I could have given this some great title, indicating the historic level of the night at the Democratic National Convention. I didn’t because, in the end when the night finished, all it was in my mind was day four of a not so great convention. In the long run, this is going to be an issue because I am a registered democrat. Unfortunately, nothing that Barack Obama said last night moved me enough to make me think he is the correct choice for president.
I am also back to my standard complaint of the way 24 hour cable news networks handled coverage. More of the ramp-up speeches were shown last night as they were fairly high level people making these speeches – Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia; Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico; former vice-president Al Gore. It would have been hard for CNN, FoxsNews or MSNBC to not show these men as they spoke. What bothered me about coverage was on earlier nights, we got to listen to the “talking heads” at the networks rather than hear this ramp-up speeches. Yet, on the final day of the convention, and maybe it is in an attempt to offset the massive costs having a two location event gave the networks, we did get to see in all their glory many fine musical acts. While I am a big fan of John Legend – a second appearance at this convention, Sheryl Crowe and Stevie Wonder, I would have rather listened to some of the lesser knowns speeches earlier in the week than the music on Thursday evening. I will say, if the DNC offers a soundtrack CD, I may buy it.
I did think I was watching the wrong convention as Tim Kaine – a prominent national figure as he was on the short list for vice president – took the podium. I thought, and I should remember he is from the South, I was at a revival meeting – a church revival meeting. I think, for the sake of those of us who saw the piece earlier in the week on MSNBC (I think, if I remember correctly), he should have worn the smiley button that the Virginia delegation was wearing. It had one eyebrow arched on it. Evidently, and this was explained by Kaine himself, he has a wayward eyebrow that arches on its own. Kaine quoted Matthew and got the crowd moving with the story of faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. He spoke in Spanish to Latinos – a skill he perfected while on a mission trip to Honduras during law school. He talked about putting faith into action – a line of thinking that I have always been partial to; he talked about the principles of faith calling us as a nation to service. His biggest line was, “If we put our faith into action, we can move mountains.”
Bill Richardson – sitting governor of New Mexico, former UN Ambassador, former Secretary of Energy, former congressman – followed Kaine to the podium. While Kaine took one early swipe at presumptive GOP nominee John McCain, Richardson spent his time blasting McCain. The two fit into one whole perfectly – one discussing idealism and the other telling the opponent’s faults. He discussed former ideas of John McCain’s and what his current ideas are and how they have changed. His kicker line was, “John McCain may have paid hundreds for his shoes but we will pay for his flip-flops.”
I like Bill Richardson but was not happy he was the hatchet man of the two here. I was happy for the musical interlude of Stevie Wonder to cleanse the palate.
Next to the podium – and each ramp-up speaker was, in my mind, making Obama’s speech a harder act to reach the bar – was former vice-president Al Gore. Gore started with a common premise of all political parties – notice the all meaning more than two. He said the greatest opportunity of our democracy is the opportunity to change every four years. He went on to say that it was an opportunity, not a given. Then, after pointing out that McCain would be more of the failed Bush policies, he said, “I believe in recycling but that is ridiculous.” He spent, as would be expected, a lot of time on the climate crisis. He drew contrasts between the democratic platform and the republican one in this area. He closed with drawing a parallel between Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama – not only in their experience prior to running for the White House but also in their oratory skill and the climate of the nation as they ran.
More music followed by a surprise appearance by Joe Biden came and went while I was flipping to college football. Sorry, the convention could not hold my attention. I did catch part of Michael McDonald’s performance but missed Biden all together.
Finally, the big performer of the night came on stage. Barack Obama, like Bill Clinton before him and even Al Gore to some extent, needed to try to calm and quiet the crowd before he could speak. Obama spoke for a long time before I noted anything on my pad of paper. Yes, for those of you who wonder where all these thoughts come from, I watch political events with a notepad and pen in hand. My notes become fodder for later blog entries. Before I go into speech specifics, let me tell you all my overall opinion of the speech. I have not spent a lot of time listening to Obama’s various speeches. Yes, he seems to always be on television but, unlike the blind faithful who thought his trip to Europe and the Middle East was a great thing, I didn’t think he should be campaigning in foreign countries. I didn’t listen to his speech before the throngs of hundreds of thousands in Germany. I have heard him speak but don’t see the big deal.
To me, Obama looked uncomfortable on the stage, unnatural up there and not speaking words he wanted to say. It sounded, from all the previous times I had heard him speak, like the words were someone else’s, not Barack Obama’s. And to top it off, every news organization in the world billed the speech as having a lot of content and, unless I fell asleep during it, I didn’t find any concrete content in it.
There were references to concrete ideas – tax cuts for 95% of working families, eliminating the capital gains tax on startups, a goal of ending dependency on oil from the Middle East in ten years – note that this is not a goal of ending dependency on foreign oil, just that from the Middle East. Obama touched on tapping natural gas reserves, although by the time he gets into office these may be tapped. He touched on retooling the US auto industry. He touched on his health care proposal but there was nothing concrete in the speech about it.
He ended the speech on more of an “Obama” type area. He talked about how this has never been about him, but about “you” or the US people. He talked about how change doesn’t come FROM Washington but comes TO Washington. What he didn’t talk about was HOW change comes to Washingont. What he didn’t talk about was HOW HE would do the few concrete items he did discuss.