Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 DNC Wednesday - Part One

As with the Tuesday DNC, I taped Wednesday night’s proceedings and watched them this morning. I started taping about 4:30pm EDT so I caught a little of the pre-game hoopla. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek was interviewed. He told us that watching CSPAN was great because it let us see the speeches in their entirety without chatter (including his chatter he pointed out) telling us what we were seeing and hearing. He then proceeded to tell us what to look for in the Biden and Bill Clinton speeches. Sigh.

Alter also - apropos of no question I heard - began talking about the McCain people complaining Newsweek was giving Obama too much coverage and the Obama people complaining Newsweek was giving McCain a free ride. Before even considering his further remarks, I’m not crazy about the equivalency he’s setting up here. The Obama campaign may well have complained that Newsweek is giving McCain a free ride; I haven’t seen anyone else complaining about that. On the other hand, I have seen quite a few complaints from a variety of sources that Newsweek is in the tank for Obama.

As for Alter’s take on this, I’m not entirely sure what it was, but what I got out of it was that when a candidate is hot, the press talks about him a lot. Alter’s explanation (if I understood it correctly) seems rather disingenuous. Surely one could just as plausibly argue that a candidate is likely to be hot if the press talks about him a lot. On the bright side, thought, I found it a positive sign that elements of the media are beginning to feel they have to address the nature of their coverage.

When asked about Sean Wilentz’ Newsweek essay comparing Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, Alter pointed out that Wilentz was a Clinton supporter and had been, Alter believed, recently in Africa with Bill Clinton. Further, Alter felt the comparison was unfair. Oh, please. The essay was in Alter’s own magazine; his failure to let it stand or fall on its own merits doesn’t do much to support Alter’s claim that Newsweek is not favoring Obama. (After listening to Alter, I read Wilentz’ essay. I thought he had some interesting ideas and facts but he did not link them together into a coherent argument leading to a clear point.)

Perhaps because I watched from before the convention was actually gaveled to order, I found myself paying attention to the music which seemed to date from the 60s, 70s, 80s. I thought it was an odd choice given Obama’s reliance on young voters but when I paid attention to the actual delegates they seemed to be largely in their 40s or older which explains the music. Plus if you’re trying to convince Middle American to vote for you, rap is probably not the way to go.

I also noticed that as each speaker is introduced, a snippet of song is played. Do you suppose the speakers get to choose their own signature tune like baseball players do?

The invocation was given by Archbishop Demetrios, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of the United States. I thought he looked very impressive and, more important, did an excellent job, expressing gratitude for being part of the United States and appreciation for all who sacrificed to give us what America has to offer; referring to the United States as a model for the world; and asking for wisdom for those who were to be nominated.

After the prayer I went back to fast-forwarding through the speeches, giving each speaker about 60 seconds to catch my interest. Hillary Clinton had one nominating speech and two seconds; Barack Obama had one nominating speech and three seconds. I wonder how long it took to work that out.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz did an excellent job seconding Obama - at least until she started talking about her kids. (Someday I want to listen to a female American politician who doesn’t feel the need to reference her children to make her point.) Since she had worked for Hillary Clinton, I liked that she addressed that issue head-on and reminded everyone that - in the immortal words of BtVS - “that was then, this is now”.

Senator Ken Salazar annoyed me for two reasons. First, he wore his hat indoors. Second, talking about the American dream, he said:

Just 500 miles southeast of here, in El Dorado, Kansas, another mother instilled that same dream in her son, Barack Obama.

I’ve run across this before so perhaps it’s becoming an official version of Obama’s life. Nonetheless, while Obama’s mother’s was born in Kansas, Obama did not live there. Implying Obama is suited to be President because he’s from Kansas is only going to backfire when voters - who are not as dumb as some people think - figure out he’s from elsewhere.

The roll call vote was a mistake. If the roll call had accurately reflected the results of the primaries the roll call would have worked - we would have gotten to New Mexico with Clinton making a close showing. That would have validated Clinton’s claim to have been a contender and would have made her call for an acclamation of Obama a powerful gesture. Unfortunately, that’s not how it happened. Votes Clinton had won went to Obama: New Jersey, for example, cast all its votes for Obama even though Clinton won 59 of those votes and Obama 48. If the point was to give Clinton her due and make her supporters feel respected, watching the States give Obama delegates he did not win is unlikely to have accomplished that.

I did enjoy watching and listening to Alice Travis Germond, Secretary of the DNC, run the roll call. She reminds me of all the women I knew growing up who ran so much, always on a volunteer basis. I noticed that once things got interesting - once Hillary Clinton moved to nominate Obama by acclamation - Nancy Pelosi took over again. Perhaps that was to insure that the “any discussion” question was followed so closely by the “all in favor” question that there was no time for discussion. And, similarly, that the “all opposed” question was stepped on by the “passed” proclamation. I understand the desire to keep things under control but a little less haste would have been more seemly. Especially since everyone knows some people would have liked to discuss the matter and some people would have voted “Nay”.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten in reviewing Wednesday night. (I’m afraid I lingered too long with Alter and the Archbishop.) At this rate, I’ll be writing about Obama’s acceptance speech while McCain is making his.

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