The pundits are singing Bill Clinton's praises today. The San Francisco Chronicle called it "Bill Clinton's populist tour de force." HuffPost headlines "Bill Kills", "Bubba brings the house down." CNN: "Clinton hit all the marks." Characteristically, the LA Times took the celebrity angle: "Clinton shows he's still a star."
Watching Bill Clinton speak last night, I thought of Glenn Gould playing Bach. Gould, like Clinton, was a true master and artist at his craft. He also had that ability to let the listener hear new things even in Bach. Who knew the Goldberg Variations were actually interesting?
Most speakers couldn't get away with a speech heavily devoted to policy, yet Clinton did, and regularly does. He slices and dices the issues in such a way that people can get his point and enjoy doing it.
That business about the administration stealing $716 billion from Medicare was a lie from the start, and, in this case, even after Clinton explained it, you still didn't quite get it, but one thing you did get is that Paul Ryan was just making things up. Ed Kilgore summarizes well:
He covered, mostly brilliantly, the economy, the debt, health care reform, Medicare, Medicaid (including its importance to seniors, which everyone keeps forgetting), taxes, and Obama’s character.
...the speech was sort of a Bill’s Greatest Hits rolled into one text, combining humor, policy chops, eloquence, colloquial skill and passion.
One of the reasons Clinton's speech lit up the lights is because he said out loud what many have known all along: Ryan/Romney's numbers don't add up. Clinton's remarks seemed fresh and new because the national media narrative has never gone there. Clinton did what the media should have done long ago.
His speech was on a teleprompter, but you couldn't really tell it. He played that teleprompter like a saxophone, riffing here and there, and, in so doing, popping off some of his best lines. His ad-lib on Paul Ryan was choice: "It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did."
The prepared text, which Clinton was editing up until he gave it, was 3000 words. The delivered text was just short of 6000. It went on some, but a good deal of those 3000 added words, were words designed to include the listener. “Now you’re having a good time but this is getting serious and I want you to listen.” He was in the rare position of trying to tamp down his own applause so he could get more words in, and the crowd was glad he did.
He repeated the words "shared prosperity" and "shared responsibility" many times, accentuating the fundamental difference between two points of view. One view is social darwinist, i.e. that to the strongest go the spoils--and the other is communitarian, i.e. we all sink or swim together. As he put it: “We believe that ‘we’re all in this together’ is a far better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.’”
My convention history goes back a ways, and I remember some great speeches--Mario Cuomo in 1984, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Clinton's earlier speeches, Hillary in 2008, Julian Castro and Deval Patrick this year--but President Bill Clinton's speech last night was the best of them all. He hit every major issue, and hit a home run on every one.
Denver, CO - Oct. 16, 2008 - The Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee has filed a financial disclosure report with the Federal Election Commission that details $60.9 million in private support for Denver's hosting of the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
The local host committee generated just over $55 million in cash contributions and $5.46 million of in-kind support. The balance of the $60.9 million is from interest income and miscellaneous refunds.
Colorado businesses received about $28 million for various goods and services. Businesses outside of Colorado received $21 million. Construction costs at the Pepsi Center totaled $14 million. The closing night extravaganza at Mile High cost $5.3 million.
Rudy messed up. His speech was so long that they had to scrub the video introduction for Sarah Palin. His enjoyable speech, however, was one of the better ones so far this convention. Rudy has absolutely tons of experience giving speeches. He's on a high-level motivational speaker circuit that includes people like Colin Powell as well.
It showed. He seemed the most "at ease" of any speaker I've seen at either convention. He joked around a little bit, did a few little riffs, tossed a few zingers, and seemed to be enjoying himself.
The actual content was, of course, completely abhorrent. Something called "islamofascism" is taking over the world and the Democrats don't even know it, or worse, are collaborating with it. The crowd, of course, lapped this up. Democrats can get down and dirty, of course, but they don't seem to get the same kind of thrill out of it that Republicans do.
One reason we don't get all het up about "islamofascism" is because there is no such thing. In fact, simplifying the middle eastern situation, and our role in it, by coming up with a one-size-fits-all label helps not at all.
There's a whole lot in that middle eastern stew. The place has a tiny percentage of rich--and they are very rich--and many, many poor. In fact, income inequality in the middle east today is probably not that far off from what it was when Herod was king back in the first century BC.
There is a large cohort of unemployed young men, which, by itself, is enough to cause unrest in almost any country. Next time you're seeing someone throw rocks in the street in, say, Damascus, note that they're almost always about 13 or 14 years old.
To income inequality and demographics, add that the middle east has an enormous quantity of an increasingly scarce commodity, which is what brought about the current "resource war." Then add to that a religion which has a strong fundamentalist wing, including the violent streak that comes with any expression of fundamentalism, even those in the US.
Now that may be a lot of things, but one thing it's not is fascism. Fascism involves corporate and governmental collusion. Al-Qaeda has neither a government nor a corporation--ipso facto, it cannot be fascist.
With 441 delegates, California's was the largest delegation at the Democratic Convention. The delegation break-down was roughly 240 votes for Hillary and 200 for Obama. During the contrived "roll call vote" on Wednesday, California passed. (New Mexico and Illinois did not pass. They "yielded" so that New York, and Hillary, could move to make the nomination unanimous.)
But why did California pass? The LA Times reports that the reason was because they couldn't get their ballots counted in time.
The answer has nothing to do with the complicated calculations we presumed might be at work. Instead, according to Bob Mulholland, a senior advisor to the state party, California took a pass simply because a tally of its 441 votes was still underway when the state's name was called.
The vote was supposed to have been taken at the delegation's morning breakfast. The breakfast was over by 9:00, which would have left at least 7 hours to count 441 ballots. One person could have counted those ballots in less than an hour so, frankly, that story is simply not believable.
What's more, though the votes have now apparently been counted, they still have not been released to the public. A spokesman for the California Democratic Party said that the Labor Day weekend interfered with getting the votes counted and the number released. Six days to count 441 votes?
Democratic rules forbid secret ballots, yet the DNC refuses to make public the actual tallies and ballot sheets from the morning caucuses. This means that nobody can check which delegates voted according to their pledge and which ones switched. The question remains: Why did California pass?
This is a small thing, but telling. It's traditional for the home state delegation to have the best seats at the convention. The home state, traditionally, is front-and-center--except that, this year, the Illinois delegation was front-and-center and Colorado was moved to the side. I don't really have much of a gripe about it, except to note that it's consistent with what we've seen during the campaign.
Chicago-style is all about muscle. We saw it in the nominating process where people--some not Democrats, some not even registered to vote--crashed the caucuses. We saw it in Texas where there were over 2000 registered complaints of thuggery and intimidation. We saw it in the 19-8 Rules Committee vote. "You thought those were the rules? Well, here's the real rules, buddy."
We saw it at the convention where, even though half the Democratic Party voted for Hillary, everything was "all-Obama-all-the-time." You could barely find a t-shirt that said "Democratic Party," let alone one that said "Hillary." In fact, the official DNC store at the convention had stacks and stacks and stacks of Obama shirts, but only one lone "Democratic Party" shirt--and it was a really lame one.
They did it that way because they could, and because that's the way you do things in Chicago. You don't reach out to your defeated opponents. You expect them to sit in the back of the room and shut up for a couple of decades and learn the error of their ways. You pay no attention. You don't vet, and you let it be known you didn't. Help pay off campaign debt? Surely you jest.
You don't do anything to reach out, except to say, "You lost, get over it, you've got nowhere else to go, and Roe, Roe, Roe your boat into the polling place and vote the way you're supposed to."
"You say it's "tradition" for the home-state delegation to be front-and-center? That's the old tradition. Here's the new tradition."
You can see how they get there. It's a one-party city. All the fighting is done within the Democratic Party. It's ironic that the Obama campaign has made such a big deal out of bipartisanship since the word has no real meaning in his home city. Bipartisanship means we count the votes and the one who loses gets to be "bipartisan." Heh heh.
Chicago Democrats are good at fighting Democrats. What I worry about is that they have no experience in fighting Republicans. Even now, they're not really trying to beat Republicans with argument, but rather with bringing out young voters and African-Americans to overwhelm them.
Muscle counts in intra-party politics. Sometimes--most of the time--it's the only thing that counts. It doesn't work that way so much in a fight with Republicans. You have to be nimble as well as muscular--you have to have brains as well as brawn.
The smart move would have been to pick Hillary for vice president. As we know now, the idea was never seriously considered. After all, you don't reach out to your defeated foe. You remind them that they were defeated. As it is, we got Joe Biden, who may be a great guy and a good senator, but he's also exactly the kind of person the "machine" would pick.
Want nimble? Try Sarah Palin. McCain caught the Obama campaign completely flat-footed. Could they not foresee such a move? Was it that they just weren't able to think that creatively? To top it off, their minions in the blogosphere had a hissy fit, fumbling around with her so-called "inexperience," completely playing into Republican hands
That's the part that makes me nervous. Can the "Chicago-style" win against Republicans?
It's a Democratic year! It's in the bag! All over but the shoutin'!
So, since we thought victory was automatic, we didn't think we'd actually have to devise a strategy to win the dang thing. Sen. Obama's strategy--hope, change, unity, bipartisanship--worked, after a fashion, in winning the nomination, but will not be a particularly effective strategy in the general election.
The reason it won't work is because it gives up the biggest advantage we have, which is being Democrats. Sure, Bush is unpopular and you can try to pin McCain to Bush--"McSame," and all that. The problem with that is that even McCain represents "change." He's not George Bush.
No, we should be running against the Republican Party. Bill Clinton laid out the argument in his convention speech:
And it is, to be fair to all the Americans who aren't as hard- core Democrats as we, it's a philosophy the American people never actually had a chance to see in action fully until 2001, when the Republicans finally gained control of both the White House and the Congress.
Then we saw what would happen to America if the policies they had talked about for decades actually were implemented. And look what happened.
They took us from record surpluses to an exploding debt; from over 22 million new jobs to just 5 million; from increasing working families' incomes to nearly $7,500 a year to a decline of more than $2,000 a year; from almost 8 million Americans lifted out of poverty to more than 5.5 million driven into poverty; and millions more losing their health insurance.
We should be running on that, and not against George Bush alone. He's barely even relevant. He hasn't had much of an impact on either foreign or domestic policy for over a year. He's yesterday's news. We should be running against the whole dang cabal, but no, we can't do that, because we're all about bipartisanship now. Both Republicans and Democrats, we've been told, are responsible for the mess we're in.
It is said that Generals always want to fight the last war. We're still fighting 2004. In 2008, there should have been no escaping. The Republicans had had their way for six straight years and they should be held accountable. Good night, that's what the 2006 election was all about!
We don't seem to have the stomach for that fight. We haven't for years, and still don't. But don't worry. It's a Democratic year no matter what we do. Don't the polls say that it's automatic?
STOP the presses! This election isn’t about the Clintons after all. It isn’t about the Acropolis columns erected at Invesco Field. It isn’t about who is Paris Hilton and who is Hanoi Hilton. (Though it may yet be about who is Sarah Palin.) After a weeklong orgy of inane manufactured melodrama labeled “convention coverage” on television, Barack Obama descended in classic deus ex machina fashion — yes, that’s Greek too — to set the record straight. America is in too much trouble, he said, to indulge in “a big election about small things.”
So wrote drama critic, Frank Rich, in this morning's New York Times. Actually, deus ex machina is not Greek, but Latin. It means "god from a machine," or, in other words, a god descending to set things straight. Not only does Frank Rich needs to brush up on the difference between Greek and Latin, it wouldn't hurt him to brush up on some incarnational theology as well.