Better Late than Never

It’s been a pretty hectic time since last week’s Democratic National Convention finished. Of course, there was the Barack Obama speech as well as John McCain’s choice of a running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. I wrote out my thoughts on those issues while spending some quality time on a Denver-Madison, Wisconsin flight after spending endless hours trapped in the puddle-jumper end of DIA; I know these stories are old news, but I think it’s still worth posting:

Obama Speech: Mission Accomplished, But Not Much More

From my seat in what’s normally the south end zone of Mile-High Stadium I could tell that the sellout crowd on hand for Barack Obama’s speech accepting the nomination would have stood and cheered so long as they got a glimpse of the Senator. Obama could have stood at the podium reading from his autobiography, or told them why John Elway sucked as a quarterback (which he does, but that’s a different matter), the crowd was with him. So that’s why he didn’t need to speak in an earth-shattering way – he didn’t need to reach the heights he did in his post-primary speech from New Hampshire, or at the DNC four years ago. But he did have to deliver more specifics to a campaign that had so far frustrated some undecided and even Democratic voters with its vague “Change” and “Hope” messages, and he did just that.

From last night: “So let me spell out exactly what change would mean if I am President. Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it. Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas… I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow. I will cut taxes for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class. And for the sake of our economy, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.”

I think for a lot of people, those kinds of messages were needed. Sure, he didn’t lay out every step for getting the nation off of oil, but he didn’t have to – there’s no need to go all policy wonk on 75,000 people and a massive TV audience. But he did have to give examples of goals he will set for his presidency that are more substantive than “Change we can believe in.” Don’t  get me wrong, Barack Obama delivered a good speech last night, but not because of any soaring oration or rhetorical skill. In 20 or 30 years, few people will remember direct quotes from this speech, but they will be able to say they saw a politician attract 75,000 people, who waited in lines that took hours, to watch him speak. What people will remember in 10 weeks, the Obama campaign hopes, is that this was a substantive discussion of goals by a candidate for President – and when they go to the polls on November 4th, that’s more important.

McCain Chooses Woman… Oh, Sorry, Sarah Palin

About 12 hours after Barack Obama took the stage at Mile-High Stadium last night, John McCain announced his pick for Vice-President: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. I should preface this by saying that because I’ve been in the Denver airport all day (thanks, United!) I haven’t been able to see much news about the announcement. But clearly, this is a move to win over disillusioned Clinton supporters still not attracted to Barack Obama, but I don’t know if it’s a pick that will pan out well. One of McCain’s main arguments against Barack Obama is his lack of experience, but Palin’s time in government is made up of her time as Alaska Governor, and before that as mayor of a 6,900-person town (which I think counts as a major metropolis in Alaska).

Palin’s gender played a big part in McCain’s choice of his nominee, and it allows someone like Joe Biden to really turn the tables on the experience argument. Biden has already come out as the attack dog in this campaign, and the Vice Presidential debates probably won’t be a fun experience for Palin. I haven’t had time to really research Palin (I didn’t even include her in my top picks for a Republican VP), but I can’t really tell why she was picked if, as the McCain campaign has said, gender played no part in the process. I can tell that she enjoys her firearms, though (as shown by a picture of her peering down the scope of an AK-47, pointed at the camera) – how long until that photo appears with “John McCain’s Vice President will Blow You Away” in a ad?

In a campaign built on experience and military judgment, I don’t know if they want the Governor of the most sparsely populated state in the union a heartbeat (and let’s face it, some group on the left will make John McCain’s age and Sarah Palin’s experience an issue) running the country as Commander in Chief. Perhaps some more research will help me understand the picking of Sarah Palin more, but as for right now, I don’t think John McCain made a great decision.  

UPDATED: It would appear as if the McCain choice was successful in its timing, effectively stunting an Obama bounce for a short time. Politico first wrote that the bounce was smaller than many had expected (probably because of a lack of post-game coverage by networks the day after because of the Palin pick), but yesterday came out with a Gallup poll saying Obama had reached the 50% mark for the first time in the campaign.


I Made It

Savidge for America made it into Mile-High Stadium tonight, and got to watch as Barack Obama accepted his party’s nomination. However, the combination of ridiculous amounts of walking (apparently, INVESCO Field is approximately 7,000 miles from anything) and lack of sleep for the past few days (although my average of five hours pales in comparison to the all-nighters some of our producers have endured) mean that I am at risk of falling on this laptop asleep any second now. So some quick analysis of the Obama speech: while it didn’t have the oratory flash of earlier Obama addresses like the one he gave in New Hampshire (which saw the birth of “Yes We Can” as the campaign slogan), it did something much more important by showing what he means. There has been some frustration with Democrats who didn’t know what “Change” means, even though it would be thrown out all the time – Obama made a good decision by saying, “Change means…” many times in the speech.

It’s been a great experience here in Denver, I should be back for a wrap-up tomorrow, but I’ll be moving into college (go badgers) so it might be a little late.

Thoughts on the West

Politico and the Denver Post hosted their final convention conversation in Denver today, with Governors Brian Schweitzer (Montana) and Janet Napolitano (Arizona), and Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado. The discussion centered around how Democrats can win the American west – states like New Mexico, Colorado, Montana and Nevada, which have all shifted toward the left in recent years.

According to the panel, the reason why Democrats have done so well in those states recently comes down to the new kind of Democratic politician emerging from the west. Politicians like Brian Schweitzer, who got the delegates on their feet and going wild at the convention Tuesday night, but who also carries a laid-back and joking attitude into everything he goes into – for instance, he was wearing jeans while everyone else was in slacks. Or politicians like Ken Salazar, who speak candidly with the American people and admit it when they are wrong, which Salazar did when talking about his confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. Although the panel may have been a little too optimistic in their analysis of Obama’s chances out west (some suggested he had a chance in Arizon, home state of John McCain), I think Obama has a chance to do more in the west that any Democrat has done for decades.

Also: Brian Schweitzer will be the Democratic nominee for President. I’m not going to speculate on when, but he will. If you think Schweitzer can work a 20,000-seat hall of delegates, you should see him speak in a tent with a few dozen people – he’s making eye contact with the crowd, and he’s working the room afterwards. That’s the kind of strategy that wins in Iowa, and I think that one day we’ll see Brian Schweitzer accepting the Democratic nomination at a DNC in the future…

The View from the Nosebleeds

Tonight was my first night inside the Pepsi Center during speeches, and the last night of DNC ceremonies in the arena – but boy was it a good one. I’m sorry to be writing so late – as you can probably imagine, it’s been a little hectic getting back to a quiet place to post. Some thoughts from Wednesday night’s proceedings:

          Obviously, the biggest moment of the night was Barack Obama’s surprise appearance with Joe Biden at the end of the night. I had just started to move from my seats when I heard Biden’s wife tell him “Joe, we have a special surprise for you!” and heard what can only be described as an eruption from the already-energized crowd. There can be no exaggeration, there can be no overstatement: Barack Obama brought the house down at the end of the evening. The reaction from the delegates was massive, giving just a small preview of tomorrow night’s proceedings – for which Savidge for America will grovel endlessly to attend… Show your support in the comments section? Just kidding. Kinda.

          Before the nominee showed up, though, there had already been a lot going on in the convention’s final night before moving across the river to INVESCO Mile-High Stadium. Joe Biden’s speech will doubtlessly be overlooked due to the surprise appearance after it, but he did the job of the Vice-President well. Before the speech, his son, Beau, introduced him after a video about the Biden family history. Biden spent the first part of his speech talking about his roots, but from there, he was into the VP mode: going after John McCain, talking up Barack Obama. Biden’s speech wasn’t good in the style of Deval Patrick or Brian Schweitzer the night before, or Bill Clinton an hour before (more on him later) – it was good in that it accomplished what it was supposed to do.

          The Biden family delivered the funniest moment of the night while describing the “get back up” mentality he grew up with. He told the story of getting beaten up by bullies in Scranton, and that his mother told him to “go bloody their nose” – the camera cut to a shot of Mama Biden, who we could see telling the person next to her, “it’s true.”

          Bill Clinton’s speech seems to have solidified his reunification with many Democrats. The ovation that came from his entrance forced him to plead with the crowd, “Sit down!” Let’s not forget, 1992-2000 (and especially 1992-1994) was a great time to be a Democrat, and many Obama supporters were hurt by Clinton in the primaries because of what they saw as a betrayal by one of their favorite presidents. But with this speech, I think Clinton has healed wounds with Obama supporters opened during the primaries. Of course, there will be questions about how genuine Clinton’s words were – especially quotes like “Barack Obama is the man for this job,” and “Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States,” which stand in contrast to comments Clinton made just a few weeks ago.

          I think Evan Bayh delivered a good speech, considering he wasn’t expected to give a terribly exciting one. Sure, he didn’t bring the house down or whip the delegates into a frenzy like Brian Schweitzer of Montana did last night, but Bayh did deliver a good speech and compared to the Reid and Rockefeller speeches (which almost literally put me to sleep – it’s been a long day)

          Melissa Ethridge performed a medley of songs during her time on the Pepsi Center stage. She started with “God Bless America,” then Dylan’s “The Times they are A’Changing,” followed by “Give Peace a Chance,” and then wrapping up with Bruce Springteen’s “Born in the USA.” I’ve never really gotten into Ethridge, but I think she did a good job tonight, although it would have been nice to hear a verse from the Boss’ classic – she only repeated the chorus “I was… boooooorn in the USA”

          This entry is titled “View from the Nosebleeds” because I’m pretty sure our seats were in Coors Field. Savidge for America could only find seats a few rows from the top in the uppermost section of the Pepsi Center – I guess Youth Radio hasn’t quite earned a sky box yet. Maybe next time?

          After the end of the Biden speech, Savidge for America made his way down to the Convention floor, where he pillaged the seats for campaign signs like a Viking – look out family, you’ve got some souvenirs coming.

          I also got to see the CNN team (including Anderson Cooper, with whom one of our producers is nothing short of obsessed), Katie Couric, NBC’s David Gregory, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and CNN’s Paul Begala (I also met Jimmy Carville this morning, meaning I shook hands with the “left” side of Crossfire within 12 hours). Begala was with his wife and son, walking through the Pepsi Center, but he took time to walk and talk with me – when I told him I was going to be studying journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (go badgers), he said I should do politics instead, “don’t just report history, make it.” Pure class.

Politico-Denver Post Conversations

Politico, Yahoo! News, and the Denver Post are holding a series of conversations every morning of the convention at the Denver Athletic Club downtown. Today, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, former Senator Tom Daschle, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss spoke with Politico’s John Harris and the Denver Post’s Susan Greene. The discussion was on, “Obama and the Impossible Job; what are the personal qualities that have distinguished the nation’s greatest presidents – and does this nominee have them?” Here are some thoughts and moments from the discussion:

– According to Michael Beschloss, the “personal quallities that have distinguished the nation’s greatest presidents” is that they are abl to stand by their beliefs even if it means killing their political career, and the ability to get stuff through Congress. I agree – although I only think Obama  posesses one of those traits. Sure, he has the ability to stand up for what he believes in (when asked for examples, Daschle mentioned his early stance against the Iraq war and opposition to the gas tax holiday), but as a Senator who only has five years in Washington, it would be tough for him to pass legislation, even with a Democratic Congress. Beschloss scored the laugh of the day when he said that although Obama lacks that ability, Congressional experience is “something you can hire,” as he motioned toward Senator Daschle.

– Daschle only attended part of the conversation, but did offer some thoughts. On Obama’s potential, Daschle said he “represents a real opportunity” to bring people into the process the way Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy did decades ago. DIscussing Bill Clinton’s speech tonight (for which Savidge for America will be in the Pepsi Center), when asked if Clinton could “blow it” tonight, he answered with a precise “No.” After a pause and a laugh, he went on to say that, “When the Clintons rise to occasion, they do it in spades.” Daschle also predicted that Joe Biden would “knock everyone’s socks off tonight.”

– One of the morning’s most interesting ideas came from Rahm Emanuel, who talked about how presidents should choose their Vice-Presidents. Imagine you are in the Oval Office, sitting at the president’s desk, Emanuel says. When you look up, who are the three people you would want to see there advising you? Write down those three names, and from there pick your running mate.

– Later, Politico’s moderators asked if this would be a “post-racial” election, in which the ethnicity of a candidate wouldn’t matter. While Beschloss worked around the question, saying that Barack Obama wouldn’t loose votes for his race, Emanuel shared my opinion: in a nation with a history like ours (and a present like ours), post-racial politics are impossible. Sure, it’s possible to have a candidate for whom race won’t cost them votes, but it is unrealistic to think that one day, their race will not enter the conversation.

I really enjoyed today’s Politico discussion, and they’re having another one tomorrow with Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (who gave a great speech last night that really got the delegates amped up), and Colorado Senator Ken Salazar. They’re free to attend, and are held at the Denver Athletic Club across the street from the Colorado Convention Center – if you’re here, I reccomend you check it out.

Savidge for America on NPR

My profile of 18-year-old Arkansas delegate Taylor Riddle aired today on National Public Radio’s All things Considered – check it out here.

Many thanks to Taylor and our producer, Rebecca Martin, without whom this story would have sounded like… let’s be honest, it would’ve been crap without her!

DNC Liveblog – Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has just left the stage of the Democratic Convention, after delivering a big speech meant to reunity her and Barack Obama’s supporters as Democrats. I noticed that Clinton really went for two points: that the next president must inspire the people, and the common refrain from the night, that John McCain is four more years of President Bush. Clinton spoke about the need for a leader to ignite the American potential for action and ingenuity, and how she believes Barack Obama is the right person to do that. “Elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden for a future worthy of our great nation,” she said as her final line.

Clinton also used the idea of Bush/McCain a lot, looking to unite the party against the Republican campaign. “We don’t need four more years of the last eight years,” Clinton said (she also scored laughs and applause when she said that it’s becoming hard to tell Bush and McCain apart). Using that talking point too much might not be the best strategy for getting out the vote in the party. But, that said, Clinton did a very good job connecting the President to John McCain, which will be necessary in the campaign (with a good balance between those attacks and Obama support). I think Clinton will have won over quite a few of her people tonight, and perhaps even some undecided voters tonight by her connection of McCain with Bush. It was obvious that Hillary Clinton was going to give a rousing endorsement of Barack Obama – the thing making some Democrats nervous is what Bill Clinton says tomorrow night.