2008 - %3, August

Dep't of Rapid Response: 1968 Edition

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 11:44 AM EDT

obama_seven_years.jpg Posted on the McCain campaign's blog yesterday:

Flashback: 40 Years Ago Today, Bill Ayers Arrested at DNC

Emailed to reporters by the Obama campaign shortly thereafter:

Flashback: 40 Years Ago Today, Barack Obama Was Seven Years Old

They made sure to include the photo at right.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Mitt Romney Would Be Karl Rove's Handpicked VP

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 11:25 AM EDT

According to Politco:

"Rove is pushing Romney so aggressively some folks are beginning to wonder what's going on," grumbled one veteran Republican strategist.
From his perch on Fox, Rove has touted McCain's fierce primary rival as strong vice presidential material.
"Romney is already vetted by the media, has strong executive experience both in business and in government, has an interesting story to tell with saving the U.S. Olympics, and also helps McCain deal with the economy, because he can speak to the economy with a fluency that McCain doesn't have," Rove said on "Fox News Sunday" in June.

Rove is specifically worried about one guy.

Rove called Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) late last week and urged him to contact John McCain to withdraw his name from vice presidential consideration, according to three sources familiar with the conversation. Lieberman dismissed the request, these sources agreed.
Lieberman "laughed at the suggestion and certainly did not call [McCain] on it," said one source familiar with the details.

I'm kind of stunned that the conversation has narrowed to these two guys. Romney, who McCain despised in the primaries because of his transparent lack of principle, and Lieberman, a conservative Democrat who threatens to rip the Republican Party apart. Surely the McCain campaign is smart enough to find a dark horse that will surprise the media (thus resulting in even more breathless coverage) and excite the base?

Update: Rove's denial on this story is so lame even Fox News says he's "waffling."

Thursday Cat Blogging

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 10:47 AM EDT

winged-cat.jpg

Kevin Drum's passion for the kitties is leaking over to MoJoBlog. So I'll briefly note this important development: cats have grown wings. Yes, it is true. I saw it on BoingBoing.

In all seriousness, please check out Kevin. He's been blogging up a storm, not only providing crucial updates on Domino and Inkblot but also giving readers an outside-of-Denver view on the convention. Haven't been able to catch much of the action? Read David Corn's night-by-night reviews of the action in Denver: Night One, Night Two, and yesterday's very-successful Night Three.

The Good Soldier

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 1:13 AM EDT

THE GOOD SOLDIER....Jon Chait on Biden's speech:

What continues to be missing is a frame to explain why John McCain believes all these wrongheaded things he talks about. But it's very simple. McCain used to stand against the ideologues and moneyed interests of the GOP, but he decided that if he wanted to win the GOP nomination, he had to make himself their ally. I suspect Democrats will regret this when Republicans tear Barack Obama's character apart next week.

Amy Sullivan expands on this a bit:

A number of speakers have made reference to their personal friendship with John McCain, carefully noting how much they admire him, before going on to criticize him. And that's effective to a point — "more in sorrow than in anger" plays differently than straight-on attacks.

But Democrats might find it would be more effective if they explained why they're so disappointed with their friend John McCain. How did this great guy they admire so much became a candidate whose positions appall them? It wasn't a fluke, it wasn't like he had a personality transplant. And the answer would seem to fit perfectly into a powerful Democratic narrative. John McCain changed because that's what he had to do to win the Republican nomination. That's what the reigning conservative ideology and interests demanded of him.

Right. It's what Biden was getting at when he said, "These times require more than a good soldier, they require a wise leader." It's a good line, but too subtle. The expanded version is that McCain has had to prostrate himself to the neocons, the theocons, and the moneycons because that's what it takes to win the Republican nomination these days: you have to be a good soldier. And one way or another that's a story that the Democrats need to tell. A laundry list of flip-flops doesn't make an impression unless you explain what's behind it.

It's also why I liked the passage from Bill Clinton's speech that I highlighted yesterday. He didn't just tie McCain to George Bush, he tied him directly to the full range of contemporary right-wing dogma. That's what Obama needs to do too. In some simple way, he needs to make people understand that all the stuff they don't like about the past eight years isn't just the fault of one guy's idiosyncrasies, it's the fault of an entire worldview. And if you elect McCain, you're electing that worldview too.

Night Three: Biden Doesn't Wow, But the Convention (Finally) Gains Momentum

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 12:04 AM EDT

The good news for the Barack Obama camp: Joe Biden has no more big speeches to deliver between now and Election Day.

In what was the Democrats' best night of the first three, Biden capped the evening with a heartfelt speech emphasizing his middle-class roots that was marred by an irregular rhythm and a series of verbal slip-ups. He said "millions" instead of "billions." He praised Obama for working on an Illinois state health care program that provided coverage to 150 children and parents, not 150,000. Biden blasted John McCain in a predictable manner: for championing tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, for misjudgments regarding foreign policy. There were good and touching moments, such as the tribute to his mother and his empathetic recognition of the everyday challenges confronted by Americans facing hard times. And he tied the need to help working-class families to Barack Obama's appeal: "He has tapped into the oldest American belief of all: We don't have to accept a situation we cannot bear. We have the power to change it." Biden covered the bases but did not rock the house. He was no Bill Clinton. He wasn't even a John Kerry. (See Kevin's somewhat more generous take here.)

But the Obama campaign had an insurance policy. After Biden finished, Barack Obama made an unscheduled appearance and restored the energy level to the room and the convention. Working the Pepsi Center like a talk show host--has he been taking lessons from Oprah?--Obama seized control of the evening and promised a great night on Thursday, when he will accept his party's presidential nomination at Invesco Field.

The third night of the convention--Biden aside--presented a more coherent message than the previous evenings, which were dominated by the obligatory tasks of undoing the rightwing attacks on Michelle Obama and satisfying Hillary Clinton and the Hillary Hold-ons. On Thursday, it seemed as if the Obama campaign was finally able to get down to business: making the pitch.

The Convention Picks Up Steam

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 11:43 PM EDT

THE CONVENTION PICKS UP STEAM....Was Chuck Todd even watching the same speech as me? Yeah, Biden flubbed a couple of lines in a minor way, but jeez. Even seen through the lens of my political speech autism (hereafter PSA) I thought it was a pretty moving performance. And Marian thought he was great, which counts as my "woman in the street" opinion since she's not a political junkie like everyone else I know.

And then Brokaw followed up by saying that the convention sagged today compared to Monday and Tuesday? Did I hear that right? He must have been watching a different bunch of speeches too. Between Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Biden, I thought this was by far the best night so far.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Bill Clinton: Still the One - and a Potential Game-changer for Obama

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 10:00 PM EDT

Despite all the talk that Bill Clinton was not happy with his speaking slot at the Democratic convention or that he still was peeved by criticisms that came his way during the primaries, there was no way that Clinton would allow himself to be outshone as the orator of his party. As Kevin notes, he delivered a helluva speech on Wednesday night.

As soon as the crowd of delegates finished giving him the loudest and longest ovation of the convention (so far), Clinton declared that he was "here, first, tonight to support Barack Obama." With his trademark blending of folksiness and policy-talk, he presented a rock-solid case for Obama. Immediately, it was obvious: forget Hillary Clinton, it is Bill Clinton who has the potential to be Obama's best advocate on the campaign trail in the coming weeks,

The speech combined an effective critique of the Bush years, a sharp attack of Republican notions John McCain has embraced, and an enthusiastic endorsement of Obama as a man "ready to be president" on Day One. And it was laced with memorable lines. His rhetoric soared:

Bill Clinton

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:56 PM EDT

BILL CLINTON....Ezra has his choice for the best passage in Bill Clinton's speech here, but my favorite was this bit:

On the two great questions of this election — how to rebuild the American dream and how to restore America's leadership in the world — [John McCain] still embraces the extreme philosophy that has defined his party for more than 25 years.

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.

Now, in spite of all this evidence, their candidate is actually promising more of the same.

Think about it: more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that will swell the deficit, increase inequality, and weaken the economy; more Band-Aids for health care that will enrich insurance companies, impoverish families, and increase the number of uninsured; more going it alone in the world, instead of building the shared responsibilities and shared opportunities necessary to advance our security and restore our influence.

They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more.

Italics mine. Overall it was, of course, a great speech. The guy's a natural. And that line about people the world over being "more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power"? Pure Bill.

UPDATE: Jeez, I stepped out for a few minutes and missed John Kerry's speech, but everyone says it was great too. I'll try to catch it online later.

John Kerry on the Attack: Adding Anger to Hope

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:30 PM EDT

Speaking at the Democratic convention on Wednesday night, Senator Evan Bayh made a qualified case against John McCain: he's a good man who has made some bad decisions. Senator John Kerry, who hit the podium later on, sharpened the attack and raised questions about McCain's integrity, age, and fondness for military confrontation.

Integrity:

Candidate McCain now supports the very wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once called irresponsible. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain's own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding me, folks? Talk about being for it before you're against it.

Age:

So remember, when we choose a commander-in-chief this November, we are electing judgment and character, not years in the Senate or on this earth.

Eagerness for military confrontation:

John McCain stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier just three months after 9/11 and proclaimed, "Next up, Baghdad!," Barack Obama saw, even then, "an occupation" of "undetermined length, undetermined cost, undetermined consequences" that would, in his words, "only fan the flames of the Middle East." Well, guess what? Mission accomplished.

Kerry also took a swing at McCain for adopting "Rove tactics" and depending upon GOP Rove-bots to win election--and for perpetuating the politics of "Swift boating." For Democrats looking for a side of anger with their hope, Kerry came through.

Evan Bayh Attacks McCain With a Double-Edged Sword

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:00 PM EDT

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) lost out in the Democratic veepstakes. But on Wednesday night he was given a prime-time speaking slot and dutifully joined in the evening's assault on John McCain:

George Bush and John McCain were wrong about going to war in Iraq, are wrong about how to get us out of Iraq, and wrong to ignore the dangers in Afghanistan. The time for change has come, and Barack Obama is the change we need.

But this was an odd line of attack, coming from Bayh. He was one of the co-sponsors of the 2003 Authorization of the Use of Military Force in Iraq (AUMF). Bayh wasn't just attacking McCain. By condemning Bush and McCain for going to war in Iraq, Bayh was saying, "I was wrong." Well, sort of. He wasn't quite that explicit. And a great question for Bayh now would be, did you err, too?

And even in a speech that included a shot at McCain and Bush in almost every paragraph, Bayh did not launch as sharp an assault as he might have. He summed up the case against McCain this way:

John McCain, he's not a bad man, but he is badly mistaken about embracing the Bush agenda.

The GOP blasts Barack Obama for being risky and dangerous (and not really an American). In Bayh's view, McCain is a good guy who got some things wrong. Obviously, those two attacks don't match up. Bayh didn't define McCain in negative terms; he just disagreed with him. Can the Democrats win with that? A little more oomph might be needed.