Blogs

A Clear Message from Hillary: It's About Obama, Not Me

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 11:49 PM EDT

The only question was this: would there be a hint of resentment or reluctance in her speech, any sign of holding back? But Hillary Clinton, on the second night of the Democratic convention and in a much-anticipated speech, offered a loud and clear message to her supporters: get behind Barack Obama. In the opening moments of her speech, she identified herself as a "a proud supporter of Barack Obama" and declared,

I haven't spent the past 35 years in the trenches advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women's rights at home and around the world...to see another Republican in the White House.

No ambiguity there.

Prior to the speech, a parlor game for the politerati assembled in Denver was to trade gossip and rumors indicating that the Clintons might not be fully with the elect-Obama program. A prominent Obama supporter said she had heard that the Clinton speech would be "bad for us." A reporter said that he had heard that a top Clinton aide was trash-talking Obama to other reporters. This all fed the only narrative of conflict at the convention: the Clintons versus Obama. But right before the speech, Joe Lockhart, who was a press secretary for President Bill Clinton, said to me that Hillary Clinton would put this subplot to rest.

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The Speeches Before Clinton: Warner Bad, Strickland Good, Schweitzer Awesome

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 11:43 PM EDT

schwzt_warner.jpg The relevance of the speeches that came before Hillary Clinton, who will surely get the lion's share of the coverage tonight and tomorrow, is mainly felt among insiders. Democratic Party officials and politicians get a look at how their peers perform on a national stage; the political press gets to see who deserves buzz in conversations about future stars.

That said, there were some genuinely interesting people at the podium tonight. Ted Strickland, the governor of Ohio, and Brian Schweitzer, the governor of Montana, were two such people. Unfortunately, Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia and a current Senate candidate in that state, was not. Warner painted himself as a bizarro Obama. Both Warner and Obama came from hard-luck circumstances, both made themselves into superstars by working hard and taking advantage of the opportunities for advancement that only America affords. But Warner's meteoric rise was in business — he has made hundreds of millions through early investments in cell phones — while Obama's was in politics. And the speech was heavy on "Yes, We Can" enthusiasm. Warner was a pragmatic governor who worked frequently with Republicans in Virginia; he has stressed throughout his career that he cares about ideas that work, not ideas that originate on his side of the aisle. But for all this resonance with Obama and his story, the speech was underwhelming. It lacked a unifying theme and any rhetorical flourish or rhythm.

And that, ultimately, is why even though Warner likely has the same presidential ambitions as Obama, he would likely be a very different national leader. Obama leads through the sheer force of his personality. Warner has built his immense popularity in Virginia through being an extremely able technocrat. He's effective, not sexy.

Perhaps Warner was doomed from the start. He had the hardest task at the convention — deliver the keynote four years after Barack Obama delivered one of most memorable keynotes in recent political history, and on top of that, speak in the shadow of Hillary Clinton.

Quote of the Day

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 11:18 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Michael Dukakis, in an interview with Katie Couric where he described George Bush's tenure as "the worst national administration in my lifetime":

"Look, I owe the American people an apology. If I had beaten the old man you'd of never heard of the kid and you wouldn't be in this mess. So it's all my fault and I feel that very, very strongly. So this is an important election for us. Let me tell 'ya."

Hillary Clinton Followup

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 11:15 PM EDT

HILLARY CLINTON FOLLOWUP....Hillary, as we all know, isn't a naturally great speaker, but she did good tonight. She gave a great speech that pumped up the crowd, told her supporters in no uncertain terms to vote for Obama, and included an attack line that even my wife thought was pretty zingy (rough, from memory):

"It's fitting that John McCain and George Bush will be meeting in the Twin Cities next week, because it's getting pretty hard to tell them apart."

A pretty good job, I'd say. As usual, I have no idea how your average couch potato is going to react to it, but I liked it.

Hillary Clinton

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 9:52 PM EDT

HILLARY CLINTON....Ezra Klein on Hillary Clinton's upcoming convention speech:

For what it's worth, my hunch is Clinton will own the convention. What she needs to do in this speech is so easy and so obvious and will be greeted with such gratitude by the Democratic Party and such rapturous coverage by the media that it's almost inconceivable that she'll pass up the opportunity to be the hero.

I agree, and I'll be shocked if she does anything else. She is going to praise Barack Obama to the skies and rip John McCain several new bodily orifices. There's just no way she's dumb enough to do anything else.

UPDATE: Yep, she came through with flying colors.

Mark Warner

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 9:46 PM EDT

MARK WARNER....I am distinctly underwhelmed so far. How about you?

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The Bush Boom

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 9:40 PM EDT

THE BUSH BOOM....The Bush expansion is over, and Brad DeLong describes it as "the first business cycle during which median household income in America falls from peak to peak." And indeed it is.

The closest we've come to such a dismal recovery in the postwar era was the dreaded stagflation-driven economic expansion of Jimmy Carter's presidency. You remember Carter, don't you? The president vilified by Republicans for decades as almost single-handedly responsible for destroying the American economy.

Poor Jimmy, of course, has gotten a bad rap: he may have had his problems, but he inherited stagflation from his Republican predecessor and, to his credit, eventually had the biggest hand in killing it by appointing Paul Volcker as chairman of the Fed. George Bush, by contrast, had only a mild recession to tackle when he took office. He inherited a fundamentally strong economy from his Democratic predecessor, immediately set out to manage it with supply-side nostrums that would make Gordon Gecko blush, and after eight years ended up with an economy that wasn't even as good as poor old vilified Jimmy Carter managed in four.

And yet, somehow we're still supposed to believe that Republicans know how to manage economic growth? Can someone please explain this to me?

MoJo Video: Party-Crashing The Democratic National Convention's Private Back Rooms

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 9:11 PM EDT

Like the flow of the Mississippi or the winds of the Sahara, the pursuit of free alcohol, free finger food, and access to power is an unstoppable force. No puny ethics legislation shall stand in its way.

The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, passed after the Democrats took control of Congress, limited the ways in which lawmakers can hobnob with lobbyists, corporate officials, and special interests. But if Denver is any example, hobnobbing is a game and flexible beast, able to squirm over or around any obstacles placed in its way.

For example, there is a rule against lawmakers and their aides accepting meals from lobbyists. That means that every time a lobbying firm throws a party here in Denver, it has to follow the "toothpick rule." Hors d'oeuvres only. If it fits on a stick, put it on one. This leads to odd scenes, like a woman at a party on Monday night eating a slice of pizza on a toothpick.

Hosts can play the music in the background, instead of throwing a concert, so lawmakers can't be said to be accepting free music. They can take away chairs, because a standing-only reception is apparently less ethically questionable than an event where power players can schmooze while putting their feet up. Party throwers can distribute literature that advocates for a cause, making the event "educational." Slate reported that the Distilled Spirits Council got away with hosting a bash for lobbyists and politicians on Monday by handing out literature on the dangers of underage drinking.

And of course there is the farce known as the "widely attended event," a party that can have a high-roller host and an exclusive, undisclosed guest list as long as it makes a point of inviting 25 people who are not lawmakers. The rules may be shown the door, but you and I certainly aren't getting in, as my video above illustrates.

Nancy Watzman of the Sunlight Foundation, a government oversight group, is trying to illustrate the ineffectiveness of current ethics restrictions by attempting to get into as many fancy receptions as she can, knowing she'll be rejected time and time again. While it is not shocking that a party-crasher would get turned away at the door of a high-end party, it nicely illustrates that the infamous smoke-filled backroom is still alive and well, at least in a figurative sense, and that oversight has a long way to go.

I spent an afternoon with Nancy as she sought a lobbying firm's reception, Democratic top-dollar donors, and a party thrown by the CEO of a telecom company. Not surprisingly, we ended the day without a single cucumber sandwich. [To see her try, watch the video above.] —Jonathan Stein

Did Facebook Just Endorse Obama?

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 7:47 PM EDT

This past weekend I finally decided to launch myself a Facebook page. I was going about my business setting up my profile, editing my information, importing pictures, re-editing my information, and so on until I was ready to begin inviting friends. So I found an old buddy, clicked "Add as Friend" and this popped up:

voted%20ican.png

I didn't notice at first. But then I saw it... look again at the words I was required to enter.

"voted ican"

Usually we're just asked to type randomly capitalized jibberish, but here we have an incredible promotion of civic engagement. How responsible of Facebook. Thank you, Mark.

But wait—"ican"—that reminds me of something... Seriously, did Facebook just endorse Obama?

A blog post about mojo

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 6:22 PM EDT
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