Posted by: mutantpoodle | September 1, 2008

Bright Shiny Objects

I could say that I didn’t blog during the Democratic Convention because I wanted to evaluate it in its totality, but really, I just didn’t have much to say. That said, the convention, like a well constructed story, once over, all the pieces that came before made sense.

Of course, after the best convention acceptance speech in my lifetime, I had all of 9 hours to enjoy it before John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate. But more on that later.

So, in no particular order, are my thoughts about where we are heading into the final sprint:

  • The Clintons: It’s time to let them off the hook. I can’t imagine how either of them could have pushed Obama harder and seemed genuine about it. They did what they needed to do, and Obama will have to win without the 100 or so members of PUMA who are, in my humble opinion, batshit crazy.
  • Biden: I had lunch with a Republican friend who said that the Biden choice undercut Obama’s change argument, and I get that. I wonder, though, if you make that argument, if you have to give up on the inexperience argument (and this is before you factor in Palin). Generally, though, I have come to like the pick. Biden’s a smart guy with a good story, and his selection demonstrates that Obama is not afraid to surround himself with smart people who might disagree with him. The anti-Bush, as it were. His ability to needle John McCain is an added plus.
  • Obama: Damn – even I was starting to think the Invesco speech was a mistake – that it played into the Republican “celebrity” nonsense, and that there would be no way – NO WAY – Obama could make a speech that was worthy of the scale of the venue. Well, I’ve learned my lesson. More on that, too, later.
  • John McCain: His acceptance night congratulatory ad seemed hollow to me – especially after the vacuous and dishonest campaign that had preceded it – but what it really says to me is that he can’t stand to be out of the spotlight. I think, somewhere in John McCain’s psyche, he resents Obama’s popularity as undeserved, so to him, Obama IS an empty celebrity. It must kill him to see Obama sell out a 74,000 seat stadium while he struggles to get 10,000 to come to his VP announcement – he’s the war hero, after all, and Obama is just a young whippersnapper. Much as my jaw drops when I see folks in the GOP suggest that Palin has more experience than Obama (she’s been an executive!), more stunning – and dangerous for the GOP – is that some of them believe it.

So – the speech.

Did it feature some soft, feel-good themes? Yes.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours – a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

Did it eviscerate the last eight years and tie them, like an anvil, around John McCain’s neck? Yes.

…the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives – on health care and education and the economy – Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors – the man who wrote his economic plan – was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

….Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.

Did it demolish most of the anti-Obama memes that the Republicans have been offering for the last two months? Yes.

…in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton’s Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

[italics mine]…and…

[Some] claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

Did it provide specifics, to answer the ridiculous charge that Obama has no detailed plans? Yes.

…let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.

Change means a tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

More than that, however, was the moral authority Obama claimed as he did all this.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he’s worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land – enough! This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive.

Lots of people talk about leadership, and most of the time, they mistake a bully (Bush, McCain) for a leader. There is a difference between scaring people into action, and inspiring them to it. And Obama definitely inspires.

Finally, just to twist the knife a little bit more, Obama riffed on his 2004 keynote to kneecap another McCain theme:

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

Except, of course, when you pick a half-term governor of Alaska as your running mate.

Right now, with Gustav bearing down on the Gulf coast all the Palin stuff gets buried for a while. But now that McCain’s people are finally up in Alaska vetting her (no – really – they’re vetting her now), along with just about everyone else, expect things to bubble up at the end of the week.

John McCain accomplished one goal with his Palin pick – people stopped talking about Obama’s speech, and started talking about Palin. Problem is, now they’re starting to think about it. In the end, McCain’s winning coalition was a solid hold on the GOP base, keeping the non-movement Republicans in the fold, and attracting enough independents and Democrats – particularly Hillary fans – to come out ahead. Palin helps with the base, but, methinks, hurts everywhere else.

Assuming she’s still on the ticket come October 2nd, I expect an interesting evening.

I mentioned above that it seems that some Republicans really believe Palin’s experience rivals Obama’s.

Now, granted, being from landlocked Illinois, there’s no way to get the foreign policy chops one inherits from living across the Bering Strait from Russia, but still – if you think that Obama and Palin are equally equipped to handle the world stage, you’re hallucinating.

That said, Palin is the bright shiny object meant to distract us from who John McCain is. It’s clear the pick shocked the Obama folks, but since they’ve regained their equilibrium, they’ve done the right thing, and pretty much ignored her. The worst thing for Sarah Palin is if she is taken seriously as a VP candidate. That works for two reasons – one, you won’t win votes by appearing to pick on her, and two, plenty of people will make the “WTF” case for you. Be magnanimous and let her unravel – and she will.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are making a virtue of necessity by tamping down their convention and promoting service. That said, if I read anything about how this will help John McCain – who, as my sister pointed out, seems like he’d like to be in a boat in New Orleans rescuing people right now – I think I’ll flip. Talking about hurricanes that hit Louisiana is not – repeat NOT – playing to the GOP strength.

Pundits talk about how it could help McCain’s brand, but John McCain was counting on – well, actually, depending on – four days of “Barack Obama is a Muslim socialist Marxist arrugula eating elitist – and did you know he was black?” to get the race into a competitive state heading into the last 8 1/2 weeks of the campaign. I’m not saying it can’t do John McCain some good, but it can’t do Barack Obama the harm the GOP hoped to inflict on him.

I think the Palin pick probably did John McCain in, and I think, if this is true, the Eagleton parallels will be complete.

P.S. If you’re in Gustav’s path, get out and stay safe.

UPDATE: OK, that’s one way to kill the rumors that Sarah Palin’s youngest child is really her grandchild – announce that your daughter is 5 months pregnant.

I, for one, don’t care – it says nothing about the Palins as parents and nothing about the character of their daughter either way. You’d think it might upset folks on the religious right, though…

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