After Hillary's winning performance Tuesday night, and a sigh of relief from Obama rank-and-file, all attention shifted to Wednesday night's appearance by Pres. Clinton. What would Big Bill say?
Given that he's been famously terse about Obama since the primaries came to an end, his remarks were a wildcard. The day's theme was Securing America's Future, and for the most part, the Dems were on point. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth burnished the case, but CSM Michele S. Jones, the first female command sergeant major of the US Army, was electric; standing next to her, even Gen. Petraeus would look like Private Benjamin.
That said, apart from us C-Span junkies, most of America wasn't watching. Finally primetime arrived, and a restored Bill Clinton took the stage, looking better than he has in a decade. Is the public limelight his fountain of youth? Whatever Hillary left unsaid -- allowing the opposition to immediately exploit -- Bill explicitly and forcefully confronted. In what signaled the beginning of rhetorical attacks against the presumptive Republic nominee, Clinton said that on the two great issues of the day: Rebuilding the American Dream and Restoring America's Standing in the World that McCain was unprepared and that Obama was ready to lead. Typical of Clinton's expository, the speech was broad in scope, referencing the prosperity of the Clinton years and contrasting them with the Bush two terms. Most interestingly, is how Clinton faced down the #1 meme of the Republicans (right up there with "Obama the foreigner") that Obama was not ready to be Commander-in-Chief: by comparing Barack... to himself! Can a president have hubris? Consensus held that Bill made the journey and gave the Obama campaign everything they could have dreamt of in his remarks. Certainly, he's shown that hubris or not, he could defer to what was in the party's interests over his own.
The Most Improved Orator award goes to... Sen. John Kerry. The windsurfer gave the speech of his life. Not only was he unafraid to mince words - comparing John McCain the Maverick to John McCain the Candidate -- but he did so with a clarity I frankly did not know that he possessed. In contrasting McCain's positions on the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, immigration, and climate change, Kerry got to invoke the very line that sunk his presidential bid: "He was for it before he was against it." And, by golly, it WORKED. Kerry's introduction of Obama's great-uncle Charlie Payne, who helped liberate one of the concentration camps at Buchenwald in 1945, made tangible his remarks that no one party owns the concept of patriotism and that specifically, "No one can question Barack Obama's patriotism." Finally, the line that the American public requires "more than a good soldier, they require a wise leader," should be immediately adopted on the stump and in ads across the country. [The text, if you aren't in a position to watch the video.]
Batting cleanup was newly christened VP Nominee Sen. Joe Biden. It was expected that he would bring some piss and vinegar to the podium. That he did, but in so doing, he also wove in the important theme that not only he, but Barack Obama was well, were products of the working class - or as he preferred to call them -- the middle class. While he fell short of calling out John McCain a silver-spoon scion of an Admiral, he did take the opportunity to expose McCain's positions in foreign policy, persuasively demonstrating how -- of all things -- the Bush administration was coming around to Obama's positions negotiating with Iran, an Iraq timetable, as well as the importance of Pakistan and Afghanistan as central fronts on the War on Terror. And as he made each of these points, he used the rhetorical devise of repeating, "John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right." Did it work? Not as effectively as his argument on the lack ofsunlight between the positions of Pres. Bush and Sen. McCain: "That's not change, that's more of the same."
Critics of Days 1 and 2 wanted some read meat. Last night they got their protein. But they also got a sense of how both parties differ philosophically in tackling the challenges ahead. As well as couching the Democratic ticket as one of "Working Class Heroes" (Made Good). If McCain picks Romney, then who will be the "elites"?
Obama's acceptance speech tonight at Invesco Field will have unprecedented press coverage, it coinciding with the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. It'll be a challenge to match what will be no doubt soaring rhetoric with kitchen table policies that families across America need as much as ideals. Years ago, when the support staff workers were on strike at Harvard for pay increases, their slogan carried the day: "You can't eat prestige."
One hundred years ago today President Lyndon Baines Johnson was born. In today's New York Times Robert A. Caro reminds us how President Johnson played no small role in ushering in the civil rights era.