Last night's overarching theme was constructed by the DNCC not merely to illuminate Barack Obama's "bizarre biography" (according to the otherwise stellar NBC anchor Brian Williams) but, in effect, to frame the would-be First Family as Real Americans. Deconstruct the 2004 campaign attacks against John Kerry. His Swiftboating was not an end to itself, but a means to cast Kerry - and his Mozambique-born wife Teresa Heinz -- as "Other." Let's look at the New Yorker satire (and -- I can't resist -- the Seattle Post Intelligencer's McCain equivalent). The issue with the former cover is that it unintentionally reinforced the meme -- that Obama is an Agent on The War Against Terror or, if you prefer, to allow his "exoticism" as a proxy for any remaining legacy of racist bias. (This was nicely covered on last night's Charlie Rose by NPR's Michele Norris.)
So: Was last night successful in upending the lie? To this extent: Michelle Obama -- through the surround of testaments from friends, brother Craig Robinson (head coach of the Oregon State Beavers; what's more American than basketball?!?) but most of all by her own words as a mother, daughter, and wife:
In her eloquent but impassioned speech (with a deliberate overemphasis of "See" as a rhetorical strategy for bridging the distance) she made her role as mother central: "Their future is my stake in this election." But was there anything new? For those who were only following coverage of coverage, yes - but even for us political junkies it was new that both Barack and Michelle had pursued careers in the public service. It's too easy to note her current salary and role at U. of Chicago without recognizing her work at Public Allies -- which trained a generation of public servants. Sartorially, Michelle Obama will surely get fashion huzzahs -- more comparisons to Jackie O. No pantsuits for this one. Unlike Peggy in this week's episode of Mad Men, Michelle doesn't need to be told "to embrace her feminine power." (And no, I'm not getting all Chris Matthews on this riff. It's simply noteworthy to see that she didn't opt to conform in this manner and is ready to shine.)
It would be an oversight not to mention the Teddy Kennedy tribute last night -- capped with his "surprise" appearance. Much has been made of his terminal brain cancer -- would that others see this as proof that we are more than our diagnoses. Kennedy now -- unfortunately -- epitomizes the Democratic position for guaranteed health care. Indeed, the call for health care as a right, not a privilege, echoed throughout many of the day's speakers. On today's Fresh Air, Terry Gross has Jonathan Oberlander discussing both McCain and Obama healthcare plans -- and doing so in a non-partisan manner. It's essential listening.
Perspctv.com continues to be a compelling way to follow coverage. It'll be interesting to compare Web traffic during the RNCC next week. Right now, Obama has twice as many "traditional news" mentions; is three times as likely to be blogged about; and not quite four times as likely to be Twittered. Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight might be right when he notes that whomever gets the biggest bounce from their convention, wins. Currently Obama's at 284.7 projected electoral votes versus 253.3 for McCain.
Tonight will see Mark Warner's keynote and Hillary Clinton's speech. Apart from Obama's Thursday acceptance, (10pm Thursday, EST) easily the most eagerly awaited moment of the convention. Sorry Wolf, but I recommend watching it unfiltered. There will be time enough to critique it and consider whether or not it enables the party to Come Together.