If your first introduction to Michelle Obama was the speech she just delivered-as it is for many Americans-she hit a home run. She started off nervously, which made her later performance more impressive. But she came across as likeable, approachable, and someone whose experience was not very different from millions of middle class Americans.
Say what you will about Michelle’s liabilities-tonight she helped herself and her husband.
There is something a little odd — and this is a bipartisan oddity — in the fact that Americans are constantly surprised and touched to discover that politicians love their children. Doubtless, millions of Americans will remember Michelle Obama’s invocation of her husband driving at a snail’s pace away from the hospital with their newborn daughter in tow; but isn’t that the case with most fathers of newborns? I do understand that this particular evocation of a nuclear-family moment might have special resonance in the black community, but as a Hallmark moment it will resonate with everyone. And that is only because the behavior of men like John Edwards really does lead people to think politicians are emotionless robots, when in fact, loving your children is so universal no one should be graded on a curve because of it.
Chris Wallace on Fox News hit the nail on the head: “I can’t but help think this was a largely wasted night.” Yup –no populist red meat, no real outreach to Hillary Clinton supporters and swing voters and no explanation as to why Barack Obama is up to the job. Everyone had their own agenda –Ted Kennedy reviewing his legacy and Michelle rehabilitating her reputation. But who was persuaded to vote for Obama himself (oh yeah, he’s the candidate) and what was accomplished? Not much. It is only the first night. Stay tuned.
I told you he’d pop up on the screen. And he did. “Now you know why I asked her out so many times,” Barack said. “You want a persistent president.” The best moment of the night, actually, followed by his daughters trying to talk to him as though they were using a cellphone: “Daddy, what city are you in?” Totally adorable.
Evidently, the main thing that connects us, or will connect us, as Americans, is Barack Obama.
The glossy film about Michelle Obama’s life and the tale of her simple circusmtances were all meant to smooth the rough edges of the lady who said that she had never been proud of America and that she found her country “mean.” There was not much applause into well into the speech, but the intent was to humanize her (and by extension her husband), not to rock the house. This line would have sounded better before Bittergate and the slam on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas:
“And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”
By recognizing the dual anniversaries of the female suffrage as well as Martin Luther King Jr.’s great speech and then by mentioning Hillary Clinton’s “18 million cracks in the ceiling,” she clearly made an effort to reach out to those disaffected Hillary voters. And when she finally explained that she loves her country, the assembled crowd finally gave a round of sustained applause. (Yeah, a potential First lady should love America! Hurrah!)
She was a heck of a lot better than Teresa Heinz Kerry. But that’s an awfully low bar to clear.
Michelle gets a huge ovation for saying she loves her country, “this country that has given me so much.” I love my country too. You may begin applauding.
Michelle Obama, trying very hard to wipe out the memory of her saying that she had never been proud of her country until she saw people supporting her husband’s candidacy.
Michelle is on the platform now. My guess: At some point, before the end of her speech, Barack is going to pop up on the screen behind her.
There’s a growing media meme, on CNN primarily but also on ABC and NBC, that the first few hours of the convention have been a disaster. There’s no red meat, no sharp assaults on Bush-Cheney-McCain. I think this fretting concern about the state of the convention is a stand-in for the growing feeling that the Obama team has lost its footing, and political professionals who desperately want to see him win are now nervously taking the temperature of the race every five seconds to see whether the cold is dissipating or whether it’s turning into pneumonia.
One remarkable aspect about John McCain’s political surge is that it has largely been due to advertising that is very light-spirited. The “celebrity” ad that began the turnaround was comic in tone; so too were the two ads that followed it; and now the McCain people have issued a peppy and upbeat ad featuring an attractive former Hillary supporter who is now going to vote for McCain. Where is the light-heartedness in the Obama ads? There’s something oddly reminiscent here of the way in which Obama never, ever smiled during the debates with Hillary or during his speeches. He just doesn’t have a light touch.
The conservative blogosphere is agog: what was Barack Obama thinking? He took a story largely confined to the internet, (only briefly raised in the primary) about Obama’s connection to former terrorist Bill Ayers, put it in his own ad, and then filed a claim trying to force the third-party 527 ad that first brought up the Obama-Ayers connection off the air. In the next 24 hours thousands if not millions of voters who never heard of or didn’t understand the extent of the Obama-Ayers relationship are going to get a full education.
That Justice Department complaint is a stunt reeking of abject panic. Really, isn’t this just unlimited free publicity for the McCain accusations? In the Right blogosphere there is a mix of amazement and delight. And in case you thought the McCain camp wasn’t thrilled by this turn of events, read what Steve Schmidt has to say about it.
It is very hard to figure out the reasoning behind the Obama effort. Perhaps there is a deadly poll or maybe they think they can so skew the coverage as to insulate himself. But for now, it is just plain baffling.
The Obama camp can’t be happy that the major political story of the past three days hasn’t been Joe Biden but rather the fallout from Obama’s refusal to select Hillary Clinton. Of course, we don’t know what might have happened otherwise, had he chosen her; the story then might have been the possibility of Obama’s being overshadowed by the one-two punch of Hillary (tomorrow night) and Bill (Wednesday night). However you perceive it, though, the Biden addition has been a complete bust as a news event. The onus is now on Biden to deliver a killer speech on Wednesday and thereby allow Democrats to feel something other than disappointment at his elevation. Whatever a Hillary pick would have generated, it wouldn’t have been disappointment.
Caroline Kennedy was lovely, the film was beautiful and Ted Kennedy’s appearance was moving. But I think none of this did Barack Obama any good. Caroline listed Kennedy’s many achievements with the refrain after each one that for those who received the benefits of his work, “Teddy is your Senator too.” The obvious problem: What has Barack Obama done to remotely compare with any of that? Kennedy’s life and accomplishments, whatever your political views, simply dwarf Obama’s.
Moreover, in the Democrats’ class warfare attack on John McCain I’m not sure the scenes of Kennedy on the yacht are what they had in mind. And finally, the prospect of Kennedy in the Senate whisking Obama’s legislation through Congress is likely not a message that will be lost on the Republican ad men.
That said, for committed Democrats he is an inspirational figure and the passing of the torch is keenly felt by them, no doubt. But if this race is now about swing, Kennedy’s not going to do the trick with independent voters.
One final thought: the sight of Joe Biden applauding Kennedy’s roar about committing troops for a mistake was a priceless bit of irony. Biden did vote for . . . you know the story.
Robert Gibbs, on MSNBC:
There’s been no better advocate for the African-American community than Bill Clinton.
And why does Chris Matthews continually refer to former President Bill Clinton as “Bill”?
David Gergen on CNN is perturbed that the Democrats have gone almost two hours “without almost any substance.” Shocking, isn’t it?
Jesse Jackson Jr.:
“We all have a stake in each other.”
I’d say that sums up the sentiment at this year’s Democratic Convention rather nicely.
Jesse Jackson, Jr. notes this is the first time a Convention took place on a mountain top. I guess “The Chosen One” meme isn’t quite gone yet.
Meanwhile, sane words come from James Carville on CNN referring to the Clinton voters (“You know Barack Obama has a role in bringing these voters over.”) and from Juan Williams on the Obama-Clinton feud (“Of course they hate each other.”)
Nancy Pelosi is speaking on the opening night of the Democratic Convention. None of the cable news networks cover her. Flipping over to C-SPAN it is easy to tell why: a dreary speech, attacking all the usual suspects (and strangely the decision to go to war, which come to think of it Joe Biden supported, right?). Her comments earlier in the day, letting on that Democrats aren’t one big happy family, were much more enlightening. Certainly more entertaining.
The main evening proceedings at the Democratic Convention are getting underway. But today belonged to the Clintons, or rather their supporters, fans and critics. With thousands of media mavens sitting around with nothing better to do the Hillary supporters had their moment –maybe the first of many– in the sun.
Marc Ambinder captured the Democratic sentiment: “Obama camp (justifiably) frustrated with coverage of HRC / O spat. People who voted for Hillary not necessarily Hillary voters.” If the second sentence is supposed to provide comfort, it shouldn’t. Remember the Obamaphiles touting the 35 million votes — the Democrats who turned out in primaries and caucuses – they had in the bag? Well, it turns out that those who voted for Hillary, whatever you call them, aren’t the safe votes Obama was counting on collecting.
All of this can change and by week’s end everyone may go home whistling a happy tune of unity. But the disappointed Hillary voters (0r more precisely the people who happened to vote for Hillary but can’t abide by Obama) have gotten a lot of attention. The reinforcing effect of meeting with each other and hearing their stories replayed in the media will be hard to set aside. As Don Fowler, former DNC chief put it (h/t Weekly Standard):
“I have a lot of doubts that this convention is going to be as persuasive as it should be because they’ve got this damn thing with Hillary … I love Hillary. I was for her. But this is the worst political decision I could imagine. This is supposed to be an Obama celebration. You’re going to get the nomination of someone who came very close to winning and you’re going to get a lot of people in there cheering and hollering and some people booing.”
Was there a way to avoid this? Hillary as VP of course. But, barring a palace coup, it is too late for that. And the obvious conclusion: Obama badly mishandled his most important negotiation. The chickens are now coming home to roost.