Mojo - August 2008

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.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

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.

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:

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.

MoJo Video: Meet Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com at the DNC

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 8:46 PM EDT

Nate Silver invented PECOTA, a system that predicts the future performance of baseball players that's used by teams and baseball geeks alike. Now he's turned his attention to political forecasting, and he's found he's pretty good at that, too. Silver's site, FiveThirtyEight.com (named after the number of electors in the electoral college), relies on polls, demographics, and statistical analysis to predict who is going to win the 2008 Presidential election. I sat down with him for a quick chat yesterday at the Democratic National Convention; watch the video here. [Nate's on the right.]

Advertise on MotherJones.com

How Obama Could Capture Hillary Voters: Answer the Obvious

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 8:05 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

Hillary Clinton's speech has been duly dissected. Bill's will be, too. But the DNC question still lingering for the PUMAs is: Why didn't Obama choose Clinton as his running mate? Dems would be naïve to suggest such people just 'get over it,' Hillary's verbal push not withstanding.

Love it or hate it, it's a valid question, particularly for the women who did and do identify with her. And it's a question that Obama needs to at least acknowledge, if not address.

Why? Because in the absence of a resounding statement from Camp Obama, the bloviosphere has filled in the gap with excuses like these: She's too divisive, he couldn't deal with Bill, the Clintons are too powerful, she wouldn't have wanted it anyway.

Whatever. A strong person campaigning for the most powerful office in the world should be able to answer difficult questions head on. With swing state voters, can Obama really afford to play the Hillary card so close to the vest?

Biden at Work

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 4:51 PM EDT

A couple accounts have come out that illustrate how Joe Biden works and thinks. I think they provide a pretty interesting look into the mind of the man who may become vice president. Here's one from a former U.S. ambassador to Romania:

In the aftermath of NATO's success in stopping ethnic cleaning in Kosovo, Cabinet members and Members of Congress stopped in Bucharest to thank the Romanians for their support of NATO and get a feel for where the Balkan region was going in its aftermath.
Unlike some of the other visitors whose approach was helpful but remarkably relaxed, Biden was a whirlwind of inquiry, analysis and commentary from the time he landed at Otopeni airport.
On the 20-minute drive into the city, he quizzed me on Romanian attitudes, the status of various government leaders and the inside story on Romania's foreign policy toward Slobodan Milosevic, who was still in power next door in Yugoslavia. Because Biden has known all the major Romanian leaders since the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the questions were Ph.D. level, not Romania 101. That was remarkable in itself since he is no specialist on Romania; he could do the same, landing in dozens of nations around the world.

There's a lot more there; check it out. And here's a very long interview Biden did with Josh Marshall in 2004 — the section below pertains to a visit Biden had with Muammar Qaddafi after Libya gave up its WMD programs. Biden emerges as a fascinating character — tough, vulgar, down-to-earth, and an expert practitioner of hard-nosed diplomacy.

Hillary Clinton Releases Her Delegates

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 4:29 PM EDT

Her name and Obama's will be in the roll call vote, meaning that Clinton's delegates will be able to vote for whomever they choose. Her words to them:

"I come here today to release you as my delegates.... What that means is that both Senator Obama's name and mine will be put into nomination this afternoon. I have spoken to many of you who have expressed your questions about what you should do. Many of you feel a responsibility to represent your voters. Others of you want the chance to vote what's in your heart. Still others will be voting for Senator Obama because they want to demonstrate their commitment to the party and the nominee. So I am not telling you what to do."
"I signed my ballot this morning for Senator Obama."
"What is important to come out of today is that we nominate Senator Barack Obama and Joe Biden for the president and vice president of the United States."

Brian Schweitzer, Everyone's New Favorite

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

A number of other people shared my enthusiasm for Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and his speech last night, so I thought I'd post the sucker in full. Check it out if you missed it.