton and now in danger of being usurpted by Barak Obama it has become a painful thing to watch………or perhaps a joyful thing if you are not a Clinton fan.

    Joe Biden was good. Hes always been a connected and down to earth politician. Something rare for DC and upon reflection how could Obama have chosen anyone else. He fits perfectly in with Baraks Vision of America. He was always my second choice for VP for Hillary…….Obama being the first………with Obama as the VP I felt as if the democrats would have secured the next 16 years for themselves in the White House. But oh well what do I know.

    Overall it was a good night for the Democrats.

  • APR

    As for the expectations for tonight, the crew on Morning Joe were talking about the Dems trying to manage the expectations. Joe was saying he heard from a senator that this speech would not have the “rhetorical flourishes” that Obama’s other speeches have had and that it will be a “different kind of speech”. I smell a team that’s trying to lower the bar, though I think it may be too late for that.

  • Kathryn

    I thought Kerry was quite good as well. The fact that he was the first and only person so far to bring up torture was much appreciated.

    McCain if nothing else is going to play up the war or doom angle. I think someone needs to make the point that continual war in the wrong place has weakened our military, our standing in the world and most importantly our values. Doing that, doesn’t add to our safety. The Soviets used “enhanced interregation” tactic’s such as stress positions, waterboarding, sleep deprivation and exposure to extreme tempatures. They also lost the cold war.

  • elrod

    Kerry was essential last night. He was the only guy who could deliver the red meat not on the policies of McCain and Bush but on McCain’s turn to Rovian politics. Anybody else would have come off as a whiner. But Kerry spoke up for indignant Democrats who see how Rove’s acolytes have stripped the honor off of John McCain.

  • $90765

    “”On a side note, what were the Democrat’s thinking in putting John Kerry up on the stage? His reception by the audience was tepid at best, and do they really want to remind the country of the 2004 election?”

    “Tepid?” Seriously? Did you watch the same John Kerry that I did? The crowd was roaring their approval, eagerly joining in a call-and-response from Kerry, and by the end this may as well have been one of the main events of the convention.

    I thought Kerry’s compare and contrast between “Senator McCain” and “Candidate McCain” was brilliant, and not only did he finally break the convention’s silence on torture, but he gave a well-received nod to Charlie Payne, Senator Obama’s uncle who helped to liberate Ohrdruf concentration camp near the end of WWII.

    John Kerry certainly topped even the surprise hits like Brian Schweitzer, and I thought his was one of the best and most effective performances of the past three days.

  • ChrisWWW

    Bill Clinton brought up torture…

    “What about the military families pushed to the breaking point by multiple, multiple deployments? What about the assault on science and the defense of torture? What about the war on unions and the unlimited favors for the well-connected?”

  • DLS


    1. As I have already listed, there are two main motives for the Greek columns. One, the “low road,” is pretentiousness or conceit, that they are meant to be the White House portico, a blunder similar to the fake Presidential seal Obama has used before. Two, the “high road,” is to resemble the Lincoln Memorial, which ties together multiple themes of Obama’s campaign and popularity. The Obama campaign yesterday stated that indeed, it is the high road. The columns are meant to remind people of the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech 45 years ago. Multiple themes are at work this year with Obama: Lincoln (out of nowhere in Illinois after having had multiple homes earlier), King, and JFK (who made an outdoor speech in 1960 heralding an era of change in the USA, at a Western location relatively remote from and detached from the seats of power and influence of the times).

    2. This was the injection of vitality in the convention (and in so happening, in the Obama campaign) that was missing since the start and was especially needed after the poor second night. Last night was a great night for the Democratic Party.

    3. Clinton, Kerry, and Biden all gave great speeches. Obama’s visit was a bonus.

  • kritt11

    Where IS Al Gore?

    Kerry was hampered in 2004 by bad advice from handlers- who advised him to take the high road against swift boaters and did not get that he was not connecting in a visceral way with voters. In other words he came off as another Eastern liberal egghead, who was too much of an elitist to understand the average person’s problems. Unfortunately for all of us, voters connected better with the GOP’s scare tactics and with a man who never comes off as an intellectual!

  • ChrisWWW

    One, the “low road,” is pretentiousness or conceit, that they are meant to be the White House portico

    Say Obama is uppity. Rinse. Repeat.