Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watching the Democratic Convention

Don’t worry mein liberal friends. I will be happy to bash the Republicans next week. Right now, its clobbering time for your Rocky Mountain party.

Are we really as dumb as the media thinks we are? Pundits say things like that more people would be affected by the appearance of Obama’s little girls on stage with their mother and him calling one Sweetie, than by policy issues (NBC’s Norah O’Donnell). Really? Can we find out who these people are and deny them the right to vote? I have no doubt that some people are that easily persuaded, but I do doubt that many of the people who haven’t made up their minds are going to be pulled to Obama’s side his calling his daughter, Sweetie.

Speaking of which, am I the only one who noticed the strange pause before Obama called his daughter “Sweetie” as if he was reading from a script and they didn’t change the page fast enough? Watch a video of it if you didn’t pick it up. I was curious enough about it that I did some research on whether he had a “sweetie” problem. Wasn’t hard. It turns out that Obama had been criticized for calling a women reporter by that particular pet name this past May. By using the same phrase for his daughter, I guess he is trying to show us that it is just a term of affection, and he was not condescending. As Doctor Evil would say -- Rrrrriiight. If only it wasn’t so calculating, it might be persuasive. Then again, we are idiots, right?

The campaigns, of course, believe that we are idiots too. During her speech, Michelle Obama, doesn’t have to actually say – “I didn’t mean it when I said I was proud of my country for the first time (because her husband won a primary). I meant I was proud how far we've come on racism.” Instead she can give some pollyanna speech about her and her husband’s opportunities and accomplishments and then says “And that’s why I love this country”. Well, if it was so good to you and gave you so many opportunities, why do insist other people don’t have those same opportunities? Why have you described the country as mean? Frankly, I could care less she said these things, but why not be honest about it? Of course, I'm being deliberately obtuse. Politics is rarely ever about telling the truth

But, we are idiots (and whiners), and I guess, because she now says she loves the country, we can all forget her previous spontaneous and candid statements, right? Honestly, I don’t doubt she loves the country right now, but will she love it if she loses? I don’t know.

I don’t even care if she and her husband, or McCain for that matter, do "love" the country just so they like it better than any other and are dedicated to its success.

Did you see the look on Michelle Obama’s face when Hillary Clinton said during her speech that she was a proud supporter of Barack Obama? For the few seconds the camera was on here, there was an occasional flicker of a forced smile, but it was more like the face a General’s wife makes when a Colonel’s wife has to make way for her. This may be an unfair characterization of Michelle, as I can’t read her mind and she must have a lot on it, but, then again, there is that “rumor” that she did not return Clinton’s call before the convention. And I sure noticed her smiling at a lot of other times during the convention.

I’ve been listening to some pundits say that if McCain picks Romney, Obama’s campaign is going to dig out all the mean stuff Romney said about McCain during the primaries in order to combat the commercials McCain is playing of Biden, Clinton and others saying Obama was not ready to be commander in chief. They will do so, if Romney is picked; in fact, the commercials are doubtlessly already made. But I don’t think they will have much success. Romney and McCain mixed it up a little, and at one point Romney even called McCain dishonest about one of his claims. But Romney also called McCain a hero and said he respected him, and they have long patched things up. Biden and Clinton have just come aboard and their conversions seem miraculous.

I can't be sure (I rarely am) but I don’t think I have ever heard so many candidates for a nomination say so many negative things about the front runner's basic ability to hold the high office, as I have this year about Obama. Of course, they all fall back on the refrain -- well, it was just campaign talk. Ok, just one more reason you can’t believe anything you guys say.

The keynote speech is often given by an up and coming politician. Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia, gave this one. He is a relatively young and handsome man. His speech bored me to tears. Most of these speeches do. In the past few nights I fell asleep before the end of Michelle’s speech and Biden’s as well. Boooorrrinnng. I actually would like a policy speech.
Details are fine. I already know your life stories. These speeches are all all so pat and rah rah.

I’ve never liked rah rah speeches. I dislike the phony cadences and artificially raised voices. I dislike that so many now run through a string of states or cities to get cheers (“and we’re going on to Boise, Idaho and Tallahassee, Florida and . , ,” ). I dislike that they all have to say “God bless, America” or “God bless, you” at the end. I’d really like to know how many times these people actually say “God bless” in their real lives when the cameras aren’t on. I dislike the call and response stuff with the audience. I dislike them having to refer to their wives or husbands in the audience. Did Churchill point out his wife before he launched into “We will fight on the beaches . . . .” or Lincoln before “Four score and . . . .” I dislike the speakers repeating “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you,” over and over until the crowd calms down. Just wait until they settle down (Bill Clinton almost lost his temper waiting). I dislike them telling their little stories of people who met them on the campaign trail and made them promise to do this or that when they are in office (“Take care of our children, Senator”). Personally, I think they make most of that stuff up or grossly exaggerate it. I dislike the laundry lists of talking points. I could go on, but I feel your pain.

We have so watered down what a great speech is that we now call Bill Clinton’s speech last night "great". Do we have to say that every speaker “knocked it out of the park” if it is only not bad? Everyone will say that Obama’s speech tonight was great. I’m sure it will be good. But great, I doubt it. Not by my standards.

Not all the speeches were awful. Ted Kennedy’s speech on the opening night was touching. It didn’t matter what he said. Even some conservatives acknowledged getting a tear in their eye. Brain cancer does a lot for anyone’s popularity, particularly if it may be fatal. I wonder if Hitler was alive and got brain cancer today whether a lot of people would feel sorry for him (“Well, he has cancer, we shouldn't be critical”). No, I’m not comparing Hitler to Kennedy. Just making a point.

John Lewis spoke tonight. He is a humble man and it is hard to conceive how anyone can not admire him for his sacrifices during the civil rights struggles. While noting that he was present when Dr. King made his speech 45 years ago today, he did not mention that he made the other exceptional speech that day (of which no reporter who interviews him seems aware and he probably doesn't mention). He made a real speech at the convention, quite short, but with an actual topic other than himself, without all the above listed characteristics I so dislike. Despite a little slurred speech (he's no kid), it was the best one I've heard so far. Naturally, it wasn't on in prime time and few will have heard it.

I'm sorry I missed Dennis' Kucinich's speech which I understand was on at some unloveable hour. I'm sure it was a barn burner. He's a strange fellow, but a lot of fun (and has the best looking trophy wife of all of them).

We now accept gross hypocrisy in a speech as par for the course and take no offense at it. Hillary Clinton campaigned hard on the fact that Obama wasn’t ready for the job. It was her primary talking point. Suddenly, in her convention speech, he’s the guy. I laughed when I heard her say that can’t wait until Obama signs the bill giving all Americans health care insurance, because she spent so much time complaining that his plan leaves millions uninsured. By the way, at risk of sounding overly picky, Clinton’s Harriet Tubman quote (“keep going”) is most likely spurious. Not that it matters. It’s still a good idea.

More than anything she said about Obama, the tone of Clinton’s speech struck me as hypocritical too. Remember her own parody of Obama style ending with “ . . . and everything will be wonderful.” Didn’t her own convention speech sound just as flowery and overly high minded as her parody? Only, she’s no longer mocking.

Her husband is still one of the best speech makers around and his performance last night was about as good as it gets these days. Perhaps Obama will top him tonight, perhaps not. Even Karl Rove admitted that Bill Clinton made a case for Obama (if not, the case) and that is equal to Keith Olbermann doing handstands and blowing a horn. If his wife's speech was hypocritical, then Bill Clinton's speech was thrice so. The antipathy between the two men, and Clinton's well known refusal to say that Obama is ready for the job, leaves no doubt that however good an actor Bill Clinton is, he is as hypocritical as they come when he needs to. And I say that believing he was the best president we've had since I've become politically conscious.

I posted now not knowing whether Obama’s speech later tonight will be worthy of comment. I expect he will say that tonight America has cashed a check, if you get the reference. Maybe he is saving it for his hoped for inauguration speech.

And then, on to the Republican convention. Those poor bloggers stuck in their tents in Denver and next week in Minnesota. It’s much easier to do this at home with one’s own facilities, bookshelves and refreshments of choice. Of course, there is no massage table here, but would I partake if I was there? Not likely.

Being a non-partisan has its benefits. One of my favorite liberals told me he will not be able to watch the Republican convention because he will just fume the whole time. I get to watch both and enjoy all of the hypocrisy in all its various forms and glory. And there’s just so, so much.

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .