by John Hawkins | August 27, 2008 12:10 pm
Day one of the Democratic Convention was fairly lackluster once you got beyond the speeches by Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama. Day 2 was marginally better, but still not very good.
First off, I was watching the coverage on CNN and found it bizarre that the Democrats had long periods with nothing happening on the stage between 8:00 – 9:00. Worse yet, for reasons that escape me, CNN often just ignored the people on stage and had their analysts continue talking over the speakers. What the hell is up with that?
You have Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona, or Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts on stage talking, and meanwhile, they’re ignored so you can hear Anderson Cooper, Paul Begala, James Carville just blathering on and on. I mean presumably, people who are tuning into the Democratic National Convention want to see the Democratic National Convention more than the same hacks they can see on CNN practically any day of the week.
That being said, on to the coverage.
The first hour and twenty minutes or so, CNN literally didn’t cover a full speech. They covered about two minutes of Janet Napolitano and somehow found time to interview Charles Barkley (He may run for governor of Alabama and if Barack loses, it will be because of white racism).
So, from 8:00 to 9:00, if you were watching CNN, you didn’t see a single full speech.
CNN started things off in the 9:00 hour (The Democrats finally started keeping the stage packed at this point) by ignoring Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, which is kind of outrageous, if you think about it. She supposedly was under serious consideration for VP, but CNN didn’t even bother to let its viewers watch her speak.
Finally, they decided to cover a speech — one by the tragically dull Bob Casey. Casey said Barack will heal us and inspire us. He will bridge partisan divides. Then he went on to some wooden, lame attacks on Bush.
Then Casey moved on to rally mode and got off his one big applause line about McCain, “That’s not a maverick, that’s a sidekick.” Then he hammered home that McCain is Bush! Not 4 more years, 4 more months. His fire-up-the-crowd stuff wasn’t very good, but the crowd was dying to cheer for something after sitting around for so long and they tried to get into it. It was probably a D+ speech.
From there, Mark Warner got on the stage and all I can say is thank goodness he isn’t the nominee because he would bury us. He talked about how America is a great land of opportunity and how he got in on the ground floor of the cell phone industry. Then he criticized Bush for never tapping into the character and resolve of the American people. Bush never called on us. Unlike most other Democrats, he was very comfortable talking about America in the same way that Republicans do.
Then he moved on to standard Democratic spiel: we need more money for teachers, Republicans don’t believe in science, McCain would explode the deficit (which is an oddball attack). It was more of a “consider me for President in 2012” speech than a “vote for Obama over McCain” speech. It worked for what it was, but I am not sure it helps Obama a lot.
Then CNN skipped Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick among others.
Next up, CNN covered Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Schweitzer had a lot of energy, a lot of charisma, and he fired up the crowd — but he was almost comically dishonest. He lied about McCain’s energy plan, he lied about Obama’s energy plan, and he tried to make it seem as if America could dump oil for wind and solar, which anybody with half a brain understands isn’t going to happen barring some unforeseen technical leap.
Finally, we got to the main event; Hillary hit the stage. She did pretty much what I expected her to: a paint by the numbers speech. She talked about Democratic unity, she said nice things about Barack, she threw in a little Bush and McCain bashing, but most of the speech was designed to buff up her legacy for 2012.
Although as you’d expect, CNN sold the speech like it was the greatest political speech in history, one that would certainly unite the entire Democratic Party, it was about a B- — and it was also noteworthy for what she didn’t say. She didn’t say Obama has the experience to be President, that he could handle foreign policy, or that he could handle that “3 A.M. call.” In other words, this was Hillary doing the bare minimum that she needed to do to stay in contention for 2012, not genuinely trying to help Obama.
From there, things got really hilarious because when they cut to a commercial, it was a McCain spot showing Hillary bashing Obama.
Then when they came back, they found a Hillary delegate who was so overcome with emotion over the speech that she was actually crying. So naturally, they tried to push the unity theme. Was she still going to cast her vote for Hillary at the convention? Yes, she was. But, did Hillary convince her to vote for Obama? She said she could never vote for McCain, but that Obama seems too inexperienced to her and that he has two months to turn her around and get her to vote for him.
Summary: It was a “C-” night for the Democrats. They kept on hitting McCain with the “He’s another Bush” and “He has a lot of houses” attacks that have done nothing for them so far, but they had nothing substantial to throw at him.
Worse yet, so far at the convention, absolutely nothing has been done to counter the central attack on Obama: that he’s just not ready to be President. I mean, if your concern before the convention was that Obama is an inexperienced empty suit who is getting by talking about “hope” and “change” instead of specifics, nothing you’ve seen in the first two days has changed your mind one iota.
Last but not least, the Democrats should still get some kind of bounce out of this convention, but they really haven’t helped themselves all that much during the first two nights.
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